For Women, 2018 Is the Best and Worst of Times

Dear 2018,

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I’m having some cognitive dissonance figuring out how to address you. As a friend giving American women energy and hope? As an enemy out to undermine our safety and humanity? Depending on the day, you’re both. I guess that makes you a frenemy, bringing with you all the inconvenient contradictions we remember from the high school adversaries who pushed us to get stronger and bolder in order to prevail.

Along with that vengeful bully, 2017, you’ve ushered in an exceptionally effective period of feminist anger and organizing that has already led to structural changes we had always been told would be impossible. Yet that uprising is happening during and directly in response to intense political backlash against gender (and racial, economic, and social) justice. We wake up exhausted by the fresh hells every new day seems to bring, but we draw strength from the action and solidarity we find in myriad forms of resistance.

So, in honor of Women’s History Month, let’s look at why we are truly in the best of times, and the worst of times.

BEST: No one embodies the articulate rage and persuasive brilliance of the #NeverAgain youth anti-gun movement better than Emma González. In just a month and a half, the 18-year-old bisexual Cuban American Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student has emerged as a fearless leader. Not only did González’s politically forceful yet emotionally vulnerable “We call BS!” speech days after Nikolas Cruz murdered seventeen people in Parkland, Florida, help galvanize the nation, but she and her fellow activists are intersectional feminism and racial justice in action: Their organizing is racially, ethnically, and geographically diverse, a large percentage of its leaders are girls, and they keep checking their privilege and sharing their power. Following the shooting, Parkland organizers built respectful and intentional collaborations with kids of color from Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, plus survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. White boys from Parkland have used their platform to call out media erasure of the activism and perspectives of Black students who’ve been attempting to combat gun violence across the country; at the same time, Black and Latinx teens across the country have spoken out, walked out, and taken a knee in protest, to draw attention to how racism, poverty, and a lack of resources combine to make gun violence an everyday problem in their communities — and how the media either ignores their struggles, or blames them for this systemic problem. They’ve already achieved passage of gun control legislation in Florida, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, and via the federal spending bill; they’ve created enough pressure that a dozen corporations have cut ties with the NRA.

As hundreds of thousands of protesters attended last weekend’s March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., the organization of the rally displayed more strategic efficacy, savvy messaging, and political sophistication than many of the women’s rights, anti-war, and LGBTQ marches I’ve seen there over the last two decades. And González earned her place in history with a daring and instantly iconic piece of political artistry, interrupting her impassioned speech to stand in resolute silence, staring the country’s inaction in the face, until six minutes and twenty seconds had elapsed. Then, wiping away tears, she furiously explained that that was exactly how long Cruz took to complete his massacre. She left the crowd with this stark plea: “Fight for your lives before it is someone else’s job.”

My favorite #MarchForOurLives protest sign featured a photo of González looking poised for battle, under the caption, “Into every generation, a slayer is born.” Watching her go head-to-head with Dana Loesch on CNN, it’s easy to believe in Emma the NRA Slayer. With all they’ve accomplished and all they’re fighting to achieve, González and her fellow leaders — like 17-year-old L.A. activist Edna Chavez, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler, 18-year-old Samantha Fuentes, 19-year-old Chicago activist Trevon Bosley, and 17-year-old David Hogg — may not have Buffy’s superpowers, but the hope they’re inspiring is magical.

WORST: These kids should never have been forced to take on the gun lobby as an act of self-defense. Bullets should not have stolen their childhoods, or killed their friends, family members, and loved ones in school, on sidewalks, or in movie theaters, dance clubs, and places of worship. They shouldn’t have to grow up in fear of shootings by classmates, cops, or white supremacists. And, when they manage to channel their trauma, fear, and outrage into compelling leadership for social change, these survivors damn well shouldn’t find themselves the targets of malicious misinformation and vicious attacks.

NRA spokespeople Loesch and Colion Noir have directly and indirectly insulted the Parkland survivors, while the organization’s supporters have attempted to smear the kids and all the student protesters who walked out or marched as “crisis actors” or  puppets of liberal billionaires. “Gun rights” trolls doctored a Teen Vogue photo shoot featuring Emma González ripping up a gun target poster to make it appear as if she was destroying the U.S. Constitution, circulating the image thousands of times; similarly, Breitbart, InfoWars, and others pretended that Hogg gave a Nazi salute at the historic rally, and dubbed in audio and inserted video of the Hitler Youth over a clip of González’s speech. Leslie Gibson, a Republican candidate for Maine State House, tweeted that González was a “skinhead lesbian” and Hogg a “bald-faced liar” and a “moron.” (Hogg denounced the tweet and called for challengers to run against Gibson; days later, Democrat and Republican challengers filed paperwork to run, and Gibson dropped out of the race.)

BEST: The #MeToo movement — a project founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2007 to support sexual abuse survivors (especially women of color) — grew into a post–Harvey Weinstein viral hashtag campaign whose reckoning is changing America in palpable ways. Meticulous reporting about the movie mogul’s decades-long pattern of rape, sexual harassment, and intimidation of more than fifty women led to more journalism uncovering similar abuse by powerful men in nearly every workplace, from Hollywood to Congress, from newsrooms to produce fields, restaurants, tech companies, academia, bodegas, and more. Farm workers and domestic workers collaborated with the rich and famous actresses who occupied the media’s initial attention, helping to expand the news frame from “Whoa, our favorite celebs were terrorized behind the scenes?” to “The epidemic of sexual abuse has an even more devastating impact on working-class, poor, and immigrant women because of economic insecurity and systemic racism.” And, for once, the news cycle didn’t drop the story; five months later, reporters, op-ed writers, anchors, and pundits continue to out abusers, who are no longer able to operate with impunity. Time named the #MeToo “Silence Breakers” 2017 Person of the Year.

And #MeToo’s feminist rage was not just righteous, it was productive. For the first time, we started to see actual consequences for powerful men and the many industries that previously protected them. Weinstein lost his job and is being targeted for potential criminal investigation, while his Weinstein Company filed for bankruptcy this month and revoked nondisclosure agreements that have silenced his past victims. NBC fired Today Show cash cow Matt Lauer, PBS fired Charlie Rose for his pattern of abuse, and NPR fired both chief news editor David Sweeney and vice president for news Michael Oreskes over their sexual misconduct. After Kevin Spacey’s long-term abuse of boys and men came to light, Netflix wrote him out of House of Cards and Christopher Plummer reshot all Spacey’s scenes in the already-completed film All the Money in the World. Mother Jones reported that at least fifteen elected officials announced within the past year that they “would resign, retire, or not seek re-election following accusations of sexual misconduct.” This is just a tiny fraction of the influential predators who have finally faced their comeuppance. (True story: This paragraph was initially 950 words long.) In the ongoing #MeToo reckoning, the public is finally supporting — and the media is finally believing — sexual abuse survivors.

WORST: Unless the abuser in question is one of the public’s faves, that is. Then, all bets are off, as illustrated by the intense backlash to attempts to hold progressive Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota (accused of groping and harassing behavior by at least eight women) and comedian and Netflix writer-producer-star Aziz Ansari (described as a coercive and predatory creep by a woman with whom he went on a date) accountable for their actions. Franken remained beloved even after he resigned under pressure from members of his own party, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; she faced contempt. As journalist Jill Filipovic noted in Cosmopolitan, Gillibrand, a potential Trump challenger in 2020, was branded by pundits and Democratic donors alike as America’s “most devious and cunning politician,” a hypocrite, and a disloyal political opportunist leading a “McCarthyist” witch hunt and a “lynch mob” to unseat Franken without a hearing. On the pop culture front, three dozen women who worked with Franken on SNL decades ago signed a letter supporting him. Those who agreed that perpetrating sexual abuse renders even progressive leaders unfit for office were described throughout the media debate as naive and self-defeating for losing Franken’s reliably Left vote; Democratic senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, called the critiques of Franken “the most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being.”

The larger #MeToo backlash was even more insidious in response to a salacious exposé detailing how Ansari (who built his brand as a woke, pro-feminist comedian and literally wrote the book on Modern Romance) repeatedly ignored his date’s attempts to slow down or stop his sexual advances. The anonymous woman’s story itself wasn’t disbelieved — she was simply attacked for publicizing it, supposedly proof that #MeToo had “gone too far” (Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who has described the movement as “a war on people who don’t deserve to be hurt”). Over and over, in the Atlantic, on The View, on HLN, and in a torrent of other outlets, the incident was used to proclaim that #MeToo was a prudish “sex panic” ready to take down so-called good men like Ansari, whose actions were commonplace and “not as bad” as rape. Because she didn’t immediately leave or scream “no,” the accuser was deemed “appalling,” irresponsible, vindictive, and a fake victim, and talking about her experience amounted to nothing more than “revenge porn” over a “bad date.”

BEST: Nothing typifies the year’s contradictions more than the 90th Academy Awards, held on March 4. Disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein’s membership was revoked, something Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel celebrated in his opening monologue: “We need to set an example and the truth is if we are successful here, if we can work together to stop sexual harassment in the workplace,” he deadpanned, “women will only have to deal with harassment all the time at every other place they go.”

While Weinstein was banished from the ceremony, several of his victims were given pride of place. Along with Ashley Judd and Salma Hayek, Annabella Sciorra — whose film career was destroyed after Weinstein, according to her recent revelations, raped and terrorized her — referenced #MeToo and #TimesUp from the gilded Oscars stage, before introducing a video on gender and racial diversity in storytelling onscreen and behind the camera, featuring Mira Sorvino, another actress harassed and blacklisted by Weinstein. Best Actress winner Frances McDormand capped off the night with a fiery feminist speech encouraging actors to use “inclusion riders” to mandate proportional representation in films. By the time the Oscars aired, the #TimesUp Legal Defense Fund had raised $21 million and heard from 1,700 women from sixty industries coming forward for help with sexual harassment cases. Watching the live broadcast, you could almost forget that this was the same show that honored fugitive child rapist Roman Polanski as Best Director in 2002, or the same industry that petitioned for his release after he was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 on a warrant for that 1977 case.

WORST: You could almost forget…but not quite. The Academy’s supposed dedication to holding sexual abusers accountable crumbled when voters handed an Oscar to Kobe Bryant, who was arrested and charged with rape in 2003 and eventually apologized to his victim in court for nonconsensual sex, paying out an undisclosed civil settlement after criminal charges were dropped. Perhaps this is unsurprising when we consider the three recent sexual harassment complaints against John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Yesterday, the Academy announced that an internal investigation “determined that no further action was merited.”) And time was definitely not up for Ryan Seacrest who, despite facing allegations of sexual harassment and assault by his former stylist, was protected by E! and allowed to control the tone and topics of questions on the red carpet.

Who was time up for? E! producer Aileen Gram-Moreno filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission employment discrimination complaint stating that she was fired and replaced by a man after she aired a Golden Globes red carpet clip of Eva Longoria criticizing the channel for paying former anchor Catt Sadler approximately half the salary of her male E! News co-host, Jason Kennedy.

BEST: On inauguration day in 2017, women set the record for the largest single day of protests in American history. Now, just as what happened on a smaller scale in 1992 (dubbed “the Year of the Woman” following the Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill hearings), they’re channeling that righteous rage by running for office in unprecedented numbers. At least 575 women have declared that they will campaign for the House, Senate, or governor this election cycle, including many first-time candidates. EMILY’s List knocked down a wall in its D.C. office to accommodate new staff to handle 30,000 inquiries from women interested in potentially running for office. And a new website, Black Women in Politics, offers a searchable database of 573 (and counting) Black women candidates, including 98 running for federal, 200 for state, and 249 for local offices (26 are coded “not specified”). Of these, 364 are challengers, and 333 are running in red states.

In one of the most exciting of these races, Stacy Abrams has a strong shot at becoming Georgia’s first Black female governor, raising $2.5 million for her war chest so far. Also looking to flip Georgia blue? Lucia McBath, an anti-gun activist with Moms Demand Action and one of the Mothers of the Movement (her son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in 2012), who is running for the state House of Representatives. And after Republican representative Randy Hultgren, of Illinois, broke his promise to save the Affordable Care Act, Lauren Underwood, a 31-year-old nurse and former senior advisor in President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, decided to run for Hultgren’s seat — against six middle-aged white men. She is the first Black woman ever to run in Illinois’s 14th District, which has never elected a female congressional representative.

Underwood’s bid may seem like a pipe dream, but as transgender former journalist Danica Roem recently proved, nothing’s impossible. Last year, when thirteen-term Republican incumbent Robert G. Marshall tried to pass a transphobic bathroom bill, 33-year-old Roem launched a bid to unseat the state delegate — then defeated Marshall by nearly ten points. In ousting the man who called himself the state’s “chief homophobe” and ran ads attacking her as a “bathroom predator,” Roem became the first openly transgender person to ever be elected to any state legislature in America. When asked about Marshall after the election, she replied, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” That may be the closest a politician has ever come to throwing Mariah Carey–style “I don’t know her” shade.

WORST: The Nazi-coddling Pussy Grabber in Chief still occupies the Oval Office. For now. (Paging Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Maxine Waters, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Tammy Duckworth: 2020 is calling.)

So, 2018, your potent combination of revolutionary hope and regressive backlash has given me whiplash. But as Women’s History Month draws to a close, let’s raise a glass to American women’s increased demands for electoral power, sane public policy, an end to sexual abuse and gender and racial discrimination, and safety for our children (informed by our children). While you open the wine, I’ll put on some music. How about “Stormy Weather”?


Scenes From the Student Walkout

On a crisp Wednesday morning, one month after the Parkland massacre, students across the country walked out of class to protest congressional inaction on gun reform. Clutching homemade signs and cellphones, they streamed out of their classrooms at 10 a.m., their young faces fixed with sober expressions as they filled the parking lots and football fields and sundry streets of more than 3,000 schools across the country.

In New York City, central locations like Columbus Circle, Brooklyn Borough Hall, and Battery Park became convergence points for hundreds of students. They stopped traffic in East Harlem, rallied outside the state Supreme Court building in Queens, and marched to the Department of Education headquarters in the Bronx.

Students in Bed-Stuy and elsewhere linked arms for a moment of silence that lasted for seventeen minutes, one for each life lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. In Chelsea, a chorus of young voices carried for blocks, their irate chants alternating between “We want change” and “Fuck the NRA.” At one point, a teenage girl in midtown stood on a bench and shouted, “Not my president!” in the direction of the Trump International Hotel, only to be shushed by a teacher.

Within an hour, the streets began to clear, and the students hurried back to class, still reeling from the excitement of their first collective action. “The most amazing part,” remarked Jake Harmen, a senior at Trevor Day School, “was finding students who felt exactly the same way we did, and being able to act on that.”

Protest Archives Security THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

The Student Anti-Gun Walkout Is Just the Beginning

The kids are still angry, and now they’re getting organized.

Across the country, thousands of students are preparing to walk out of their classrooms on Wednesday morning, exactly one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, left seventeen people dead. Spearheaded by youth organizers of the Women’s March, the #Enough National School Walkout is aimed at persuading members of Congress to “pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets, and in our homes and places of worship,” per their official website.

The mass action comes as Parkland survivors continue to build a sweeping anti-gun movement that seemed unthinkable just weeks ago. But while the eloquence and fury of the Florida students has jolted much of the country, their fellow teenagers are far from shocked. Beyond putting pressure on politicians, the purpose of the walkout, according to organizers, is to show that Parkland is not an aberration, and that the surge of youth-led activism is only just beginning.

“This moment feels like culmination of a year and a half of youth energy that began with the election,” Bryson Wiese, a junior at the Dalton School and co-founder of the student-led advocacy group Coalition Z, tells the Voice. “Trump obviously highlighted the stakes for our generation, and now we’re seeing the full force of that energy play out in the fight over gun reform.”

Wiese says he’s received organizing advice from Parkland students on Twitter, and is currently in touch with several young activists in New York who he knows only through online correspondence.

“Being on social media has allowed me to talk to people around the country about the issues that affect us,” echoes Haley Hartigan, a senior at Baruch High School in Manhattan. “It’s what basically started this whole movement.”

Both Hartigan and Wiese are helping to organize the walkouts at their schools, as well as an “Evening of Action” later that night, where students will work on concrete policy demands and “lay the groundwork for a sustained student-led gun sense movement,” according to the event’s Facebook page. On Saturday, the two met with around two dozen student leaders from other schools for an informal sign-making event near Union Square. (“I was like, ‘Hey, Mom, I’m gonna go to this girl’s apartment I’ve never met,’ but thankfully she gets it,” Hartigan recalls.) Over pretzels and soda, the teenagers traded ideas for signs, and discussed the logistics of their schools’ respective walkouts. Some will be marching to rallies planned at Central Park and Prospect Park, and others are in the process of organizing their own demonstrations.

While administrators and local politicians are lending a hand with the larger events, the decentralized nature of the walkout has given many high schoolers the freedom to craft their own messages and agendas. Students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Math, for example, are planning to block off the road outside their high school in East Harlem. A press release written by Aaron Jackson, a senior at MCSM, includes a warning to Congress to “pay attention and take note: Many of us will vote this November and many others will cast their ballots in 2020.”

Other students, meanwhile, see the walkout as an opportunity to push for reform on the local level. During a town hall on gun violence held by Mayor de Blasio last week, several students voiced objections to the presence of metal detectors and overzealous police personnel within their schools — 91 schools currently have metal detectors, and the NYPD’s school safety division includes around 5,200 safety officers and police officers. In response to these concerns, the mayor was “dismissive,” and “curved every question that had to do with metal detectors, safety officers and community of color,” according to Andrea Colon, a senior at Rockaway Park High School For Environmental Sustainability and organizer with the Rockaway Youth Task Force.

Colon’s hope for the walkout, she says, is to bring attention to what the city’s attempts to curb gun violence actually look like in practice. “It’s dehumanizing to walk through scanners every day, or to see police officers with guns in our cafeterias,” Colon tells the Voice. Meanwhile, her school has 300 students and only two guidance counselors — one of whom, Colon says, recently admitted that she didn’t have the capacity to deal with mental illness. If the city divests from “prison-like security,” Colon says, it might be able to improve its mental health resources, something she feels would be far more effective at reducing the likelihood of a mass shooting.

When Colon joins thousands of other teenagers in walking out of school on Wednesday, she’ll be doing so for both federal gun control and city-level changes to her community — and with a set of demands she intends to keep working toward long after returning to the classroom. “The older generation still sees us as young kids who don’t know what we’re doing,” she says. “But they have to realize that we’re not afraid to raise our voices now, and we know what we want.”


NRA Stans Ask: Who Will Protect Us From Outraged Florida Shooting Survivors?

The normal pattern for American gun slaughters — a few days of thoughts and prayers, then we all forget it ever happened — was broken last week when surviving students of the February 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting decided to protest the ready availability of mass-murder weapons, leading to a CNN Town Hall and much publicity.

The response from the National Rifle Association was glib and vicious as usual, but apparently less successful, as boycotts led multiple corporations to withdraw their NRA member discounts — a sign, like when some corporations withdrew from North Carolina because of its anti-trans legislation, that capitalism had found another right-wing shibboleth too expensive to support. (Free market’s a bitch, huh, guys?)

As the most lax possible interpretation of the Second Amendment is, like tax breaks for the wealthy and persecution of minorities, a Right-Wing Article of Faith, conservative writers rallied to the NRA’s defense — but with a more wounded, querulous tone than usual, as if even they realized that the tide might be turning against them.

As the Stoneman Douglas kids blew up, the NRA got busy, sending shill Marco Rubio and spokesnut Dana Loesch to face off with students on the CNN Town Hall, while NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre and President Trump pushed a plan to “harden” schools and arm teachers that would effectively make classrooms into prison cells.

Right-wing columnists nodded sagely at this lunacy. National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, for example, tweeted that if he were a teacher, “I might want to be armed,” conjuring humorous visions of the portly columnist playing out Taxi Driver mirror scenes in homeroom.

But at the Town Hall, the Stoneman Douglas families were not having it, and mercilessly dunked on Rubio; Loesch, apparently unaccustomed to facing genuine opposition instead of just projecting rage at a studio camera, didn’t do so hot either. “It was weird,” Loesch complained later. “There was no control. It just went on forever and ever” — you know, like a school shooting.

The unloved Rubio was hung out to dry, but Loesch had plenty of conservative defenders. “It was a lynch mob directed at the NRA,” tweeted the Forward’s Bethany Mandel. Townhall’s Matt Vespa cried that “CNN Stood By And Allowed The NRA To Be Smeared As Child Murderers” rather than human-shielding Loesch from the teenagers’ questions as chivalry demanded.

Loesch showed her appreciation for these tributes to civil debate by going to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and telling the slavering crowds that “many in legacy media love mass shootings” and consider “crying white mothers” to be “ratings gold.”

To their credit, the Stoneman kids gave no fucks, and clapped back at the NRAniks and all the trolls that came with them. When hardcore wing nuts spread “crisis actor” stories claiming there was no massacre at all and people were just pretending there had been to make conservatives look bad — aided by Trump fan and NRA board member Ted Nugent — the kids smacked them around. When Trump blamed the FBI for investigating him instead of pre-cogging the killer, they smacked him around too. And when Dinesh D’Souza made some typically stupid jokes about them, he got smacked so bad he actually issued an apology.

Interestingly, this show of courage, rare among Democratic constituent groups (which are usually instructed by their friends in the media to roll up in a ball and beg not to be kicked too hard), not only emboldened them but appeared to bring others to their side as well.

Mainstream conservatives, perhaps afraid of receiving similar treatment, suggested instead that it was rude of children who’d been stalked by an armed murderer to complain about it. When Stoneman Douglas’ Sarah Chadwick mocked Rubio in a viral tweet, for example, Trump loyalist Laura Ingraham sulked, “HOW TEENS SPEAK TO AND ABT ADULTS.” An exasperated Todd Starnes of Fox News asked, “Parents, what would you do if your child lectured and ridiculed a U.S. Senator on national television?” earning a series of hilarious answers. (“A majority of parents say they support their children being disrespectful and belligerent to adults,” moped a broken Starnes afterward.)

Jonah Goldberg, perhaps thinking he was making it sound good, wrote, “Of course I feel sorry for the victims, and I support their right to parrot the extreme rhetoric of their elders.”

Other conservatives shook their fists in the traditional manner at liberals and the media.

“I hope CNN got the rating it was looking for,” the Federalist’s David Harsanyi sputtered, “because it’s almost guaranteed that NRA membership and gun sales are about to spike” — as if gun nuts buying even more guns because children sassed them on TV was something to brag about.

Erick Erickson tweeted that he was “going to buy new guns. They’re going to be awesome and will name them for @DLoesch and @ChrisLoesch who put up with so much hell standing up for all of our rights.” I can’t be the only one Erickson’s tweet reminds of this Bugs Bunny Of Mice and Men parody.

“So there’s been a lot of these accusations of ‘you have blood on your hands’ in recent days,” complained the Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway on Twitter. “And here’s the thing: People that rationalize common political views — be it gun rights or tax cuts — as the equivalent of murder are themselves edging toward justifying violence.” (This is the same Mark Hemingway who previously referred to abortion as “legally sanctioned murder.”)

Other conservatives looked for something, anything, else to blame that wasn’t guns, usually Our Fallen World. In “I Bought A Military Rifle At Age Nine. That Was Normal, And There Were No Mass Shootings,” George Parry explained at the Federalist that since he’d had a bolt-action rifle as a kid yet never mass-murdered anyone, the current trend of “children slaughtering other children” was the fault of “homicidal-themed video games, movies, television, and music lyrics.”

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative blamed large schools, sexy magazine articles — “the most tender, intimate expressions of love between a man and a woman, reduced to bestial gestures” — and, through the agency of an alleged reader letter, “early-onset transgenderism.”

“I think we have to look at what the real problem is — I don’t think it’s the guns. I think maybe we have to look at some parenting,” said the guy that sold the guns to Las Vegas Massacre shooter Stephen Paddock.

When Hertz, Delta Airlines, MetLife, and several other companies began withdrawing their NRA membership discounts in response to the controversy, there was a deluge of right-wing snowflakery.

Some of the dumber rightbloggers, like Legal Insurrection, went with a No You’re The Snowflakes argument: “Just visit almost any campus, where non-leftist words and thoughts they don’t like are equated to violence that needs to be repressed and driven off campus,” Legal Insurrection tweeted, “it’s what’s going on now in corporate America too, and @Hertz @Delta and others are just more evidence.” These corporations are retreating to the safe space of free enterprise!

Mark Hemingway found calls for the removal of NRA TV from streaming services a threat to the Constitution itself. “They never stop at undermining just one of the Bill of Rights,” he warned on Twitter. “By the time they’re done, you’ll have a soldier sleeping on your couch.” (Hemingway is also the author of an essay called “In Defense of Book Banning.”)

Rod Dreher returned to weep that a “social media mob” had unfairly attacked the NRA. “I’m beginning to understand now,” he added, “what friends who grew up in communist countries mean when they tell me that the atmosphere in the West now reminds them of their youth,” when their Soviet overlords subjected them to consumer boycotts, I guess.

I’m no Pollyanna, but I see something new here. Conservatives have long believed that gun love, and their dedicated bullying on behalf of it, would always be a winner for them. After all, don’t polls still show, as they have in the past, that most Americans want gun control — and that they simultaneously despair of it ever being enacted? That’s how effective the snarling visages of Loesch and LaPierre and their acolytes in the right wing have been.

But if the Stoneman Douglas kids’ refusal to be cowed has shaken NRA supporters’ confidence, the continuing withdrawal of corporate support seems to panic them. (Check out the NRA’s enraged response to what they call the companies’ “shameful display of political and civic cowardice” — as if the corporations were running away from the front lines rather than making a rational business decision.) For conservatives, it’s bad enough teenagers are sassing them with impunity, but this betrayal by their traditional Big Business friends may be reminding them of a similar situation during the gay marriage struggle — and we all know how that came out.