OK, Groomers (Pt. 2)
Conservative trolls are calling people "Groomers." That's a good thing.
David Cole is not just my favorite Takimag writer. With the death of Gilbert Gottfried, he’s now my favorite cranky Jewish contrarian. And so when I saw his April 11 article “Doom and Groomer,” I was glad to see that great minds think alike. While my thought diverges from Cole’s in a few places, the original article is well worth a read.
As always, Cole is spot-on in his complaints about the Right’s obsession with Owning the Libs rather than building upon momentum. Endless online silliness may defang “groomer,” or be used to deflect criticism of future LGBT educational efforts. I certainly understand Cole’s objections that “groomer” is empty name-calling, what S.I. Hayakawa called “snarl words.”
All that being said, there is very little we can do to stop online silliness. Nor can we deny that child sex trafficking conspiracies have gained considerable grass-roots traction over the past several years. You play the hand you’re dealt. And so I might start here not by following advice David Cole has given in other articles: do what the Left does and figure out how we can capitalize on the situation.
Social media has long been a place where pro-LGBT statements carried no real risk. You were and are more likely to lose your job for saying “women don’t have penises” than for supporting child drag queens or gender transitions. That wind has shifted (or broken, depending on your point of view). Now standing up for certain LGBT topics can cost you your job — or more.
If your workplace gets a call from somebody claiming you are a Communist, a Soros operative, a snowflake, or a libtard, chances are they will laugh it off. If the caller says you are a pedophile who grooms children, they are much less likely to laugh. And if you work with or around children, your employer may be legally obligated to report claims of child abuse and sexual exploitation.
All this new scrutiny is likely to put a drag on the smooth social media sailing LGBT activists have enjoyed up to now. Many enjoy the vicarious feelings of heroism that come with supporting a popular cause. Few are ready to make any real sacrifices beyond adding a flag or two to their profile. When posting those flags can lead to actual real-world consequences, no matter how unlikely, many of these supporters will look for a safer dopamine fix.
This breaks the manufactured consensus we have seen for years on social media. Somebody whose idea of the outside world came entirely from Facebook and Twitter might think that the only people who were against trans women in sports or child chemical castration were Nazis, racists, Christian fundamentalists, and Trump supporters. (But I repeat myself).
It has now become clear that there is no such universal consensus, and that social media platforms can no longer use Terms of Service to silence these discussions effectively. And as angry parents begin taking over school boards and voting out incumbents, it has become apparent that politicians can win or lose elections over these issues.
Cole is right that this is “a no-lose issue with broad-based appeal.” But I would argue that the current “OK Groomer” trolling may work out to be a net positive toward this end.
On October 16, 2018, the New York Times ran an article describing the NPC meme as “the pro-Trump Internet’s favorite insult” and praising Twitter’s decision to suspend over 1,500 satirical NPC accounts for “intentionally misleading election-related content” and ended with a stern warning from writer Kevin Roose that “As we’ve learned, ignoring trolls doesn’t always make them go away.”
Like most satirical stereotypes, the NPC meme has some grounding in reality. As I never tire of reminding people, we are pack primates and we look to our peers for social cues. If everybody in our virtual pack believes X is very bad and Y very good, we’re likely to agree. And if our pack starts shunning members who wonder if perhaps X is not so bad or Y so good, we’re likely to keep our contrary opinions to ourselves. Or even participate in the shunning with extra enthusiasm so our friends don’t mistake us for bad people.
The NPC meme unnerves Left-wingers who like to think their positions set them apart from the pack and ahead of the crowd. But it also seduces Right-leaning people who fancy themselves above the seductions of clickbait and propaganda. It’s easy enough to see other people repeating slogans they don’t understand and offering unconditional support to countries they couldn’t find on a map. Analyzing how your political views are shaped by outside forces can be considerably more challenging.
Most of us scroll quickly through our news aggregator or social media feed for a quick look at what is going on in the world around us. When we see our favorite sources agreeing on an issue, we’re inclined to believe it. Repetition reinforces and consensus soothes.
Repetition also triggers our pattern recognition. When your brain scrolls past pages of “gay groomer” and “queers groom children,” it shelves that information for future use. And because those words are loaded, your brain might miss context like “‘Queers groom children’ is a homophobic slur” or “X falsely accused of being a gay groomer.”
This is an enormous point in the Right’s favor. The Postmodern Left finds strength in its various axes of victimhood and never fails to advertise loudly and at length every insult cast in its direction. We can expect more exegeses explaining that “groomer” is a transphobic slur, “groomer” is rooted in patriarchy and misogyny, “groomer” targets queer families. With each repeated negation, they only affirm the “LGBT + Groomer = LGBT groomer” connections in the reader’s lizard brain.
David Cole correctly notes that the ABA definition of “grooming” involves a final goal of sexual contact and that most of the teachers pushing for child sexual education have ideological rather than prurient reasons. But those smug blue-haired people who claimed “language isn’t static” were right. If you get enough people to agree that racism = power + prejudice or that literally = figuratively, that’s what it means.
Most right-wing parents would have little trouble agreeing with the definition James Lindsay provided above. And those who disagree have to explain why bringing children into an ideology without the parents’ knowledge is not grooming. When informed that his opponent did not in fact fuck pigs, Lyndon B. Johnson famously (if perhaps apocryphally) said, “I know. I just want to make him deny it.”
As an added bonus, the usual suspects on the Left are guaranteed to continue pushing the envelope and to paint all complaints as homophobic racist transphobic bullying. You can’t have a revolution without an oppressor, and at this point, you’ve got to bring drag queens into schools before you get anybody paying attention.
But the people paying attention have noticed these issues will cost more votes than they bring in. That blank check the LGBT community has relied on these past few years may start bouncing sooner than they think.
“Groomer” can also be used to keep the troops in line. There’s an old joke about the 2040 Republican party declaring that trans children have always been part of the Republican platform, but necrophilia is a bridge too far. RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) have distanced themselves from the Dissident Right while Democrats embraced and defanged many Leftist and Far-Leftist organizations.
These RINOs were able to get away with this largely because the Right (as Cole frequently reminds us) has been more interested in trusting the plan and finding George Soros under any rock than in any sort of effective action. Recent school board wins suggest we are seeing the sort of Right-wing organic political organization that has been sadly lacking.
The biggest focus of this movement, at least right now, is inappropriate childhood sexualization. It’s not a bad focus. There’s certainly more scientific evidence suggesting inappropriate child sexualization is bad than there is suggesting that people are born with a hard-wired sexual attraction to children. And Republican politicians who want to stay in office are learning that “grooming” is a hot-button topic with a lot of single-issue voters.
Speaking out against grooming costs Republican politicians nothing. Silence is grooming complicity. And since using the grooming issue as a cudgel has been a winning strategy for Gov. DeSantis in Florida, you can expect to see more Republican politicians and conservative figures taking a hard line on these issues.
Will this be bad for LGBT people? I expect a lot of floating anger as the economic downturn continues, and a fair bit of that tension is likely to be released on the LGBT community. I certainly expect LGBT causes to be less fashionable over the coming years and expect that by 2030 nonbinary demisexuals will be about as fashionable as Justin Bieber amongst the youngsters.
But, contrary to the proclamations of many people with furry avatars, rainbow flags, and e-begging links, I don’t expect this to end in a Queer Genocide. Most Americans don’t care what consenting adults do in bed, and even most conservatives are reconciled to if not thrilled with gay marriage. Most Americans would agree no child should be bullied because of their sexual identity or gender presentation and would support anti-bullying laws to that end. You didn’t just win the Stonewall Revolution, you won the cultural revolution.
In 1886 Richard Kraft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis introduced the world to the idea that homosexuality could be an identity rather than a sin. Today the LGBT community that developed around that idea has become widely accepted in most of the Western world. It has overcome its growing pains and survived an epidemic that wiped out a generation. The bickering that many call homophobia and oppression looks to me more like neighbors setting boundaries.