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MUTUALLY ASSURED DEMOCRACY

Words Have Consequences: Combatting Bigotry on the Campaign Trail

"Libs of TikTok" founder Chaya Raichik is known for inflammatory rhetoric that has inspired violent threats against dozens of American schools, hospitals, and other public institutions. Her social media brand has nearly 3 million followers on X and is permanently banned from TikTok for hate speech. The Southern Poverty Law Center, the preeminent civil rights organization monitoring hate and extremism, just added Raichik to its list of extremists on Friday. What her content lacks in veracity, she makes up for with vitriol. Among her claims, she endorses the "Big Lie" that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, targets the LGBTQ community as "groomers" and "pedophiles," and describes "wokeness" as "the destruction of common sense and normalcy," "anti-American," and something that "needs to be destroyed.”


Now, she has her sights set on Indiana, arriving Monday to a red-carpet rollout as a special guest of Republican Rep. Jim Banks, who is seeking election to Indiana's open US Senate seat. (Banks is running unopposed in the Republican primary, but will face either Dr. Valerie McCray or Marc Carmichael in the general election, both of whom are MADVoters-Verified Politicians (MVPs) running in the Democratic primary.) Raichik accompanied Banks to a stop at Four Day Ray Brewing in Fishers on Monday, April 1, and to the IU Memorial Union later that day. While at IU, Raichik described how "wokeness" has allegedly infiltrated a southern Indiana high school, identifying the school by name. This attack is characteristic of Raichik's approach, which frequently includes posting names and photographs of individuals or institutions alongside accusations of wrongdoing. This harassment places a target on people's backs and increases the risk of violence.


From Burbank, California to Minnetonka, Minnesota and Oklahoma City to Tualatin, Oregon, Raichik "digitally heckles" anyone who provokes her ire, and then fans the flames of her followers to do even more. Since November 2020, there have been 33 instances where those targeted by Libs of TikTok have reported violent threats and intimidation. These threats take up government resources, shut down schools and hospitals, and can traumatize the kids and families who experience them. It's a matter of public safety as much as it is ethics. At what point do we draw the line when social media is weaponized, especially against children and vulnerable populations?


MADVoters condemns the actions of the elected officials and candidates who supported Banks and Raichik's appearances, as well as the local establishments that hosted them. "Hoosier hospitality" leaves no room for transphobia, bigotry, disinformation, and extremism. That this hate has been exploited in an attempt to elevate political standing shows how morally bankrupt some of our candidates and elected officials have become. Among those in attendance and publicly expressing support for Raichik's message were State Treasurer Dan Elliott, Congressional District 5 candidates Max Engling and LD Powell, and State Representative District 29 candidate Alaina Shonkwiler. Banks himself has widespread support among our elected officials, with endorsements from many Republicans in the state legislature as well as the executive office, many of whom have re-election platforms containing similar messages about eradicating "wokeness."


But what is "wokeness?" Neither Raichik nor Banks have defined it. Nor have their followers, other rightwing candidates, or Donald Trump, who is credited with coining the pejorative. Yet they continue to use it as a rallying cry, ostensibly against anything involving diversity, inclusion, equity, or compassion. That begs the question to these candidates and officials: How can you be seen as a person who can help move Indiana forward? How can you be a beacon of progress when you so clearly champion regressiveness, exclusion, hate, and bigotry? And why do you want that for your community, for all Hoosiers? If you seek to excise, demean, and destroy that which is different or new to you, it is you who is the threat.


It remains to be seen whether the Indiana high school that Raichik called out during her visit will face any threats from her attack, but it underscores the duty we all have to engage with the civic process here on the homefront. With the 2024 election including all state representative seats, half of state senate seats, the Governor's office, all Congressional representative seats, and the very same US Senate seat that Banks is seeking, we have the opportunity to push back against the hatred espoused by so many of these extremist candidates. Look for our MVP candidates, who have been verified as supporting our MADVoters values of equity, inclusion, and progress. We'll also be launching our Ballot Buddy 2024 soon, where you'll be able to learn more about the platforms of these candidates.


Sources

Ingram , David. “After Libs of TikTok Posted, at Least 21 Bomb Threats Followed.” NBCNews.Com, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 Feb. 2024, www.nbcnews.com/tech/internet/libs-tiktok-x-chaya-raichik-bomb-threat-twitter-of-libsoftiktok-rcna102784.

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