Roderic O’Gorman: Smear tactics in the age of Twitter

The new Minister for Children is a gay man called Roderic O’Gorman. In 2018, he appeared in a picture with a man by the name of Peter Tatchell at a Pride parade in Dublin. The minister later tweeted the picture, stating that he was proud to be pictured with that LGBT activist.

In 1997, Tatchell wrote a letter to The Guardian that detractors allege constitutes paedophilia apologetics. Certain comments have been made to the effect that, because the minister was in that picture and made that tweet, he supports paedophilia apologetics and should be removed as Minister for Children. He has said that his only contact with Tatchell was in that picture and that he didn’t know about the letter. Others have said that Tatchell’s comments are well-known.

“Irish Flag” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s what I think:

Conservative elements in our country don’t like the Green Party being in government or a gay man being Minister for Children and are using circumstantial evidence to smear him.

Associations between homosexuality and paedophelia have been around for a very long time. Straight people who couldn’t understand how someone could be attracted to someone of the same gender thought homosexuality was akin to paedophelia. In all cases, child molestation is completely unjustifiable because children haven’t developed psychologically to the point where they can consent to sexual relations with a grown adult. Outrage towards homosexuality, however, has no moral justification. The association between homosexuality and paedophelia is erroneous but there are those willing to use it as a weapon against queer people. They hide their illogical prejudices against gay people within allegations of paedophelia and Trojan horse their views into the discourse with a veneer of respectability.

This attack on the Minister has no justification. They present the case as follows:

Minister for Children was in a picture taken with an LGBT activist who has made comments in support of paedophilia therefore he himself must support paedophilia

That makes it look like they realised the Minister supported paedophilia when they came across the picture, the tweet and Tatchell’s 23 year-old letter to The Guardian and that they want to protect children from a man whose views endanger them. In reality, they had a problem with a gay liberal being Minister for Children so they tried to find something to frame as a smoking gun, while in fact all they’ve done is found a gun, fired it and put the Minister’s fingerprints on it.

It’s a smart rhetorical trick beloved of the alt-right. Once their narrative has made its way into the discourse and is seen by members of the public who take it at face value, it becomes a news story. Then you get headlines including keywords such as “Minister for Children”; “Roderic O’Gorman”; “paedophelia allegations”. Once those headlines appear in papers of record (e.g. The Irish Times, Irish Independent), the insidious workings of those who initially manufactured the narrative are totally hidden. The mainstream media and the public do the rest of the work, and a man’s career is put at risk on foot of flimsy evidence.

If the Minister were to resign over this, it would be a victory for those who:

  • don’t want a gay man in a position of political power
  • don’t want a party that skews even the slightest bit to the left to have any part in a government which otherwise lies in and around the centre-right
  • would use simple but devilishly effective rhetorical trickery to hijack the discourse and use the mainstream media as a vehicle for their bigotry.

It’s important that we are aware of these Trojan horse tactics because they allow attacks on marginalised groups to proceed unhindered where otherwise they would find no purchase. The more marginalised the group, the more effectively it works. J.K. Rowling and Graham Linehan probably consider themselves liberal but they use a tactic associated with the alt-right. They attack transgender people by positioning them as somehow dangerous to cisgender women. Only in the last few years have trans people started to be included in the conversation, after centuries of being persecuted, mocked and (at best) ignored/erased by the establishment. It’s not right that their experiences should be filtered through news stories about public figures who make baseless claims, given the appearance of legitimacy by token nods towards a short-sighted simulacrum of feminism.

I doubt that we will find out at a later date that Roderic O’Gorman really does think paedophelia isn’t a problem or is secretly a child molester himself. The latter would certainly be a major coup for those who know they can’t openly accuse a gay man of being a paedophile without more convincing so-called “evidence” than this. Even if that does happen, the “proof” would have to be much more damning than this poor excuse for a witch hunt.

For a more comprehensive breakdown of how the alt-right manipulates language in order to mask the truth, please see this video by Ian Danskin:

It’s part of a series he did on alt-right tactics.

Thank you for reading.

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