Any number of stories could be written about Taylor Lorenz, the Washington Post journalist who covers internet culture. Lorenz — who yesterday raised the hackles of social media for publishing a story revealing the identity of the person behind popular right-wing Twitter account @LibsOfTikTok — is a not merely the chronicler of our too-online age but its fascinating byproduct.
Yet the most basic question about this story has been lost in a sea of drama: what, if anything, has this formerly nameless woman done to deserve having her identity exposed? If you ask Lorenz, such coverage is warranted because LibsOfTikTok has “become a powerful cross-platform social media influencer, spreading anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and fueling the right wing media’s outrage machine.”
Or, as a follower of Lorenz put it in a tweet that Lorenz retweeted, “libsoftiktok creates targets in a violent culture war against lgbtq people, some of whom have already been harassed out of their jobs.” The follower elaborated, “I completely agree there needs to be a high bar for reporting about someone anonymous. An influencer who sets the agenda for the culture war online and on TV, and who influences lawmakers? Absolutely, in the public interest. Random queer teachers? Absolutely not.”
Putting aside the notion that what Lorenz and her sympathizers are describing is activism, not journalism, it sounds like LibsOfTikTok is up to some bad behavior. These random queer teachers were just minding their business only to be singled out as targets in a violent culture war? How toxic!
But, of course, there is more to the story.
The concept behind LibsOfTikTok is simple. The proprietor posts un-doctored clips taken from the TikTok accounts of progressives along with a sentence or two of commentary. At its worst, this is somewhat juvenile. Of course, people on the left do the same to conservatives, and while it might be silly, that’s politics for you. But what of these teachers who, we are to believe, have been unfairly singled out for abuse?
Lorenz provides the example of Tyler Wrynn, an English teacher who resigned following a backlash over a video he posted on TikTok. Lorenz characterizes the video as merely an expression of pride and love for his LGBTQ students. But Wrynn’s actual words were “if your parents don’t love and accept you for who you are this Christmas, fuck them, I’m your parents now.” LibsOfTikTok tweeted this clip, along with the commentary: “This teacher was let go last week after complaints of grooming and this tiktok + others containing questionable content were brought to the principal’s attention.” This plays into the culture war, to be sure, but so does the outright claim that teachers should supplant the parental role.
Another instance that Lorenz finds objectionable is LibsOfTikTok’s post concerning a sex education teacher in Kentucky. Lorenz complains that LibsOfTikTok called the woman a “predator,” and that the tweet was amplified by a segment on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show. But LibsOfTikTok’s actual words, accompanied by supporting clips, were “This woman is running a ‘sexy summer camp’ for children in Kentucky. She says she think it’s good for toddlers to masturbate.” The woman in question was directly quoted: “I worked with the school systems…my job was not to teach sex-ed… I try to figure out ways to work this into the schools.” That was then followed by LibsofTikTok’s arch comment: “This woman is a predator.”
It is, of course, debatable what constitutes a predator, but the woman did actually say the things LibsOfTikTok cited. A piece by Christopher Rufo over at City Journal went in-depth on the “Sexy Summer Camp” for minors run by the self-described “femme, fat, queer, magical pleasure worker” and her matriarchal coven. Even if LibsOfTikTok was a little mean, this woman is teaching sex liberation to children.
Another teacher was fired after LibsOfTikTok publicized video in which she laughingly told of how she’d had her class pledge to the LGBTQ pride flag instead of the American flag, which she had removed from her classroom because it makes her feel “uncomfortable.”
And then there’s the State University of New York professor who was relieved of contact with students after LibsOfTikTok shared video of him advocating for pedophilia, saying, “the notion that [sexual contact] is wrong even with a one-year old is not quite obvious to me. There are reports in some cultures of grandmothers fellating baby boys to calm them down when they are colicky.” What did supposed hatemonger LibsOfTikTok say about this? “This guy needs to be fired ASAP.”
And what sensible person could disagree? LibsOfTikTok didn’t cause the preschool teacher to brag about telling her charges that she is “poly” or “gender-fluid.” She didn’t force the medical student to talk about deliberately jabbing a patient multiple times with a needle because the patient had mocked a gender pronouns pin. She didn’t make the theater advertise a “family sex show” for children replete with full nudity. She just amplifies the videos that these people have publicly offered, and adds her opinion that these things are disgusting.
When Lorenz and her supporters say we are in a culture war, they are not wrong. But it’s not clear that it’s LibsOfTikTok who’s the aggressor. Lorenz has predictably fallen back into her default state of victimhood. The issue, you see, is not her activism for what many would consider to be outrageous causes disguised as straight reporting. It’s the people being mean about it. What the Lorenzes of the world fear the most is that social media users who don’t share their agenda will keep highlighting the left’s radicalism.
Or as LibsOfTikTok herself put it, “They think nobody is going to see it. You post on a public TikTok account, you never know who is going to see it. And I’m always watching, so beware.”