Pedophile panic and upcoming political violence. What the Paul Pelosi case revealed

(Uncredited / Associated Press)

Pedophile panic and upcoming political violence. What the Paul Pelosi case revealed

Homepage News, California Politics

Anita Chabria

November 24, 2023

A unicorn costume, a hammer and the belief that pedophiles use public schools to destroy democracy: the trial


David DePape’s attack on Paul Pelosi was strange and disturbing.

But when you take away the costume and the hammer, the reason for DePape’s vicious attack is an alarming mainstream pedophile panic.

By that I mean the outrageous attempt, not just by hateful conspiracy theorists, to portray LGBTQ+ individuals as deviant and dangerous, and to lump them in with criminals who sexually abuse children. But also a cynical attempt by some politicians, clerics and con artists to do the same.

Anti-LGBTQ+ attacks are everywhere, both physically and politically. Hysteria about pedophiles, driven by conspiracy theories, has trampled on the truth.

As DePape explained it on the stand, he worries about “groomer schools,” where teachers “encourage queering of students and transgenderism to confuse children about their identities, making them more vulnerable to abuse and Marxist indoctrination.”

Sounds familiar? It could have been a quote from a Huntington Beach City Council meeting, a Republican presidential rally or a debate in the Florida Legislature, where last year’s controversial “don’t say gay” bill was described by an aide to the governor . Ron DeSantis as an ‘anti-grooming’ law.

The quote is essentially DePape’s summary of what he learned from right-wing podcaster James Lindsay about one of DePape’s main targets, a professor of feminist theory and queer studies whose house seemed too difficult for DePape to break into. So he went to Pelosi’s brick mansion instead.

When a San Francisco jury returned with a guilty verdict against DePape, it was hardly a bombshell. The fact is that DePape drove a hammer into Pelosi’s skull, a brutal act that was caught on camera and went unchallenged even by his own lawyers.

What was lost in the speed of the in-an-out, no-surprises trial and what should be chilling to any civil rights advocate was the defense team’s argument about why DePape had devised his elaborate plot involving attracting the unicorn was necessary. costume while questioning the victim’s wife, Representative Nancy Pelosi, about government corruption and, you guessed it, pedophiles.

It was not conventional politics. It wasn’t even intentional


Nancy Pelosi



powerful Democrat from San Francisco

was on a list somewhere that included the mother of DePape’s two sons, Tom Hanks, George Soros, Hunter Biden and performance artist Marina Abramovic.

DePape was propelled by the hyper-drive conspiracies that have spilled out of Internet chat rooms and into school boards, heightening paranoia about threats not just to the white Christian values ​​that some see as inherent to our country’s identity , but also for the safety of our children.

“It’s not just that she’s a pedophile activist. It’s also that she wants to turn all schools into pedophile molestation factories,” DePape said of the queer studies professor he targeted.

“She wants to destroy children’s sense of identity because she believes this will cause them to grow up dysfunctional and unhappy. And if they are dysfunctional and unhappy, they will not be adapted to society, hate society and want to become communist activists. ,” he said.

These types of beliefs, ugly and untrue, can no longer be considered extreme or extremism.

Take, for example, this comment from earlier this year by Jonathan Butcher, a fellow at the ultra-conservative and ultra-influential Heritage Foundation:

“For parents, rejecting radical gender theory is a matter of protecting their children. However, the rest of us should reject queer theories that seek to control the next generation,” he wrote.

Or the mugshot meme that Donald Trump posted not long ago, insinuating that pedophiles were out to get him.

Or Trump’s recent sit-down interview with conservative activists Moms for America, in which he complained that “indoctrination programs” in public schools have “gone out of control” and promised swift action.


to end them if elected.



an expert on extremism and a prospective senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide in Australia, told me that mainstream politics is “driving an anti-LGBTQ ideology.”

Where once conspiracy was relegated to dark corners, it now has a symbiotic relationship with the mainstream, he said, with any “evidence” or current events building into the narrative with such speed and force that the sheer volume of information makes it seem as if as if it has to be true.

“The whole purpose is to introduce so much chaos into the atmosphere that it is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction,” he said.

Mission accomplished.

A recent Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll on threats to American democracy found that 59% of Republicans think what children learn in school is a critical issue facing the United States. A 2022 USC poll found that while about 60% of Democrats support teaching high school students about gender identity, gay and transgender rights or sexual orientation, only about 30% of Republicans feel the same way.

Of course, parents have good reason to worry about public schools, especially in the wake of the pandemic, when teachers are burned out, budgets are tight and students are facing skyrocketing mental health issues.

But Joan Donovan, a disinformation expert and professor at Boston University, told me that while violence remains rare, vigilantes like DePape are not the lone wolves we like to believe. She said violence, both by individuals and groups, will increase as the 2024 elections approach.

“I wish it was the case that they were marginal, but they seem to represent a larger sentiment online,” she said. “Of course taking action in the form of attacking or trying to kill people is in itself horrible, but when you look at the kind of discourse these people encourage, that is the natural outcome.”

Support for political violence has increased over the past two years, with nearly a quarter of Americans now agreeing that “because things have gone so far off course, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to to save our country.” That comes from


recent PRRI survey on threats to American democracy.

That percentage has increased from 15% in 2021.

But prepare for it: 41% of Republicans who agree with Trump that violence may be necessary, and 46% of Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen, also believe violence may be an answer. That almost helped.

By all accounts, DePape was just a lonely loser, unremarkable and peaceful, until he started delving into conspiracy theories during the pandemic. He lived in a garage in the Bay Area that didn’t even have a bathroom and spent his free time every day playing video games while listening to conspiracy podcasters pushing what we then called QAnon.

I won’t go so far as to say he was a victim, but he was a vessel for a firehose stream of propaganda, holding everything until doing nothing seemed unconscionable. He is responsible for his violence, but it is clear that he has lost the ability to parse the truth from that swamp of what he calls investigation.

Somewhere along his journey, DePape came to believe that a secret cabal of so-called elites ruled the world and participated in a cult that sexually abused children.

That’s how DePape came up with his list of targets. Most of these are somewhere in the lore of QAnon, a series of conspiracies that QAnon expert and Michigan State University professor Laura Dilley told me are “absolutely endemic now.”

At its core, the political unrest caused by these falsehoods is not much different from the satanic panic that raged in the 1980s, driven by the discomfort of more and more women entering the workforce and leaving their children in childcare. Even then, conservatives vilified the LGBTQ+ community to stoke fears that children were in danger and that American society was on the brink of collapse.

And Donovan points out that even the KKK focused on children and education in the 1920s, making the same arguments about American values.

So none of this is new.

But we are capable of not repeating the past. Hate and conspiracy are not normal. They are not American values ​​that should be discussed as valid political positions.

David DePape fought an enemy created by lies. That enemy may not be real, but the danger of those lies is.


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