Conservatives Are Concerned About Children’s Safety–From Queer Books

In the wake of the Uvalde tragedy, conservative talking heads are still just posting about Disney, CRT and Don't Say Gay.

Conservatives Are Concerned About Children’s Safety–From Queer Books
Photo:Daniel A. Varela (AP)

In the 48-hours since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Christopher Rufo, the self-proclaimed journalist and activist responsible for waging war on “wokeness” in schools across the country, has not tweeted a single thing about the tragedy that took the lives of 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers.

In recent years, conservatives like Rufo have led prolific protests surrounding the supposed safety of children in the education system—from critical race theory to book banning to sex-ed—and yet, have remained largely silent on the shooting. Instead, as new details emerge like Texas law enforcement’s abject failure in apprehending Salvador Ramos and the reported mental health issues of the shooter, Rufo tweeted only about completing the first draft of his impending book, a Disney+ pride special among other trivial matters. And it doesn’t stop at him.

Politicians who’ve capitalized on the culture wars, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for example, have barely addressed the shooting, if at all. As of now, DeSantis has directed all United States and State of Florida flags to be flown at half-staff, however he hasn’t spoken on the shooting—on social media or otherwise.

If it sounds silly to criticize conservatives over whether or not they’ve taken to Twitter to comment on a cataclysmic event, it’s because it is. And yet, these are the same people who’ve fashioned entire careers and substantial social media followings from espousing often racist, sexist and transphobic commentary disguised as concerns for children’s safety. And they’ve weaponized their platforms, making parents into militants and school board meetings into battlegrounds.

Apart from leading the charge on the Don’t Say Gay bill, legislation that restricts speech on sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms, DeSantis has successfully banned hundreds of books—including math textbooks—in schools and libraries throughout Florida. Recently, he even signed legislation that emboldens parents to police “inappropriate” books in school libraries—Judy Blume is among the list of contrabrand in certain districts. Additionally, DeSantis led an anti-mask crusade that instigated months of mayhem in school district meetings and is still plotting Disney’s downfall—despite the fact that its Florida’s foremost economic driver—over a same-sex kiss in an upcoming Buzz Lightyear movie. Meanwhile, Rufo is widely accredited with creating the conflict surrounding Critical Race Theory—one that’s become especially contentious in schools across the country. His purported investigations have resulted in absolutely absurd social media campaigns against The American Federation of Teachers and a group of sex educators in Appalachia who, just months ago, were forced to seek safe houses.

Last week, following the shooting in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo, the Guardian’s Andrew Lawrence noted a similar pattern among fellow recognizable conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson, writing:

For the most prominent conservative voices, the major takeaway from last Saturday’s shooting in Buffalo, New York, was not it being one of the worst hate crimes in American history. Or an indictment of gun control legislation. Or an impetus for tighter controls around online forums that provide quarter to bigots and their unhinged plans of mass destruction. No, their major takeaway was literally anything else.

Notably, Carlson has been credited with covertly making Renaud Camus’ great replacement theory mainstream via American cable news. A recent Times investigation revealed that in more than 400 episodes of his show, Carlson gave credence to the notion that Democratic politicians and other elites are forcing demographic change through immigration. He didn’t weigh in on the shooting until this week despite the fact that the shooter’s manifesto alluded to white replacement. Carlson claimed both of the recent shooters were “obviously mentally ill,” but naturally didn’t place any blame on an increasing accessibility to firearms.

Lawrence also observed the non-responses of fellow Fox News host, Laura Ingraham and Charlie Kirk, a radio talkshow host fond of conspiracy theories, and the stark departure from conservatives’ patented response of “thoughts and prayers” in the aftermath of school shootings.

He’s right. Years ago, at least there were platitudes. Now—in a time where 27 school shootings have already taken place in the first six months of 2022—there’s nothing. What further evidence does anyone need that American children’s “safety” was never actually their goal?

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