CLEVELAND — From ISIS’s desert tyranny to the crowded gay discos of America, the world’s LGBT community is in peril. Who will come to its rescue?
Five bleached blondes.
That was the message delivered last evening at a party held on the fringes of the Republican National Convention for LGBT supporters of presidential nominee Donald Trump. Entitled “WAKE UP!”, the event promised appearances by author Ann Coulter, Nixon dirty trickster Roger Stone, Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders, professional internet troll Milo Yiannopolous, and anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller—the latter two of whom, along with Trump, were depicted as comic book superheroes in the invitation. In addition to their love for the same sort of follicle dye, all these characters are enthusiastic supporters of the reality TV show host’s presidential bid.
Ultimately, headliners Coulter and Stone didn’t show. Perhaps they were busy washing their hair.
But racists, lunatics and other assorted idiots were out in force just blocks from Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena where several hundred people turned out to express their affinity for “LGBTrump” (a fitting appropriation of the acronym given how the Republican Party heading into November is but a rump faction of its former self). Pictures of nubile, barely legal boys sporting nothing other than “Make America Great Again” hats graced the walls, part of a Twinks4Trump photo exhibition. Chris Barron, co-founder of the short-lived conservative LGBT group GOProud, told me that last month’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub inspired him to launch the event. “After what happened in Orlando I can’t imagine not being for Donald Trump right now,” he said. “This election will not be about bathrooms or who’s going to bake our wedding cakes.”
Barron hasn’t always been such a fan of Trump. In a series of since-deleted Tweets from last year, he referred to the newfound savior of Gay America as a “sociopath,” said that “the giant police state Trump supports would make Hitler blush,” and referred to Trump fans—whom he said “we are keeping lists of”—as “idiots” and “morons.” Like so many latter-day Trumpkins desperate to join the mob or scrounge a paycheck, Barron has now seen the orange-hued light and endorsed “Mr. Trump,” as so many of the Republican nominee’s fans creepily refer to him.
Barron opened the proceedings by declaring that “We have a radical Islamic ideology out there that is dedicated to exterminating LGBT people all across this globe,” and that this is the reason why gays must support Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration from Muslim countries, promises to “bomb the shit out of” ISIS and has suggested that the U.S. military murder the families of terrorists. That Trump will protect gays from the Muslim hordes was the major theme of the evening. “Gay rights in the 21st century is the persecution, oppression, and execution of gays living in Muslim countries under the sharia,” said Geller in her first public appearance since two men opened fire on a “Draw Muhammad” event she held in Garland, Texas last year. Yiannopolous, fresh from being slapped with a permanent Twitter ban after he directed a campaign of racist abuse against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, said that it’s suicidal for gays to support a left which “wants to turn New York into Raqaa.”
The complaint that many on the left—and the gay left in particular—ignore or downplay violently homophobic aspects of Muslim cultures is one with which I am very sympathetic. Indeed, in this very space not long ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Why Are Prominent Liberals Closeting the Motivations of the Radical Islamic Murderer Who Targeted Gays?” Last year, I defended Geller when many—including, ironically, Donald Trump—accused her of “taunting” Muslims.
If you actually know something about these issues and want to find workable solutions rather than talk radio soundbites, the logical errors of Trumpist anti-Muslim fanaticism are readily apparent. ISIS’s repeatedly stated goal is to create a civil war in Western societies between governments and their Muslim populations, and it would be hard to find a better person to precipitate such a dystopian scenario than a President Donald Trump. “The situation in Europe today is worse than ever” Wilders said as preface to his jeremiad about how Muslims are destroying the continent, a bit of hyperbole that should immediately discredit him with anyone remotely conversant in 20st century history. Bedecked in a rainbow-sequined blouse and leather pants, Geller delivered the sort of harangue you might expect from a woman who once speculated that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child. “Freedom of speech is the foundation of a free society and without it a tyrant can wreak havoc unopposed while his opponents are silenced,” she proclaimed, a statement intended as a rebuke against murderously censorious Islamists but one that better foreshadows the threat a Trump presidency poses to the First Amendment. When I asked Barron how banning all Muslims from entering the United States would have prevented an attack like the one in Orlando, committed by a native-born American citizen, he responded that Trump is “willing to actually call it out.”
This, it seems, is the primary reason why so many people back Donald Trump. He “calls out” lots of stuff, but offers no solutions. Declaring one’s support for him is cathartic. It is therapeutic. It is an emotional exercise, but not a rational political one. “You gotta love Trump!” the shrieking harridan Geller shouted, “because he gives them all the middle finger!” (Attendant to hero-worship is heresy-hunting. Thus, Weekly Standard editor “Bill Kristol is for that criminal,” Hillary Clinton). “Most journalists,” Yiannopoulous declared, are “dorks” and “idiots.” It’s this free-for-all, anything-goes, no-apologies mentality that leads some to see such dubious figures as the ones assembled in Cleveland last night as “free speech” heroes. But there is a difference between supporting free speech and actually saying interesting, valuable, and productive things.
It’s little wonder then that so many prominent white nationalists decided to show up at last night’s confab. People like Peter Brimelow (founder of the far-right VDare website) and Richard Spencer, a leading figure in the “alt right” movement, were there, visibly giddy at how Trump has burnished their popularity. So too was Charles Johnson, proprietor of the misnamed website “GotNews,” a strange guest for an ostensibly pro-LGBT event considering how not too long ago he referred to me online as a “malicious, conniving faggot.” The blogger Robert Stacey McCain playfully remarked to me that “It’s good to be in a room where I’m not the only person on the SPLC list,” referring to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s index of right-wing extremists. “It’s nice to see someone who can Make America Hate Again.” Trump, he said, is like “Teflon, he can say any goddamn thing.” The only person missing from this motley crew was the soul of Ernst Röhm, leader of the homoerotic Nazi Stormtrooper unit liquidated by Hitler in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives.
That Trump’s record on LGBT issues is the least bad of recent GOP presidential nominees is but one of this election’s many tragedies. For this silver lining is bound up with so much rhetorical ugliness, racial animosity, contradiction, ignorance and xenophobia that it will taint any institutionalized gay support for the nominee. So desperate are some gay conservatives for a leader who will rant indiscriminately about the evils of Islam, however, that they’re willing to look askance at his obvious disqualifications for the office. It is a strange state of being “woke.”
“Glibness and superficial charm. Manipulation of others. A grandiose sense of self. Pathological lying. A lack of remorse, shame or guilt. Shallow emotions. An incapacity to feel genuine love. A need for stimulation. Frequent verbal outbursts. Poor behavioral controls. These are just some of the things that social media are encouraging in all of us.” A left-wing social justice warrior? No, Milo Yiannopoulos. Before deciding to embark on a career as a sort of camp villain, an evil Mr. Humphries from Are You Being Served?, Yiannopoulos was an earnest tech journalist, seeking to make the internet safe for the very sort of people he now lambastes as oversensitive weenies.
“If people cannot be trusted to treat one another with respect, dignity and consideration, perhaps they deserve to have their online freedoms curtailed,” Yiannopoulos declared four years ago in an article entitled, “The internet is turning us all into sociopaths.” Yiannopoulos couldn’t realize how prescient he was, never mind that he was writing about his future self.
Indeed, Yiannopoulos is not unlike a certain GOP nominee, who once gave oodles of money to Democrats and gushed of the woman he now says belongs in jail that “she’d make a great president.” His message today, and that of his fellow bleach blonde lackeys, is about as genuine as his peroxide.