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The Rainbow Mafia Takes East Tennessee

The Rainbow Mafia Takes East Tennessee

"Not even being provocative but if you think Greta Thunberg has the maturity to guide global policy-making then you cannot object to Jeffrey Epstein paying 16-year-olds for sex."

I figured we'd go ahead and get the shock and disgust out of the way—you know, prime the pump—before we get to today's story. That's not a quote from me, but from Twitter personality Justin Murphy.

For the record, I agree that Greta Thunberg should not be guiding global policymaking, which gives me license to also believe that Jeffrey Epstein deserved to be murdered in his jail cell for paying 16-year-olds for sex. That's not why he was killed, but you get it. He should've been killed for that, not the other thing. Or, maybe he should've been killed for both. Hard to say. Justice must really be blind.

How about this more pertinent recreation of Murphy's tweet? "Not even trying to be controversial, but if you think a 16-year-old can consent to sex-modifying treatments then you cannot object to Jeffrey Epstein paying 16-year-olds for sex."

Moving on.

Today, we're talking about Mark Pulliam's reporting on Blount County’s Rainbow Mafia.

If you've spent any amount of time in Los Angeles, you've probably heard people casually talk about the Gay Mafia. If you haven't, it just involves gay men showing favoritism to other gay men. This is not some secret slur meant to demean or offend, but an accurate description of an open and integrated part of the city's culture.

Distinct from chummy references to the Gay Mafia, Urban Dictionary informs us that the Rainbow Mafia is a "generic name for individuals or groups who push the neoliberal LGBTQIA+ agenda aggressively and without room for questioning, critical thinking, or compromise. Dissenters are subject to ad-hominem attacks and online doxxing."

Blount County’s Rainbow Mafia is distinct in that, first, they exist solely to advocate for various LGBTQ+ causes rather than to make money, network, or whatever LA’s Gay Mafia is up to; and second, in this particular instance, they are in East Tennessee, where common knowledge tells us they shouldn't be.

These are supposed to be urban problems, right?

Pulliam's story centers around a small constellation of groups in Maryville, Tennessee. Maryville is roughly 20 minutes south of Knoxville, has a population of 31,907, and is home to the Maryville College—which, according to Pulliam, has its own ideological issues. The Rainbow Mafia of Maryville is not imported from abroad, as some people might believe. All of its major players are from small towns. Many haven’t left East Tennessee in their entire lives.

Take, for example, Lisa Misosky, co-owner of The Bird & The Book. Misosky is not, as she so virulently claims, an aggrieved minority beset by oppression, even in small, Christian, conservative Maryville. A community figurehead, Misosky serves on the board of Blount County Friends of the Library and was recently nominated for a leadership award sponsored in part by the local paper, The Daily Times.

At her bookstore, Misosky often hosts all-ages drag events, hitting back at her opponents in The Daily Times by calling them, among other things, "fascists." Original.

Last November, Maryville College hosted an "LGBTQ+ Town Hall Forum". The event, an open session discussing the bounds of hate speech, was a partnership between the Maryville College Pride Club, Appalachian OUTreach, and—wait for it—the FBI. During the forum’s Q&A portion, Misosky revealed that she regularly phones in Facebook posts criticizing her events as "hate speech" before referring to those who don’t share her views as "conservative dipshits."

After the FBI agents present refused to concede that criticism of all-ages drag events was hate speech, the event got so out of hand the College was forced to end it early.

Lisa Misosky was born in Maryville, went to Maryville High School, and attended college at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. This is not someone who went to the “big city”, was radicalized, and brought her new creed back home.

Pulliam's story further details the conflicts of interest between The Daily Times, Maryville College, and the LGBTQ center Appalachian OUTreach, and explains how the Times was something of a mouthpiece for Misosky and her gang's escapades.

Whether expressed directly in this way or not, national coverage seems to indicate that toxic advocacy of this variety is an import from elsewhere. Nate Hochman’s reporting on the dynamics that lead to governor Kristi Noem reneging on her pledge to crack down on transgender students in girls’ sports serves as a good example of this. Hochman details how Sanford Health used its deep pockets in a top-down effort to prevent legislation from passing that would hurt its bottom line.

The reality, as displayed by the Blount County situation, is that it can grow right in your own backyard. Especially when money is involved.

Appalachian OUTreach is led by Shannon Brown (pronouns: she/her/x). Brown is not from East Tennessee. In the nineties, she arrived at UT from Marion, Arkansas: population 13,695. She was called to activism while studying in Cleveland, Ohio—the biggest city she'd been to up to that point in her life—where she first encountered the trans community and committed herself to their protection.

Since that time, Brown has not only founded Appalachian OUTreach—whose funding sources are not available online—but also started her own clinical practice, claiming to be an expert in "the area of transgender and nonbinary health for children, teenagers & adults."

It's not hard to imagine a production pipeline here, and understand that it could be fairly lucrative. The bookstore, a community hub, lures in kids and teens via their parents; puts on family-friendly drag shows; sows the seeds of gender dysphoria in impressionable young minds; sends them to Brown, and wrings money out of them as they work to figure out their gender identity. This would be a more benign pipeline than the one exposed by Matt Walsh at VUMC, but it yields similarly rotten fruit and harms people all the same.

If I'm a mob boss, my revenue pipeline looks similar. I might, for example, own a small bar where I invite people in and encourage them to be debaucherous. I would then collect blackmail on my regular clients and use that blackmail to extort them, laundering the money through the bar. For those in the community who can't be protected from the police, I’d extend my protection services for a fee.

A small collection of groups in a small, off-the-beaten-path town like Maryville could accomplish the same thing—albeit with confused, atypical kids.  And instead of blackmailing them, they would prey on their untutored minds, gaslighting them into thinking they need their guidance.

Luckily for Tennesseans, the state's latest efforts to protect children from would-be predators of this nature have sailed smoothly through the General Assembly. The two bills on the floor propose bans on hormone therapy for minors and performances by adult cabaret entertainers (including drag shows) on public property.

People like to claim that politics is downstream from culture, but the older I get, the less I think that is the case. One might amend that statement to say that "culture is downstream from the law." Take, for example, the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, which conferred the right to an abortion. After Roe, new and different lifestyles for men and women were readily encouraged, lifestyles that weren’t possible prior to legal abortion and widely available contraception.

On the flip-side, another example is the enshrinement of free speech and the right to bear arms in the Constitution, which has produced America’s world-dominating cultural mores (for better or for worse) and gun culture as we know it.

In any event, the laws proposed in the assembly will not completely solve this problem, nor should we expect them to. Misoski will continue to do as she pleases, brandishing the badge of property rights whenever confronted by her community. What laws can do, however, is incentivize and encourage certain lifestyle choices over others.

Law used in this manner reminds me of a passage from Lord Alfred Tennyson's ”Ulysses”. In Tennyson's retelling, Odysseus has arrived home to Ithaca after his epic journey and sits, bored, yearning for another adventure. He complains of the boredom that besets an idle king whose sole purpose is to "mete and dole unequal laws unto a savage race."

After stewing in his restlessness and deciding to set off into the setting sun again, he turns to his son Telemachus, offering him some advice on statesmanship:

"This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good."