EDIT 4/24/2022: This article from Religion Dispatches, I believe, offers a much more compelling explanation for the current (and very weird) wave of right-wingers referring to anyone who acknowledges that same-sex couples exist as a “groomer.”
I thought it made sense when I saw a comment pending on this post this morning from “a legal American citizen, and voter” who told me “you sound like a groomer.”
Most interesting, and most relevant, was this bit, referring to the title of the post:
“Right now? Since the dawn of the party, hun bun.”
I read that line after reading the article from Religion Dispatches, and if you read it, you’ll find that his comment is absolutely right, but not for the reasons he thinks he is.
I marked it as spam, obviously.
Original Post: Last week a friend shared an article about pedophiles. Apparently Germany is investigating over 30,000 people in connection with child sex trafficking. I asked myself… why share this story?
This isn’t an isolated incident of pedophile-article-sharing. I’ve seen it more and more, from that conspiracy theory about missing girls having the same unusual names as extremely overpriced cabinets on Wayfair, to PizzaGate, which argued that a pizza shop in DC frequented by the Clinton campaign was actually a front for child sex trafficking. In the case of Pizzagate, led to one man marching into the pizza shop and getting arrested.
Now, to be clearer than I hope I should need to be, child sex trafficking is wrong. Adults having sex with minors is wrong because minors cannot consent. I saw a movie about sex trafficking a few years ago. My wife and I donated to a fund that fights child sex trafficking. It’s wrong and it’s evil.
But a lot of the stories I’ve seen about child sex trafficking haven’t included any kind of call to action. No “share this number,” no “put a sign in your yard” or “don’t be a pedophile,” “seven steps to protect your kids from getting trafficked,” or even “donate to this fund to fight pedophilia.” It’s just “here’s another story about pedophiles engaging in sex trafficking. Isn’t it awful?!”
So when I saw the 30,000-pedophiles article, which to my memory came without any call to action, just a “can you believe this!” kind of comment (I don’t remember the actual comment), I just thought… what’s up with this?
I googled it, but I couldn’t find an answer that made sense to me. There’s an article on Mother Jones that addresses this in part – and comes to a similar conclusion – but I don’t think is as coherent or, honestly, as friendly to conservatives.
To understand it, you have to first understand the difference between conservatives and progressives.
My Political Theory
You can divide American politics into two broad categories: Conservatives and Progressives, as outlined below.
-Things are good the way they are, or that they WERE good at some point or points in the past.
Want things left alone or to go back the way they were.
Things are not fine the way they are, and they need to change in a way that they have never yet been.
Make America Great Again (Trump)
A Proud Tradition (George H.W. Bush)
Country First (John McCain)
America First (Harding, Buchanan, Trump)
It’s Morning in America (Reagan)
Hope and Change (Obama)
Change We Can Believe In (Obama)
Forward Together (Hilary Clinton)
Building a Bridge to the 21st Century (Bill Clinton)
Prosperity and Progress (Al Gore)
For People, For a Change (Clinton)
(Ironically, under this metric I would categorize Joe Biden as a conservative because he wants to put things back to the way they were before Trump).
For conservatives, most things about America are good, except for the things that progressives changed (usually the things they changed recently; some things have been changed for so long that they’re part of the fabric of America).
To be clear, even as a self-identified progressive who wants things to change, I understand that change for the sake of change is not a good in itself, and there are some old things, like the first amendment, that are of great value and should not be messed with. Broad strokes here.
An #AllLivesMatter tangent to further explain the dichotomy
This conservative/progressive dichotomy is important to understand the conservative take on the #BlackLivesMatter vs #AllLivesMatter debate:
To say that #BlackLivesMatter implies that America in general and (usually) the police in particular are treating Black people as though their lives do not matter.
To say “Black Lives Matter” is to say,
“things are not fine“
in the part of America
that progressives haven’t changed.
It’s conservative blasphemy.
Conservatives say #AllLivesMatter not because they think Black Lives don’t matter, but because they believe Black people do not receive [undeserved] ill treatment in the United States. There are no systemic problems with policing in America; there can’t be! It’s one of the few things progressives haven’t managed to massively overhaul… yet.
I believe that’s part and parcel of white supremacy – it’s attached to a belief that “I and the average white person in America are doing better than the average Black or Brown or Indigenous or Person of Color in America because of our great work ethic and morality, not because of any kind of systemic racism.”
Or this: “the fact that some BIPOC people are doing better than me proves that the scales are not tipped in my direction.”
In conclusion, the conservative belief is that mostly America is fine and progressives shouldn’t mess with it, and where they did we need to put it back the way it was NOW thank you very much.
What’s this got to do with child sex trafficking?
But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. -II Timothy 3:13
On Saturday night I re-watched Footloose, the movie Peter Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy describes thusly:
A great hero named Kevin Bacon teaches an entire town full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing is the greatest thing there is.
The town has banned dancing because they think it’s part of what led to the death of several of the town’s youths, but Kevin Bacon comes along and wants to change the law and have the town council allow dancing.
At some point in the movie, one of the townspeople stands up and says this critical line:
That was it. I wasn’t even looking for it, and there it was. I paused the movie to sit in the incredible eloquence of that one sentence.
All of a sudden I understood why conservatives are sharing articles about child sex trafficking, especially about powerful progressives.
It’s because it won’t be long before every community standard is violated.
Here’s what I mean: Child sex trafficking is the very, very end of morality. It is beyond the pale. It’s difficult to think of anything worse. Sexual abuse, next to murder, is considered the worst thing there is, and some might even rank it higher than murder on the sliding scale of awfulness. The only thing that could possibly be worse is if the victim was a child.
And this is what conservatives have been warning us about for years: that normalizing same-gender relationships, normalizing trans people, will lead inevitably to acceptance of pedophilia. It’s the last bastion of broadly-accepted morality that progressives and conservatives agree on… but conservatives aren’t so sure progressives do actually agree on it.
Conservatives sharing these stories of child sex trafficking, especially stories about powerful progressives engaged in child sex trafficking, is a warning. The inherent message of these stories is, I believe, this narrative:
“Maybe the rank and file Democrats aren’t pedophiles (YET), but the people at the top who are leading them and heading up changing things? They are for sure, and they’re pulling us inevitably to a world where what they do in secret will be acceptable in the public square… unless we stop these changes and put things back the way they were.”
“It won’t be long before every community standard is violated.”
If a conspiracy theory came out tomorrow saying that Alexandria Occasio Cortez, one of the changiest changers currently changing things, was involved in a child sex trafficking ring, no matter how bizarre, no matter how far-fetched the “evidence,” it would immediately gain traction.
And that’s why you’ve been seeing so many stories about child sex trafficking lately: not because it’s happening more, but because it’s part of a narrative.
Why Germany? I don’t know if it’s significant that the most recent story I saw was in Germany, but it’s possible it’s part of a narrative that Europe is more evil than the United States because many progressives see certain things in Europe as a model for the changes we hope to see here in the United States.
Or it could just be the “HOLY CRAP CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING IS INCREASING.
To learn more about how to fight trafficking of children, not just share articles that play into the narrative, visit
David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.
29 thoughts on “Why Are Conservatives Obsessed with Pedophilia Right Now? (Fall 2020)”
Copying and pasting a commend I made on facebook in regards to this article:
“But also, I believe that the slightly less involved version of understanding this is a tad simpler, too. It’s a universal stature of morality: hurting children is wrong. Given an absence of clarity in most other designations and indications of morality in the current conservative stature in the public square, ‘don’t hurt children’ can still hold sway. In other words, just as this author notes, it’s part of the narrative, but it’s specifically ‘look, we care about stopping wrong things’
It’s well intentioned virtue signalling, in other words, with the under current being that only certain groups are doing that work. Think of the children has long been a conservative rally cry that doesn’t require additional evidence or reasoning, because the stance itself is right: we SHOULD think of the children. It’s every step after that where there is disagreement to be had.”
In other words, I think that you’ve nailed it. The conservative moral contract relies on unpacking ‘wrongness’ as being primarily about violating ‘order’ that must be returned to, and that violence, poverty, failure, so on are results of individual and personal mistakes and lack of character. Child trafficking and pedophilia, thus, are the result of powerful individuals who are individually wrong, and thus anyone who opposes the conservative social order are contributors, directly or otherwise, to ALLOWING individual wrong behavior by advocating for other issues and cases.
If people are actually interested in fighting the abuse and exploitation of children, there are some wonderful groups to support. One of the is the Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection.
from their Mission statement: “The purpose of the LDICP is to create, upon request, highly specific legislation to accomplish the goals of self-organized, grassroots organizations which intend to achieve a child protective objective. The passage of each piece of legislation is the goal, each time. So: no legislation to “form explanatory groups,” or “fight child abuse” or “raise public awareness.” Examples of what legislation might be requested include: Closing the loophole in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that allows non-lawyer volunteers to “represent” children in abuse/neglect cases. Raising the stakes for “circle of trust” crimes. Requiring victim reparations in child pornography cases. Extending the statute of limitations in “vulnerable victims” cases. Establishing a Secure Treatment Unit for “the worst kids in the state” – any state, as the plan would be to construct and operate such an institution as a model, and to allow for independent monitoring and evaluation of its effectiveness. But these are illustrative examples, not suggestions.”
if you add (dot) org to the initals you can find their website and decide for youself
I agree with your sentiment. I have a conservative friend who is obsessed with pedophilia conspiracy rhetorics including Pizzagate.
One thing that troubles me is California’s Democratic lead state legislature recently passing SB145 which would eliminate automatic sex offender registration for young adults who have anal or oral sex with a minor. Instead, a judge would make the decision, just as they do now in cases involving vaginal intercourse. SB 145 would apply only to cases involving minors between the ages of 14-17, and an offender within a 10-year range.
This doesn’t seem sensible to me at all and I wonder why the legislature felt compelled to come to the aid of young adult men raping teen girls. It also plays right into conservative beliefs that liberals are on a slippery slope to normalizing pedophilia.
Basically the idea behind the law is that an 18 year old guy getting frisky with his 17 year old girlfriend is not automatically a pedophile.
If that were the purpose, then why 10 yesrs? The law that was passed was written in such a way that it that it allows a 25y/o man or woman to have sex with a 15y/o boy or girl. It is concerning that you are misleading people by trying to downplay it!
I hope that the more recent revelations about liberal efforts in over-sexualizing children through sexaully graphic books in elementary schools, encouraging gender questioning and hormone therapy and pushing to hide it from parents, the “child friendly” drag shows, drag story hours, as well as the volume of people involved in child trafficking being allowed to cross our borders are beginning to ring a bell for some people. And what we have seen is the government targeting the parents attempting to protect their children.
A public education supported by money from tax payer funding has the responsibility to at least, “do no harm”. Find one reasonable minded parent that supports the idea that exposing children to graphic sexual violence does not harm a child. They don’t exist. Parents understand that children should be shielded from material that is attempting to normalize sex for children, especially when some of it is violent and abusive. Those books undermine the values of most families.
As a mother read a passage, the Loudon Board members said it was inappropriate for the meeting! If inappropriate for an adult audience, for the purpose of providing an example of their concerns, why is it appropriate for children to consume?
In a series of videos posted by Ian Prior on Twitter, parents read passages from books, including “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany Jackson, which were apparently assigned to 9th grade students in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). “She sucked my d*ck,” a parent read from a text.
Passages from Jackson’s book read by the furious parents included characters discussing oral sex, a female character being beaten and thrown into a closet and a sexual encounter in a classroom. The book “#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil, was also quoted, where a female character discussed the size of a male friend’s genitalia. “He had a big d*ck,” a parent read in the meeting.
Ultimately defending this practice is akin to allyship with the pro-pedophilia groups. Parents are not going to give people with those agendas an open door to their kids. Hence the fight you are witnessing in Loudon County and across the country.
I have a small, but I think important, quibble with your aside painting Joe Biden as conservative: “Ironically, under this metric I would categorize Joe Biden as a conservative because he wants to put things back to the way they were before Trump”
I think that is a common, but reductive, view of Biden’s campaign platform. Certainly what Trump has done must be undone, but Biden’s current slogan “Build Back Better” and the messaging around it seem to me an acknowledgement that merely setting the clock back to 2016 is not good enough. That is at odds with your definition of conservatism.
I think that it is important not to accept or spread the narrative of Biden as “not good enough” based on perceptions of his policies and not explicit statements. Ultimately that narrative is a tool of vote suppression.
To quote from one of Biden’s policy pages on the economy:
“Biden believes this is no time to just build back to the way things were before, with the old economy’s structural weaknesses and inequalities still in place. This is the moment to imagine and build a new American economy for our families and the next generation.”
That sounds to me like a progressive agenda as a continuation of where progressivism left off in 2016. It does hark back to a bygone era, but not nearly to the same degree as those who pine for the (imagined, idealized) 1950’s or some other time when everything was perfect — except only for white people, and really only for white men, and even then only certain white men who often happen to be rich. And in particular it does not call for the reversal of rights gained by a minority group in order to regain control by the majority group.
The saddest part is that when there is an actual child trafficking ring unearthed, my conservative family members tell me “But she must’ve wanted to have sex with [insert random powerful Epstein’s friend here]” as a response to the reports.
> I don’t know if it’s significant that the most recent story I saw was in Germany
Germany is relatively notable within recent European history of having an explicitly welcoming policy towards refugees (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/30/angela-merkel-great-migrant-gamble-paid-off for a decent summary), so presumably it’s meant to add some juice to the efforts to link migration and race with crime.
Okay the Footloose analogy really hit home for me. I would like to add though that it does seem to be the conservative entities that are ignoring calls for help to stop child sex trafficking. Just look at the Kids Chat situation. The projection of blame for the abuse of children makes much more sense that it’s an ideological rage as opposed to an actual concern for a real problem perpetrated mostly by people on their side of the fence (cough cough Trump cough cough). I mean neither side is innocent but the US has an obvious sexual predator at the helm.
I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head here, but the scary thing is that I think it’s even more insidious. This quote from C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” kind of sums up the real problem…
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?
If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”
I have quote from before Footloose that also describes MAGA conspiracy theory people.
From Paul Lynde’s Manufacturer Trust commercial:
“You’re all being very nice! And I don’t like it!”
That, more than anything else describes the difference between progressives and the Trump cult. Politicians like Obama and HRC were, among other things — nice. They want to help you, they are not cruel people.
On the other hand, Trump is all about cruelty, hatred and fear. His dedicated followers want to be on the hate train. Their biggest polite insult is that progressives are “politically correct” — i.e. nice. To them being nice is the worst crime.
As a theologian, your conception of conservative vs. progressive is severely under(in)formed. For an analysis that treats the latter as an actual non-theistic religion, I would recommend a book no progressive would ever read in a million years, The New Right by Michael Malice, which also explains the foolishness of the conception of conservatism you wrote down off the top of your head in this posting.
In short, after you read that book the premises of your posting here may change dramatically.
Further, even after inspecting your source code, your site has no contact form whatsoever despite your claim to the contrary.
I’m thinking in terms of conservative vs progressive politics.
Apologies about the contact form; it must have gotten broken or removed by a wordpress update. I’ll see what I can do about that. I’m rather busy, so as you can tell comment moderation has rather gone by the wayside.
I have re-enabled the contact form.
There’s one aspect of this that I think you’re missing, although it seems to escape a lot of people: fearmongering. You come close to it with your observation that conservatives are calling attention to pedophilia as a clear sign that community standards are being violated and of course they blame progressives/liberals for it. But it’s also a call to arms that *only* conservatives can fight this menace, and you should be afraid the sake of the children.
It may not be “kind” to discuss conservative thinking this way, but it’s where the evidence leads.
Conservative policies don’t ease fears, they encourage them.
So they’re trying to convince us that we’re sick so they can sell us the cure. Granted, progressives do the same thing in order to promote change, but I challenge the notion that we create problems just so we can promote ourselves as the solution. We point out problems that already exist and propose solutions for them.
I just want to comment on the ‘My Political Theory’ part. As I understand it, that is somewhat of a traditional way of framing political affiliation. I think it’s basically a spectrum of how comfortable you are with change. There are four ‘rough’ traditional categories.
1. Far left. Now known as progressives, formerly radicals/reformers/etc. Open to radical change
2. Center left. Liberals. Incremental change. I think of these candidates as the mediators of change because they are usually the ones to bring people together in order to move the needle. This is actually where Biden would sit, IMO, although some of his policies proposals are fairly progressive.
3. Conservatives. Like things the way they are and are resistant to change.
4. Reactionaries. Want to turn back the dial to what they would consider ‘better times’. MAGA fits well here.
It just expands what you had a bit. It’s helpful for me. It’s been solidified a bit more recently as well I think by some psychological studies, things I’ve learned from my podcast education, mostly from ‘You Are Not So Smart’.
Pedophilia is in the news for the same reason the Cataline conspirators and early Christians were accused of cannibalism and incest. Conservatives, in every era, live to be outraged. Even minor offenses, like not wanting to be strangled by a policeman for selling a cigarette or having a broken tail light, require full bore outrage. But, what can you accuse someone of to indicate the proper level of outrage? An accusation of cannibalism used to work, particularly if it involved the killing and eating of babies. There was incest which led one early Christian apologist to ask how one could be a true Christian without a mother or sister to have sex with. (Don’t answer that.) Now, no one takes cannibalism or incest seriously as accusations, but pedophilia still works. It basically means “abominable” which translates into do-not-like in ordinary human speak.
It’s an interesting observation and narrative. But how does this inviolable moral precept of „not hurting children“ then fit into the practice of forcibly separating children from their parents at the US-Mexican border?
Prostitution is legal in Germany, home to Western Europe’s mega-brothels. Where prostitution is legal, human sex trafficking (poor women and kids, mostly) flourishes because it’s next to impossible for the victims to get any protection or legal redress when what they’re a victim of is not even considered a crime in the first place. We have the same problem in Nevada in the US. A country that thinks the solution to adult women’s poverty due to centuries of systemic oppression and structural discrimination and institutionalized misogyny is to offer up prostitution, is a country that turns a blind eye to sex trafficked vulnerable minors.
So, you think you’ve got a theory as to why right-leaning people are sharing these articles about child sex-trafficking. Great, congrats. Ironically, you writing this blog post is only furthering the politicization schism of this evil. So, how about we put down that glass of divisive Kool-aid for a minute and just think about this topic objectively.
Outside of the people who are perpetrating these heinous acts, everyone else will probably agree that child sex-trafficking / sexual abuse of minors is a terrible, vile thing. And, just because these articles being shared with you don’t have info on how to combat these things, or if the person who shared it happens to reside on the opposite side of the aisle from you, it doesn’t mean that it should just be tossed out, and especially when these stories can be corroborated with irrefutable evidence.
I know. Sometimes, I just want to disconnect from this dark world and not think about these things either. But, what good does that do for those children that are still caught in those sex rings? Word of advice: don’t play politics when dealing with children in any form or fashion, no matter how nuanced, or granular, or deconstructive your argument is. It never ends well.
They say that one can tell how well a nation is doing by the way they treat their disabled and unfortunate; but no one ever seems to talk about how a healthy nation should be treating its future, i.e. children. And, as someone who honestly doesn’t care to bring new children into this world, I do still feel passionate about keeping the ones that are here anyway safe from such evil, at the very least. And, I thank you for at least sharing a link to help with this cause.
I’m just seeing a bunch of white guys on youtube calling each other pedophile. And, if you jump into the conversation, as a woman with so much as a “huh?” They start trolling that you’re a Femininazi or that you don’t care about kids or some such..
Personally, I think you’re being much to kind to these guys. Its a bizarre little power play. And there may be more projecting going on here than we really want to know.
More likely it’s transference. Like trump announcing his run for the presidency by railing against Mexican rapists.