A unicorn costume, a hammer and a belief that pedophiles are using public schools to destroy democracy: The trial of David DePape for attacking Paul Pelosi was strange and disturbing.
But take away the costume and the hammer, and the reasoning for DePape’s vicious attack is alarmingly mainstream — pedophile panic.
By that, I mean the outrageous effort not just by hate-mongering conspiracy theorists to frame LGBTQ+ individuals as deviant and dangerous, lumping them in with criminals who sexually abuse children. But also a cynical bid by some politicians, clergy and grifters to do the same.
Anti-LGBTQ+ attacks are everywhere, both physical and political. Hysteria about pedophiles, driven by conspiracy theories, has trampled truth.
As DePape explained it on the stand, he is concerned about “groomer schools,” where teachers are “queering the students, pushing transgenderism to confuse children about their identities to make them more vulnerable to abuse and Marxist indoctrination.”
Sound familiar? It could have been a quote from a Huntington Beach City Council meeting, a Republican presidential rally or a debate on the floor of the Florida Legislature, where the controversial “don’t say gay” bill last year was described by an aide to Gov. Ron DeSantis as an “anti-grooming” law.
…And Donovan points out that even the KKK focused on children and education in the 1920s, with the same arguments about American values.
So none of this is new.
But we are capable of not repeating the past. Hate and conspiracy aren’t normal. They aren’t American values, to be debated as valid political positions.
David DePape was fighting an enemy conjured by lies. That enemy may not be real, but the danger of those lies is.