State Senator Scott Wiener has come under fire by right-wing trolls, who have flooded his inbox with death threats and anti-Semitic messages. The reason: Wiener has sponsored a new bill to protect queer teens in the criminal justice system.
Under current California law, a judge has the right to block a teenager from having to register as a sex offender under certain circumstances. For example, a 19-year-old having consensual sex with a 17-year-old may not have to register. The caveat: the current statue applies only to vaginal sex, not oral or anal intercourse, thus making it discriminatory to LGBTQ teens. Wiener’s new bill would extend the statute to include all forms of sex, thus granting equal protection to queer teenagers.
Right-wing extremists have now targeted Wiener over the bill, claiming that it would grant legal protections to pedophiles. Mother Jones reports that the Senator has received thousands of messages, mostly on Instagram, threatening his life and safety, as well as accusing him of pedophilia.
“You’re dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. I’ll publicly execute you. I’m gonna embarrass you. Pedophile,” one message read.
“I’ll come cut your head off and deliver it to your mom if you even considering introducing your ‘bill.’ Got it?” read another.
Thus far Wiener has refused to block any of his harassers, noting that as a public official, it is illegal for him to cut off voices of his constituents by blocking accounts, not matter how vile. The Senator has, however, criticized Facebook–the company that owns Instagram–for not doing more to weed out troll accounts.
“Social media platforms need to do a lot more to deal with toxicity that is so damaging to society,” Wiener told Mother Jones. I know it’s hard. I get that they don’t want to be thought police. Not everything is clear cut, but some things are. What’s happening here is clear cut, when you have all these comments calling me a pedophile, when you have all these homophobic, anti-Semitic remarks.”
Wiener’s detractors have falsely claimed that his legislation would allow 20-somethings to have sex with 12-year-olds; the current statute does not apply to teens younger than 14. Furthermore, Wiener’s staff has traced a number of the harassing messages to accounts which have ties to QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy site. QAnon has a history of pushing pedophile-themed conspiracy theories, including the notorious “Pizzagate” myth which linked Hillary Clinton to an underground pedophile ring.
For Wiener, the greater threat is not to himself, but to American democracy. “Whether its QAnon or Russian troll farms,” Wiener says, “these are factories of false info designed to undermine democracy and public discourse. And also to send a message to elected officials that if you pursue unpopular progressive change to help marginalized groups like queer kids, ‘We’re going to target you.’”