'Bring ammo': GOP's child trafficking conspiracy theories are getting worse — and more violent
Governor Ron DeSantis on Facebook.

On Thursday, writing for The Daily Beast, Kelly Weill reported that the "Don't Say Gay" school censorship bill backed by Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, and the rhetoric on the right falsely claiming that opponents of the bill want to sexually "groom" children, is the latest step in growing far-right conspiracy theories that Democrats and other perceived enemies of the state are trafficking children — and that these theories are quickly escalating to violence.

One demonstration of this, noted Weill, was how these theories made their way into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"As Capitol rioters fought with police on Jan. 6, 2021, a Trump supporter named Sean McHugh allegedly heckled law enforcement. 'You guys like protecting pedophiles?' he shouted at police from a megaphone, according to prosecutors. 'There is a Second Amendment behind us, what are you going to do then?' wrote Weill. "The insinuation that Capitol police supported pedophiles, and should therefore be subject to violence, was noteworthy — in part because McHugh had previously been convicted of statutory rape against a 14-year-old."

The issue has been brewing for years, first in the form of "Pizzagate" — the hoax that children were being trafficked in the nonexistent basement of a D.C. pizza parlor — and progressed into the QAnon movement, which combined elements of anti-government "sovereign citizen" ideology and the centuries old anti-Semitic "blood libel" to assert that the U.S. is controlled by a shadowy group that rapes children and consumes their flesh and blood to achieve immortality.

The "grooming" lie, part of an old smear on LGBTQ persons, is now escalating.

"The term’s viral use this month accompanied new calls for violence," reported Weill. "After the Walt Disney Company condemned Florida’s anti-gay law, far-right internet personality Jack Posobiec tweeted a picture of a T-shirt featuring an edited version of the Disney logo. 'Boycott groomers, bring ammo,' the shirt read."

Meanwhile, she wrote, "Militant far-right groups have also taken up the conspiracy theories, tying them even more explicitly to calls for violence. The Proud Boys, a violent paramilitary group, have acted as a 'security' force for QAnon marches that used the slogan 'Save Our Children,' and have marched into street clashes in Portland, Oregon, with 'Save Our Children' shields. Messaging about 'killing pedophiles' is common in Proud Boy chat channels, although a popular Proud Boys shirt, which bears the group’s logo and the message 'ALL OF OUR ENEMIES ARE PEDOPHILES' suggests that their targets go far beyond actual child abusers."

You can read more here.