In the past week or so, a new political slur has emerged: groomer. It's one lobbed at those on the Left who support the sexual indoctrination of children in public schools as expressed into the curriculum and, more recently, via Ketanji Brown Jackson's soft stance on sentencing a child pornographer because of the "internet".
We saw this same argument — because of the "internet" — emerge again this week when Josh Hawley attempted to introduce a bill that would impose harsher sentences on pornographers and predators while also preventing judges from issuing sentences below federal guidelines. In a pattern we've become all too familiar with, the Left cries "satanic panic" while the Right struggles to prove that its concerns are valid.
It is within this context — the latest in the quasi-conspiratorial lunge at the pedophilic, satanic elite — that "groomer" emerges. Toss it up there on the shelf with racist, xenophobe, misogynist, fascist, and all the other effective rhetorical tools that people can employ to malign their opposition. We've seen the Left do this so well that it only took them a couple of decades to infiltrate American institutions and government by calling everyone that disagreed with them these things, but on the "Smart Right", people are leery.
It didn't take long for the tone police to show up. National Review commentator Nate Hochman, for example, says, "Broadly speaking, left-wing teachers aren't 'grooming' kids. Gender ideology in schools isn't the same thing as 'pedophilia.'" It's a typical remark from a disconnected DC journalist who still believes things can be hashed out via debate and discussion. Chalk it up to naivete or disdain for the concerns. Neither one is a good look.
The fact is that a mind-bogglingly large portion of young Americans now identify as queer or transgender — 15.9% — and that number is on the way up. Where do these kids spend most of their time? School. Is groomer a technically precise term? No. Is it designed to be? No. The downside, of course, is that bringing up anything about sexual indoctrination gets lumped in with Q-Anon, water-is-turning-the-frogs-gay rhetoric which has effectively muted all discussion of the issue in all the right forums.
That politicians on the Right have gone too far adopting the language of the people is the reason for this. It's not the people who are having fun lobbing rhetorical bombs at their opponents that are to blame, it's politicians like Marjorie Taylor-Green calling Mitt Romney "pro-pedophile" — an example of ineffective language that doesn't belong in Washington DC. It undermines whatever goals she may have from the get-go by trivializing whatever concerns she might have as nothing more than political slander.
Twenty years ago in 2001, the UK witnessed a similar panic after the murder of a young girl lead to a public outcry against the country's treatment of sex offenders. A petition circulated demanding the name and location of every registered sex offender which ultimately culminated in an angry mob ransacking the home of an ex-con.
To ease tensions, the British satire show Brass Eye returned after a four-year hiatus to air a final episode: "Paedogeddon". The episode excoriated concern over pedophilia in the UK and savagely attacked the media — The Telegraph, in particular — for portraying the incidence of pedophilia as existential. The show held a mirror up to the insanity of the times, namely a public hooked on the 24-hour news cycle, a media exploiting their hold on the country's attention, and all the paranoia being hyper-plugged in engenders.
The episode was particularly brutal, but it served the purpose that all great satire serves — to diffuse tension and point the finger at the real culprits, in this case, the media. I'm not entirely sure this time is different. We can either direct our anger at a nebulous blob of sex offenders without faces or names except for the ones that pop up now and then on unhinged TikTok videos. Or, we can place the blame squarely where it belongs: the media and leaders that make minced meat of citizens' concerns.
So back to the original question: is groomer an appropriate slur? In other words, does it place the blame where it belongs? To me, that answer is an obvious yes. Is it appropriate for Marjorie Taylor-Green to use it when actually trying to get things done? No.
But general tone policing of the kind undertaken by Hochman or Chalkboard Review's Tony Kinnet displays the kind of weak posturing that has guaranteed normal people lose out on these issues. Both Hochman and Kinnet serve well as examples of people who, at first, appear sympathetic to the cause of normal people, but upon encountering some distasteful element, abandon whatever noblesse oblige they might have a claim to and seek high ground away from the "ickiness" of the masses.
If you're looking for an example of how to handle these things, look no further than George Washington during the Revolutionary War leading a rag-tag band of undisciplined, inexperienced, and in many cases, crude farmers and cobblers against the most powerful army in the world. Washington avoided the crude language and behavior of his soldiers while dutifully respecting them and the cause they fought alongside him for. Our leaders could learn a lesson from this: you can't lead those you despise.
It's alright to say "groomer". It's not existential.