Won’t Somebody Think of the ADULTS for Once?

September 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm (Politics) (, , , , )

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?”  A plea often uttered comically on the Simpsons, but too often uttered seriously in real life.

“How can you dare argue against the MPAA?  Don’t you care about the children?”

“How can you possibly be such a horrible person as to support gun-ownership?  Don’t you realize that more children are killed by gunfire every year than by cancer, influenza, and pneumonia combined?”

“Don’t you realize that those… those murder simulators are teaching our children to be psychopaths?  You went to school during Columbine, don’t you realize how dangerous video games are?”

“The Buffalo PD and the tabloids were, and are, perfectly within their rights to hound the Ramseys – don’t you realize that the statistics prove they’re the most likely suspects in their little girl’s killing?”

“Nancy Grace did nothing wrong in her interview with Melinda Duckett – even if she didn’t know what happened to her son, Nancy was trying to help everybody find her little boy!  It’s not her fault that Melinda went and inverted her face with a shotgun after the interview!”

Time after time, people try to use the welfare of children to push their agendas through, to excuse their horrific behavior.  In the name of the children, innocent people can be accused of murdering their own children, have their characters slaughtered by the media, and become pariahs for the rest of their lives.

In the name of the children, our rights can be trampled on, mauled, folded up into little balls, and ceremonially impaled on the ramparts for all to see.

In the name of the children, people can be ambushed by journalists and accused of being pedophiles, regardless of the truth.

In the name of the children, it’s considered perfectly valid to persecute other children – not for doing anything wrong, but merely for bringing nail files to school or wearing black.

You will find that each and every one of these things has been done in recent memory.  Most of them are still happening today.  That there is typically a perfectly good argument against whatever is being done is meaningless – the battle cry of “won’t somebody think of the children” is an even stronger one than accusing your opponents of being like the Nazis.

After all – it’s silly to say that somebody’s being a Nazi for wanting to disarm the public.  Sure, Hitler was of the opinion that the first thing you did to dominate a populous was to take away their weapons, but the people trying to disarm us aren’t trying to make us incapable of resisting their excesses.  They’re just thinking of the children, trying to protect them from those horrible, horrible guns!

If the children are so open and vulnerable, then how the Hell did our species survive to this point?  How did they live through a time when every household had multiple firearms in it – and had to, as a matter of survival?  How did they live through the early periods of Hollywood, before even the Productions Code, let alone the MPAA keeping an eye out for them?  How did they survive through an era when their parents weren’t scowling at any adult who had the temerity to threaten their child by taking their hand and help them up after they fell?

How was our species not raped, murdered, and psychopathed out of existence, before everybody was thinking of the children?

The simple fact is that “think of the children” is the rhetorical H-bomb.  Nobody is willing to argue with you after you level that threat.  Nobody’s willing to say “yeah, I am thinking of the children.  I’m thinking that their parents ought to do their damn jobs instead of expecting us to!”  If they do, they immediately become horrible monsters who think that children ought to be left to the wolves, just because they were born to parents who weren’t able to protect them from the monsters pedophiles/media/firearms/bacteria that hide beneath the bed everybody knows are out there, just waiting to pounce 24/7.

On the internet, and occasionally in reality, there’s this thing called Godwin’s Law – the first person to reference the Nazis in an attempt to win their argument loses, unless they can support it firmly.  I think it’s about time we put “won’t somebody think of the children” on the same level – it’s an empty rhetorical shield, used to deflect any argument or counterpoint.

After all… in the end, wasn’t Hitler just thinking about the children too?



  1. Vorex said,

    I don’t want to undermine any of the examples given above, because I’m not at all familiar with them and I’m sure they’re entirely cogent, but I do want to put forward a dissenting case in that ‘protecting the children’ is, in cases, not only advisable in its own sense but also an argument for wider free expression …

    Here in AU there is no classification for electronic games above MA15+. That is to say, games are either appropriate for minors or banned from sale. While we’ve become one of the notoriously difficult jurisdictions (sure, we’re not Germany, but people do take particular notice of how their games will play here) social standards and an average gamer age of 29 have lead to an extremely inconsistent application of the rating standards. The latest example of which is ‘Left 4 Dead 2’, which is by all reports thematically indistinguishable from it’s prequel … a game which managed to be rated without any difficulty.

    The traditional ‘think of the children’ argument is that such prohibition is appropriate and we certainly have people (See: Sen. Michael Atkinson for those interested) towing that line. The fact on the ground is that anything our classification board isn’t willing to outright ban is available to minors, which includes some fairly strong and graphic stuff. As an adult I find things enjoyable, acceptable or provocative that I wouldn’t be comfortable being in the unguided hands of a minor in my care.

    I’d damn well want to have several serious talks with them during the course of Persona 3, just to take one of my favourites as an example.

    The counter-argument, common amongst those with a deeper experience of game and gaming, is that an R18+ rating (equivalent to the TV and movie rating of the same name) would actually help both adults and minors. On the one hand games that are intended for adults can be appropriately and legally marked, on the other hand a cohort of games that are currently being rated for minors due to social reasons would be able to be legally sold but recognised as not ‘kids games’. There is, after all, a difference between ‘Barbie Adventures’ and ‘Manhunt 2’.

    There’s a great deal more I could say on what is ultimately a uniquely AU issue, but ultimately it seems to me to come down to the difference between classification and censorship. Classification tells you about the media so you can decide whether or not to consume it. Censorship tells you whether or not you can consume it. The extension of which argument is that a strong and progressive regulatory regime can well protect and advance the rights of everyone.

    Of course one might as well hope for such as hope for the fruit of the Tree of Life, but it remains that in cases ‘protecting the children’ protects everyone.

    • wolfemann said,

      Sadly, it’s not uniquely Australian, but I get your point. I’m inclined, honestly, to agree with you. However, they have a rallying cry other than “won’t somebody think of the children?” My concern is with the point who don’t have any other point – who just throw up that argument because they have no other leg to stand on.

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