Apparently the situation last month at WiSpa, the Los Angeles Korean spa where someone claimed that a naked trans woman exposed herself to a woman and a child, was uglier than we thought. Even though the alleged incident was unverified, Fox News, the TERF community from places as far as Canada and Britain, and assorted conservative groups stoked the controversy until it led to two violent protests which saw people beaten, stabbed, and simply targeted for being transgender:
As The Guardian puts it:
The episode, experts said, offered a case study in how viral misinformation can result in violence, and provided clear evidence of the links between anti-trans and far-right movements, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe that a cabal of elite pedophiles is manipulating the American government.
On 24 June, an Instagram user with the name @CubanaAngel posted footage of herself inside the lobby of Wi Spa loudly confronting numerous staff members about a “man” who was naked in front of women and girls. In her video, an employee tried to explain that the spa cannot discriminate based on gender identity. A male customer walking by asked the woman filming if the customer she encountered was, in fact, a trans person.The woman filming, along with another woman complaining to staff, responded with transphobic language, denying that trans women exist, suggesting that the person was a “pervert”, and saying they would be defending women and girls “in Jesus’s name”. It is unclear whether a trans woman was actually present. There was no footage of anyone inside the changing room and no other witnesses have since spoken out to corroborate the account. A local LGBTQ+ paper reported that a spa employee said there were no trans patrons with appointments that day, leading some to question whether the incident was staged.
Cubana Angel’s original Wi Spa Instagram video quickly went viral on Twitter and Facebook, shared by accounts and pages with names such as “Conservative Update”, “Latino Exit From the Democratic Party” and “Women for Trump”, according to data from CrowdTangle, an analytics tool. Rightwing sites presented the woman’s claims as fact, and in several cases used a misleading screenshot of a male customer as a main photo, falsely implying he was the trans woman.. . . In one week, Fox discussed Wi Spa in six segments, said Brennan Suen, LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, which tracks rightwing media. The host Tucker Carlson repeated, without evidence, that a “man” was naked in the “female kids section” of the spa. Another host warned that what happened at Wi Spa will occur “all across the land”.. . .The video was also shared by feminists who advocate against trans-inclusive policies – sometimes referred to as gender critical feminists, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists (Terfs). Moro documented a flurry of posts on Ovarit (a site for users banned from Reddit due to transphobia) and Mumsnet (a platform for UK mothers, which has attracted anti-trans feminists). An “LGB” group in Canada – part of a fringe movement of lesbian, gay and bisexual people who argue against trans rights – claimed with no evidence that the Wi Spa video raised concerns about pedophilia.