Boom of the Catholic right grows: “Gun Girl” registers with Mother Church

In early December, Kaitlin Bennett, the 20-something far-right provocateur known as the “Kent State Gun Girl” who successfully filmed himself opposing liberal college students, released a series of new self-mythologizing image. For four minutes without words videotapes begins with the sound of a fetal heartbeat, a series of slow-motion shots adjacent to the Catholic iconography shows pregnant Bennett stroking her belly in front of the altar, sitting on a bench, holding a rosary and smiling Smiling softly in front of the camera. The final scene shoots slowly up Bennett’s body – from her legs to her fitted dress to her waist-long blonde hair – before flying into a pan that resembles a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The pregnancy announcement video was posted on Liberty Hangouts, a right-wing website and YouTube channel founded by Bennett’s husband, which claims to be “the official home of Kaitlin Bennett.” But this was just part two of another big reveal a few days earlier, when Bennett announced that she no more an atheist, but converted to Roman Catholicism, thanks to various factors: her husband’s devout faith, her cat’s illness, and a freedom protester she encountered, who expressed hostility to religion.

A few days later, a mass religion website owned by Catholic media giant EWTN, the largest religious media network worldwide, covered the news like a breathless tabloid. Bennett began appearing on right-wing Catholic shows, such as that of LifeSiteNews, to discuss her conversion and her belief that LGBTQ Pride Month is the manifestation of the worst of the seven deadly sins. She tweeted a photo of herself in a white lace gown after attending her first Traditional Latin Mass, and her husband, Justin Moldow, told Catholic YouTuber Timothy Gordon, who filmed his wife being mocked on a college campus, “really felt like I was witnessing the Passion of Christ in that moment.”

RELATED: “Gun girl” Kaitlin Bennett of Kent – too extreme for the Trump campaign?

In an age of goofy characters seeking internet fame, Bennett’s performance as a right-wing stuntwoman stands out. As chair of the Kent State’s American Turning chapter in 2017, she oversaw a “diaper protest” mocking the concept of a “safe space” on managed campus. awkward TPUSA national, finally ended her relationship with the group. The following year, she became famous online when she posted a graduation photo of herself wearing a miniskirt, high heels, and an AR-10. She worked briefly on Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories, Infowars, jump up a sign that reads “Happy Holidays” and markets a variety of “gun girl” merchandise. (As Ruth Graham noted in a Slate file after Bennett was evicted from Ohio University’s Athens campus, Bennett’s own social media accounts stated her intention was to “make money off haters.”)

But beneath the joking scene, there is a deeper pattern at work. For one thing, the Liberty Hangout, run by Bennett and Moldow, has a long history of far-right politics, promotion conspiracy theories such as the “White Genocide”, allusion to white supremacy “14 words”, and poll its readers about whether the Holocaust really happened the way they were taught in school. (“It seems unlikely that six million people were killed,” the group’s Twitter account argues.) On its podcast during the early years of Trump’s presidency, the group hosted a host of personalities. famous “alternative right”, including some People responsible in November for inciting violence at the 2017 Right-wing Solidarity rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. But in the past few months, this account has morphed into a stream of Catholic images so homogeneous that followers complain they went “from all about America and freedom to being all about Vatican and Mexicans” (the latter was apparently in response to a post featuring a Mexican saint).

In it, the Liberty Hangout and its battle star have retraced the path taken by several other far-right activists who are involved in the remnants of the right and the ongoing movements. After the supreme personality of white Canadians Faith Goldy was fired from her position at the right-wing outlet Rebel News for appearing on a podcast by the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, she blatantly converted to Catholicism and found a warm pressure welcome in some corners of the Catholic right. A year ago, Ali Alexander, the founder of Stop the Steal, created a map notification just days before he himself converted to the Catholic Church, he helped direct a crowd of protesters to the United States Capitol. A few months later, in mid-March, former Breitbart writer and disgraced right-wing star Milo Yiannopoulos told LifeSiteNews that his return to the Catholic Church made him “”old gay. “

They join a number of other far-right figures who have clearly combined their political positions with right-wing Catholicism, including Jack Posobiec, Pizzagate promoter turned right-wing commentator, and Nicholas Fuentes, the young founder of America First or the “Groyper movement”, who has built a huge following online. When the various factions of the right decided to rally in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017, they did most of the protests before holding them in online chat rooms. One of the most popular apps, named “Nick Fuentes Server”, is dedicated to Catholics looking to “explore the connection between their church” and Unite the Right. Hundreds of posters in that room talked about traditional Catholicism and posted memes with images and Crusader rhetoric along with posts openly opposing and pro-Nazi.

Ben Lorber, a research analyst, said: “After the right arm disbanded in 2018 and 2019, some of them turned inward, towards religion, they’ve now had their foundation unfounded. and their first attempts to change society were rejected,” said Ben Lorber, a research analyst at the Association for Political Studies who has studied Fuentes’ move. “Looks like this is a way to get back into the mainstream for people like [Yiannapoulos] who were excluded during the years of surrogacy. ”

For moderate or liberal Catholics concerned about extreme politics share In their church, these are disturbing developments – part of US Catholics’ growing entanglement with America’s increasingly right-wing politics, which over the past five years has included many far-right groups use Catholic images or catchy phrases like Deus Vult” and “Viva Cristo Rey to their tweets.

To Tablet Vatican Correspondent Christopher Lamb, author of papal biography,”Outsider: Pope Francis and His Fight to Reform the Church, “which details the growing political polarization within the world’s largest religious denomination, which is proof of the far-right’s efforts to spread their movement with the aim of spirituality, tribalism? You do it through religious imagery. In a sense, you empty the content of religion and use external things – the rosary, the cross, some words, perhaps some prayers – but you use it as an identifying mark to give your movement the sense that it has a deeper soul or intensity on a moral level.”

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David Lafferty, a writer at Where is Peter?, a moderate Catholic website that tracks Catholic influence within the church. provide a similar analysis. “I think there’s a broader pattern here where a lot of people are part of a larger populist right wing, or the MAGA movement, or what used to be called the alternative, ready to use any opportunity. “When you join the online Catholic ecosystem, you already have a built-in audience with traditional or ultra-Catholic websites,” he said. All of them have very devoted followers and fan bases. If you’re from the populist side. enter the church, you will be able to step right into that world and become some kind of instant celebrity. “

That influence trading works in both directions. Last week, when LifeSiteNews hosted Bennett to detail her transformation story, Bennett’s former employers at Infowars be held The LifeSite co-founder gives a lengthy interview about vaccine misinformation, Catholic “civil wars” and what Jones describes as an “anti-Christ system” that includes “mass surveillance, transhumanism [and] Great Reset program. ”

“It shows that this movement knows no bounds,” Mr. Lamb said. “The way they operate is that anyone who agrees with their ideology is an ally, no matter what else. You can deny that children were murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre, as long as you agree with me on COVID. If you agree with me, anything goes.”

“I pray that maybe there’s something genuine in it, and that she’ll get out of the spotlight and become a humble person trying to be a good Catholic,” Lafferty said of Bennett’s conversion. and others of famous far-right figures. “Somehow, I doubt it. I think there are larger forces here, ready to use whatever is available to spread a right-wing populist message, to attract a wide following. more, causing more controversy.”

Read more about the rising power of the religious right in the Trump era: Boom of the Catholic right grows: “Gun Girl” registers with Mother Church

Huynh Nguyen

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