If Books Could Kill

BONUS: Conservatives vs. Pride Month

July 06, 2023 Michael Hobbes & Peter Shamshiri
If Books Could Kill
BONUS: Conservatives vs. Pride Month
Show Notes Transcript

Lots of subscribers asked us to release last month's bonus episode in full so here it is! Share it with the conservatives, the boomers and the Satanists in your life.

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Thanks to Mindseye for our theme song!

Peter: Michael. 

Michael: Peter.

Peter: What do you know about the backlash to corporate Pride? 

Michael: All I know is that it will be refreshing to have a Pride Month that is exhausting, but not because of the gays. 

[If Books Could Kill theme]

Michael: You texted earlier this week and said that you wanted to do a bonus episode on the Target backlash and the institution of corporate Pride in general. And my initial gut instinct was, "I don't know if I trust Peter to talk about corporate Pride. [laughs] I don't know if I need the straights weighing in."

Peter: You handle the Pride, I'll handle the corporate. 

Michael: [laughs] Then, I realized that this is how members of other groups feel when we cover issues. This is how women feel when we talk about [laughs] the love languages on the show. They're like, "I don't know about Mike and Peter."

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: Thank you for giving me a window of empathy this week, Peter. 

Peter: That's when you realized that you were wrong because we can speak for women- 

Michael: We can. 

Peter: -and I can speak for all LGBT people. 

Michael: Exactly. Just summarize this debate first, Peter. I plan to just sit quietly and let you talk and just wait for you to fuck up. 

Peter: Everybody, listen up. 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. A straight man is talking. 


Michael: So, tell us about the genesis of this episode, Peter. Why did you want to cover this? 

Peter: Well, I was bearing witness to some of the backlash against Bud Light. 

Michael: Your truth. You were living your truth. 

Peter: It struck my brain that it was more transparent than what we've seen in the past, in the sense that there was almost no veneer of a reasonable position. The entire display was the result of conservatives saying, "Hey, we hate transpeople." And then, corporations reacting to that with something like sympathy. 

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: I thought that was unique. It felt like an evolution of the conservative backlash we've seen. I thought it was an evolution, maybe worth talking about, given that it is taking place in the context of a wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, for example.

Michael: Also, the way that this has spilled over into the broader LGB community. It started out as explicitly anti-trans, and a lot of people were warning about like, they're going to come for same sex marriage next, they're going to come for other groups. And the response you got was like, "I don't know, there's a real tricky debate about youth sports and these surgeries they're doing on kids," blah, blah, blah. And then now, this stuff, they're freaking out about greeting cards for same sex couples and it's just like, "Oh, okay. They're just freaking out about the existence of gay people now."

Peter: Right. Well, I also think that an element of this is that part of the conservative political strategy right now is to just be deeply unpleasant in public spaces like school board meetings, right? 

Michael: That's wild.

Peter: They turn them into completely insane spectacle that no one else wants to be a part of. Everyone else leaves and they assume positions of power within school boards. This feels like a similar sort of thing. They are making themselves so obnoxious in public that companies are put into a weird position, where it's like, "Well, I don't want to give in to these people necessarily, but dealing with them is so bad that maybe we should." 

Michael: So, why don't you walk us through the Bud Light explosion? I feel like this was the beginning of it this year, and then I'll talk us through Target. 

Peter: Yeah. Before we talk about the incident from April, we need to get to know Dylan Mulvaney, a 26-year-old trans influencer. She used to be a Broadway performer. She was in Book of Mormon for a bit. She is huge on TikTok. Right now, she has something like 10 million followers on TikTok, over a million on Instagram. 

Michael: I had no idea she was that famous. 

Peter: Almost all of her current popularity came within the last year or so. She came out as a transwoman and posted a tongue-in-cheek clip titled Day 1 of being a girl. It gets popular. She expands it into a series that chronicles her transition. A lot of jokes, a lot of serious commentary. And by the end of 2022, she is obscenely popular, just skyrockets to social media fame. In October, there is a presidential forum where various prominent figures on social media talked to Joe Biden, and Dylan spoke with him about trans rights for a few minutes. This puts her on the right-wing radar.

Michael: Yeah, of course. 

Peter: So, right-wing pundits and politicians, including Senator Marshall Blackburn of Tennessee, respond with their standard round of right-wing vitriol. Some of it is directed at Biden's comments, which were just accepting that transpeople are real basically, and saying they deserve rights. But then, they start digging through Dylan's TikToks and mocking them. There's a video where Dylan talks about having a potentially visible penis as a transwoman. Senator Blackburn does a tweet saying, "Left-wing lunatics want to make this absurdity normal."

Michael: Oh, my God.

Peter: Marjorie Taylor Greene weighs in. Lots of vile shit is being said. And then, they get distracted by the next shiny object and move on. 

Michael: I love how the right-wing panics are always about some random sophomore at Oberlin said something arguably over the top about a sandwich, and this is like two sitting congressmen. [laughs]

Peter: Right. It's not just that. It's like the entire fucking media apparatus, right? 

Michael: Oh, yeah. 

Peter: There's just a clear line between the lowest, most vile right-wing social media types, and then Tucker Carlson and Ted Cruz and whoever, right? 

Michael: Yeah, it's wild. 

Peter: So, as influencers are want to do, Dylan is also doing promotional sponsorships with various brands. So, in March, she posts this on Instagram reels. I'll send it to you. Since deleted, but I managed to find what I think is not a homophobic YouTube channel that has it. 

Michael: Nice. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: I've never actually seen it. 

Peter: Well, it is harrowing. Brace yourself. 

[clip begins]

Dylan: Hi. Impressive carrying skills, right? I got some Bud Lights for us. So, I kept hearing about this thing called March Madness, and I thought we were all just having a hectic month. But it turns out it has something to do with sports. I'm not sure exactly which sport, but either way, it's a cause to celebrate. This month, I celebrated my Day 365 of womanhood, and Bud Light sent me possibly the best gift ever, a can with my face on it. Check out my Instagram story to see how you can enjoy March Madness with Bud Light, and maybe win some money too. Love ya. 

[clip ends]

Peter: Now, I imagine that you need a moment to compose yourself after watching this clear symbol of the downfall of Western civilization. 

Michael: God, it's so bleak how these huge blowups come from just the most boring, random shit. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: It's like, I'm getting a dumb hashtag sponsored deal. There's no reason to notice this kind of thing, unless right-wingers just decide to freak out about it. 

Peter: So, let's be clear before we move on about what this is, because part of what fueled the right-wing reaction was misinformation around the situation.

Michael: Yeah, of course. 

Peter: According to Anheuser-Busch, the scope of this partnership was exactly one post. This was not a TV commercial. Bud Light was just paying to get Dylan to do some quick promotion on social media. She receives this can with her face on it. That can is not for sale anywhere. 

Michael: Oh, really? [laughs] It's like a commemorative thing that they sent her.

Peter: Yeah, it was a thing that they sent her-- They have sent it to other sponsorship partners. They sent it to her for being a partner, because she was celebrating one year officially out as a woman.

Michael: This is like one level above those people that will have like "Soccer Mom Trip to Disney World 2017" printed on T-shirts. 

Peter: Yeah, right.

Michael: They wear the T-shirts, but the T-shirts are not being sold anywhere. They screen-printed her image on a can and send it to her, basically. 

Peter: Yeah. 

Michael: These companies just have like-- I think they cast the net very wide for these kind of influencer sponsorships. There's everybody. They probably have Christian influencers. They probably did this too. 

Peter: 100%.

Michael: It's not particularly ideological, these things. 

Peter: No. 

Michael: Everybody with more than 100,000 followers, send them some free shit and give them $1,000. 

Peter: Yeah. Part of the initial Bud Light response was to be like, "We do hundreds of these partnerships."

Michael: Yeah. 

Peter: So, some right-winger somewhere presumably is scrolling through her Insta, and they freak out, right? 

Michael: Yeah. 

Peter: Ben Shapiro says, "Well, folks, our culture has now decided men are women and women are men, and you must be forced to consume products that say so."

Michael: "Forced to consume products" is a fascinating phrase. 

Peter: That's right. Mandatory.

Michael: [laughs] $3 will be removed from your paycheck every week, and a beer will be sent to your house. 

Peter: And then, you get waterboarded with trans Bud Light. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Peter: Kid Rock posts a video of him shooting a case of Bud Light with an AR-15.

Michael: Of course.

Peter: Right-wing politicians, and celebrities, and pundits, all get in on it. Fox News is talking about it. Budweiser factories are receiving bomb threats. A call for a boycott commences. Sales drop for Budweiser and Bud Light in early April. In mid-April, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch puts out a statement titled Our Responsibility to America. 

Michael: Jesus Christ. 

Peter: It is maybe the worst statement I have ever read. 

Michael: Hell yeah. [laughs] 

Peter: Not just because it is completely morally and substantively hollow, but because it might as well be designed to just piss everyone off. 

Michael: Yeah. Because if you throw a transperson under the bus, you then get the backlash from progressives. So, what they're trying to do is thread the needle between we don't want to piss off the right-wing psychos, but we also don't want to piss off the 90% of the country that really has no problem with this. 

Peter: Right. It includes the choice line, "We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people."

Michael: Oh, my God. 

Peter: "We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer." The rest of the statement is just like mealy mouth bullshit. At one point, they reference American values, and they talk about freedom and hard work. 

Michael: Yeah, just throw a bald eagle in there.

Peter: The bald eagle screech is playing in the background.

Michael: [laughs] 

Peter: The direct parallel is just like, "What if an ad had a black person?"

Michael: Yeah, exactly. 

Peter: And then, the right-wing freaked out and Anheuser-Busch was like, "Look, we don't want to be part of a conversation that divides people."

Michael: "We're trying to stay out of all these politics."

Peter: From now on, it's whites only. 

Michael: This is like what we talked about before we recorded of how difficult it is to talk about this, because it's so just one dimensionally bigoted, the actual backlash. There's no laundered version of this argument that is like, "Well, if you look at it this way, it's actually like they raised some good points." It's literally just a transperson was visible. 

Peter: The only angle here that they have is that she has done some activism. The fact that she's talked to Joe Biden is sometimes referenced, but really, she's just a trans influencer. 

Michael: Yeah, she's just a famous transperson. 

Peter: Now, what's interesting about this boycott is that usually boycotts lose energy very quickly. Remember, the Keurig boycott from a few years ago, or the Goya boycott of 2020? 

Michael: Oh, God, barely. Yeah.

Peter: These things come and go. There is research showing that boycotts just tend not to work. The boycotters lose energy and focus. Often, the publicity creates brand awareness that counteracts any decline in sales. This one appears to be different. For nearly two months now, Bud Light and Budweiser sales have fallen relative to the previous year's sales, and the decline has mostly increased over time, now hovering around 25% for Bud Light in particular, which is a massive decrease, obviously. 

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: I don't think we really know why this boycott has been much more effective than the usual boycott. I would imagine that you can chalk it up to a couple of things. First of all, Bud Light is essentially a commodity. It is cheap swill. Meaning, it's very easily replaced by competitors like Miller and Coors. In fact, some preliminary sales data seems to show that that's where the sales went. For the 25% decrease in Bud Light, there was a corresponding increase across the other two brands. 

Michael: Yeah, they're in the rack next to each other. You're like, "Fuck it. I've been hearing that Bud Light is woke. I'm just going to pick the other beer." It's the easiest boycott in the world to stick with. 

Michael: And then also, there was a very intentional campaign by prominent right-wingers to sustain the outrage with the conscious knowledge that the right is generally outnumbered, but they could get what they want in the market by aggressively targeting individual companies. This is something that Matt Walsh has talked about for a while. They don't always admit that they are in the minority, because the whole silent majority concept has been part of their psyche for so long, but essentially, conceding. "Look, we are not the majority in this country, but we are large enough that if we just coordinate and focus our effort, we can bully the marketplace by being the more obnoxious side, by being the more organized side."

Michael: Yeah, I highlighted that quote too, where he said like, "We can't boycott every woke company, but we can highlight one and make a big example out of them." Essentially by zeroing in on this one company, every other consumer brand is looking at this being like, "Oh, fuck, we don't want to be next."

Peter: Right. Anheuser-Busch puts two marketing executives responsible for the promotion on leave. One of them is Alissa Heinerscheid, who was hired, I think, in 2022 just to freshen up the brand. Right-wingers locate a podcast interview with her from March, where she said she was hired with a mandate to evolve the brand and that she wanted to bring an image of inclusivity to what she called a "traditionally fratty and out-of-touch brand."

Michael: Oh, no, this poor woman. 

Peter: Now, I want to talk about the business angle here. Bud Light and its peers are a shrinking portion of the alcohol market. For the past 20 years, we've seen the rise of craft beer. Last few years, we've seen hard seltzer take a massive share of the market. So, if you're sitting on Bud Light, a brand pivot is a very natural move. It makes total sense. You need to redirect your energy because you are shrinking. On the other hand, the plurality of your customers are probably white, male, middle-aged.

Michael: Right. 

Peter: The brand has always been marketed to them, and so this becomes an affirmation of everything they feared when they saw the Dylan Mulvaney promo, like, the culture is slipping out of their hands.

Michael: These are people that are still very upset by the black elves that they had the--

Peter: That's right.

Michael: -live through on their television screens. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: Very difficult for these folks. 

Peter: Heinerscheid receives some weird, targeted harassment, of course. 

Michael: of course.

Peter: People dig up photos of her from her college days, where she's at parties and they're like, "Oh, so now you don't like frat parties."

Michael: Jesus Christ. 

Peter: That was on Fox News, dude. 

Michael: Yeah, the anti-fandom.

Peter: It's like, yeah, you got her. 

Michael: Yeah. Wow. [laughs] 

Peter: She's now 39, by the way. 


Peter: This is like 20-year-old fucking--

Michael: Huge hypocrisy. She attended frat parties and then made an offhand comment about frattiness 20 years later. 

Peter: I don't even know that we know that they were frat parties, but I would have met like, "Yeah, of course, she went to a frat party."

Michael: Yeah, I went to frat parties. Frats are fucking stupid, but I also went to frat parties in college.

Peter: Right. Because that's where the parties are. 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] 

Peter: So, Dylan, for her part, drops off of social media for a bit. She comes back in late April with a quick message where she says things like, "What I'm struggling to understand is the need to dehumanize and to be cruel. I just don't think that's right," which is very nice and also borderline naïve in a nice way, like a pure soul. [chuckles] Dehumanizing is the whole point, Dylan. 

Michael: Yeah. It's always so bleak when people just make these basic statements of humanity of just like, "Well, please don't try to murder me." 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: It's like, I don't know, there's a real debate to be had here. 

Peter: Yeah. There's such a purity in the response where it was like, "I don't think everyone should be trying to kill me."

Michael: "I know that I need to die."

Peter: Media is like, "The controversy swirls."

Michael: [laughs] I know.

Peter: Now, again, the boycott has continued. In May, Ted Cruz and Marshall Blackburn called for a probe into the sponsorship, claiming that Dylan's audience skews young. So, they are arguing that this might be tantamount to marketing alcohol to children.

Michael: Oh, my God. 

Peter: They managed to work in a weird grooming angle. In general, the right-wing response at the ground level has just been wild, like, just naked transphobia. A lot of people commenting about Dylan's affect saying that she acts young girlish, and that's like mocking women- 

Michael: Oh, my God. 

Peter: -which, A, only exists as a critique if you reject the concept that she is a woman, but B, is misunderstanding what's happening here. Dylan's annoying girlish affect is because she's a theater kid. 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. 

Peter: They don't get it. Look, I have been around theater kids for long enough that I immediately clocked this, and then people were like, "She's mocking women." I was like, "No, you don't get it. Michael laughs] You don't get it and you're going to have to watch a lot of productions before you do."

Michael: There's so much to say about this stuff about the hypocrisy of "free market conservatives" losing their minds, because the free market is working as intended. Like, companies are trying to appeal to new audiences, or the hypocrisy of the people that melted down about cancel culture for fucking years and are now very obviously engaging in an effort to cancel a person and a company. But it's just so fucking obvious. It's so obvious to make these points that it's like, it's boring to listen to. 

Peter: Yeah. What we were talking about earlier is my takeaway, the fact that there is really nothing more to the outrage than the fact that Dylan is trans. There's no nuance beyond that. The right just wants the takeaway to be, don't do business with transpeople. It's so nakedly built upon unfiltered discrimination that it feels like surreal to witness the media coverage, because the media keeps referring to a controversy without really spelling out that the entire controversy is that Bud Light partnered with a transperson, and these people hate transpeople. Especially true, by the way, because a lot of the coverage comes from financial media, because this is like a business story to a degree.

Michael: Right.

Peter: So, just to give you the tiniest slice, Yahoo finance's latest story said, "Driven by backlash from an advertising campaign with transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, Bud Light sales have now declined for six weeks." Now, if you are in the business media, that is presumably the full story, right? [laughs] 

Michael: Right. There's a New York Times article about one of these meta articles about what's going on at Target and Bud Light and stuff. And the headline is Brands Embracing Pride Month Confront a Volatile Political Climate. 

Peter: Jesus. 

Michael: It's not a climate. 

Peter: It's almost like, if you're a journalist covering this, you have two choices. One is you just use this neutral terminology, or two is like, you really dig in, right?

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: I think a lot of them are probably just like, "Oof, I'm not going to deal with this. I'm not going to try to write the article that explains what's happening here, because it's too much." That willingness to go along with it is a huge problem in a society where fascists are ascendant. 

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: Again, if this were just the right being like, "Hey, let's get mad. They did a partnership with a black person." I would think that people within the media would be a little more primed to call it what it is. Maybe that's me being naive, but it feels like the media's response to this and their willingness to describe it in neutral terms is an indicator that they are not ready to defend trans rights, period. 

Michael: I think the problem is that the reality, if you describe it in sober terms, sounds partisan.

Peter: Sounds partisan. Yeah.

Michael: If you describe like, we are now in year three of a wave of essentially terrorist actions and local agitating against progressive change. This I think it really started with the antivaxxers, but we've had people taking over school boards. We had a fucking anti-queer fucking mass shooting. We had the Buffalo shooting, which was straightforwardly white supremacist. We've had other mass shootings that were explicitly white supremacist. We've had all kinds of other threats against black colleges. We've had these children's gender clinics being shut down, sometimes for days on end, because the threats are so overwhelming. 

If you describe this as part of like, "Oh, yeah, right-wing violence and threats and intimidation are really ascendant in this country. This is like a major suddenly obvious trend." It sounds bad, but it's just objectively the reality. [chuckles] I read an ADL report that pointed out that every extremist act of murder in 2022 was right-wing terror. There's various other reports. Like, there's one from the New America Foundation that tracks every single incident of terrorist violence since 911, and one death is attributed to the far left, and 150 deaths are attributed to far-right violence. 

Peter: Right. I mentioned their strategy of being intolerable to be around. Part of that though is that implication that there is a willingness to engage in extreme violence among a decent chunk of these people. When they go and start knocking over Pride displays at Target, the Target worker doesn't know whether they're dealing with the 99% of them that are just ready to knock over a Pride display, or the 1% that's ready to pull out a gun and shoot you if you try to stop them. 

Michael: Totally. Should we talk about Target? I did a lot of social media slew thing. 

Peter: Let's talk about Target. 

Michael: So, in early May, Target announces its 2023 Pride collection. The only media I could find about the actual announcement, and when they started putting this on shelves, was from left-wing gay media making fun of it, because ultimately, it is Target. So, one of the things they're selling is a T-shirt that says, "Live Laugh Lesbian" and people are like, "Target, what are you doing?"

Peter: Good Lord. 

Michael: There's a coffee mug that says "Gender Fluid." There's a candle that is allegedly pronoun-scented. I don't know what that means. 

Peter: This is unnecessary because candles are already gay. 

Michael: Exactly. We don't need you to go this far. We got it already, guys. 

Peter: [chuckles] Vanilla wasn't enough. 

Michael: Exactly. [laughs] So, for the first two weeks of May, this just sits there. It sits there on the internet. It sits there in stores. The earliest viral post that I could see about this was from this account called fucking Gays Against Groomers. 

Peter: Hell yeah. 

Michael: Have you heard of these ghouls? 

Peter: Good luck, Gays Against Groomers. I'm sure they will never put you against the wall. 

Michael: I'm comforted by the fact that no matter how much these fucking people hate themselves, I hate them more. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: So, this account is the first one I saw where they basically amplify these videos that I believe had been bouncing around for a while at that point where essentially random people go into Target and are like, "Look at this. Look at what they're selling to your kids." It's like, someone who's cosplaying as a concerned parent or someone who's like, "I'm just worried about indoctrination" or whatever. 

Peter: Right.

Michael: They post a couple of these videos, and there's a couple of blips in right-wing media. So, on May 11th, there's a Daily Wire story called Target Releases Latest ‘Pride’ Collection, Complete with Kids Books and Rainbow Items for Babies. 

Peter: Okay.

Michael: What is very interesting about the following two weeks, and I think this has been memory holed, when this goes public, but the early days of this freak-out are very straightforwardly, a Satanic panic. 

Peter: Uh-huh.

Michael: Most of these videos where random people walk into Target stores and lose their minds are based around the fact that they're allegedly selling Satanic merchandise. I don't know if you came across this, but I'm going to send you an article from the National Review far right Laundromat, the National Review.

Peter: The most prominent rag in all of conservatism. 

Michael: Exactly, like the respectable conservatives.

Peter: Okay. [laughs] 

Michael: Right? 

Michael: Oh, fuck yeah, dude. Okay.

Michael: It's so good. So, read the headline in the first couple of paragraphs. 

Peter: The headline is, Target Partners with Satanist Brand to Create Items for ‘PRIDE’ Collection. 

Michael: Satanist brand. A real thing. A real thing that exists. 

Peter: Why are there so many fucking pop-up ads on National Review? 

Michael: I know.

Peter: It's like something about conservatism, they can't help themselves. 

Michael: It's like NFTs and buying gold. It's really low rent ads too. 

Peter: It's the ones that move across your screen, so they try to trick you when you're trying to hit the X into hitting the fucking ad itself.

Michael: [laughs] I know. 

Peter: God, all right. " Target has contracted with Abprallen, a clothing brand that sells Satanist merchandise, some of which glorifies violence to create products for its “PRIDE” collection. While Target does not sell Abprallen’s Satanist-inspired products, the retail giant approached Abprallen less than a year ago to design Pride-related merchandise, according to the brand’s social-media post. At one point, Target sold three Abprallen items: a messenger bag saying “We Belong Everywhere” across trans-flag colors a tote bag with the message “Too Queer for Here” beneath a UFO, and a “Cure Transphobia, Not Transpeople” sweatshirt. Only the sweatshirt remains for sale. It’s unclear why the other two items no longer appear on the Target website." 

Michael: Rich texts. 

Peter: The lurking mystery is what exactly the affiliation between this brand and Satanism-

Michael: I know. [laughs] 

Peter: -actually is, because it's not entirely clear. Of course, the products that they actually sell from this brand are relatively harmless. 

Michael: I feel like the most masterpiece clause in this thing is, while Target does not sell Abprallen's Satanist inspired products comma.

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: They're not selling them. 

Peter: Conservatives can't accept that corporate pride is pink washing bullshit to sell merchandise. They believe that it is materially important. And because that is such an obvious fiction, they have to craft a narrative where the corporations are like illuminati-esque figures. They are right before our eyes shaking hands with people who worship Satan and eat babies. 

Michael: That exact dynamic also applies to their conception of Satanism. The entire reason they're mad about this is that this brand Abprallen, which is basically just one dude named Eric in the UK, this trans guy who's a designer, he also sells pins that say, Satan respects pronouns. 

Peter: So, it's just tongue-in-cheek bullshit. 

Michael: It's very obviously a fucking joke. It's like a satire of what the church lady would say. Or, it's like, "Did you know Satan respects pronouns?" One of the things that drives me the most fucking bananas about conservative Christians is that they don't understand that Satan is a Christian deity. To believe in Satan, you have to think the Bible is true. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: People who reject Christianity are atheists. They're not Satanists. It doesn't make sense to believe in the Bible, but then side with the bad guy. 

Peter: Can't remember if it was like a Twitter post or Tumblr post or something like that, but there was once a post somewhere that was like, "The Bible is just God's side of the story. Like, I want to hear what Satan has to say."

Michael: [laughs] That's the both sides of them we need.

Michael: It's true. The aggressively evangelical types have always been super easy to troll with this sort of shit because they cannot comprehend or don't care to differentiate between a person who is trolling and says they like Satan, and someone who is actually a Satan worshipper. To them, it doesn't matter whether you are a trans guy named Eric creating a joke pin or the witches in The Witch huddled nude around a campfire, floating in the air through the power of Satan. That is the same thing to them. 

Michael: It's also very funny to me that they're pretending that they don't agree with the phrase, Satan respects pronouns. You guys hate respecting pronouns. The fact that Satan would be a pronoun guy kind of makes sense. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: Then the right-wing media kicks into gear around this. So, Tom Cotton tweets out a photo of the Satan respects pronouns pin with something along the lines of like, "Target is indoctrinating our youth," blah, blah, blah. And of course, this all gets warped together with this idea that Target is actually selling the Satan respect pronouns pin. 

Peter: Right.

Michael: To be honest, I would not give a shit if Target was selling that pin, but it's a very deliberate effort on the part of right-wing media. 

Peter: It's also Target would not sell that pin. 

Michael: No, of course not. 

Peter: They need something more than just, look, they're supporting gay people. But the goal of this effort is to imply that all of this part of a top down effort by liberal elites to corrupt our children, to groom our children, that a Pride display at Target is two degrees of separation away from pedophilia. 

Michael: You can also see the QAnonification of conservatism in this too, where it's like, they're trying to imply that somehow by buying a cute T-shirt for a kid, "This is too queer for here" with a UFO on it, that somehow like, "No, that's not just a cute T-shirt. It's actually low-key Satanist." They also do this extremely tryhard thing where they try to link this merchandise to glorifying violence. So, later in the National Review Post, they say, the company-- They're talking about this allegedly Satanic company. The company sells clothing designs showing the phrases we bash back with a heart shaped mace in the trans flag colors, transphobe collector with a skull and homophobe headrest with skulls beside a pastel guillotine. 

Peter: Absolutely based. 

Michael: I know. It's like they're obviously jokes. The We Bash Back thing is a very well-known slogan from people who used to go around neighborhoods looking for gay bashers and protecting gay people. They would walk around with baseball bats. This is like an actual thing of like, "You're going to gay bash us. We're going to fucking gay bash bash you." So, that's just like a throwback actual thing. 

Peter: Also, it's cool. 

Michael: I know. It's also really cool. But it's also very funny to me when conservatives are like, "This glorifies a culture of violence."

Peter: It's a culture of self-defense against you, you fucking freaks. 

Michael: Exactly. You guys are the ones glorifying fucking violence constantly. There's already been a wave of death threats about this shit, like, who's glorifying violence here? 

Peter: Look, there are tons of tongue in cheek death threats and threats of violence in lefty social media. If you look at right-wing social media, it's not tongue in cheek. 

Michael: Oh, yeah. [laughs] 

Peter: I actually have complaints about how lefties handle death threats and stuff, because I do think it's funny to joke about Henry Kissinger dying. 

Michael: I feel like the most magical times on the internet in the last five years were the weekend when Pokémon GO came out and the night that Trump announced he had COVID.

Peter: Dude, that night ruled.

Michael: Ding dong, ring the bells.

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: Rejoicing. [laughs] 

Peter: I think I once tweeted that that night on Twitter was like, "The closest we got to all being in a stadium together doing the seven-nation army chant."

Michael: [laughs] 

Peter: I remember texting my family the next day. My family are not a bunch of irony-poisoned lefties like me. They're just normal liberals and I was like, "Did you hear the good news?" And they were like, "We heard the great news."


Michael: They are like, "Xanadu, it's possible. We can have a better world." [laughs] 

Peter: Everyone was vibing, dude. I don't know, I'm not someone who defends the use of jokes about violence as anything other than catharsis, which I think is what it is and why people use it. 

Michael: And also, whatever, people are going to joke around about this kind of stuff. 

Peter: Yeah.

Michael: I have no problem making some jokes and tittering when other people joke about Donald Trump dying of COVID. But also, if somebody were to assassinate a political leader on the right, I would also be able to be like, "Oh, I don't know that this is like a great direction."

Peter: But which political leader though? 

Michael: [laughs] So, I really think that it's important to note that this whole Target freak out began as psychos saying psycho shit about Satanism. 

Peter: Very Bush Jr. era. 

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: Conservative grassroots shit. 

Michael: Then eventually, of course, they add this thing about indoctrinating kids. So, they find out that Target is selling some Pride related swimsuits for girls. But then elsewhere in the store, Target also sells swimsuits that have "tuck friendly construction." 

Peter: Okay.

Michael: Did you follow this? 

Peter: I caught this out of the corner of my eye and was like, "No, I'm not engaging."

Michael: You get a product on the shelf. They have like a little brochure that's attached to it and it's like, "Oh, it wicks away moisture," and it's 70% polyester. It does some extra marketing stuff. One of the things that is sometimes included in these little marketing pamphlets that are included in clothing now is like, it's tuck friendly construction, which means that it has a little bit of extra fabric in the crotch, so that if you're a transwoman who has a penis, it makes it a little bit easier for you to tuck down there. These swimming suits are not full to children. This is not like a major component of the marketing. Actually, I searched on their website. You can barely find this advertised or prominently displayed. It's just like, here's a little extra piece of information in the same way like, "Hey, don't dry this on high." 

Peter: Yeah.

Michael: It's like, an extra little piece of marketing. And so, because conservatives are all just melting down about things existing, they then pretend that these tuck friendly swimsuits are being sold to children, which, honestly, even if that was true, I don't know that I would give a shit, whatever. I don't know, the tags on clothes say all kinds of things and some kids are trans, whatever. It's really not that big of a deal. But of course, it's like, they can't respond to the world as it is. Everything needs to be this heightened version of it. So, it's like, they're selling trans swimsuits to kids.

There's all these videos, including one from the Heritage Foundation, another sort of "respectable, conservative institution" where people go in and there's very deliberate editing that goes on to make it look like these little tags on the swimsuits are on the kids' swimsuits. 

Peter: Uh-huh. Interesting. 

Michael: So, they cut away from the kids' swimsuits to a close-up of her hands, and she's like, "Now, this has tuck friendly construction." But you're in a different part of the store. 

Peter: What if a kid is eight lines deep on the tag of this adult bathing suit- 

Michael: Exactly. 

Peter: -and they see this?

Michael: They never say this outright, but I feel like it's very similar to-- When I was a really little kid. I would go into my parents' bathroom for whatever, and I would see my mom's multivitamins for women. In my little kid brain, I would be like, "Oh, if I took those, they would turn me into a woman." That's how I understood those pills, even though it's just vitamin C and riboflavin or whatever. I feel like it's telling that they never really describe the mechanism by which this is harmful to kids. It's like a little bit of extra cloth in the crotch. I think that they think that this will turn your kid trans if they wear this swimsuit. I don't actually know what they're mad about. 

Peter: There's a weird part of the conservative like anti-trans, anti-LGBT movement that is basically predicated around loose associations in your mind between children, and sexuality, and genitalia, and creating a sense that these things are intermingling more than they should, but without any real coherence. Because if you're a child at Target, they sell adult underwear. If you're wandering over to the adult section, you can see a lady in a bra. 

Michael: Yeah. 

Peter: You can see a guy in briefs being [unintelligible [00:38:32] present in the world, you will see this stuff. No one cares. But if you threw a fucking rainbow on that, they would say, it was grooming. 

Michael: Yeah. It's also very funny because rainbows are sold to children in all kinds of contexts that aren't particularly gay. Like, kids just like rainbows. 

Peter: You can sell rainbows to kids, but there needs to be text on it that says like, if it's a boys shirt with a rainbow, I will fuck girls when I grow up. 

Michael: Live, Laugh, Heteronormative [unintelligible 00:39:01].

Peter: [laughs] That's conservative Target, is just like little shirts for toddler boys that are like, "I like pussy." 

Michael: Yeah, penetrative sex with a vagina.

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: Okay. I don't know if you saw this to see Bud Light stuff, but there's a fascinating wave in conservative media. So, the early reports are just like, Target is selling Pride merch, duh, duh, duh. The first one I found was May 23rd in Fox. The framing is pretending to be meta. It'll be like, "Target faces backlash over Pride collection." And it's like, "Right, you guys did the backlash." The Daily Wire, which is the earliest article that I could find being like, "Look at what's in their Pride collection," then has an article two weeks later that is like, "Target really riled up conservatives with its Pride collection." 

Peter: [laughs] Right.

Michael: You did that and now you're reporting on the thing that you did. 

Peter: Right.

Michael: So, Fox News article from May 23rd, it's something we saw in the GameStop bonus episode that we did where it's all about how Target is panicking. 

Peter: Yeah. 

Michael: So, the headline is, Target holds 'emergency' meeting over LGBTQ merchandise in some stores to avoid 'Bud Light situation'. They have some sort of insider who works at Target who says, "The executives are really concerned about this backlash, and they had a meeting to discuss their response."

Peter: Right. 

Michael: That's the whole story. It's like, yeah, Target has noticed this and is trying to come up with a response to this, which like, yes, it's a consumer facing company. It's facing consumer backlash. People are going to get on the phone and be like, "What should we do about this?"

Peter: One of the things that neutral coverage about this stuff does, especially in the business media context, is imply, if not outright state that they have made a business misstep without explaining what they mean, which is like, "Yeah, marketing things to gay people is a business mistake now. Partnering with a transperson is a business mistake."

Michael: Yeah.

Peter: They can't say that shit out loud, but you can gesture to the situation and be like, "Yeah, so obviously, Target has made some sort of error here because how else can business media process corporate controversy? How else can business media process a sales decline?" Something must have gone wrong. 

Michael: It's a way of talking about this just like again, straightforwardly bigoted and deranged pushback as like, "Somehow you're making an objective statement." You're like, "Well, there's this backlash going on. We're not going to say whether it has any merit or not." But of course, they throw in these little things that are very obviously meant to rile up the reader. So, the Fox News article, it's giving an overview of like, what's this controversy all about? And it says, "Target Pride merchandise includes female-style swimsuits that can be used to “tuck” male genitalia. Some products are also labeled as “Thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions.” Pride merchandise also includes onesies and rompers for newborn babies, a variety of adult clothing with slogans such as “Super Queer,” party supplies, home décor, multiple books and a “Grow At Your Own Pace” saucer planter."

It's like, none of this stuff is bad, but it's just describing it in these intonation that's supposed to make you like, "Oh, my God, rompers for babies." Babies could wear anything as a romper and they're not going to be affected by it because babies can't read. 

Peter: There is like a cottage industry that I've never really seen any complaints about of loosely or even very offensive things written on clothing for infants, because it's not for the infant. 

Michael: Yeah, of course.

Peter: Seeing something offensive written across a baby is inherently funny, but they have this express or implied narrative that this is being directed at children. And then they list off 20 relatively inoffensive things. In a vacuum, you would never think anything of them if you're a normal functioning human being. But when you read all of them together, you're supposed to get the impression that something is going on here. There is an effort to shift the culture in some way or something like that. 

Michael: Again, it's basically just like marketing boilerplate. Like, they're selling clothes that say thoughtfully fit on multiple body types and gender expressions. 

Peter: Oh, fuck no. 

Michael: Whoa. Like, fat kids might have swimsuits. Oh, my god. Or my kids experimenting with their gender. What kind of swimsuit should I get them? I'll get them like a relatively sort of unisex one. 

Peter: No. Every tag should say fits beautifully on a traditionally structured white body. 

Michael: Exactly. Like, thin white children. I don't know, maybe you think that's annoying thing to have on a tag. But also, these are mostly just marketing efforts. This is again something that gay people have complained about every fucking Pride month since literally the day after Stonewall. [laughs] It's like, yeah, this is on some level cynical on some level earnest marketing efforts to a group. Like, people are more concerned with gender expression now, and there's been much more talk of body positivity, et cetera., in the last 10 years. And so, companies are marketing to that. Here's a product that matches your values. This is just normal capitalism shit.

Peter: Here's the thing is, I've now been within high level HR circles of corporations. And so, I feel like I have some vision into this. There are, in almost every corporation, the true believers in DEI and inclusivity and the product, et cetera, et cetera. But everything they do gets filtered through a sales guy, someone who is revenue focused. And what that means at the end of the day is, if our culture had gotten more homophobic over the last 10 years rather than drastically less homophobic, corporations wouldn't be doing this. If we had gotten more fat phobic as a society, there wouldn't be more options for fat people in clothing sections. It is plain as day. 

Michael: I actually think that one aspect of this that is maybe under covered is the extent to which a lot of this is done also for employee retention. I know that in the 1990s when all the sweatshop boycotts of Nike were happening, they never really affected sales, but they affected Nike's ability to hire and retain employees. If you're trying to get a job in corporate America, and one company has a reputation for sweatshops and the other doesn't, you're not going to go work for the sweatshop company. And so, Nike made this big marketing effort, and actually genuinely worked on improving its working conditions in Indonesia, mainly as a result of internal pressure. 

Peter: Mike spoke with the Nike CEO about their efforts to-- [laughs] 

Michael: [laughs] They're trying to do better. Actually, they're unfairly maligned. You're wrong about Nike. I'm going back to my roots.

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: They are fine.

Peter: The Nike is good episode of You're Wrong About. Sarah, get on it. 

Michael: [laughs] But really, a lot of this is internal marketing and external marketing. 

Peter: This is the thing is that there are three reactions to corporate DEI, if you're an employee. One is like the weird true believer who mistakenly thinks that the company is actually trying to do good in this world. Two is the cynic who's like, "Ugh, what a bunch of fucking bullshit." Whether or not the cynic believes it, they realize that the company does not, and so it doesn't really matter. And then three is the right-wing nut job who's losing their mind, because they believe that it's authentic and genuine, and ironically has aligned themselves with the person in category one. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Peter: The suckers who believe that it's real are on opposite sides of the political spectrum to some degree. And then you have the cynical mass of people across the spectrum who are just like, "Obviously, this is bullshit. And therefore, I roll my eyes at it."

Michael: Yeah. 

Peter: Whether or not the ultimate message of it is something you believe in. So, nearly everyone I have worked with my entire life and been friends with has been roughly politically aligned with me to some degree at least on things like diversity, sexual harassment, et cetera. And yet, almost all of them would roll their eyes at corporate sexual harassment training, because everyone knows that it comes from a place of inauthenticity and is a product of the company trying to cover its ass more than anything else. 

Michael: Yeah. This gets to my overall thoughts on corporate Pride, which I repeat every single year is that I think fundamentally, it's surface level, it's bullshit, but also I would rather live in a country with it than without it. I don't weep over the fact that Target is no longer going to have a Pride display. But if companies do not feel safe having cheesy Pride displays, that's a sign of a country going backwards. 

Peter: What are they doing with their Pride displays? Because I've heard people say, they're getting rid of them. I've heard people saying, they're moving them to the back of the store. like, what's going on? 

Michael: So, I went to my local Targets and I chatted with a couple of employees. I didn't say I'm a journalist or doing a podcast or whatever. I was just like, "What's going on?"

Peter: Wow, this is fucking boots on the ground journalism from Mike Hobbes.

Michael: I embedded at the local Target.

Peter: Went to the nearest diner and asked them about their experience at Target. 

Michael: So, according to the employees at my local store, one of them I talked to was opening, and she came in and just like, all the swimsuits were gone from the Pride displays. They didn't announce this. There wasn't a conversation within the company about it. They were just gone. My read on the situation is that Target executives were looking at all of this happening and wanted to quietly get rid of this stuff and tamp it down. But obviously, they didn't want to do it publicly because then you get the backlash from LGBT people, right? 

Peter: Yeah. 

Michael: So, my read is that they wanted to quietly remove the Satanic stuff, quietly remove the swimsuits, and then maybe the right-wing psychos will calm down. 

Peter: Yeah, no, that'll work for sure. 

Michael: But then Fox News sniffed them out. Fox News runs this piece about like, "Here's an emergency meeting, and they're thinking of taking things off the shelf." And of course, they contact Target for a statement. And once all of this stuff goes public that the company is scrambling behind the scenes, then they have to say something publicly. So, the day after the Fox News article runs, we get a statement from Target, which says, "For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year's collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year." 

Peter: To be fair, this feels somewhat authentic, at least compared to the Bud Light statement, because it seems like what they're saying is like, "Yeah, our corporate position is that we stand by the LGBT community, but also our employees are being threatened, and we can't just idly stand by and let that happen. We're going to acquiesce to some of these demands or these implicit demands, because we're concerned about employee safety."

Michael: Yeah. But also, a friend of the show, Parker Molloy wrote a really good post on this about Target is the 10th company that has done something very low level, superficial, pro queer, and then faced huge right-wing backlash, and then pulled it back. And her point was like, "This is worse for us than if you just hadn't done it in the first place." Because what we see happening is basically, you're capitulating to terrorists. So, we've now had bomb threats against Targets in nine states. A lot of the stores have had to be evacuated. There's been various viral videos of people tearing down displays, shouting at the people who work at the stores. 

One of the things that makes me so fucking mad about all this shit from the antivaxxers to this stuff is how it's always the frontline retail employees making minimum wage who have to fucking deal with this stuff. And so, on some level, morally speaking, I can get why the executives were like, "We're just going to get people out of harm's way." I also feel like they're using this somewhat as an excuse, when like, "Ah, they were really concerned about their employees, there's other things that they could do." I don't think working conditions for Target employees are all that great. [laughs] 

Peter: That's why I want to see Target employees armed. If a Republican enters the store, they're allowed to shoot. 

Michael: Republicans have defended profiling for years to stop Muslims in airports. 

Peter: That's true. 

Michael: Sorry, man. MAGA hat, you're not getting in. 

Peter: Honestly, it sounds like a more reliable predictor of commotion-

Michael: Seriously.

Peter: -than anything we've done with the TSA. 

Michael: Seriously. 

Peter: So, we're seeing these corporations try to reckon with a world where you can't abandon LGBT people and allies, because they have a lot of support and make up the majority of the country. But you also have to cater to this loud, violent, aggressive minority. I think the actual lesson for companies is cross your fingers and hope you don't get selected. 

Michael: I don't know if you saw this in your research, Peter, but they've already moved on to Kohl's, which also apparently has Pride displays. They're going after the North Face, because they did an Instagram partnership, something, something with a drag queen named Pattie Gonia, which is pretty good. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: It's funny to do a partnership with one of your competitor company names. 

Peter: Maybe they thought they were coopting. 

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Peter: We will take away Pattie Gonia's greatest drag queen ally. 

Michael: But then, earlier this year, we had the Hershey's thing. Hershey's did a marketing campaign that included some transpeople and conservative's meltdown. There was Lego. They went after Lego, because they were going to have black Lego figures, and people with disabilities. That's another one where you're like, "You, guys, [laughs] it's really revealing of the whole fucking project." [laughs] 

Peter: Even though all Legos are gender fluid, there's no genitals. Pop a little wig on that guy, and that's a gal now. 

Michael: Well, also what's interesting to this, people have been talking a lot in the last couple of years about moving the Overton window. If you say the leftmost position, the median political position then moves to the left is the idea. To me, what all of this represents is the Overton window shifting to the right. There was a period where it was very possible for companies to make normy ass statements of support for LGBT people. It basically is just a proxy indicator for mainstream acceptance. I think that's why it's always so fraught for actual gay people, because there's always a question like, "Well, do we want mainstream acceptance or do we want to change the mainstream?"

But then, losing mainstream acceptance feels really bad. [laughs] It feels bad. This is one of the first episodes I've researched for the show where I really did not feel good reading about this Target stuff. 

Peter: Yeah, I felt the same way. 

Michael: It's like, "Fuck Target, but also, I want the dumb United Airlines float at Pride." Not because I think United Airlines gives a shit, but it just means that it's not controversial to support gay people. 

Peter: It feels like a metric of progress more than a good in and of itself. 

Michael: Yeah, exactly. 

Peter: In a vacuum, we shouldn't care about these empty gestures at all, but we're not in a vacuum. This is the product of an ascendant reactionary movement that is increasingly hateful, increasingly aggressive, increasingly violent. And the corporations backing down so quickly in some of these cases is a reminder that these institutions that have pretended to stand with the LGBT community for a decade now will very readily side with the fascists when the chips are down easily. I have this other maybe half-baked thought, but I think that what's interesting about the conservative tactic here is that they get the causation backwards. Corporate pride is the aesthetic output of a society that is more broadly accepting of LGBT people. 

Conservatives lost the fight over broad social tolerance of LGBT people, or at least LGB people, and now they're attacking the aesthetic outgrowths of that social tolerance. I think, in general, people on the right are sort of blind to the difference between aesthetics and material politics, because their politics are so aesthetic, they don't want anything other than to feel like they are firmly atop the social hierarchy. I think it was Walter Benjamin who said that, "Fascism is the aestheticization of politics." The fascist public is being given a channel to express their frustrations without any material political benefit accruing to themselves. 

So, for LGBT people, it's a material fight because you can't separate the Bud Light drama, the Target drama from anti-trans bills in state legislatures, for example. But for conservatives, it's purely aesthetic. They have nothing material to gain here. It's about the validation of their social status. 

Michael: It's also, to me, there's also a huge media component of this too, that in the 2010s, after Obergefell, we had a lot of takes that are like, "Okay, gay marriage is the table. Conservatives have dropped gay marriage, anti-gay stuff as a fight." You'd even see essays in the National Review and various other conservative publications about like, "Well, the gay thing turns out it's actually really not that big of a deal." But then the minute the far right becomes emboldened to go after gay people, the center right immediately capitulates and immediately starts laundering this into, "Well, there's actually some concerns." 

So, the Media Matters for America had a piece about how Jonah Goldberg went on CNN when all this stuff was happening and being like, "Well, you know, there's some real concerns about trans youth and surgical procedures." It's like, these are people that are saying that the products are Satanic. These are fucking psychos. You're going on and be like, "Well, wait a minute. What if the psychos have a point?" I also think there's a big thing with kind of transphobia itself too that the J. K. Rowling wing of the "gender critical movement," their argument is always like, "Well, we're not anti-trans movement. We're not transphobes. We just have reasonable concerns about same sex spaces and reasonable concerns about kids." 

Then this stuff happens that, again, straightforward bigotry, and they're not pushing back. No one on their side is like, "Hey, I am actually concerned about the surgical procedures, but these people are fucking weirdos." They're not doing that, which should call into question everything else they are saying about their alleged reasonable concerns about like, "Well, trans kids and the surgical procedures." It's become very obvious that they are part of-- You can never say what anybody's individual motivations are, but they are in league with open right-wing bigots who are aiming to turn back both trans rights and LGBT rights, and really broader progressive gains more generally. They are in league with these people. They're just like, "Oh, yeah, it turns out maybe there's some fascists doing death threats on Target. But I don't know why we should ever give that any attention."

Anyway, here's a whole eight-episode podcast series about the fucking witch trials of J. K. Rowling, [laughs] and about how transpeople were mean to her on the internet. It's like, well, is anyone mean on the Internet right now, your dedication to fucking civility on the internet. Anyone else you want to aim that AR at? No? Okay. 

Peter: Yeah. From the right, it's never a real demand for civility. 

Michael: No.

Peter: It's a demand for complacency. That's what they actually want. 

Michael: Can we end with a quiz, Peter?

Peter: Hmm.

Michael: I'm going to send you a quote, and you have to guess where it's from. 

Peter: A lot of pressure after I fucking knock that math stuff out of the park a couple of episodes again. 

Michael: I know it's a problem. You peaked too early. 

Peter: Yeah. 

Michael: This is about a culture of violence taking over the left.

Peter: Okay. " Now that some students, professors, and activists are labeling their opponents’ words as violence, they give themselves permission to engage in ideologically motivated physical violence. As an essay in the Berkeley student newspaper argued, the rationale is that physically violent actions used to shut down speech that is deemed hateful, are “not acts of violence” but rather “acts of self-defense”.” This kind of identity politics amplifies the human proclivity for US versus Them thinking. It prepares students for battle, not for learning."

Michael: Words of violence, Peter.

Peter: So, I am going to enter my mind space here and say that this is Barry Weiss?

Michael: Ooh.

Peter: Is that right? 

Michael: This is from The Coddling of the American Mind, Peter.

Peter: Fuck. 

Michael: Once a week, I will test whether you actually read the books for this podcast. 

Peter: Okay. The us versus them thinking I thought was you baiting me. 

Michael: [laughs] 

Peter: Fuck damn. I can't believe I swung and missed on that shit. 

Michael: You're two for three, Peter, with the math ones. 

Peter: Fuck up my whole day. 

Michael: There's another element of moderate complacency, where for years now, we've been told that there's a spirit of authoritarianism and a culture of violence on the left, and it's always about to spill over into violence. 

This is a core argument to the entire cancel culture panic that it's not about cancel culture. It's a slippery slope to these college students, people on the left engaging in violence much more. And yet, now that people are using actual violence, actual threats, nothing, no outcry from the moderates, they are still writing these same fucking pieces. They're like, "You got to watch out for the left."

Peter: All of the right-wing complaints of authoritarianism and extremism coming from the left are justified in abstract terms. Glenn Greenwald has been talking about left-wing authoritarianism for a couple of years, and all he means is, the enforcement of cultural norms by Twitter users.

Michael: Or linguistic shifts. We're using this word when we used to say that word. Okay.

Peter: Right. The idea that these lefty impulses are driven by this greater evil that if we leave it unchecked, we will eventually see. But it's all to be seen, because they have not been able to actually articulate a material complaint about leftist authoritarianism or violence. All they've been able to do is point towards these really abstract concepts and label that authoritarian or violent, whereas the authoritarianism of the right and the violence of the right is objectively measurable to a much larger degree. 

Michael: The people who are not engaging in violence are about to start at any time. The people currently engaging in violence are about to stop. We shouldn't worry. If we're talking about a culture of violence, it is clear that we do have a huge problem with that in the United States, but it is one dimensionally, straightforwardly coming from the right. We don't have anything like that on the left at all. Now, it got real quiet. We have nothing to end with. 

Peter: Yeah. 

Michael: You need to end us on a joke, Peter. I know you're tired and you're sleepy. 

Peter: I have two forms of tired. One is when I'm in my prime joke form. [Michael laughs] My brain can be occasionally reduced to only jokes, [Michael laughs] and it can also be reduced to no jokes.

Michael: As your podcast cohost, I just want Joke Peter. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: I don't want to hear your thoughts on Pride. I just want your little quips today. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: That's what I need from you. 

Peter: I skeeted yesterday about-- I'm using it, about gay men at Pride. 

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Peter: I've always had this sort of thought that so many complaints about kink at Pride and complaints about degenerate behavior in general in the homosexual community are actually just complaints about men. What's actually happening, and I think I've told this to you before, what's actually happening is you're just seeing the behavior of men unfiltered by the presence of women in their lives to tell them to stop. 

Michael: [laughs] I'm glad we finally got to the part where you're problematic, Peter. I know it's coming.

Peter: I know. [laughs] I'm trying to get my latent homophobia flowing-

Michael: I know.

Peter: -just to hit the edges of that perfect joke. [laughs] 

Michael: That was a good ski. Your skeet was so good, I saved it and sent it to friends of mine that aren't on sky. 

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: I have it in my little folder. It says, "If your child sees some gays being hypersexual and gross at Pride, you need to sit them down and explain the cold, hard reality that all men are like this."

Peter: [laughs] 

Michael: And it's true, Peter.

Peter: I always had this thought that so much of what manifests as homophobia-

Michael: Be careful. 

Peter: -is actually discrimination against the behavior of men. 


Michael: The justified discrimination- 

Peter: Justified the discrimination.

Michael: -against-- [laughs] 

Peter: Because yeah, a lot of people be like, "Oh, you think that gay people are disgusting and hypersexual, and that's actually your homophobia." And the other side of that is like, "Well, yes, what that really is a complaint about is the behavior of men."

Michael: I'm so against the patriarchy that I hate gay men. 

Peter: All I'm saying is that you can woke yourself into being homophobic again. 

Michael: [laughs] I think that's it. I think we got it, Peter. That was good. Glad you woke up at the end. 

Peter: [laughs] This is what gets me animated is-

Michael: Yeah. [laughs] 

Peter: -thinking of ways to be problematic while layering a woke enough justification on top of it that our listeners are like, "All right, well, he's got us."

Peter: Yeah. 



[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]