Birth of a Meme: The Right Attacks People Living with HIV/AIDS

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Last week, I was quoted in a piece for TheBody.com, a website, blog, and resource for people affected by or interested in HIV/AIDS. The article, by Jennifer Johnson Avril (follow her on Twitter), describes Georgia State Representative Betty Price’s call to quarantine people living with HIV or AIDS. Price’s proposal, Johnson Avril writes, is particularly grim in light of prior neoreactionary calls for just this policy.

I offered my opinion on the way that a new hostility to people living with HIV/AIDS has crept from alt-right discourses into the rhetoric and even proposed policies of the mainstream American Right:

“If a talking point resonates in one of these marginal outlets, it then gets adopted by semi-mainstream and “alt-lite” sympathizers. From there, a really good meme is refined and sanitized, to the point where it can appear in a mainstream source like Breitbart.com or Tucker Carlson.”

Read the whole piece here. Johnson Avril goes into much greater depth on the rhetorical specifics and political ramifications of this trend. It’s well worth the read.

UPDATE (10/31): Sure enough, the far right project to restigmatize those living with HIV and AIDS is still going strong. Earlier today, perpetually-owned alt-right clown Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet tweeted this attack on a Toronto restaurant staffed by people living with HIV/AIDS:

This represents the kind of science denialism we’ve come to expect from the American right. Fact: You cannot contract HIV from food even if it contains HIV+ human blood.

This is precisely the process that Johnson Avril writes about, wherein the alt-right trots out bigoted, discredited tropes in the interest of renewed scapegoating of a vulnerable population. All too often, individuals in the mainstream right are willing to play along.

I doubt this is an organized strategy. It’s more likely an emergent group opinion, as I discuss in the Body article. That’s cold comfort for all those who might be affected by these renewed attacks. Kudos and solidarity to all the people who are going to be fighting against this for (likely) years to come.

 

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