InfoWars Crashes Drag Storytime in Austin
Alt-right rags want to end LGBTQ-inclusive children's events
Meanwhile, the continued alt-right push to end drag storytimes across the country finally landed at the Austin Public Library when an InfoWars representative crashed and filmed an event at the Old Quarry branch on June 5. Local drag queen Miss Kitty Litter ATX, who's been donating her time to the library's story hour in connection with Austin International Drag Foundation for almost a year, was approached by InfoWars as the event was ending. Under the guise of being a "documentary filmmaker" who was "trying to protect the kids," the man asked Kitty if she'd heard about the Houston controversy, then asked library staff if a background check had been performed. As a staffer tried to explain APL policy, the man returned his focus to Kitty, demanding: "What's your official name? Like what is your actual name? If people wanted to do a background check."
On Friday, shortly after viewing the InfoWars video (accessible through InfoWars but located on Periscope's server at www.pscp.tv), David Richardson, Miss Kitty's alter ego, told the Chronicle that he gave the man his name because he was "trying to be polite and nonconfrontational; I was nice to him. But I thought about it later. ... It could've been a very dangerous situation." As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of comments – many of which threaten violence and wield anti-LGBTQ hate speech – have been added to the video post, which includes Richardson's full name. It's these comments that Richardson called "really, really frightening."
Austin International Drag Fest asked Richardson last year to consider taking part in the Fest's Pride storytime events. With a background performing largely in nightclubs, Richardson wasn't sure he'd be a good fit, but the kids won him over. The impetus is to teach kids about diversity and inclusivity: "You could replace 'drag queen' with 'mayor' or 'waitress' or 'construction worker.' What this does is give kids a different perspective on different people. We're not teaching kids to be drag queens or LGBTQ, but saying if you were that it's OK, or if one of your friends is gay – that's OK too."
APL staff quickly came to Richardson's aid and asked the man to leave when he became disruptive, and spokesperson Rachel Nguyen says the library doesn't plan on doing much differently going forward, though Richardson has decided to sit out the next event. "We try to appease our audiences, and we are inclusive and excited to have all types of performers," explained Nguyen.
As for "protecting the kids," Nguyen said all Austin Public Library storytimes are run by librarian staff, who must be present for all youth events; guardians are also required to accompany all children under 10. As a guest performer, a background check on Richardson was not performed, nor felt to be needed. Nguyen assured: "For any events with our kids, we always err on the side of caution." Because the library is public property, personal filming and photography are allowed, but commercial filming or photography must be approved in advance by the administration. According to Nguyen, the library considers this an instance of commercial filming, "as it was used by an entertainment company for commercial purposes." She also confirmed that InfoWars did not contact the library for approval, none was given, and the man filming failed to identify himself as a representative of the propaganda site.
Richardson confessed he had a "feeling this was coming our way; it's happened in every other city." The alt-right has latched on to drag storytimes, arguing (as InfoWars did in its video) that they are "indoctrinating" kids, pushing "alternative" lifestyles, and, perhaps most bizarrely, sexualizing youth. The Texas branch of MassResistance – dubbed an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – has also campaigned against LGBTQ inclusivity in Austin Independent School District sex education and announced on Facebook its plans to protest Saturday's event in Leander (see "Leander's Drag Queen Story Hour Will Go On," Jun. 14). Richardson has reached out to the Leander event organizers. "I hope this doesn't happen to somebody else," he concluded.