In 2022 the GOP has been enthusiastic in their reanimation of “Lovejoy’s Law,” that fallacious appeal to emotion which implores someone, somewhere to just please think of the children.
This little bit of platitudiny—memorialized in The Simpsons episode “Much Apu About Nothing,” in which the townspeople of Springfield demand first a bear patrol, then relief from the tax hike brought about by increased caniform policing, and finally the magic elixir that is mass deportation of illegal immigrants—has been employed by political mobs demanding they get their way for as long as there has been politics.
The demagogic and simple-minded of all ideological stripes fall back on this argument because, frankly, it works. Children are vulnerable and lovable. Ingrained in our DNA is an instinct which calls us to protect and nurture them so that our species, our culture, our memory lives on. It’s much easier to prey on the public’s parental sentiments by claiming that your issue du jour will protect some hypothetical babe in the woods than it is to make grown-up arguments on said policy’s merits. Because that requires the audience to consider the various risks and rewards, costs and benefits, of a given proposal. And thinking is hard. We are not wired nearly so strictly for it.
Thus it should come as no surprise that Lovejoy’s Law has become the central animating feature of America’s nihilistic and demagogic political party.
Today Republicans claim that “the children” must be protected from all manner of things: groomer teachers, “critical race theory” making them feel bad about their whiteness, books featuring gay penguin daddies, revelations that some families might be different from theirs, and, most of all, a shadowy cabal of child predators who meet in the basement of a pizza joint, and frazzledrip the skin from babies faces so as to maintain a youthful visage for themselves.
None of these threats come anywhere near the importance the GOP places on them, of course. Many don’t exist at all. But they do confirm the prior worries of an audience who fears that they might. Which is the important part.
Lovejoy’s Law is so central to the GOP’s messaging these days that this week they updated it to meet the rhetorical demands of our idiocratic internet age.
Today GOP leaders are crying out: Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Pedos?
Now I can see how that tagline might be a little confusing if you aren’t a frequenter of 8chan. But bear with me.
The Pedos who need to be thought of in this case are the children themselves, not the dastardly pedophiles.
This is pretty confusing jargon since “pedos” is colloquially the standard shorthand for the kid fuckers that the children need to be protected from.
But Elise Stefanik turned that definition on its head. The third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives tweeted that “The White House, House Dems, & usual pedo grifters” are out of touch because they are okay with “sending pallets of formula to the southern border.”
This was an intriguing accusation. Stefanik seemed to be arguing that Democratic pedophiles wanted to make sure that immigrant children don’t starve. My initial interpretation of that attack was that Stefanik thought that Palletgate was part of Democrats’ secret grooming effort. She seemed to be suggesting the libs wanted to feed the immigrant children for selfish purposes. Maybe in the hopes that when these immigrant children grow up they will repay the favor by becoming nonbinary predators. Or perhaps, as Stefanik has argued before, she was worried that these undocumented immigrant children will grow up to “replace” the God-fearing, salt-of-the-earth natives who vote Republican.
But when pressed on what she meant in her accusation, Stefanik’s office offered a different interpretation: They claimed that the “pedos” Stefanik was referring to were children. And that the Democrats were grifting on their behalf. Hence “pedo grifter.”
It remains unclear what the “grift” in question was. Maybe it’s somehow related to all the “grooming”— you can listen to the exchange with Stefanik’s office first reported by journalist Parker Molloy for yourself if you’d like to try to divine an answer.
The main thing to notice in this audio is that Stefanik’s office doesn’t need to come up with a coherent argument for how she’s going to help the children purportedly suffering from a formula shortage, because she’s simply making an appeal to her mob’s emotion. In fact when it comes to the children on the border, she is explicit in her view that they should just be left to starve.
Whether it’s roaming bears, or critical race theory, or gay teachers, or high taxes, or, inevitably, illegal immigrants, the call to think of the little pedos is never meant to actually solve any problems. It only exists to give the intended audience their latest little bottle of rage-milk, so as to help sustain them one more day.
So you tell me who the pedo grifter perp in this story really is.