The Colorado Springs mass shooting is terrorism. GOP politicians share responsibility.
For over a year prominent Republicans have demonized drag queens, trans people and all queer people as dangerous to children. Violence was inevitable.
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I was, like many, horrified on Sunday morning. Waking to the news of the sickening mass shooting on Saturday night that took five lives and injured 19 inside Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, I felt, as a gay man, that all us who are LGBTQ were being terrorized, targeted by a movement of hate — a movement fueled in part by political leaders.
I posted right away on Twitter that this act was incited by GOP politicians who demonized drag queens, trans people, gender non-conforming people, all queer people, for over a year. GOP political leaders all over the country employed the “groomer” smear, the vile lie that LGBTQ people were a threat to children.
And I called out just some of them by name: Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, Donald Trump, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. There are many more, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, whose large Colorado district sits just outside Colorado Springs.
The tweet went viral, and I also got inundated with responses from MAGA trolls and haters, some of which were probably bots on what has become an even bigger cesspool of hate since Elon Musk bought Twitter.
Many of them wrote just one line: “Only the shooter is responsible.”
Some did elaborate, opining in one way or another that none of those politicians could possibly be responsible since they didn’t pull the trigger, and that only the shooter has the responsibility here, claiming once again Democrats or “the left” were overreaching and trying to attack the GOP.
These very same people of course would not — and did not — say that only the 19 hijackers who crashed planes into buildings on 9/11 were responsible for that act of terrorism. Or the acts of terror we saw in San Bernadino and elsewhere that were fueled by a violent, fundamentalist distortion of Islam.
No, they blamed a sick and violent ideology. And they blamed political leaders in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere, who fueled the anti-American hatred or looked the other way of it, allowing it to be taught in schools and promoted by government entities. And rightly so. Those political leaders were to blame.
Of course, many in the right-wing in this country went even further, and blamed all Muslims, or all of Islam, fomenting hatred — and violence — against Muslims in the U.S., which was horrific and wrong. The vast majority of Muslims worldwide reject the twisted ideology and condemn the violence. But those political leaders in the Islamic world who, either because they’re afraid of the extremists or want to court them, are definitely responsible.
Yet when I pointed to this, and asked these people who responded to me about the Colorado shooting if they thought only the 19 hijackers were responsible for 9/11, they never responded to it, changed the subject or engaged in slurs and name-calling. (I muted or blocked most of them eventually.)
The point I’m making here is that these people know and believe that hateful rhetoric from political leaders fuels violence, because they’ve said so before. They know it’s true in this case too, but because they’re so wrapped up in this MAGA cult, their only response was defensiveness — but going on the offense with their defensiveness, which seemed like a big tell.
The evidence shows that it’s undeniable. The Proud Boys, a violent white supremacist group that Trump has lauded, for over a year now have terrorized drag queen brunches and drag queen story-telling events. Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis have moved to criminalize taking children to a drag show.
Abbott has had child protective services investigate families in which parents, with their doctors, are helping their trans kids with gender-affirming care. DeSantis passed the “don’t say gay” bill and banned gender-affirming care for minors in Florida. Lauren Boebert has for a more than year been tweeting anti-trans slurs and told people to take their children to church rather than drag shows.
As the Washington Post reported, “Club Q shooting follows year of bomb threats, drag protests, anti-trans bills”:
Already this year, armed protesters and right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys have used intimidating tactics to disrupt drag-related events in Texas, Nevada and Oregon, as well as other states.
Children’s hospitals across the United States are facing growing threats of violence, including bomb threats, driven by an online anti-LGBTQ campaign attacking the facilities for providing care to transgender kids and teens.
And in October, a man attacked a transgender librarian in Idaho before yelling homophobic slurs and attempting to hit two women with his car. Idaho is one of 18 states that does not have hate crime protections for LGBTQ people, though many local law enforcement agencies still track those crimes.
The problem isn’t just the hatred fueled by political leaders. The shooting was another sickening manifestation of the lack of laws in this county banning assault weapons and mandating adequate background checks for purchasing firearms.
The shooter had been arrested on multiple crimes a year before, including kidnapping, and had made a threat against his mother, who, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s office, “ said her son was threatening to cause harm to her with a homemade bomb, multiple weapons, and ammunition.” The entire neighborhood had to be evacuated until he surrendered to police.
There’s no way someone like this should have been able to get a handgun and an AR-15. Yet he did.
But the very political leaders who promote the hate also won’t pass laws that stop the haters from getting weapons of mass murder. So it’s all tied together. The political leaders who fuel the hate also allow those they embolden to the get the weapons needed to commit mass violence.
The media has got to hold these political leaders responsible, rather than posing their claims about queer people as legitimate or part of a “both sides” argument.
Ben Collins at NBC, who tracks conspiracy theories and violence promoted online, has written story after story about the hate groups, and the GOP politicians who condone or promote them. And today he challenged his own colleagues in the media.
I just want to highlight, via a screenshot from his appearance on NBC, the stories Collins has written about the hate pushed by far-right groups and Republican politicans.
Collins ended his comments stating, “I think we have to have a come to Jesus moment here as reporters. Are we more afraid of being on Breitbart for saying that trans people deserve to be alive? Or are we more afraid of the dead people? Cause I’m more afraid of the dead people. I don’t want to wake up on a Sunday and see that all of these headlines came to fruition.”
That’s something with which every reporter should be challenging themselves. Republican politicians have been allowed to foster this atmosphere of hate with no accountability.
They are responsible for fueling the sick ideology that promotes violence, and that makes them party to promoting terrorism. We have to say it loudly and clearly.