Oklahoma schools chief shared misleading TikTok. It led to bomb threats

Oklahoma Democrats are demanding that Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters be subjected to an impeachment probe due to fallout from his hate- and disinformation-filled social media posts. In a statement, they called on the Republican speaker of the House to investigate possible charges against Walters, and said, ”The safety of Oklahoma’s students and families depends on changes to the current situation.”

Walters recently retweeted a selectively cropped TikTok video posted by the hatemonger and conwoman behind a social media account called Libs of TikTok. The video showed a Union Public School District librarian Kirby Mackenzie with an overlay reading, “POV: teachers in your state are dropping like flies but you are still just not quite finished pushing your woke agenda at the public school.” Walters retweeted the post, adding: “The liberal media denies the issue. Even some Republicans hide from it. Woke ideology is real and I am here to stop it.”

That led to bomb threats on six consecutive days.

Of course, Libs of TikTok had cropped the original video to exclude the caption, which provided crucial context. The excluded text read, “My radical agenda is teaching kids to love books and be kind hbu?? I think I’m going to make one of these every year until i die or end my teaching era.” Mackenzie also included an emoji showing two hands making the shape of a heart.

RELATED STORY: Oklahoma school head wants to leave race out of the Tulsa Race Massacre

Libs of TikTok’s account is operated by Chaya Raichik. There were good reasons Raichik’s account was suspended multiple times by what was then called Twitter, but it has found a new life being amplified on the X platform by billionaire Elon Musk. While Raichik’s bread and butter is spreading hate and endangering the lives of the LGBTQ+ community by harassing and doxxing educators she doesn’t agree with, she isn’t just homophobic: She’s bigoted across the board. Her recent work characterizing a get-together for families of color at an Oakland elementary school as some kind of attack on white people led to bomb threats at that school, as well.

The chances that the Republican supermajority in Oklahoma opens up an impeachment probe into Walter for helping provoke bomb threats against 16,000 Oklahoma children are nil. Republican House Speaker Charles McCall told NBC News, “Impeachment is not something that should be taken lightly, and the call by a group of House Democrats seems to be more of a ready, fire, aim approach.”

Before Walters sicced the world’s most grotesque social media account on Oklahoma’s children, he was openly posting about his intentions to defy Supreme Court decisions separating church and state in order to fund private religious schools. He recently embarrassed himself by trying to talk about Oklahoma history while pretending that race had nothing to do with the Tulsa Race Massacre.

He has spent his political career as a theocratic culture warrior. Unsurprisingly, he has been saving his biggest attacks for the predominantly Black Tulsa Public Schools system by threatening to take away its accreditation. Tulsa Public Schools is the largest school district in the state.

Here’s a video posted by davidhth showing Tulsa Public Schools Board President Stacey Woolley’s public statement about the matter.

Ryan Walters accusing teachers of a woke agenda is stirring hatred. Today, there was a third bomb threat after Walters retweeted a TikTok video made by a Tulsa librarian as a joke. Here TPS board president Stacey Woolley pleads with him to stop. A lawmaker wants him impeached. pic.twitter.com/JQNafK2SIj

— David Heath (@davidhth) August 24, 2023

And the posts that gave domestic terrorists a target for their anger.

OK’s state superintendent shared a doctored video of an OK librarian. who joked about pushing a woke agenda. The doctored video cut out the caption-“my radical liberal agenda is teaching kids to love books & be kind.” The district received bomb threats for 6 consecutive days. https://t.co/OtkRVYPyOp pic.twitter.com/dkh1RzI1GN

— Laura Burkhardt 🧡 (@LauraAnnSTL) August 30, 2023

Sign the petition: Stop book bans.

The far-right justices on Wisconsin's Supreme Court just can't handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they're in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are "partisan hacks" (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!

‘I had a stroke because of Trump’: GOP strategist offers latest proof that guy is bad for our health

It’s not just liberal Democrats who’ve been horribly traumatized by Trump. Indeed, some Republicans have gone off-record as saying they hope he dies before the 2024 election—which, given his obvious drag on GOP candidates’ prospects, is not all that surprising. Add longtime GOP pollster and strategist Frank Luntz to the list of conservatives who’d probably prefer that a milquetoast candidate like Mike Pence secure the 2024 GOP nomination. Sure, they might still lose, but they wouldn’t develop four different kinds of ulcers trying to explain why he’s now moving to the center by trying to carve out an abortion exception for 6-foot, 5-inch fetuses named Eric.

In a recent interview, Luntz, who’s devoted his career to making Republican policies appear less benighted and awful, talked about how Trump—a monster whom, let’s be honest, Luntz helped create—literally gave him a stroke. RELATED STORY: A catalog of capital incompetence: The short list of things Donald Trump did to kill America

New York Magazine: 

Donald Trump made my head explode,” he said.

In early 2020, Luntz checked himself into a hospital after a tingling in his arm crept up his shoulder and began to spread across his face. Doctors told him his blood pressure was an alarming 197 over 122 and that he had suffered a stroke. His lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits didn’t help, but a lot of it had to do with stress and the fact that when Luntz got upset about the state of the world, he was less likely to take his blood-pressure medicine. He was at that time constantly upset about the state of the world. He blamed Trump.

“I had a stroke because of Trump,” Luntz said. “I didn’t have the guts to speak out enough about him, and it drove me crazy. Every time I spoke out, I felt the backlash, I felt it on social media, I felt it a little bit with my clients, I felt it with my friends here.”

It’s hard to feel sorry for Luntz, given that he’s been greasing the skids for fascism for decades. But his example does help illustrate how bad Trump has been for many people’s mental as well as physical health—particularly during the peak of the pandemic. 

Perhaps the best way to describe how most of us have felt over the past eight years—that is, since Donald Trump glided down his gilded escalator like a papaya messiah alighting at our unwashed plebeian feet—is that it’s a lot like driving down a two-lane highway at night with a bee trapped in your car. You don’t know if you’ll get stung five times in the eyeball or accidentally drive into oncoming traffic. Either way, it’s going to be an awful ride, and there’s no way to know if you’ll reach your destination—or what that destination even is.

For instance, this January 2021 Vox story details just how on edge Americans were after four years of Trump in the White House.

While Trump was able to energize a core of supporters with his mix of bravado, defiance, and racism, for many others, his presidency was, quite simply, scary. In the American Psychological Association’s 2016 “Stress in America” survey, 63 percent of Americans said the future of the country was a “significant source of stress,” and 56 percent said they were stressed out by the current political climate. In the 2018 version of the survey, those numbers went up to 69 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Clinical psychologist Jennifer Panning even coined the term “Trump anxiety disorder” to describe the stress many people were feeling in the weeks and months following the 2016 election. “People tended to experience things like ruminations, like worries of what’s going to be next” as they awaited each new tweet or action by the president, Panning told Vox.

Meanwhile, anyone who’s ever been in an abusive relationship was likely retraumatized by Trump’s crass rhetorical methods.

Trump also subjected people in America and around the world to language and tactics used by abusers, Farrah Khan, a gender justice advocate and manager of the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University in Canada, told Vox. That includes gaslighting (like when he claimed that the official Covid-19 death tolls were fraudulent, or that the virus would “go away on its own”), lashing out in anger (his perennial rage-tweets about “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT”), and seeking revenge on people for perceived wrongs (his attacks on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she criticized his administration’s Covid-19 response). In a relationship with an abuser, “you’re constantly hypervigilant to what he’s going to do next,” Khan said. Under Trump’s presidency, that hypervigilance extended to the millions of Americans affected by him and his policies.

And while progressive Americans likely felt Trump’s presence most keenly, Republicans have not been immune to his reverse charms. A widely shared Atlantic story from January gave us a glimpse into GOP thinking and panic in the lead-up to the 2024 election. One anonymously quoted former congressman bluntly noted, “We’re just waiting for him to die.”

“You have a lot of folks who are just wishing for [Trump’s] mortal demise,” [former Republican Rep. Peter] Meijer told me. “I want to be clear: I’m not in that camp. But I’ve heard from a lot of people who will go onstage and put on the red hat, and then give me a call the next day and say, ‘I can’t wait until this guy dies.’ And it’s like, Good Lord.” (Trump’s mother died at 88 and his father at 93, so this strategy isn’t exactly foolproof.)

Of course, simply waiting for another human being to croak so that we don’t become a fascist dystopia isn’t a great strategy (it’s morbid, for one, and a pretty cowardly avenue for people who could simply put country over party and lock arms in opposition to fascism), but you can’t really blame people for the sentiment. Seriously, the guy wanted to pull us out of NATO and, among other gobsmacking inanities, once suggested to his chief of staff that we could nuke North Korea and blame it on someone else—an idea he no doubt arrived at earlier in the day while reading The Family Circus. How is anyone supposed to sleep soundly with a guy like that in the Oval Office? And how are we supposed to relax if there’s even a 1% chance that he might find himself back in power?

After all, Hibernol isn’t real. Or it isn’t yet, I should say. Though the pharmaceutical companies may want to get on this tout de suite. I could see a surging demand for this wonder drug the closer we get to November 2024.

RELATED STORY: 'Kill Democrats': One lasting effect of Trump presidency

Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.   

Watch doctors, representatives, and the dad of a trans girl battle over anti-trans bill in Alabama

The nation is still facing the novel coronavirus, Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial is underway, and more than 400,00 Americans have died already due to COVID-19. In all of this, a slew of states have found time to push anti-trans legislation. Now, Alabama’s state legislator is considering a fiercely transphobic bill, HB 1 and SB 1, that would make it a felony for physicians to provide transgender youth with gender-affirming medical care. In this legislation, gender-affirming care includes surgeries, hormones, and puberty blockers.

If the bill becomes law, physicians who provide gender-affirming care—which, by the way, can be lifesaving for trans youth—could face up to 10 years in prison. And somehow, this isn’t even the worst part of the proposal. Even beyond the language of the bill, however, it’s really the public hearing that involved physicians, members of the committee, and the parent of a transgender daughter that’s worth the long watch.

What makes all of this even worse? The bill essentially necessitates that physicians “out” trans youth to their parents if they request gender-affirming treatment. This is terrifying for trans youth for the same reasons it is for everyone: people deserve privacy, autonomy, and a trusting relationship with a medical professional includes honesty. It’s also terrifying for transgender youth because of potential risk of becoming homeless.

Republican Rep. Wes Allen sponsored and introduced the bill, with Republican Reps. Chip Brown and Shane Stringer also sponsoring it.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing to discuss the bill. One man, who introduced himself as a former police investigator, spoke about his daughter coming out to him as transgender at the age of sixteen, and how he initially suspected his child was gay. He talked about being “ignorant” and “not knowing anything” about transgender children, and that in investigating, he learned that transgender youth are disproportionately likely to attempt suicide—but that statistic drops when transgender youth get affirmation and acceptance. His speech was deeply earnest and moving. 

Later in the public hearing, he added, “I didn’t want my kids to be short,” the dad said. “Much less transgender.” His point being that parents don’t push their kids into being transgender or force hormones on them, but rather that parents want their kids to fit in and be safe. So, he had a learning process in understanding and accepting, and now argues on behalf of transgender youth getting the support and treatment they need and deserve.

A number of physicians did speak. On the one hand, a plastic surgeon appeared and spoke in favor of the bill. On the other hand, a physician spoke who argued against the bill in terms of its privacy violations, discussing that the law, as written, would take away confidentiality needed between minors and patients. This physician framed the issue in terms of abuse but obviously makes sense in terms of gender-affirming care as well. 

One representative noted they don’t have “medical training” and asked the physician arguing in favor of the bill to send studies he referenced. I believe the study in question is this one, a long-term study out of Sweden, that looks at suicidality and gender-affirming care. This physician used buzzwords like “mutilation,” “gender confusion,” and “transgenderism.” He described the use of some puberty blockers as a “public experiment.” 

“No one is served by a delusion,” the plastic surgeon stated at one point, adding that “affirmation therapy is the problem.” In reference to whether transgender youth should see psychiatrists or psychologists, he stressed that therapy is good, but that “We don’t want to affirm them in something that is not true.”

Now, of course, it makes sense that representatives can ask questions of people who appear at public hearings. What’s deeply concerning, however, is that there are, too, a number of physicians and health experts who are in favor of gender-affirming care—but they weren’t answering questions. Basically: Medicine, like many things in life, is not without bias. 

Thankfully, one representative did clarify that they’re speaking to him as though he’s the “premiere expert” on transgender youth, and asked what his specific area is, as well as what his peers and colleagues believe. Basically: Is the physician in front of us arguing the consensus of the medical committee, or is this a fringe opinion? (It’s not the consensus of the medical community, though, sadly, transphobia is also rampant in medicine, so it is far from a solitary perspective.)

“You’re not a pediatrician,” one representative asked, further clarifying. “You don’t necessarily treat gender dysphoria?”

The physician clarified that he does treat children, and noted, “In fact, they even label me as trans-friendly,” adding that he does hair removal as part of his practice. He clarified that if someone came to him for gender dysphoria, he would refer them to a psychologist. 

One representative snapped back against the plastic surgeon on the basis that what they’re really legislating is how people care for their children, as well as the fact that this legislation would make some medical care a literal felony.

Perhaps amplifying how clearly confusing this situation was, one representative asked: “Why in the world is this judiciary and not health? Or somebody who has some background?” There wasn’t a precise answer for that question, but perhaps reinforces why these bills continue to bubble up around the nation, and why people are, frankly, so misinformed. 

“It is terribly hard to be a transgender person in this world, anywhere,” the dad said in reference to Sweden's study on suicidality. That’s sadly, terribly, true—and a big reminder that we need structural, systemic change on every single level. 

Members did not vote on Wednesday. 

You can watch this session below.

Every minute of AOC’s hour-long Instagram video about the pro-Trump insurgency is worth watching

On Tuesday night, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hopped onto an Instagram live video and shared her experience during the pro-Trump insurgency at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. In a moving address straight to followers (of which more than 100,000 people joined in to listen and watch), the progressive lawmaker said she had a “very close encounter” with the rioters and  “I thought I was going to die.” She repeated the chilling sentiment later in the hour-long video, saying, “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.” She did not give more details on the encounter, citing security reasons.

What did she give more details on? Her concerns about sheltering with some Republican lawmakers. Why? Because she was afraid some of them might give up her location or enable chances for her to be hurt or kidnapped by insurgents. Let’s dive more into that horrifying possibility, as well as the lawmaker’s discussion of trauma and political nihilism, below.

“I didn’t even feel safe going to that extraction point because there were QAnon and white supremacist members of Congress who I felt would disclose my location and create opportunities to allow me to be hurt,” Ocasio-Cortez stated. She did not explicitly name the colleagues she thought might expose her to danger. 

"Let me give you a sneak peek,” she stated in an address to Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. “You will never be president. You will never command the respect of this country, never. Never. And you should resign.”

Ocasio-Cortez also stressed that the two conservatives essentially cast their votes in an effort to overturn election votes “not out of genuine belief” but instead out of “political ambition.” She also described Donald Trump as a “traitor to our country,” which, of course, he is.

“I don't want to see the Republican Party talk about blue lives ever again,” Ocasio-Cortez said in reference to a Capitol police officer losing their life during the riot. “This was never about safety for them. It was always a slogan. … Because if they actually care about the rule of law, they would speak up when people break the law."

Ocasio-Cortez also spoke intimately about trauma, saying, “You have all of those thoughts where, at the end of your life, these thoughts come rushing to you. That’s what happened to a lot of us on Wednesday. I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive. And not just in a general sense, but in a very specific sense." She also brought up that in addition to members of Congress, staffers, and even the children of lawmakers, were at the Capitol that day. 

On a personal level, Ocasio-Cortez said she found herself sleeping more in the days after the riot, and that, “to me is telling me that my body is going through something and my brain is trying to heal."

People, as usual, were impressed by the progressive’s ability to connect with people—even at 11 PM on a weeknight.

.@AOC just gave an impassioned speech about impeachment to more than 100,000 people on Instagram at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday night. Her natural political skills, spontaneous eloquence and fluency with social media are so striking, especially at a national moment like this.

— Liam Stack (@liamstack) January 13, 2021

AOC is giving a Gettysburg Address level oration over Instagram live right now "White supremacy is doomed to fail... supremacy is a myth, so they resort to violence"

— Prerna Jagadeesh (@PrernaJagadeesh) January 13, 2021

Watching @AOC’s Instagram live and knowing as it happens that it’ll be featured in history books one day as a piece of important oratory of the moment is really something.

— Amanda Litman (@amandalitman) January 13, 2021

And her transparency was, as ever, moving and important.

Turns out the first moment of real human solidarity I've felt in the past 6 traumatizing days is watching @AOC's unbelievably moving instagram live with a bunch of friends and strangers who feel the same way on twitter at 11PM

— Helen Brosnan (@HelenBrosnan) January 13, 2021

Watching @AOC's instagram live helped me finally recognize all of the anger and grief and fear that's become so commonplace that I don't even notice I'm feeling it anymore. I'm really grateful for that.

— Taylor (@taylorjeanjn) January 13, 2021

AOC almost died the other day and got on Instagram Live to talk to us about trauma and what’s actually happening behind closed doors. Her transparency is a gift and will hopefully save lives pic.twitter.com/prLImsgDFT

— ilana kaplan (@lanikaps) January 13, 2021

In speaking about nihilism in politics, Ocasio-Cortez really hit home with an emotional address, saying, “What claim will you have? That you rule over a destroyed society? That the ashes belong to you?" Those are questions every member of the Trump administration should answer. 

You can also watch snippets of the live stream on YouTube below.

Update: This statement from fellow progressive Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh about realizing panic buttons had reportedly been “torn out” of the Congresswoman's office adds another unsettling and chilling element.

According to Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff Sarah Groh, the panic buttons in the Congresswoman’s office were all “torn out—the whole unit.” They don’t know why or who did it. https://t.co/MLhxhi7nUp pic.twitter.com/l7wgoHOJKN

— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) January 13, 2021