On Wednesday, The Guardian reported on how a viral right-wing hoax about a spa in Los Angeles picked up by Fox News' Tucker Carlson led to two weeks of violent clashes and far-right threats against the transgender community.
"On 24 June, a woman claimed on Instagram that a Korean spa in Los Angeles had allowed a 'man' to expose himself to women and girls in the women's section," reported Sam Levin and Lois Beckett. "The unsubstantiated allegations about Wi Spa in LA's Koreatown neighborhood quickly spread from social media to rightwing forums to far-right news sites to Fox News, and were distorted by anti-transgender groups across multiple countries."
According to the report, there is no evidence that anyone, male or female, exposed themselves to children at Wi Spa — the video that started the controversy just showed a woman demanding to know if one of the other customers was transgender, and an employee saying the spa doesn't discriminate by gender identity.
But the story picked up a life of its own, in large part thanks to Carlson.
According to Media Matters, Fox News discussed Wi Spa a dozen times in a week, with Carlson claiming a "man" was naked in the "female kids section". Internet commentators also turned their rage on Precious Child, a transgender activist in L.A. who has never actually been to the spa, as people speculated she was the supposed flasher and bombarded her with slurs and death threats, with one account sending her a picture of a rifle with the caption "Dirty piece of sh*t predator."
"The massive media attention resulted in two weekends of chaotic rallies in LA this month, in which anti-trans and trans-rights protesters fought in the streets, and women carrying 'protect female spaces' signs paraded alongside members of the far-right Proud Boys," said the report. "Trans counter-protesters and their supporters described being Maced, stabbed and chased by rightwing demonstrators, as well as injured by police." Futhermore, "Marie Dumouch, a 20-year-old French woman who came to both demonstrations to film and interview participants, said she was surrounded by rightwing demonstrators and bear-sprayed in the face during the 17 July protest: 'I got called a pedo lover and a bitch.'"
The Proud Boys, a self-described "Western Chauvinist" group, also had a hand in carrying out the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and several of their members have been charged in connection with the incident.