Callous Conservative Response to Chelsea Manning News Could Be Just the Beginning

People call for thre release of WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning during the 2013 Capital Pride parade in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2013.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The mainstream press has spent the morning debating which pronoun to use to describe Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, while over here at Slate we quickly came to the conclusion that Manning’s wishes should be respected and we should all move on. Many conservative pundits, however, jumped to the exact opposite conclusion shortly after the news was announced. To them, Manning’s decision to live the rest of her life as a female was deserving of scorn, condescension, and mockery.

RedState editor and noted funnyman Erick Erickson led the charge of obnoxiousness with an initial tweet laughing at the announcement, followed by others describing Manning’s decision as a “mental health issue”:

The rest of Erickson’s Twitter feed this morning was a fairly entertaining series of retweets of all of the abuse he was getting, along with his reveling in the fact that his callousness could inspire such ire. Erickson described his foes as a legion of Satan, and even included a reference to Slate in his jokey-jokes.

Erickson was by no means the lone conservative media personality to respond so nastily to the news. (See other examples here, here, here, here, and here). But he was the person to most embrace the Haterade. Erickson was heavily criticized earlier this year for basically saying the idea of a male breadwinner is science, so this stuff is relatively toned down by comparison.

What’s interesting here, though, is that as Americans become more and more tolerant of the idea of LGBT equality, including marriage equality, transgender people are starting to become one of the last “safer” targets for right-wing vilification. You can see this in California, where conservatives are gearing up to try to repeal a recently passed law that recognizes transgender students in public schools and allows them to choose the bathrooms and locker rooms that they identify with. Even in deep-blue California, 46 percent of the state’s residents opposed the law to 43 percent who supported it in a recent poll. If the right-wing groups that are trying to repeal the law get their voter measure on the ballot for next year’s elections, expect that the California transgender referendum could become the new national culture war issue du jour in 2014.