From Gender Critical to QAnon

Jules Gill-Peterson

The New Inquiry


“The appeal to free speech in anti-trans punditry is hardly novel, but I have become interested in the intensely-avowed emotional attachment to liberalism in this genre of complaint”

“This affective attachment is all the more interesting because it is so frequently accompanied by the suggestion that a lawsuit would be justified to secure their liberty against irrational critics”

“preventing children from being trans cannot be disentangled from an eradicatory logic”

“I detail the historical context of this logic in my book, Histories of the Transgender Child (University of Minnesota Press, 2018)”

“Singal, Sullivan, Weiss, Greenwald and Shrier are careful not to oppose themselves in an outright eradicatory sense to trans life”

“Yet I am less concerned here with the content of their speech than I am with its skillful function in laundering extremism

“Rather than opposing these “gender-critical” pundits to their paranoid, authoritarian and ethnonationalist allies who draw more on QAnon than defamation law, we can grasp the very process through which the ostensible difference permits the former to grant access to the latter”

“we can grasp the key mechanics of the growing relation of gender-critical punditry to QAnon, an overlooked process structuring this year’s unprecedented legislative assault on trans children”

“QAnon is a network of mostly recycled conspiracy theories claiming that the Democratic Party, as emblems of a worldwide Jewish cabal, are Satanic, pedophilic torturers that sexually abuse and cannibalize infants”

“the fact that QAnon has not needed to generate successful new conspiracies to adopt anti-trans politics tells us much about the interface between conspiracy and liberalism”

“The psychological and political science literature on disinformation and conspiracy theory, by contrast, has proven incredibly weak in the face of rising authoritarian and anti-democratic movements”

“the prevailing social scientific literature still runs aground on what Michel Foucault frames as the uncrossable chasm built between reason and unreason in the modern Western world”

“because the liberal political imaginary pledges allegiance to a Western Enlightenment model of rational actors, it has no account of libidinal investments in power”

“it has no explanation for why some people choose conspiracy over, say, paranoid left modes of systemic critique”

“In Empire of Conspiracy, Timothy Melley helpfully explains that the American tradition of paranoia made famous by Hofstadter has intensified since the Second World War, largely due to the Cold War and anticommunism”

“This intensification turns principally on a fear of the growing loss of individual agency”

“the individual ascribes intentionality to abstract structures bearing down on him, rather than seeing them as impersonally oppressive to general populations”

“In a framework where the secret agents of a world cabal, communists, aliens, or even networked technologies of communication are read as intentionally aiming to subdue the righteous individual, the conspiracy theorist’s goal is to neutralize that intentionality, not dismantle the system

“extreme contradiction can only be made to work and ratify conspiracy theory because it has been so thoroughly laundered in advance by people like Shrier, Littman, and conservative groups like the Family Research Council”

“this process is entirely derivative of American liberal political culture, rather than a symptom of its collapse”

“The problem with recuperation as remedy is that it doubles down on the fantasy that conspiracy theory, disinformation, and authoritarianism are simple errors of fact or reality, rather than complex, libidinally invested political positions central to American political and social life”

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