“Kick Him Where It Counts”: Conservative Appeals to Violence as a Distraction Technique

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I wrote about two defenses of Roy Moore: Tully Borland’s article in the Federalist urging Alabamians to vote for Moore whether he did what he is accused of or not, and Doug Wilson’s insistence that we use “biblical criteria” for judging Moore. As I read the two pieces, I was struck by a common appeal to violence.

Tully Borland wrote as follows:

I have a 14-year-old daughter. If I caught him doing what was alleged, for starters I would kick him where it counts. Hard. That being said, I don’t think it’s wrong to vote for Moore.

For his part, Doug Wilson wrote this:

If the allegations are true, the citizens of Alabama ought to do more than politely request that Moore step out of the race. If the allegations are true, they ought all to pitch in, buy the world’s biggest frying pan, fill it with about half a foot of piping hot bacon grease, and fry the good judge a deep brown on both sides.

I’ve noticed something of a pattern, among conservatives, in dealing with to allegations of sexual abuse. “If he really did what he is accused of,” the line goes, “he should be taken out and shot.” Or some derivative. This is generally followed by insistence that in this case, the accused is actually innocent, or that the situation is more complicated than generally reported. The part about taking him out and shooting him is there to make sure you know that the speaker really is tough on sexual abuse. The toughest, in fact!

Borland throws in an appeal to violence as a way to assure his readers that, despite what he’s actually arguing, he’s not easy on sexual abuse. Of course, what he’s arguing is that Alabama voters should give Moore a U.S. Senate seat even if he did sexually molest 14-year-old Leigh Corfman. But by appealing to violence—and elevating his own man’s man status—he attempts to ward off criticism. How can you say he’s not tough on sexual abuse? He just said he would totally have kicked Moore in the nuts if Moore had messed with his daughter!

Wilson, for his part, tries to preserve his claim to moral authority by couching his his defense of Moore with an insistence that he would support literally torturing Moore if the allegations against him are in fact true. But would he actually?

When Steven Sitler, then a student at Wilson’s New Saint Andrews college, sexually molested numerous children in multiple states—and admitted it—Wilson responded by writing to the judge in the case, begging for leniency:

“I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.”

After Sitler was released from jail, Wilson welcomed him back into his church. When asked to explain why he did this, Wilson wrote in a statement on his blog that “since Steven’s conviction and conditional release from prison and jail, Steven, as a penitent Christian, has been welcome at Christ Church” and that “he is as welcome as any other sinner is, which is to say, he is very welcome.”

And it didn’t end there. An elder at Wilson’s church introduced Sitler to a young woman looking for a husband, and Wilson himself officiated the marriage, calling on God to bless the couple with children. What happened to Wilson’s calls for violence? If the allegations against Moore are true, he said, the citizens of Alabama should literally fry Moore in a vat of grease. But when a man in Wilson’s church community was accused of the same thing—and confessed that the allegations were true—Wilson did no such thing. Instead, he did the exact opposite.

And then there was Jamin Wight. While a student at Wilson’s Greyfriar’s Seminary, 24-year-old Wight groomed and sexually abused Natalie Greenfield, the 13-year-old daughter of the family he was boarding with (Wilson encourages students at his college and seminary to board with families in his church). Descriptions of what Wight did to Greenfield are horrific. Wilson claimed (falsely) that Wight and Greenfield were in a parent-approved courtship relationship and treated this as an extenuating circumstance. “I do not believe that this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator,” Wilson wrote a letter to the investigating officer in the case.

By the way, shortly after the birth of his son, Sitler was ordered by the court to move out of his house and his wife was removed from the “approved chaperone” list after the court found that he “had contact with his child that resulted in actual sexual stimulation” and that his wife had not acted as an effective chaperone. Wight, who also married and had children after leaving prison, later came under church discipline for abusing his wife and children, and is also accused of abuse by a woman who left him when Natalie’s case came to court.

All of this is to say that Wilson’s appeal to violence—his suggestion that Alabamians ought to fry Moore in a vat of grease if the allegations against him are true—is a sham.

This isn’t just about Wilson. It’s about every conservative who talks about shooting anyone who so much as messes with his daughter, and then turns around and knee-jerk defends Moore—or Trump—against allegations of sexual abuse. It’s about every conservative who claims to want to castrate child sex offenders, and the next day defends someone in their church against allegations of child sexual abuse, because that child was always lying to get attention, and saying sexually inappropriate things.

This talk of violence is a cover. It’s meant to distract from what’s actually going on.

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