MAGAs to Conservatives: ‘You’re With Us or You’re a Groomer’ – The Daily Beast


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The promiscuous use of the term “groomer” in political conversation is the latest escalation in our already toxic political environment. I know, because I have firsthand knowledge.On Wednesday, I called the term a “slur,” which led to many people (or bots) in the MAGA twittersphere hurling it at me. I’m hardly the only one, and the taunting is not reserved for nameless trolls. (Author and anti-Critical Race Theory thought leader James Lindsay called David Frum, David French, and conservative writer Nate Hochman groomers, for similar reasons.)In other words, MAGA maniacs are saying to conservatives, you’re either with us all the way, or you’re a groomer.My tweet went viral because it angered Christina Pushaw, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary, who pushed it into her Twitter timeline, adding: “Hey Matt, please educate me: what’s the politically correct term for an adult who advocates for instructing young children about concepts like ‘pansexual’ & ‘genderfluid’ while keeping secrets from their parents?”If we are talking about little kids in a public school, I would call that wrong, wholly inappropriate, and indoctrination. And I would not defend this indoctrination. I’m a conservative. I live in a red state and send my kids to an explicitly Christian school because I care deeply about what they are being taught.At the same time, I believe that words have defined meanings. This is the same point I made when I criticized Joe Biden for redefining language, including the terms “bipartisan” and “court packing.” Of course, Biden’s newspeak is tame compared with what’s going on now.Google the word “grooming.” The literal meaning has to do with brushing and cleaning. The second meaning is this: “The action by a pedophile of preparing a child for a meeting, especially via an internet chat room, with the intention of committing a sexual offense.” I have always understood the term to mean this is the definition; yet some on the Right are trying to redefine it.A couple of weeks ago, Pushaw—the same DeSantis spokesperson who pushed back on my calling it a slur—tweeted: “The bill that liberals inaccurately call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ would be more accurately described as an Anti-Grooming Bill.”In so doing, Pushaw suggests that anyone who opposes Florida’s l (HB 1557)—for whatever reason, even if they support its legitimate aims but believe it is too broadly written—is “pro-grooming.”But to label opposition “pro-grooming” is to libel. “Today’s Right is taking a page from the Saul Alinsky radical-left handbook, which says: ‘Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.’” So why are they doing this? Culture warriors on the right are advocating a “you’ve got to fight fire with fire” philosophy. This holds that the left are the aggressors in the culture war. And because it is, in fact, a literal “war,” the only thing that matters is victory. Might makes right. So they are co-opting the other side’s propaganda methods.Earlier I mentioned Biden’s attempt to redefine words. But his Orwellian sleight of hand is nothing when compared with the actions of some activists on the left. The term “white supremacy,” for example, was—for my whole life—reserved for overt racists, like Klansmen. In recent years, though, activists have dramatically broadened it to apply to almost everything that encompasses the American “system.”Likewise, today, it’s not enough to not be racist; you have to be anti-racist. (A term which, itself, isn’t clearly defined even by its most prominent proponents.)This is the same twisted logic that suggests opposing the Florida bill means you support “grooming.” I noticed that people attacking me on Twitter were talking about things like “systemic grooming.” Today’s right is taking a page from the Saul Alinsky radical-left handbook, which says: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”Let’s be honest: Pushaw has a point when she says that liberals “inaccurately” refer to the Florida law as “Don’t Say Gay.” In this example, progressives coined an effective phrase that helps them frame the debate in a way that is not entirely accurate (supporters of the law titled it the “Parental Rights in Education” bill).Although less offensive than the “groomers” slur, the “Don’t Say Gay” phrase is still misleading. Opponents have argued that the law would put gay teachers and students “back in the closet,” and might later be used against a gay teacher who is guilty of something as anodyne as, say, having a picture of his husband on his desk; that is certainly not the letter of the law. It was this sort of fear which recently drove a sixth-grade science teacher to resign his job in Florida.Some parents did, in fact, write letters to the school board alleging that a male teacher discussed details about marrying another man. But NBC News reported that “N​​o action was taken against him by school leaders, who defended him several days later with a letter of their own.” Still, “the incident prompted [him] to make this school year his last after 11 years of working in Florida as a teacher.” (To be clear, this teacher was not fired or disciplined. He quit because he didn’t like parents complaining about him.)There are other reasons people on the Right are using this term, including the simple fact that it works. It has a chilling effect, since nobody wants to be accused of something as indefensible as pedophilia—even as a joke. But the person wielding this heavy charge also has plausible deniability. They can always say they were just trolling you—that it’s just hyperbolic (for example, is this person really accusing me of this heinous act?)In this sense, it is a bit like the anti-Biden “Let’s Go Brandon!” slogan. People who consider themselves decent (or even devoutly religious) now have an approved code word to justify slander and lies. Many conservatives view the left as so radical, and the amount of indoctrination as so pervasive, that they feel justified taking a few liberties with the truth. I can at least understand this impulse, even if I disagree with the temptation to repay wrong with wrong.Of course, there are other reasons charges relating to pedophilia are being lodged indiscriminately. For some reason, the right has become obsessed with child trafficking and the like. We saw this with the QAnon and “Pizzagate” stories, and we saw this with Sen. Josh Hawley’s bad-faith attack on Ketanji Brown Jackson. Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is calling Republicans who are voting to confirm Jackson—including Sen. Mitt Romney—“pro-pedophile.”There also seems to be a bit of projection at work here. The same sort of people who love Donald Trump (who openly made lecherous comments about young girls), Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Judge Roy Moore are the first to hurl the slur (just as the same sort of people who used the slur “cuck” keep aiming it at the wrong target).The bottom line is that the culture war has escalated. Some on the left are indoctrinating children into their worldview, while ignoring parental rights.In response, some on the right are hurling a horrific insult at anyone who disagrees with their tactics. It’s hard to see how this ends well.
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