The GOP’s Pedophilia Smears Are An Incitement to Violence

Long ago, in another America, you had to turn to the underground press if you wanted to conjure up images of wholesome Disney cartoon characters fornicating. In 2022, Republican lawmakers now provide that service. In 1967, The Realist, a gleefully subversive journal founded by Paul Krassner, published Wally Wood’s “The Disneyland Memorial Orgy,” a two-page spread that showed Mickey Mouse and the gang, impeccably rendered, engaged in all manner of X-rated activity. Krassner and Wood were countercultural anarchists, but by some strange alchemy, what they presented as satire is now a part of Republican rhetoric.

On his podcast, Verdict With Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas added his voice to the chorus of Republican lawmakers who have suddenly started to accuse Disney of pushing sexual propaganda on kids. In an April episode, Cruz sputtered, “Now they’re going to have, you know, you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it.” Even Cruz’s guest was nonplussed, responding, “Thank you for that image, senator.”

Cruz’s comments may be (the pun is inescapable) goofy, but they are also part of a much larger wave of bigotry. Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, predictably, provided the crudest expression of the opinions echoed by many of her colleagues. “The Democrats are the party of pedophiles,” Greene said in early April. “The Democrats are the party of princess predators from Disney. The Democrats are the party of teachers, elementary school teachers trying to transition their elementary-school-age children and convince them they’re a different gender.”

These comments by Cruz and Greene are part of the recent revival of a brand of homophobic rhetoric rooted in the belief that LGBTQ identity is intertwined with pedophilia and the sexual “recruitment” of children. Such rhetoric was a staple of the anti-gay movement of the 1970s led by figures like the singer Anita Bryant. In the years after the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergevel v. Hodgeswhich legalized marriage equality, this type of homophobia seemed to be in abeyance.

As Colby Itkowitz noted in The Washington Post on April 20, “The rapid escalation in public support for the LGBTQ community’s rights in recent years had quieted much of the blatant homophobia in the nation’s political discourse. But, in recent weeks, Republicans have reverted to verbal and legal assaults on the community, sometimes employing baseless tropes that suggest children are being groomed or recruited by defenders of gay rights.”

Itkowitz argues that this revived homophobia is motivated by short-term electoral concerns: “The efforts ahead of the midterm elections are intended to rile up the Republican base and fill the campaign coffers of its candidates, without offering evidence that any Democrat had committed a repugnant crime.”

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