Saturday, April 09, 2022


At the Editorial Board, John Stoehr interviews Duke University's Gabriel Rosenberg, a professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies, who believes that the right's frequent "groomer" accusations are more than a standard-issue political attack:
... “groomer speech” is distinguishable from “subjugating speech.”

“Subjugating speech” might incite violence. It’s possible. It has before. But broadly, it’s intended to justify social and political inequalities.

“Pedophile” is a specific term, however. It carries, at least in rightwing communities, a claim that the individual in question is pathologically invested in harming the most vulnerable members of society.
(I'd say that this language "carries ... a claim that the individual in question is pathologically invested in harming the most vulnerable members of society" in nearly every community.)
There’s no interest in governing such individuals.

It’s not about establishing them as second-class citizens.

It’s about putting them to death.
Is that really what right-wingers have in mind? Do Christopher Rufo and Ron DeSantis's Twitter-troll press secretary want everyone who opposes Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill to be killed? I have my doubts -- which is not to say that this is just the usual trash talk.

Rosenberg also tells us:
... “groomer speech” is not being directed at minorities.

... What’s interesting about “groomer speech” and what’s most alarming about its use by the right is the charge being directed at powerful people who cannot by any measure be identified with a minority.

When Marjorie Taylor Greene said Mitt Romney is “pro-pedophile,” she’s talking about the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee.

When James Lindsay called Nate Hochman, a writer for National Review, a “groomer,” he’s talking about a conservative in good standing, or was. He’s saying this individual also wants to abuse children.

This is radically different.

It’s now about disciplining ingroup versus outgroup identity within conservatism writ large. It’s about reformatting and hardening the line between people who are conservative and people who are not.

In the end, conservatives are the good ones. They’re anti-pedophile. Anyone who dissents from the conservative framework is therefore pro-pedophile. They constitute individuals who must be eliminated.
This is a different right-wing message, but it's not radically different. Republicans have been reading fellow Republicans out of the party for years. Donald Trump attacked John McCain in 2015 and most of the GOP voter base was fine with that; on right-wing message boards, McCain had been seen as a Republican In Name Only for years. Trump also declared the Bush family persona non grata in the GOP, also to cheers from the base; he destroyed the career of Jeb Bush as a result, and one of Jeb's sons, George P. Bush, is now struggling to advance his career in Texas GOP politics. Republicans who supported Trump's impeachment are also being purged.

I would hardly say that Republican-on-Republican attacks are "what’s most alarming" here. Mitt Romney no longer gets Secret Service protection, but he can hire security and find other ways to protect himself. He's unlikely to be "eliminated" by an angry right-winger. Ordinary LGBT people and their allies aren't so lucky.

But in general, I don't see this line of attack operating as a literal Radio Rwanda-style call for violence. I see it operating on a couple of levels.

If you're a QAnon believer, then, sure, it feeds into your fantasy of a coming "storm" in which all the liberal and RINO pedophiles will be rounded up and swiftly brought to justice (Gitmo, mass summary executions).

But to everyone else, this is primarily intended as the ultimate form of cancel culture. It's part of the right's campaign of political eliminationism. We know that the right doesn't believe that Democratic votes are legitimate or that Democratic candidates who win were elected fairly. This is a way of saying we don't deserve to be heard at all. It's an attempt to portray all speech on behalf of LGBT people, or at least LGBT youths, as suspect and dangerous.

It could, obviously, lead to deadly consequences. We'll see what happens if (when?) a target singled out by Greene, DeSantis, or one of the other gender McCarthyites is wounded or killed. I'm sure it will be similar to what happened when Bill O'Reilly, then the biggest star on Fox News, repeatedly denounced a prominent abortion doctor, George Tiller, as a "baby-killer" -- also a charge that would seemingly mark Tiller for literal or at least societal elimination -- after which the doctor was murdered.
... many anti-choice groups quickly condemned the murder and attempted to separate themselves from the actions of the killer. Even Operation Rescue, which made Tiller a special target of its harassment over the years, denounced the killing as “vigilantism” and a “cowardly act.”

... O’Reilly did briefly say, “Americans should condemn the murder of Dr. George Tiller,” but he then quickly segued into more attacks on Tiller....
When I heard about Tiller’s murder, I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would attempt to blame us for the crime, and that’s exactly what has happened....

No backpedaling here ... Every single thing we said about Tiller was true....

Now, it’s clear that the far left is exploiting — exploiting — the death of the doctor. Those vicious individuals want to stifle any criticism of people like Tiller. That — and hating Fox News — is the real agenda here. Finally, if these people are soooo compassionate — — so very compassionate, so concerned for the rights and welfare of others — maybe they might have written something, one thing, about the 60,000 fetuses that will never become American citizens. Or am I wrong?
Some of the people shouting "Groomer!" will say they're shocked and appalled if their demonization leads to violence. Others, after perfunctorily condemining the violent act, will double down. Like O'Reilly, those in the latter group will probably suffer no negative career consequences. But the official word will be that violence is the wrong approach.

And that will be largely sincere, because most Republicans don't want us all executed. They just want political control. They like having us around as enemies to demonize, as long as we never win.

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