Fox News went right back to stoking hatred and fear of the LGBTQ community barely a day after a gunman massacred five people at a Colorado Springs gay bar, and NBC News reporter Ben Collins drew parallels between that rhetoric and the early days of the Nazi regime.
Collins covers the darkest online corners of the internet to expose the hateful speech that incites real-world violence, but he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Fox News host Tucker Carlson and other mainstream conservative media figures spread the same rhetoric to their audience of millions.
"I think we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment here as reporters," Collins said. "Are we more afraid of being on Breitbart for saying that trans people deserve to be alive or are we more afraid of the dead people? I'm more afraid of the dead people. I don't want to wake up on a Sunday and see all of these headlines came to fruition."
GOP officials at all levels have stoked fear of trans people for political gain, and Collins said journalists haven't done enough to make that clear.
"Because of the attention economy that we live in, they get more clicks for it," he said. "They end up on Tucker Carlson. Last night, by the way, Tucker Carlson attacked my colleague Brandy Zadrozny, my co-byline on almost all of these stories -- not me, but Brandy. Of course, he attacked Brandy, and he went right back into this idea that some 'they' is trying to groom your kids, trying to sexualize your children, right? Who's the 'they,' first of all, and second of all, all of her reporting was right. All of it was right."
Collins said hate speech against LGBTQ people helped whip up hysteria that allowed Nazi fascism to flourish in Germany, and he said the same thing was happening in the U.S.
"[A rhetoric professor] was telling me about this thing called 'hate objects,' where they take people they describe as degenerates, right," Collins said. "Before Nazi Germany, there were gay people, people who played with gender conformity, and they say they are contributing to the downfall of society. They are the reason that, you know, things cost more, that the crops aren't coming up, right? We have been through this in the past. It's very dark, and the people playing around with this don't take responsibility. They go right back into it."
"Also, algorithmically it's easier to sell fear -- the hate gets clicks," he added. "The hate gets people tuning back in. It gets the hate objects, you create new hate objects."
Although he specializes in fringe websites and forums, Collins despaired that those messages had become mainstream for many conservatives with predictably grim consequences.
"These people are being used as props right now, they're being used as props, explicitly for electoral or monetary purpose," Collins said. "Right now, the fact that 12 hours, 24 hours after a shooting there is no inward reflection here, it's just, you know, continue to use these people as props, continue to use the grief of these people as props. I think as reporters we've got to look in here, and double down. Who are we afflicting here if not the people who are grieving by not standing with them?"
"I really want to say, [NBC correspondent] Maura Barrett, who's on the ground for us, by the way, has done incredible reporting here, and she talked to a person who lived through that shooting," Collins added. "And they called home, and the family members at home said, 'Well, you have to look inward at your degenerate, at your lifestyle.' This person just saw five people die and that was the response, and that's because that's an acceptable response right now from the guys across the street at the other cable network, and an entire political party."
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