Marjorie Taylor Greene’s agenda to portray Democrats as pedophiles is dangerous
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is embarking on an absurd and dishonorable disinformation campaign to cast Democrats as a “party of pedophiles.”
There is no doubt that this is a morally reprehensible political tactic. But what makes matters worse is that within the Republican Party, she is not an outlier extreme in promoting the idea — merely its most brazen supporter. And the dehumanizing language Greene uses in his position at the forefront of the right’s new disinformation campaign (calling Democrats bad for something they don’t do) is the kind of rhetoric that, according to the political scientists, could serve as a pretext for the right to resort to political violence.
On Tuesday, Greene revealed how central the accusation of fabricated pedophilia was to his messaging about Democrats. During an appearance on the Real America’s Voice network, she said the following with a completely straight face:
The Democrats are the party of pedophiles. The Democrats are the party of Disney’s predatory princesses. The Democrats are the party of teachers, elementary school teachers who are trying to transition their kids to elementary school age and convince them that they are a different gender. It’s a celebration of their identity, and their identity is the most disgusting, evil, and horrible thing that’s happening in our country.
She also said during the interview that she hopes Republicans Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney would be called up for “being pro-pedophiles and voting for Ketanji Brown Jackson” to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
What exactly is behind this madness? First, Greene attempts to say that Jackson’s record on convicting offenders for possession of child pornography — which some Republicans have claimed is bafflingly lenient despite the fact that his conviction record is in fact running — amounts to what the party embraces pedophiles. Second, Greene tries to tie critics of what has been called Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits certain teachings about sexual orientation and gender identity, to the idea of being pro-pedophilia.
Greene’s harmful misinformation is an extension of the QAnon conspiracy theory legacy, which argued that former President Donald Trump’s goal during his tenure was to uncover a satanic pedophile cabal among Democrats and liberal elites.
It’s hard to see this Republican strategy leading us where it isn’t very, very dark.
But what gave her rhetoric more punch was that she’s not alone. As Jonathan Chait explained in a pointed essay for New York magazine, the idea that there is a divide between the parties on the issue of child sexual exploitation is becoming the GOP’s “most forceful idea.”
Press Secretary for Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called criticisms by so-called “groomers” of the Don’t Say Gay Law, a term referring to the way sex offenders manipulate and coerce their victims.
And Republicans saw Jackson’s confirmation hearings as a prime opportunity to hint that Democrats are soft on pedophilia. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post found that in four days of hearings, the phrase “child pornography,” or “pornography” or “pornographer,” was mentioned 165 times; “paedophile” was used 15 times; “predators” was used 13 times; and “prepubescent” was used 18 times. As Chait pointed out, Republicans also attempted to use a rhetorical sleight of hand by falsely suggesting that Democratic objections to Republican smear campaigns were a denial of the very existence of pedophilia. “We’ve been told things like child pornography is actually a conspiracy,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said during the hearings in a particularly surreal moment of propaganda.
This stuff is more than shameful; it’s downright dangerous. Embedding conspiracy theories and persuading Republican Party loyalists that the Democrats are actually a bunch of predators who will prey on the most vulnerable people is the kind of thing that activates extremist sentiment and makes violent mobilization more likely. As Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told me in November, dehumanizing and defaming opponents — viewing them as “evil rather than merely politically objectionable” — is a lubricant for violence.
Greene and his colleagues know that painting Democrats as “the most disgusting, evil, horrible thing happening in our country” is the kind of thing that can inflame the base, exploit the crisis of confidence in our country. and giving Republican lawmakers the right to obstruct the endless legislative process. But where is the exit ramp? How do you re-humanize an entire population that you have deemed demonic? It’s hard to see this Republican strategy leading us where it isn’t very, very dark.