The big lie about the Libs of TikTok Twitter account
No, it doesn't just "post other people's videos unedited."
Yesterday, the Washington Post published a story about Libs of TikTok by internet boogeywoman Taylor Lorenz. For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the account, it’s exactly what it sounds like: videos from “libs” (liberals, Democrats, anyone to the left of Mitt Romney) that were found on TikTok. The account has amassed a pretty huge following in the past several months (including a number of really high profile politicians and media figures) and has gotten favorably profiled in a number of right-wing media outlets (Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, the New York Post, etc.).
It’s hard to argue that LoTT isn’t influential or newsworthy as it’s been one of the driving forces in mainstreaming some of the anti-LGBTQ “groomer” nonsense.
The Washington Post confirmed that Chaya Raichik is behind formerly anonymous ‘Libs of TikTok.’ The influential anti-LGBTQ account has has been trademarked as a “news reporter service” by a Republican operative, although the Washington Post notes that “Raichik has claimed to run the account alone.” The account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.
While the right has misleadingly decried the reporting on Raichik by Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz, who heavily cited Media Matters, as “doxxing” and harassment, her Libs of TikTok account has revealed the names and locations of teachers, LGBTQ people, and others on the left, and promoted a dangerous lie about “grooming” that has resulted in harassment, threats, and lost livelihoods for private individuals
There are a number of legitimate arguments one could make for why LoTT should have been left anonymous, but there’s one that keeps coming up that’s simply dishonest.
Ben Shapiro describes LoTT as an account that “literally just posts Leftists owning themselves.” And he’s not alone in using that line:
But we all know that isn’t exactly true. Is it, Ben? Let’s look at one the of many examples that disprove the “just posting liberals’ posts from TikTok!” argument.
“WATCH: At a recent school board meeting, it was revealed that a Michigan school placed a [sic] LITTER BOXES in the bathroom for students that identify as cats. Unbelievable,” reads a January 21 tweet from the account.
Wow! Okay, then. Let’s… watch the video. Here’s the transcript:
The agenda that is being pushed through our schools is — just my opinion — but, somewhat nefarious when it comes to some of the activities. So let’s talk about furries. It was addressed by a child a couple months ago that they are put in an environment where there are kids that identify as a furry — a cat or a dog, or whatever. And yesterday I heard that at least one of our schools in our town has, in one of the unisex bathrooms, a litter box, for the kids that identify as cats. And I am really disturbed by that. And I will do some more investigation on that. I know it’s going on nationwide. I know it is. It’s part of the agenda that’s being pushed. I don’t even want to understand it, but I think that people need to be aware of it because I am really upset as a parent that my child is put in an environment like that. And I’m all for creativity and imagination, but when someone lives in a fantasy world and expects other people to go along with it, I have a problem with that. So I am just putting that out there. I will investigate more.
Does the video "reveal “that a Michigan school placed a [sic] LITTER BOXES in the bathroom for students that identify as cats?” No. It does not. The person who was speaking in the video was a parent who showed up at a school board meeting and started ranting about a goofy rumor she probably saw on Facebook.
Naturally, in the next tweet, LoTT decided to tell people where they can direct their anger:
Right there, the “just posting content from libs” argument goes out the window. LoTT tweeted an update days later: “The superintendent is claiming that it’s not true,” and added a shrug emoji. “Note: ‘No board members responded to the claim on the day of the meeting,’” LoTT continued. “Why wouldn’t they dispel the rumor right away if it was false?”
So even in sharing information refuting the claim, LoTT kept trying to conspiracy-monger. As for the question of why the board wouldn’t immediately speak up, it’s almost certain that the school board simply didn’t know what on earth she was talking about. She said “one of our schools,” so any teachers or principals at the meeting might have thought to themselves, “Well, it’s not happening in our school, but I don’t know what other schools are doing.” My guess, in all honesty, is that people probably say all sorts of wild stuff during those meetings and the board members just let people vent their conspiracy theories until the time runs out.
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Because I am a true glutton for punishment, I decided to watch the entire 1-hour and 28-minute meeting, which happened on December 20, 2021. Here’s a rundown of the speakers:
A woman who was mad that someone at the school asked her if she was vaccinated before agreeing to an in-person meeting, but also wanted to rant a little bit about the many, many emails she sends the school board members every week.
In short, I basically watched the equivalent of one of the “Citizens of Pawnee” segments of a Parks & Rec episode. If you watch any of the above clips, the board members mostly sat there stone-faced while parents talked at them in 3-minute bursts.
Following the LoTT post, this false rumor spread around the country. As you can see from the PolitiFact source list, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin have all had versions of this rumor that have gone viral following LoTT’s post.
Now, someone might say, “Hey, there are people on the left who do this, too!” Let’s talk about that for a minute.
There are a few accounts that do this stuff where they find wacky things happening in right-wing world and posts them to Twitter. You’ve got guys like Ron Filipkowski, who I’ve written about in the past to criticize his tendency to take things out of context (which got me blocked by him on Twitter.) But hey, at least he’s using his name. There are also accounts like PatriotTakes, which kinda sorta do what LoTT does. For instance, here’s a post the account put up yesterday:
Does that guy at a public forum represent what conservatives believe? It’s a pretty nutty conspiracy theory. And it’s even more bizarre given that a big talking point among some on the right (including Tucker Carlson) for years was that it’s okay for teachers to sleep with their students… so long as the students were boys and the teachers were women. That said, I’m not a fan of videos being clipped to 17-seconds and don’t necessarily see the value in elevating this random guy’s comment. It would have been more appropriate to focus on the candidate’s reaction to the comment.
Still, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that PatriotTakes (which began as ParlerTakes, named after the pro-Trump social media site) is the lefty equivalent of LoTT. PatriotTakes is overwhelmingly made up of clips of right-wing media figures and politicians, for one. And while the specifics of who runs the account are unknown, they are registered with the Federal Election Commission as a political action committee. You can see how they raise funds, how they disperse funds, and so on. There’s a level of transparency to this account that simply was not there for LoTT. So while I’m sympathetic to the argument and comparison, it’s not exactly apples-to-apples.
I reached out to PatriotTakes in a Twitter DM, but didn’t hear back.
What LoTT does is something I’ve written about in the past.
Back in May of last year, in one of my last pieces for Media Matters, I wrote about how Fox News uses “obscure outrages and local oddities” as ammo in its culture war.
To briefly summarize:
Fox will find a local story it can use as a news peg. Maybe it’s an op-ed in a California newspaper saying that Disneyland should consider revamping its Snow White ride to take out the part where the prince kisses her.
Fox then runs segments about this, framing it as something that liberals and Democrats broadly agree with, though it’s just one person’s opinion. They’ll adopt a “cancel culture” framing.
Fox runs it into the ground, repeating it over and over until it becomes an accepted belief among its viewers that “liberals want to cancel Snow White.” You’ve seen this with things like last year’s freak-out over Dr. Seuss (I wrote about that here), but also with dumb controversies around The Muppet Show and Mr. Potato Head (I wrote about that here, as well.)
Eventually, they find a way to pretend that this is official Democratic Party policy. In the case of their Dr. Seuss meltdown, they claimed that Biden “completely canceled Dr. Seuss with a magic wand” from the annual Read Across America Day. What they omitted is that RAAD hadn’t been heavily linked to Dr. Seuss since 2017 when the National Education Association’s licensing agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises ended. They also omitted the fact that Trump didn’t issue a RAAD proclamation at all during his first year in office.
It’s the exact same game they play with the random people LoTT targets. And for all the right-wing handwringing over naming Chaya Raichik as the operator of the LoTT account and whether that constitutes “doxxing” (it doesn’t), there hasn’t been any concern on the right about the ethics of putting gigantic targets on the backs of LGBTQ people, which has led to harassment, job losses, and threats of violence.
To illustrate this hypocrisy, here’s the right-wing New York Post yesterday:
And here the Post was in December 2020, when it decided to write a story about a paramedic who started an OnlyFans account to pay her bills. There was no news value to this. Unlike the LoTT account, the woman in that Post story didn’t influence policy or have a large following or appear on Tucker Carlson’s show. Nope. This was just a regular ol’ paramedic who was trying to make extra cash — and who lost her job as a paramedic after the Post repeatedly called her work and published this story
From a Daily Dot article about the backlash to the New York Post paramedic/OnlyFans story:
“Let me be very clear: I did not want the NY Post to run this article, much less use my name,” Kwei wrote. “I truly believe whoever ‘tipped’ the post does not know me personally because anyone who knows me knows the kind of person I am. Let me tell you who I am.”
Kwei said that she was raised in a small town in West Virginia. She pursued theater acting before becoming an EMT in February. She said working during the coronavirus pandemic led to severe stress, and at one point, she considered suicide.
“I had panic attacks at work and even had a supervisor tell me I should consider another profession if I didn’t grow a thicker skin,” Kwei wrote. “I am a damn good paramedic. I LOVE my job and I love taking care of people. I don’t want to quit my day job and get my bag on OnlyFans—I want to serve the city of New York.”
So maybe sit that one out, New York Post.
“Digital Witness” by St. Vincent