Extremists have taken over whatever once existed of a moderate GOP in Texas, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is probably going to get someone killed, an extremism and disinformation reporter there says.
Let me just first say that I miss Texas. I lived in Dallas — first in the insane bar and club-packed Deep Ellum — when I met my wife while covering the Dallas police massacre. Then we moved to the working class Mexican neighborhood of Oak Cliff, right down the street from where one of my heroes, Stevie Ray Vaughan, grew up. For three years I took in everything Texas has to offer. At first I was like, fuck this. I’m a Chicago guy and Chicago is tough as nails. Texas is for rednecks and George Bush Republicans. But what I found once I started settling in was so much more than that.
Texas is cool as hell. It’s one of the most diverse states. It’s massive in geography and demographics — the hills outside El Paso glow in contrast to the endless neon and asphalt sprawls of Dallas and Houston. You can surf in the Gulf of Mexico at places like Rockport and Port Aransas. You can live the cowboy life in cow towns like Amarillo and Lubbock. You can just drive for as long as it took me to get back to Peoria from Dallas and still be in Texas. I spent a lot of time at the border and fell in love with El Paso and Juárez. The border also messed me up a bit because I spent so much time and effort trying to tell the stories of hard-working, honorable migrants who just wanted a better life, only to be drowned out by all the right-wing fear-mongering of migrant caravans and the insinuation of an invasion by Brown people.
I was one of those people who moved to Texas from elsewhere and played a minute role in changing the politics of the state. This is now happening in Georgia and other southern states, and conservatives like to say it’s because of things like not having income taxes (which Georgia definitely has) and other right-wing policies. People like Ted Cruz like to say that liberals are moving to places like Texas because of those policies, and that they’re then trying to change the politics of the state from its natural, conservative makeup. Cruz and others bemoan this as an unwanted liberal invasion; others might chalk it up to the natural evolution of each generation being a bit more liberal and accepting than previous ones. One might call it progress.
But extremist Republicans in Texas are fighting back. Just last week, the Texas GOP tried to declare Joe Biden “not legitimately elected,” and said being gay was an “abnormal lifestyle choice.” Thousands of these extremists gathered in Houston last week to celebrate their anti-American agenda, calling for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and booing Texas Sen. John Cornyn for having the gall to even consider milquetoast talks on gun control following the Uvalde massacre. The entire convention was a grievance fest for angry whites spouting off on themes of Great Replacement, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and just about every other anti-democratic and fascist policy and belief system you can imagine, per the Texas Tribune.
All of this is probably just because Texas is Texas. But it’s also a reaction to changing demographics in the state, which have begun to skew less White and more liberal. In many ways, the state is becoming less of the caricature of a gun-toting, confederacy-loving, freedom-or-else home to would-be secessionists. But there is still plenty of all of that.
Back in DFW there’s a guy I met when I covered the insane QAnon convention in Dallas last May. His name is Steven Monacelli and he’s a born and bred Texan who left home for school, and has now returned to cover a lot of this change and chaos happening in his home state. He’s also the authority on right-wing extremism in Texas, especially in the DFW area. As I’ve been investigating Texas’ extremist confederates in Georgia, I thought of Steven and all the work he’s been doing to expose the white nationalist, fascist, and anti-democratic people who are fighting to keep Texas from progressing into a more diverse, accepting and prosperous future. So I thought I’d catch up with him to get his take on all the insanity he’s been covering for the last few years.
JG: Is Texas really the haven for white nationalism and fascism that’s reflected in your reporting, or is it just that you’re on the lookout for it, so it seems like it’s a bigger phenomenon than it is?
SM: I'd say it's a little bit of both. There's a state myth about Texas that basically says Texas wasn't so bad during slavery. Historians like Dr. Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis, tell us it is actually quite the opposite — Texas has been a particularly cruel place for people of color. My journalistic focus includes extremism and disinformation, so white nationalism and fascism loom large in my work. I'm on the lookout for what I see as a big problem.
JG: You’ve been reporting on this insane QAnon sect that has been holed up in Dallas for a couple of years now. What do they believe, why are they there, and who the hell is funding this whole thing?
SM: Dallas has a particular history when it comes to JFK assassination conspiracy believers. True to that history, the cult you're referring to is obsessed with the idea that long-dead members of the Kennedy family — specifically JFK and his son JFK Jr. — are secretly alive and working alongside Trump and other patriots to take down the Global Satanic Pedophile Cabal. They've been in Dallas off and on since November of 2021, where they first gathered in anticipation of the return of the dead Kennedys — something that I was there first hand to not witness because it didn't happen and never will. In between their gatherings in Dallas, they travel to Trump rallies across the country. This cult has destroyed people's lives and eradicated life savings. The leader, Michael Protzman, goes by the name Negative 48. Much of his persona is constructed around religious numerology. Frankly, I think the man is unwell, and this cult is but one extreme representation of the deep mental health crisis unfolding in our country.
JG: One of the things I learned in my time in Texas is that, despite what you hear from the likes of Tucker Carlson and others, who claim that Democrats are trying to let in as many Latino immigrants as possible so they’ll vote for Democrats, Hispanics are actually a very conservative population. Hell, just about every Mexican is Catholic, pro-life, and socially conservative. So why don’t Republicans simply play that to their advantage and court those would-be Republican voters?
SM: The Latino community is by no means a monolith. There's a proud history of radical Latino organizing in Texas and embrace of inclusive Mestizo culture. That said, the Republican party has been spending much time and effort in courting conservative Latinos, and it's starting to pay off in some districts. Democrats would be wise to reconsider their assumptions around what is going to attract Latino voters in Texas.
JG: You reported extensively on protests in DFW following the murder of George Floyd. In a lot of other places, especially like Minneapolis where I was at the time, there was very little pushback from far-right and white nationalist groups. Were those forces mobilized in response to the racial justice protest in Texas?
SM: There were a few instances of far-right extremists showing up during protests, particularly surrounding the calls for removing Confederate monuments across the area. Some Boogaloos showed out in the early days. But that was the exception, not the rule. Typically, the far-right in Texas mobilized around their own causes, like opposing the CRT bogeyman or masks or vaccines. Lately, they've been targeting LGBTQ Pride events with particularly hateful rhetoric. It feels like we are in a bad place right now.
JG: You’ve been doxxed and harassed by the same notorious, neo-Nazi asshole that I have and who I won’t name here, but being in Texas and reporting on these scum, how much bullshit do you deal with on a day-to-day basis?
SM: It depends on the day. People have made it clear they do not appreciate my work. But I've been fortunate enough to not have anyone try to confront me physically.
JG: What trends or possible flashpoints are you tracking now, and what does a future in which the right doesn’t get its way in future elections look like in Texas?
SM: As I mentioned, hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is reaching a fever pitch that seems almost guaranteed to get someone killed. I genuinely fear for the safety of the LGBTQ community in Texas and I sincerely hope that people will join me in raising the alarm and standing in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
In other right-wing extremism news:
Election deniers in Texas are trying to assume positions of power over elections there, just like they’re trying to do in Georgia.
The right’s insistence that everyone be allowed to be as armed as possible everywhere all the time continues to result in incidents like this one in Oklahoma, where police couldn’t do a damn thing when some guy decided to walk around in a bulletproof vest, armed with a rifle and a handgun. The sheriff bemoaned the situation, saying, “nobody needs to be walking down the street with a rifle,” but then went on to act as if this thing just happened, and wasn’t a direct result of the state’s constitutional carry law, which as I said above basically allows anyone to walk around with as many guns as they want because of an extremist interpretation of the second amendment. “But I don’t make the laws,” the sheriff said, “we just try to live by them and do a very difficult job in a world that’s got those people in it.” Funny thing about laws is that they can be changed. Maybe the sheriff and other members of law enforcement should think about that.
Three people who identified themselves as being part of the sovereign citizen movement — which is only a short walk from believing things like constitutional carry — were arrested with a bunch of explosives and ammunition in California.
Accused wife-beater and former Republican governor of Missouri is not content with simply threatening Democrats and liberals with violence. His new political campaign ad also takes aim at Republicans in Name Only (RINOs). It’s obviously disturbing that a party whose policies already don’t align with the beliefs of many Americans is fracturing on even more extremist fault lines — and that those people are very well-armed.
P.S. The photo above is mine from the old Dallas days. I hope to be back to exposing more election deniers in Georgia next week. But for now, if you like what you see here, please spread the word and subscribe to this newsletter. And if you’re inclined to help fund my research into election deniers in Georgia, you can donate to my Patreon here.