August 31, 2022 | VICE

COVID conspiracists spark the latest culture war over drag queen readings in the UK

ISD’s Head of Communications and Editorial, Tim Squirrell, spoke to VICE World News about the anti-LGBTQ+ campaign that has followed a tour of drag queen readings to children in public libraries across the UK. The protests were initially spearheaded by COVID conspiracy theorists, but quickly ended up being run by the white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative (PA).

Tim told VICE that PA sees Drag Queen Story Hour as an important front in the fight against what they refer to as ‘degeneracy’, a key concept in neo-Nazi ideology that describes modern society as in a state of decay due to liberal tolerance of, among other things, LGBTQ+ lifestyles. “They have this idea that LGBTQ+ ‘ideology’ is being forced on children and literally turning them gay, and this is a way to destroy the white race,” Tim said.

‘Degeneracy’, in neo-Nazi ideology, is part of a Jewish conspiracy theory to destroy the ‘white race’. The claim is that queerness is analogous to a virus that can infect those it touches, and that Western societies’ tolerance of LGBTQ+ people means more white people are becoming queer and, consequently, not having children. Neo-Nazis see this as one part of the plot to destroy white people.

PA also see Drag Queen Story Hour as a “potential wedge issue” to gain attention and recruit supporters. “They see this as an opportunity to bring people into the fold and redpill them,” Tim said.

COVID ‘truthers’ are also a substantial component of the movement opposing Drag Queen Story Hour, and Tim explained to VICE that the infrastructures and networks of radicalised conspiracists that were formed during the COVID-19 pandemic still exist and are now setting their sights on new targets. LGBTQ+ ‘ideology’ and the ‘grooming’ of children by drag performers (among others) has become the newest lightning rod for their fight against the ‘New World Order’.

Tim told VICE that conspiracists “See [Drag Queen Story Hour] as entirely of a piece with COVID,” and that they see both COVID vaccines and drag readings as “examples of a grossly over-reaching, authoritarian state,” infringing on individual liberty by pushing vaccines and hormones on children.