There is a big red button with the word “paedophile” scrawled on it that some reactionary types like to press when things aren’t going the way they want.
For example: In July 2017, I was standing behind the United States Capitol, sweating through a Democratic press conference on net neutrality, even though my jacket was off and my sleeves were rolled up. The senators said certain things about net neutrality being good and the telecom giants opposing it not being good, then adjourned and dispersed. Reporters followed, overwhelming the senators with questions and demanding updates on the net neutrality policy.
I was on my way to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to do the same, when a man I didn’t recognize rushed over with a handful of flyers that looked like the result of a brief visit at Kinko’s. “Excuse me!” the man said, rushing over to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “Net neutrality allows people to spread satanic child pornography! Why are you supporting this?” he continued.
Blumenthal looked surprised and then tired. He refused to engage and kept walking. “So you support satanic porn! ? the man said to Blumenthal, interrupting himself in a way that betrayed even though he didn’t believe it. He rushed to the others with the same question,
I later discovered that the IRL troll was Jack Posobiec, now a prominent right-wing conspiracy influencer. His flier fiasco on that 90+ degree day was an obvious prank and was soon forgotten for most; anyone who remembers associates him with how dishonest a pest Posobiec is, not the potential net neutrality failures or the Democratic officials he targeted.
As a session US Senator, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley likes to be seen as more sophisticated and savvy than Posobiec. But in the past few days, he too has pressed that button, triggering its effects in the Senate confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“Judge Jackson has a habit of letting pedophiles off the hook for their appalling crimes, both as a judge and as a decision maker,” Hawley tweeted last week. “She’s been defending him since law school. It goes beyond “soft on crime.” I fear this is a record that endangers our children.
Much of Hawley’s criticism lies in Judge Jackson’s deviations from historically uniform and extremely aggressive treatment of defendants in child pornography cases, even when there may be details that make certain violations more or less serious than d ‘others. She, for example, called certain types of child pornography cases potentially “less seriousthan others. The “danger” he warns lies in the way Jackson has been willing to charge some offenders below the suggestions of federal sentencing guidelines in an effort to deal with the cases of child pornography that are different, differently.
During her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jackson pushed back against the claim that she is lenient on child pornography, citing Congress’s own language. “This law does not say “just look at the guidelines and stop”. The law doesn’t say “impose the highest possible penalty for this sickening and flagrant crime,” Jackson said. “The law says to calculate the guidelines, but also to look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence “sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the objectives of the sentence”.
For example, in 2013, as a federal district court judge, Jackson handed down a much lighter sentence to an 18-year-old offender who was deemed not to pose a threat to children, but who had shared two dozens of videos of underage teenagers with an FBI agent. , than she did for an older man who sent nude photos of her 10-year-old son and more than 100 child pornography videos to an agent. Both are crimes, and Jackson convicted both men, but did so with different levels of seriousness to match the varying seriousness of each crime. (Current sentencing guidelines for sharing child pornography have been bipartisan criticized as draconian.)
During the hearing, Jackson sought to point out that while she handed down relatively lax sentences, she still felt like she was delivering meaningful sentences that respond to the victims. “When I’m dealing with something like this, it’s important for me to make sure that the perspective of the children, the voices of the children, are represented in my sentences,” she said. “I say [defendants] about adults who are former victims of child sexual abuse, tell me they will never have a normal adult relationship because of that abuse. I tell them about those who say, ‘I got into prostitution, I got into drugs because I was trying to get rid of the harm that was done to me when I was a child.’
Trying to portraying Jackson as a pedophile sympathizer, Hawley taps into the same thing as Posobiec: the recurring impulse of reactionaries who are on their back heels to try to restore a position that is in jeopardy in the culture wars. It is a mini-version of the QAnon pedophile conspiracies, Pizzagate – of which, not coincidentally, Posobiec was a leading early proponent – and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, when many false accusations of sexual networks with children have been brought to day care centres.
It has also appeared at smaller times since then, such as the 2020 cute controversy that Senator Ted Cruz tried to enter. A piece of Jackson’s own dossier highlights how pedophilia’s role as a weapon in the quiver of contemporary conservatism has become cyclical and repetitive: she condemned the man who was inspired by the Pizzagate conspiracy to enter Ping Pong Comet to DC and shoot his gun. .
It’s no coincidence that concern for children is usually raised not directly in response to child abuse, but around other inciting moments – a phenomenon I wrote about in 2019. Before the Satanic Panic doesn’t spread from daycare to daycare, daycares were already targets in a war over their role in aiding feminist goals of entering the workplace and deprioritizing traditional roles of the nuclear family. As I wrote in this article:
Child care centers figured prominently in right-wing demonology. As early as the 1960s, conservatives were somberly warning that childcare “was a communist plot to destroy the traditional family,” as sociologist Jill Quadagno writes in The color of well-being. In 1971, President Richard Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have established a national child care system. In his veto message, Nixon used Red-baiting language pushed by his special assistant, Pat Buchanan, saying the program would have engaged “the vast moral authority of the national government on the side of community-based approaches to child-rearing against the “family-centered approach. In a decade of rising divorce rates, at least the conspiratorial and reactionary social conservatism could enjoy a happy marriage. By the time Judy Johnson came forward in 1983 with allegations that a teacher at McMartin Preschool had molested her child, the country was prepared to take the worst from more than a decade of child care scaremongering.
QAnon provided a similar tool for an updated moment in Culture Wars. QAnon’s rise to prominence was unrelated to an increase in kidnappings and child trafficking, but it came after the right lost culture war battle after culture war battle.
With Pizzagate and QAnon, the abusers have shifted from child care workers to the liberal elite, and the politics behind the theories are now more explicitly stated. But the general context is more or less the same: conservative withdrawal after a period of progressive social conquests. If the entry of women into the workforce in the second half of the 20th century raised deep concerns about the breakdown of traditional gender roles and family unity, in the 21st century it was same-sex marriage, the growing acceptance of transgender rights and the apparent hegemony of a social justice agenda. “Q found that fear,” says Travis View, conspiracy theory researcher and host of The QAnon Anonymous Podcast.
Even though there is no pedophile component, it is no coincidence that the critical race theory panic takes advantage of the supposed welfare of children to make this cause more noble. Nor is it a coincidence that it happened soon after a summer of widespread protests that shifted public opinion on racial justice.
Hawley’s specific reaction isn’t to a specific movement, but it’s still a response to a progressive black woman with a place on the court that the senator knows is key to controlling the broader social and cultural outcomes that ‘He wishes. And he, just like when Posobiec was rushing around the lawn in the middle of a humid DC summer, exploits the same thing QAanon, CRT Panic and Satanic Panic did earlier:
Pedophile conspiracies act as a kind of counter-revolutionary propaganda, an amusing reflection of real threats to social order. This is what connects QAnon and Pizzagate to McMartin to the witch hunts of the Middle Ages at the dawn of great religions. Demons can take different forms, but the conspiracy is basically the same: Our house is under attack.