March 10, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
What did Jon Stewart accomplish when he ‘exposed’ the hypocrisy of the illiberals? Squat
They don’t care. Instead, accuse them of using the power of the state to deny children the power to choose their own destinies.
There’s a video going around in which Jon Steward interviews a man – it doesn’t matter who he is – who believes the government has on obligation to protect children. For this reason, he said, it’s right for states to pass laws against exposing minors to the “sexual nature” of drag shows. (There are 35 bills in 15 states so far to regulate drag.)
Stewart, on hearing that the government has an obligation to protect children, pounced hard. The host of “The Problem” told his guest the No. 1 killer of kids these days is not drag queens. It’s guns! He said:
“What you’re telling me is you don’t mind infringing free speech to protect children from this amorphous thing that you think of, but but when it comes to children that have died, you don’t give a flying fuck to stop that because that shall not be infringed.”
The video clip appears to have been greatly satisfying for many liberals. MSNBC ran this: “How an incredible Jon Stewart interview exposed the GOP’s ‘freedom’ hypocrisy.” Critic Marcie Bianco wrote: “For all the hypocrisies Stewart revealed in his skillful peeling back of the onion’s layers, his exposure of conservatives’ hypocrisy about the cherished American value of freedom clearly struck a nerve.”
It shouldn’t be satisfying.
The illiberals seeking to regulate the freedoms of drag queens don’t care about hypocrisy, much less the opinions of liberals who take great satisfaction in seeing it “exposed.” For these illiberals, it makes sense for the government to be hands off guns but hands on drag queens. Hypocrisy is rooted in liberal values – fairness, equality and everyone playing by the same rules. Are we supposed to believe people who are OK with mass child death care about fairness? Are we supposed to believe exposing unfairness will change things?
Why are these liberals asking us to be fools?
Let’s pull back from this infantile focus on hypocrisy to consider what these illiberals are saying, instead of what they are not saying. What they say they see when they see drag queens read stories to kids in public libraries around the country is a threat to children. They say they attempt to “sexualize” them, even “groom” them.
“I believe that the LGBTQ community and drag queens have the right to assembly, to organize, but they do not have the right to organize with prurient interest in front of children,” Brandon Prichard, an illiberal legislator from North Dakota, told The Economist.
That Prichard blurs the fundamental differences between drag and LGBT-plus people tells something else. What they say they see when they see drag queens and LGBT-plus people is the same thing.
They are not. Drag is an art form. Its purpose is to entertain. LGBT-plus people are people. Their purpose is theirs to decide.
But to illiberals, these are distinctions without differences, and what I want to know is why we are not focusing on that. If we did, we’d arrive in a place far more politically useful than accusing illiberals who don’t care about equity and fairness of being unfair.
Not only are drag queens and LGBT-plus people the same thing from the illiberal point of view, but they are also equally bad. Drag queens “sexualize” children. LGBT-plus people do, too. Together, these factors ask us to ask another question, which is: what is good?
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Normal is good, right? What’s normal? Since drag queens and LGBT-plus people are the same thing and the same bad, normal would be things that are not drag queens and not LGBT-plus people. Heterosexuality is normal. Not-heterosexuality, let’s call it, is not.
That suggests things that are not-normal must be made normal. It’s therefore incumbent on the state to sort this problem out. The government must protect the normal, outlaw the not-normal. It must protect heterosexuality, outlaw not-heterosexuality, with the concrete effect being outlawing people for being who they are.
From the illiberal viewpoint, such criminal jeopardy is easily remedied. If not-heterosexual people don’t want to be abnormal, and therefore don’t want legal exposure, they can just stop being who they are. They can stop pretending to be something they’re not. If they won’t do it voluntarily, well, the government has obligations.
With such obligations, the state must enforce sexuality. So accusing not-heterosexuals of “sexualizing” children makes no sense, because one way or the other, children are being “sexualized.” The difference is that “sexualizing” them heterosexually is fine (normal, good) while “sexualizing” them not-heterosexually (abnormal, bad) is not.
It’s a choice. It just doesn’t look like one.
Instead, it looks like it’s just the way things are.
Because it’s a choice, we should ask: what is the government protecting kids against? It’s not the “sexual nature” of drag queens and LGBT-plus people. Normal heterosexuality, which is acceptable, is still a sexuality. One way or another, the children are being “sexualized.”
So what is the government protecting kids against?
From the freedom of choosing.
The illiberals believe they can choose, but no one else can. They believe everyone else must have their choices made for them. So stop accusing them of hypocrisy. They don’t care. Accuse them of using the power of the state to deny kids the power to choose their own destinies.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.
I love your stuff John but ya missed the point here.
You are focused on the WRONG audience – we all know how awful the iliberals are. Most people get that the attacks on drag queens are a distraction That’s not who Stewart was aiming at. The interview is great because he gave liberals and moderates a simple, ruthless, counterpunch by placing voter registration right next to gun laws. This is hugely valuable.
For everyone who doesn’t have time to articulate a well thought out gun control retort then cram it into a twitter thread John Stewart gave us a sharp machete and said “use this instead” .
Does it matter to the iliberals ? No. But it does to those in the disengaged middle who swing back and forth every election. All they need is a a logical phrase to hang their opinion on. Liberals now have a simple elegant new weapon to share with our moderate friends. . And as a bonus treat Stewart trapped the fool into giving it to us.
And yes, politics is a war. It’s been a disaster for the Left to avoid that obvious reality. It ought not be violence. But it is a war. Tactics matter. If only policy mattered Democrats would never lose outside the deep south. Trump would never have become president, we’d have better health, gun, family…policy… How you paly the war game matters. The Right knows this and the Right wins when they should lose all the time.
If Trump/Scotus and then Biden prove anything they prove this: WINNING MATTERS. Ya gotta win. Tactics matter.
I don’t think we disagree in terms of outcomes. Sure, accusing them of hypocrisy is gonna work for some of the people you describe. Accusing them of denying children a right to choose their own futures is gonna work for the same people.