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”:
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA https://t.co/vNGTfaD1Gw--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
But just remember it's not a mental health issue. https://t.co/vNGTfaD1Gw--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
Big question is how a nut like Bradley Manning ever got close to the information he leaked.--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
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.
Has Slate set up a site yet where we can be told our names like Bradley Manning? I do not want Chelsea.--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
even if Manning undergoes gender reassignment he'll still have more balls than @EWErickson, and integrity. . .--WizzyProbs (@WizzyProbs) August 22, 2013
I swear Satan must have my twitter feed tied into a hotline with Legion and fires them up every time I mock him and his minion.--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
@mlake9 At least I'll always be a he.--Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 22, 2013
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.