“Stop the Steal” and white supremacist protests at the Colorado State Capitol, Denver, winter 2021
The ongoing U.S. Congressional hearings have provided the American public with hard evidence about the people who organized a violent insurrection against the U.S. government on January 6, 2021. That attempt failed by the narrowest of margins, but Pride Month has now become a proving ground and recruiting tool for the next effort. More violence is all but certain to come unless corporate leaders do their own organizing, and expand their DEI efforts outwards into community action and political force.
To the extent that leading brands and local businesses publicly support Pride Month events, the violence has already come to their doorstep.
Last week, 30 men reportedly affiliated with white supremacist organizations attempted to infiltrate Pride festivities in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho with violent intent. An alert citizen and quick action by law enforcement thwarted their plan, but now the officers themselves have become the targets of white supremacist threats.
The Coeur d'Alene incident was not a one-off. White supremacists have been purposefully grooming anti-LGBTQ sentiment for more than a year, beginning with a fresh spate of state based anti-trans legislation that followed closely on the heels of the January 6 insurrection.
Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe to our Brands Taking Stands newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday.
While state legislatures continue to focus hate and bigotry on vulnerable trans youth, an organized effort to ban LGBTQ-themed books from school and local libraries across the nation has also gotten under way. The Guardian and other media have linked the effort to high-profile conservative funders including Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, who is credited with securing the extremist conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The upsurge in anti-LGBTQ violence has not escaped the notice of mainstream media. On June 17, Ben Collins and Doha Madani of NBC News wrote a long form article detailing the attacks. They took particular note of the attackers’ focus on transgender and drag queen events. Not coincidentally, some of these events routinely take place in libraries, in the form of the popular “drag queen story hour” programs.
“Inundated with threats during Pride Month, LGBTQ+ rights advocates and allies have been forced to cancel events and involve local law enforcement authorities after a group of white nationalists were arrested outside a Pride event in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho,” they wrote.
The two reporters interviewed California state Senator Scott Wiener, who observed that “there is a very orchestrated network of right-wing accounts and personalities to coordinate on whatever the current attack message is and who’s going to be targeted. And they have an army of social media trolls who amplify their messages…It’s a very orchestrated attack machine.”
“Far-right influencers and militias have been particularly focused in the last month on “Drag Queen Story Hour” events, which have been hosted at libraries throughout the U.S. since 2015,” Collins and Madani observed.
Earlier in the month, Amanda Seitz of AP News also took note of the organized nature of ginned-up social media focusing on LGBTQ and other vulnerable communities.
“White nationalists and supremacists, on accounts often run by young men, are building thriving, macho communities across social media platforms like Instagram, Telegram and TikTok, evading detection with coded hashtags and innuendo,” she wrote.
“Their snarky memes and trendy videos are riling up thousands of followers on divisive issues including abortion, guns, immigration and LGBTQ rights,” she added.
Seitz referred to a Department of Homeland Security warning posted on June 7, in which the agency assessed that emotional overload and entitlement are in play.
“Threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti-government/anti-authority violent extremism,” DHS warned.
Historians and political observers have long warned that the raw emotions and personal entitlement are effective weapons in the hands of power-hungry authoritarians. They have raised serious concerns that the rise in white supremacist violence, and the willingness of Republican office holders to dismiss or outright support violence, are already leading to long-term political instability including the risk of street violence, assassination, bombings and other hallmarks of a collapse in the principles of democratic representation and compromise.
If you’re still having trouble taking any of this seriously, consider that the seeds of a false flag conspiracy theory involving the nation’s food supply have already blossomed into full effect, thanks to Fox and other right-wing echo chambers.
It doesn’t have to happen. Pride Month has provided white supremacist organizations with opportunities to grow their movement, but it also provides business leaders with a solid platform for pushing back against right-wing hysteria. Top brands and local businesses alike can and should ramp up their Pride activities and mobilize their employees, clients, customers and communities to rally in support of their local Pride Month events.
Business leaders can also ramp up their support for established human rights organizations, and they can seek opportunities to support new local and grassroots efforts that push back against book bans and other white supremacist activities.
Above all — once and for all — business leaders have to stop providing financial support for Republican candidates and office holders. They have to stop treating the Republican and Democratic parties as two sides of the same politics-as-usual coin. The Republican Party has been hijacked to serve the purposes of authoritarian rulers who seek to attain and hold power regardless of the rules and principles of democratic government, and they have already assembled an army of violent thugs to serve their purpose.
Business leaders can either sit back and let the violence continue to unspool, or they can do something about it. There is no in between, any more.
Image credit: Colin Lloyd via Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.