Conservatives need to force radical educators into being honest about their perverse aims.
Say the word. Scare the establishment.
When I was a child, there was a girl I knew whose father was well-known amongst us girls to show his penis at sleepovers. In retrospect, even aside from our loud murmuring, signs of abuse were everywhere. But the man was fairly prominent in evangelical circles, and a talented musician. Other adults cheered him on in public. Other adults permitted and promoted the idea that his house was a good place for sleepovers. Maybe these other adults were completely ignorant, maybe they were in denial, maybe they didn’t care, maybe they thought it was normal, or maybe they were playing a popularity game in a toxic social system of their own.
Either way, prepubescent girls were being molested for years. And those who weren’t being molested were learning their sexual dignity didn’t matter, which undoubtedly paved the way for poor sexual decisionmaking in the future. Perhaps if these parents would have been called out by other parents for their active participation in the grooming exercise, they would have realized their culpability in the matter.
But back then, much like today, many people didn’t like to call groomers out. Abuse remained in the shadows, under the cover of adult reputation. The difference now is that the culture of harm and perversity has been institutionalized across America. What was once seen as an indiscretion is now an industry.
And so, last week, as if triggered by some kind of underground bat signal, several familiar faces of Conservative Inc. simultaneously released op-eds and Twitter threads insisting that use of the term “groomer” in the context of fighting LGBT indoctrination in schools was very, very bad indeed.
In their view, the epithet is unfair, even immoral, because some take it as an unsubstantiated accusation of active pedophilia. “You may not be aware,” as David French lectured, “but right-wing media is swarming with allegations that anyone who, for example, opposes Florida’s House Bill 1557 (the bill misleadingly termed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by Democrats and many in the media) is either a ‘groomer’ or in league with groomers.”
Why any self-identified conservative would make defending groomers’ honor their first priority in this debate is a mystery for another day. But strictly on the merits, their conclusion is wrong because their premise is wrong. Grooming is a complicated system of behavior. What is it? Most basically, to groom is to prepare or train someone else for a particular activity. In the current political context, “grooming” certainly—and accurately—connotes sexually inappropriate ends, especially as its most recent usage was entirely swept up in the #MeToo movement. Even as grooming discourse reached its apparent zenith a few years ago, rape was not always the intended or actual end of the story. Rather, it was understood that to be a groomer was to actively participate in the broader system of manipulation. Ghislaine Maxwell and similar “recruiters” may not have been doing the raping, but they were all certainly engaged in grooming. Active participation does not imply full knowledge of the system itself; whether you’re a groomer or not does not rely on your own self-awareness. Orchestrated by the ill-intentioned, grooming is often facilitated by good country people, unaware that the cliches they’ve adopted as life mantras are actually deeply damaging to themselves and the people around them. Love is love, Miss Whatever exclaims, as she caringly simulates anal sex on a teddy bear to a classroom full of five-year-olds.
In the David French version of reality, where drag queen story hour is considered a blessing of liberty, a rainbow flag in preschool is merely a neutral object, misplaced by well-intentioned people who definitely don’t have any negative intentions for your children whatsoever. How do we know this? Because they’ve never explained their intentions. We must give everyone, especially our self-proclaimed enemies, the benefit of the doubt. Stated aims are to be believed as true intentions despite any evidence to the contrary. So, conservatives should bite their tongues. It’s just not fair to suggest that their behavior, no matter how thoroughly it greases the wheels for sexual misconduct and confusion, is grooming. Don’t believe your lying eyes, and definitely don’t say groomer.
I’d like to offer some encouragement for anyone who, as a result of has-been NeverTrump countersignalling, now finds themselves reticent about using the term “groomer” in the general political sense that current usage implies: use it.
Use it because it’s true. As I’ve just explained, people can be groomers without themselves wanting to rape children.
Use it because it’s effective. The culture war is a real war, and a very particular type of war at that: an insurgency. On one side, you have the institutions; on the other, a merry band of loosely organized rebels. Insurgency is characterized by asymmetry. Because they lack the institutional power, insurgents must rely on guerilla tactics in order to make any progress whatsoever. These tactics, in a war of language and law, boil down to political incorrectness. Political incorrectness, especially the word “groomer,” offends the enemy while galvanizing friends. Powerful memes such as this rarely conform to the tastes of bourgeois sensibilities.
Use it because they disapprove. One of the first requirements of submission to transgender ideology (or any totalitarian regime, really) is mandated speech. Recall the Jordan Peterson phenomenon circa 2015: Canadian professor comes under fire for resisting the enactment of a bill requiring the use of preferred pronouns; failure to comply was punishable by termination of employment. Fundamentally, the modus operandi of this movement is in the manipulation of reality through language. “Here’s a more palatable way to say this,” has become a favored tactic of those who manage the decline into unreality. If only as an act of resistance to this familiar tendency, this slippery slope we’ve been gaslit into denying, say the unspeakable words. The moment we stop is the moment we lose them forever.
And if we don’t use “groomer”, we lose this moment, too—and all that comes after. Midwit middle managers, bureaucrats, and journalists, whose life mission is to keep the establishment and their establishment career afloat, know that forcing their opposition to adopt their own sensibilities is an act of political castration. If you want to win on parents right, you must refuse to be groomed for establishment’s eunuch class.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.