Jim Banks confuses bigotry for a cause
Also: migrant caravans are back in the news just in time for the Virginia gubernatorial election.
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Trumpers love to complain about how they’re victims of “cancel culture” and/or big tech “censorship.” But the latest fake outrage ginned up by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) reveals how these gripes often amount to little more than the belief that there should be no consequences for being a bigot.
Banks, chair of the Republican Study Committee, had his government Twitter account locked after he posted tweets on October 19 misgendering Rachel Levine, the US assistant secretary for health who last week became the country’s first openly trans four-star officer when she was sworn in as admiral of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
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“The title of first female four-star officer gets taken by a man,” Banks posted in one tweet, adding in another that “calling someone that was born and lived as a man for 54 years the first ‘female’ four-star officer is an insult to every little girl who dreams of breaking glass ceilings one day.”
The assumption baked into these tweets — that trans women don’t really exist and are actually men — is not only blatantly transphobic, but clearly in violation of a Twitter policy against degrading content that explicitly prohibits “misgendering or deadnaming transgender individuals.”
It doesn’t matter that Banks is a Republican. What matters is that his bigoted tweets clearly violate a Twitter policy against hate speech. And yet, unsurprisingly, he wasted no time trying to portray himself as the victim in tweets he posted from his personal account (undercutting his claims about being silenced).
“My tweet was a statement of fact,” Banks wrote. “Big Tech doesn’t have to agree with me, but they shouldn’t be able to cancel me. If they silence me, they will silence you.”
Banks followed that up with another tweet vowing he “won’t back down” and urging people to follow his personal account, where his pinned tweet is a solicitation for email addresses and donations.
Twitter’s policy against misgendering and deadnaming doesn’t discriminate against conservatives. It discriminates against bigotry. And implementing policies of this kind is well within Twitter’s rights as a private company.
This kind of stuff isn’t a surprise coming from Banks, who has made a name for himself this year making excuses for the January 6 insurrection.
Like many other elected Republicans, Banks has spent years pushing conspiracy theories about social media companies allegedly censoring conservatives. These allegations are not only baseless; they fly in the face of mounting evidence that many of these platforms are biased toward right-wing content. Banks’s suspension, for instance, came amid news that Twitter’s internal research found its algorithms disproportionately amplify content from right-wing media outlets and politicians.
Banks’s threat about the need to hold social media platforms “accountable” illustrates how Republicans continue to work the refs. Beyond that, it’s notable that Banks seems to believe he’s taking a stand for an important cause when he’s really standing up for crude bigotry. And he’s telling on himself by touting his suspension from Twitter as though it’s something to be proud of.
Caravans are back
It’s the surest sign that election season is upon us.
Fox News has reverted back to regular fear-mongering about caravans of migrants traveling through Mexico to reach the US border — just in time for the Virginia gubernatorial election on November 2.
From Monday morning through Tuesday’s Fox & Friends, “caravans” were mentioned more than 75 times on Fox News programming, according to a transcript search. The tone of this coverage is generally to scare viewers about “hordes of migrants,” as an October 17 broadcast put in.
While there are certainly real problems along the southern border, Fox News tends to start talking about caravans just in time to rile up Republican voters ahead of significant elections.
Just ahead of the 2018 midterms, for instance, then-President Trump and Fox News worked together to push a narrative that caravans were tantamount to an “invasion” of the country — not stopping even after a gunman motivated by a similar conspiracy theory opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people.
As I wrote about at the time for Vox, Fox News dramatically toned down the caravan coverage as soon as the midterms came and went (strange how that works). But they reemerged in the lead up to the 2020 election and have been a cudgel right-wingers have used this year to discredit Biden’s immigration policies.
Now, with Republican Glenn Youngkin trying to defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a hard-fought gubernatorial race widely viewed as a bellwether for 2022, Fox News has a reporter embedded with migrants in Mexico and is portraying the situation as a major indictment of Democratic immigration policies.
It’s true that migrant encounters along the border this year are at a 21-year high. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that the US president no longer has a policy of torturing families trying to cross the border by separating them. But what Fox News is doing is the same thing they’ve done for years now — exploiting a complex issue for Republican gain, but doing so under the guise of journalism.