Far-right blogger tricks trans people for fake documentary

The start of a new year is the perfect time to assess what needs changing in the world, and taking action. For many lawmakers in the United States, what needed changing this year was the apparently too-abundant rights of transgender and nonbinary youths. At least seven states introduced anti-trans bills in just the first week of 2022.

The trans community is among the most persecuted in America and abroad. When they are not being excluded from the military or school sports, they are having their identity challenged by some of the most popular figures in mass media. As if trans people didn’t have enough to worry about already, a Twitter thread that surfaced on Monday, February 7, reveals they may have to watch out for fake-documentary sting operations.

Eli Erlick is a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz with a modest following. Her areas of research includes trans studies, and she herself is trans, so it seemed natural for Erlick to be scouted for a documentary on trans issues. As Erlick’s thread reveals, someone named Makenna Lynn initially approached her, on behalf of something called the Gender Unity Project, about appearing in a doc. Lynn presented herself as a grad student in film school, working on a project about the trans community. Erlick was somewhat suspicious about where a grad student might get the means to fly her out to Arizona and Nashville, as Lynn suggested, just for a talking head interview, but she didn’t think too much of it at first. Then she decided to do some research.

As it turned out, “Makenna Lynn” was actually one Makenna Lynn Waters, who is not a grad student but rather a producer on The Matt Walsh Show. Erlick also found that the Gender Unity Project’s LLC was registered to Justin Folk, a documentarian who works for Matt Walsh.

Fans of Matt Walsh will know him from his internet show, where he bloviates about various far-right concerns. Non-fans will know Walsh only from going viral every 90 days or so with a controversial, backward tweet. While Walsh’s regressive opinions have historically run the gamut on topics, they’ve mostly centered around biblically defined views about gender—the kind that fell from favor decades before anyone who disagreed with them could be accused of “wokeness.” Lately, however, he has narrowed his concentration to gender essentialism.

He wrote a hit children’s book, which equates being trans with pretending to be a walrus, so that parents can get a head start teaching their kids to stigmatize peers. He went on Dr. Phil to debate trans activists about pronouns in an episode that critics are calling “no longer available for public consumption.” And Twitter recently suspended him for 12 hours for intentionally misgendering Jeopardy! champ Amy Schneider last month, in violation of its nebulously defined “hateful conduct” policy. Given how outspoken he has been on this topic, it shouldn’t be shocking that he has a project in the works using trans people’s own words against them.

Unfortunately, it also shouldn’t be terribly shocking that Walsh would resort to fraudulent deception in order to pull off this feat. His sham documentary follows a long line of far-right hoaxes, from the entire Project Veritas oeuvre to Jack Posobiec’s various hoaxes. It’s yet another reason to trust nobody in our current media environment.

On the positive side, Erlick’s thread has since been boosted by many trans rights activists and allies, bringing mass attention to Walsh’s project, if not necessarily the kind Walsh might want. The Gender Unity Project’s Twitter account is now suspended, and Waters has deleted her personal account. Obviously, Walsh will figure out how to spin this setback into a way to market his project as “the film they don’t want you to see,” but he will likely have to make do with whatever interviews he has scrounged so far, since the notoriety around his project has likely exploded the possibility of landing any further interviews. Those already duped may even have legal recourse now to fight against appearing in the documentary under false pretenses.

In the meantime, Walsh is taking the next natural step in an outrage cycle: taking a defensive crouch against those now attacking him, as though they decided to do so at random.

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