The Far-Right Is Using Monkeypox to Peddle Anti-LGBTQ ‘Grooming’ Conspiracies - DMT NEWS

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The Far-Right Is Using Monkeypox to Peddle Anti-LGBTQ ‘Grooming’ Conspiracies

“Anti-grooming” extremists are going all in on monkeypox, ever since the CDC said earlier this week that they’ve identified the first two cases in children in the U.S. 

For months, the GOP and far-right fringe have been trafficking in tired slurs casting the gay community as inherently predatory, especially where children are concerned. Then when monkeypox cases began ticking up among gay and bisexual men earlier this summer, the far-right pounced on their latest “opportunity” to try to push anti-LGBTQ hate into the mainstream. 

Now, they’re baselessly declaring that monkeypox is exposing the “real” epidemic: widespread sexual molestation of children by gay men. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday during a virtual event with the Washington Post that two children had become the first in the country to contract the virus, and said both were “doing well” and were being treated with the antiviral drug tecovirimat.

In a press conference, the CDC said that both children—a toddler in California and an infant in Washington, D.C.—had been in contact with gay or bisexual men, a detail that the Daily Mail splashed as part of its headline, which has since been shared widely in far-right online ecosystems. 

On Monday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—who has consistently used her platform to peddle anti-LGBTQ conspiracies—asked on Twitter, “If Monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, why are kids getting it?”

Monkeypox is not an STI in the classic sense because it’s not spread by semen, blood, or bodily fluids during sexual contact. The virus typically spreads through droplets via respiratory and other mucosal tracts, explained Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease specialist at Texas A&M University. 

Another important way that the virus is spread is direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox rash or scabs, or with clothing or bedding worn or used by an infectious person, she added. 

When the CDC announced the two cases of monkeypox in children, they noted that the virus can spread through “close skin-to-skin contact.” In the case of children, they said, that could include “hugging, cuddling, feeding, as well as through shared items such as towels, bedding, cups, and utensils.”

It is true that the vast majority of cases documented in the U.S. so far have been within the community of men who have sex with men, but there’s a straightforward explanation for that: “The heightened numbers of monkeypox infections initially reported among men who have sex with men can largely be attributed to the initial superspreading events,” said Fischer. 

Still, in recent days, the far-right has seized on the two examples of monkeypox in children to insist—without any proof— that the only way they could have contracted the virus is if they’d been molested by gay men. 

Far-right activist Laura Loomer, who is running for U.S. Congress out of Florida, asked on Telegram, “Who is raping kids in D.C.?” after news broke that an infant there had contracted monkeypox. (D.C. has been the focus of far-right conspiracy theories involving child molesters for years; for example, Hillary Clinton was famously accused of trafficking children underneath a pizza restaurant in the nation’s capital.) 

“Gays are raping babies and monkeypox is spreading rapidly throughout their communities because they can’t stop themselves-nor can they stop raping babies,” Lauren Witzke, a far-right activist with nearly 30,000 subscribers on Telegram, wrote on Tuesday. “We’re about to see a LOT more child cases, and that should concern everyone.” This is a topic of conversation in other far-right forums, including Proud Boy-affiliated channels, 4chan, and, a hard-line MAGA site. 

The primary risk of monkeypox transmission is within households, and the virus will inevitably continue to spread outside of the gay community, said Fischer. “This does mean that children and adolescents will be at risk of infection,” she said. “It is very important to understand that anyone who is exposed to the monkeypox virus is at risk of being infected – regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political alignment, views on abortion, or other classifications.” 

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not spread easily in casual social situations. However, it’s entirely possible that there may be localized outbreaks of the virus if an infectious kid comes to class and is in close contact with peers once school resumes this fall, said Fischer. 

This all has the potential to put national discourse surrounding monkeypox on a dangerous trajectory. In the past two years, American schools have turned into political battlefields. Angry parents, militias, and groups like the Proud Boys have swarmed school board meetings over issues like mask mandates and “critical race theory.” 

Recently, the culture wars have zeroed in on whether school kids should be able to learn about diverse sexual orientations or gender identity—which many conservatives say is equivalent to “grooming.” 

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which will take effect next year, bars teachers from discussing anything to do with LGBTQ issues with kids up to the age of 12. Nineteen other states introduced similar bills this year. Fox News host Laura Ingraham has suggested public schools are “essentially grooming centers for gender-identity radicals.” This climate has already resulted in LGBTQ teachers being targeted. A gay teacher in Ohio lost his job after he gave rainbow Pride bracelets to some students who asked them about his. School administrators forced a teacher in Iowa to resign after a blackmailer outed him as gay online. All this coincided with a spike in ultra-violent rhetoric online, with some social media users calling for the execution of specific school officials or teachers they “suspect” to be groomers.

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, executive director of GLSEN (Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network), said that they’re anticipating “ongoing attacks on LGBTQ+ youth and teachers as extremists rile up their base going into the midterms.” 

“Extremists are once again pushing misinformation and dangerous rhetoric in an attempt to advance an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda,” said Willingham-Jaggers. “This harmful language must be understood for what it is: fearmongering and false information.”

The CDC has logged more than 3,500 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. Doctors say that early symptoms look similar to the flu, like fatigue, fever, and headache, followed by a rash that can involve painful lesions. 

 Fischer says it’s important that people continue practices around hygiene and disinfection in schools, daycares, and workplaces, to help curb the potential future spread of monkeypox. 

“Since anyone who comes into contact with the virus could become infected, there should be no social stigma attached to becoming infected,” said Fischer. 

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter.



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Tess Owen, Khareem Sudlow