OK, Groomers (Pt. 1)
A wandering look at the Dissident Right's new weapon in the culture wars
1. In the Beginning there was Pizzagate
Most scholars agree the madness began on October 28, 2017, when a man who called himself Q Clearance Patriot posted a thread entitled “Calm Before the Storm” on 4chan’s /pol/, a swamp more fetid than anything the Everglades has to offer. But before Q there was Pizzagate, a 2016 child sex trafficking scandal that was soon overshadowed by the piss-soaked mattresses of Russiagate and the Dawn of Trump.
Like any good oracle or cold reader, Q sprinkled names and hints amongst cryptic passages. Pizzagate partisans were among the earliest Q devotees. They ran with Q’s oracles and Q, like any good cold reading, followed the querent’s lead. The end result was a new mythos featuring a child-sacrificing Satanic cabal that would soon be taken down by Donald Trump and the insiders who were about to “drain the swamp.”
You could laugh at this as lunacy, and many did. Others found the messages, and the community that rose up around them, compelling. You could accept the Q transmissions ironically, you could argue over interpretations, or you could hope against hope the way believers have always prayed fervently for an apocalypse.
Like Wokeness, its religious competition, QAnon provided clear-cut bad guys and an evil empire. But where Wokeness demanded monastic self-criticism and Doing Better, QAnon simply asked that you Trust the Plan. And with Jeffery Epstein’s arrest and subsequent August 10, 2019 “suicide”, those crazy child-trafficking stories suddenly appeared a lot more plausible.
When the 2020 elections saw Trump out of office, many of Q’s predictions were disproven. You might think that would be the end of Q, and many did. But the continuing of the world rarely slows down apocalyptic cults. Sure, lots of people pointed and laughed. But nothing brings the faithful together like the world’s scorn. And when those simmering ideas met tensions brewing at school board meetings across America, a new resistance crystallized.
2. The Continuing Adventures of Florida Man
On March 28, 2022, Ron de Santis signed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, making it illegal for Florida teachers of grades K-3 to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in their classrooms. This had been a hotly-debated bill that attracted international attention, especially after Christina Pushaw, de Santis’ press secretary, referred to it as the “Anti-Grooming Bill.” Upon its passage, the Daily Beast’s Daniel Summers noted in Republicans Say ‘Groomer’ to Put a Nice Face on Homophobia:
The Florida law, which supporters claim is about parents’ right to choose when their children learn about gender and sexual minorities, bars classroom discussion in some grades about those people at all. Rather than sex, it’s about whether people like me, my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community, and our families, can be acknowledged in schools to exist.
The Washington Post took particular interest in “Grooming”. Paul Waldman led the field with his March 31 ‘Grooming’: Republicans’ vile new slur on any who criticize them, but things really heated up at the Bezos Birdcage Liner after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made an incendiary tweet accusing Ketanji Jackson Brown and the Senators voting her into the Supreme Court of being “pro-pedophile.”
Mical Raz and Paul M Renfro proclaimed Fringe cries for anti-grooming measures can sway policy
Philip Bump warned of The new red scare: the Right leans into pedophilia accusations.
Hannah Natanson and Moriah Balingit reported Teachers who mention sexuality are ‘grooming’ kids, conservatives say
In The QAnon catchphrases that took over the Jackson hearings, Daniel Moynihan noted in the subheading “Republicans don’t have to name the conspiracy theory. They just signal it with their talk of pedophiles and ‘groomers.’”
Christine Emba sniffed M-I-C-K-E-Y? He’s a groomer too!
Michael Gerson informed us What the GOP’s faux outrage over child sexual exploitation is really all about.
Marjorie Taylor Greene has made headlines before, most notoriously for her thoughts on Rothschild space lasers. But as this story developed it became clear that many others shared Greene’s concerns for the children and were not afraid to act on them.
3. Casting Lucifer from the Kingdom
On April 7 Hold the Line, an organization founded by Evangelical preacher and political activist Sean Feucht, organized a rally outside Disney’s Burbank, California headquarters. Angered by Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s denunciation of the Florida law, and by a leaked video showing Disney employees discussing pro-LGBT themes in their upcoming lineup, hundreds of protestors prayed along as Feucht proclaimed:
We call for every wall of perversion to come down in Jesus’ name.
We call for every wall to strip the innocence of our kids to come down.
God, we pray that you would expose Disney for what it is, expose this corporation, bring everything that’s been hidden into the light.
“[Disney has] been putting weird stuff in their movies for a long time, but now they’re actively fighting for children to be sexually indoctrinated as a kindergartner,” Feucht told the crowd, while Turning Point leader Rob McCoy added “Goliath, just like Disney, is the gnat on the butt of an elephant, and you’re going down. You mess with our kids, you’re goin’ down.”
Disney was hit hard by COVID-19. Only recently has its amusement park, movie, and stage income started improving after several miserable quarters. Hostile relations with Florida’s state government could cost Disney a great deal of money. Claims that Disney supports pedophilia and sexualizes preschoolers could have an equally big impact on Disney’s bottom line.
When it comes to protecting their children, parents generally err on the side of caution and trust their instincts. And Disney knows very well how instincts respond to repeated cues of “DISNEY GROOMERS.” While it remains to be seen how Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law will play out amidst the inevitable court challenges, it is clear that many of the middle-class suburban and rural families who were once Disney’s bread and butter have now grown distrustful of the Magic Kingdom.
4. Cucks Gonna Cuck
As could be expected, Neocons insisted we had to be above such mudslinging. Mainstream conservatism ceded the Culture War years ago. The Right’s apparatchiks are social liberals and fiscal Libertarians. They wouldn’t know what to do with a victory and are perfectly happy to play the loyal opposition so long as the book contracts and speaking gigs keep coming in.
But while PMC Conservatism stood above the fray with PMC Neoliberalism, most conservatives agreed with the Federalist’s Kylee Zemple. As Zemple wrote in her April 7 Federalist article Weirdos Who Want To Sexualize Your Children Should Absolutely Be Stigmatized As Groomers
What does it say about the pathetic state of the political right that instead of spending our energy advancing the ideas and institutions that promote human flourishing, we’re quibbling over whether “groomers” is the right word to refer to people who delight in sexualizing other people’s kids and hiding it from their parents?
The Left has good reason to fear the “Groomer” label. Nobody ever lost a job over “Libtard” or “Snowflake.” Pedophilia accusations can cost you your career, your family, your reputation, and even your life. To defend yourself against the accusation is to minimize the suffering of sexually abused children. Silence is an admission of guilt. And while your boss might ignore a crazy caller insisting you are a communist, fascist, or Zionist shill, a mandated reporter has to take seriously even wildly implausible claims of inappropriate behavior involving children.
With “Groomer,” the dissident Right has found its “racist.” Parental discomfort has made school board elections a hot new battleground. Out of those battles, you may see a new populist Right that rivals anything Jerry Falwell imagined, one run on faith and righteous anger against a crumbling, financially ruined empire. You will certainly see a few scoundrels exposed, and a few innocent lives ruined. And above all else, you will certainly see lots of trolls linking liberals to kiddy-diddling at every opportunity.
5. The Groomer at the End of the Rainbow
After years of SEO research, we know that clear-cut moral tales with black-hatted villains are most effective for getting reader response. There are few people more universally loathed than child molesters, and so it is not surprising that child trafficking rings and Satanic child sacrifices play such an important role in modern folk mythology.
Many LGBT people are horrified at being linked to the old stereotypes of child-molesting queer perverts. But though stereotypes are offensive, they also convey a lot of emotional and factual information. That information may be wrong and that emotion based on an inaccurate assessment. But the goal here is not accuracy, it is what Pink Floyd’s roadie might call a “short, sharp shock.”
Memes frequently make use of offensive stereotypical caricatures. (Don’t believe me? Do an image search on “Shlomo Shekelberg” and “Tyrone Blackman Meme”). Stereotypes are cultural ruts your brain uses to guide you through the paths of everyday life.
The stereotype shapes your actions and reactions even if you consciously reject the stereotype. Stereotypes are why ethnic jokes make you laugh — though you may repress your laughter when your woke cousin is visiting. And the traction that the “LGBT Groomer” meme has gathered suggests perhaps there was never so much consensus on what constitutes LGBT Acceptance as we might have supposed.
6. The Crafting of Consensus, The Reaping of Revolution
For years, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have been filled with LGBT-supportive posts and links to LGBT websites. The LGBT communities on these sites thrived because site admins quickly removed anti-LGBT posts (and posters). And because no ad campaign can resist a target demographic, many companies large and small have come out in support of LGBT rights.
We are pack primates. When we are in doubt we look to our peers to find the appropriate action. Modern cellphones let us scan for faces or profile pics we recognize, look for interesting points or pictures, and leave an appropriate comment, emoji, or action in seconds.
Looking through social media feeds, you might get the idea there is a universal consensus on LGBT rights except for a few bigots who regularly get “ratioed” with angry comments and suspended for “hate speech.” And, truth be told, today America is more welcoming to sexual minorities and alternative gender presentations than at any time in its history.
If you are a queer person, this general tolerance is a great thing. If you are a person looking to start a revolution, not so much.
Revolutions need an oppressor, and most Americans couldn’t care less what consenting adults do to or with other consenting adults. And so the sexual revolution began finding more and more new identities that could be rejected by a hidebound mainstream.
Most were merely laughed at. No matter how much aromantic genderfluid demisexuals may be disappointed, nobody is going to LITERALLY KILL them for posting their gender flags and e-scrounging links on their profiles.
But there was one hot-button issue they could rely on to get the masses excited. They could always count on the bigoted Bible-thumping flyover trash to get riled up over their children learning it’s OK to be queer.