By David Futrelle
Most of the people I follow on Twitter are, as far as I can tell, lovely people. But in the interest of balance (and because I’m always in search of material for this blog) I also follow a number of truly terrible tweeters. Which means that as I scroll my way through Twitter I regularly encounter some absolutely godawful tweets that often seem to come from an alternate universe somehow even weirder than our own.
Today. I ran across this, which was, er, striking enough that I screenshotted it and shared it with my Twitter followers:
But I was still a bit puzzled: Was @DeepStateExpose simply claiming that Melania is the first truly feminine first lady — a claim I’ve seen other MAGAheads make — or was this intrepid conspiracy researcher literally claiming that all the first ladies before her were secretly trans women?
It turns out to be the latter. Earlier this month, @DeepStateExpose tweeted this, declaring in all caps that
No need to watch his video: It’s two-minutes of some mumbly dude — @DeepStateExpose himself? — putting up pictures of a bunch of first ladies and declaring that each and every one of them “looks like a man.”
This brief video seems to have been, er, inspired by a much longer one that’s been floating around on YouTube for several years that uses a similar, er, methodology to prove that all of the first ladies, at least going back to the 1930s, were”demonically possessed transgender entities.” The narrator, like the one in the video above, makes much of the fact that Herbert Hoover’s wife was named “Lou,” and at one point informs viewers that “Bess Truman was a TRUE MAN.” (The original Youtuber also claimed that Melania is trans — in a portion of his video that’s conspicuously missing from some of the re-uploaded versions of the video.)
These claims don’t come out of nowhere; they’re merely the latest iteration of a long-running transphobic right-wing smear. A surprisingly large contingent of Barack Obama-haters — including, famously, Alex Jones — have been claiming for years now that Michelle Obama is “really a man,” citing as proof a recording in which the supposedly gay Barack supposedly slips up and supposedly calls his wife “Michael.” (Look, it’s transphobia, homophobia, racism and misogyny all at once!) These folks also spend a great deal of time poring over photos of the former first lady searching for, and sometimes convincing themselves they’ve found, telltale penis bulges. @DeepStateExpose has himself posted tweets proclaiming that U.S. intelligence services have “now confirm[ed] the lefts worst fears. Michelle Obama is a man!!!”
Now some of these Michelle Obama “truthers” have become First Lady truthers, and the theory has gained enough traction on the far right that in one discussion of the relative attractiveness of various countries’ “first ladies” earlier this year in 4chan’s /pol/ forum, many of the regulars seemed to treat the trans, er, theory as old news, debating only about the reasons behind this alleged historical fact.
“You don’t reach the very top unless you are a tr**ny or have a tr**ny wife,” wrote one anon. “That is the rule.”
“I’m still finding out why,” added another.
My guess so far is that since there are tr**nies in positions of power, and men can’t be in power unless he has a tr**ny wife, then it seems that tr**nies actually rule the world and any powerful men or male Jew that rules the world are actually just puppets and have a tr**ny as their handler. Tr**nies run the world behind the scenes.
It would be nice if such sentiments were confined entirely to the fringes. But they aren’t — claims like @DeepStateExpose’s are all over Twitter, and YouTube videos claiming that all the first ladies have been trans have been viewed well over 100,000 times.
@DeepStateExpose’s embrace of the theory may presage even wider acceptance of the preposterous claims on the right. @DeepStateExpose isn’t just some random Twitter troll or bot. He’s got nearly a quarter of a million Twitter followers, including a number of influential voices on the right, among them Dinesh D’Souza, former congressman and radio host Joe Walsh, and TurningPointUSA’s Charlie Kirk. His “first ladies were men” Twitter video has itself been viewed more than 10,000 times.
Perhaps more alarmingly. @DeepStateExpose is someone whose tweets are regularly seen — and often retweeted by — President Trump himself. @DeepStateExpose says in his Twitter bio that he’s been retrweeted by the President nine times. Given the limitations of Twitter’s search function, I haven’t been able to confirm this, but as Slate noted in one article “Ranking … Trump’s Sunday Morning Tweets From Least to Most Insane,” Trump has on at least one occasion retweeted the popular conspiracy theorist multiple times in a single day.
Let’s just hope that Trump doesn’t choose to promote this particular tweet; our political discourse is already strange and terrible enough as it is.
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