‘Won’t some­body please think of the chil­dren!’

The Simpsons has taught us not to trust any­one who stoops to use the cor­rupt­ibil­ity of chil­dren to ad­vance a po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT -

Did you see last week’s Beer Store commercial warn­ing of the dan­gers of end­ing its On­tario re­tail mo­nop­oly by al­low­ing al­co­hol sales in cor­ner stores? “Of course they’re good kids — but they are still kids,” the voiceover says, as we see teenagers pick­ing up booze, en­cour­aged by a smirk­ing shop­keeper.

The van­tage point shifts to se­cu­rity cam­era footage, alert­ing us that we’re wit­ness­ing a crime. “Have fun tonight, boys,” the clerk says, as one of the kids freezes in the black-and-white frame, his eyes glow­ing men­ac­ingly red. A loud chord strikes, and then the nar­ra­tor spells it out: “Al­co­hol in con­ve­nience stores? It’s just not right for our kids.”

It’s a nakedly stupid piece of fear-mon­ger­ing pro­pa­ganda from the Beer Store’s own­ers (three multi­na­tional brew­ing cor­po­ra­tions). Af­ter all, their prod­ucts are al­ready sold by pri­vate oper­a­tors in bars across On­tario, as well as in conve- nience and gro­cery stores in other prov­inces and coun­tries. We al­ready buy other dan­ger­ous, ad­dic­tive vices — tobacco and lot­tery tick­ets — at con­ve­nience stores. Re­ally, there’s no good rea­son the brew­ers should con­tinue to reap the prof­its of a govern­ment-en­forced mo­nop­oly on re­tail sales. So in­stead of try­ing to make their case, they’ve just screamed, like He­len Love­joy on The Simpsons, “Won’t some­body please think of the chil­dren!”

That’s the first ar­gu­men­ta­tive refuge of scoundrels, cheats and liars, and de­spite be­ing sat­i­rized fairly com­pre­hen­sively by Love­joy’s char­ac­ter for well over a decade, it’s still a sur­pris­ingly com­mon — and de­press­ingly ef­fec­tive — tac­tic.

We’ve seen it dur­ing the federal govern­ment’s cur­rent term, when then-pub­lic safety min­is­ter Vic Toews in­tro­duced a broad in­ter­net es­pi­onage bill that would give the po­lice pow­ers to in­vade the pri­vacy of Cana­di­ans. Cyn­i­cally, he ti­tled it the “Pro­tect­ing Chil­dren From In­ter­net Preda­tors Act,” and sug­gested crit­ics of the bill were sid­ing with child pornog­ra­phers.

Closer to home, we’ve seen both Coun­cil­lor Doug Ford and school trustee Sam Sotiropou­los try to dodge ac­cu­sa­tions of ho­mo­pho­bia by rais­ing the spec­tre of nude men at Pride pa­rades ex­pos­ing them­selves to chil­dren.

Just this month, Coun­cil­lor Gior­gio Mam­moliti suc­cess­fully in­voked the need to pro­tect chil­dren from drugs and pe­dophiles by ban­ning elec­tronic mu­sic dance (EDM) par­ties on city land at Ex­hi­bi­tion Place.

“My con­cern has al­ways been about the chil­dren,” he said, though his — and the city’s — worry was prompted by com­plaints from the owner of Muzik night­club (a friend and sup­porter of the mayor’s), who said the events on city land were of­fer­ing un­fair com­pe­ti­tion to his own EDM par­ties.

And, of course, Olivia Chow has made “putting chil­dren and fam­i­lies at the heart of our city” one of the planks of her may­oral cam­paign. In prac­tice, that pol­icy (so far) con­sists only of a pro­posal to ex­pand af­ter-school pro­grams, but she’s men­tioned her em­pha­sis on the good of the chil­dren as one of her core at­tributes in vir­tu­ally ev­ery speech, point­ing the fin­ger at crack mayor Rob Ford as set­ting a bad ex­am­ple for her grand­kids.

In all of the above cases, with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Chow, the good of the kids is raised as a des­per­ate at­tempt to dis­tract from a more press­ing con­cern: the in­ter­ests of con­sumers, the per­cep­tion of in­tol­er­ance, an at­tempt to weaken civil lib­er­ties or the sim­ple act of scratch­ing an in­flu­en­tial busi­ness­man’s back. Sadly, the ploy of­ten man­ages to at least de­rail the con­ver­sa­tion — so we wind up de­bat­ing who is or is not suf­fi­ciently con­cerned about the wel­fare of the young.

You could call it Love­joy’s Law: If, dur­ing an ar­gu­ment, some­one begs you to “please think of the chil­dren,” they’re prob­a­bly ei­ther ly­ing, try­ing to screw you over or hop­ing to dis­tract you from the worth­less­ness of their po­si­tion. Be­cause when we re­ally care about the chil­dren, we don’t let people use them to ma­nip­u­late us into ac­cept­ing their pol­i­tics. In­stead, we en­gage in real de­bate. Ed­ward Keenan is a se­nior edi­tor at the Grid, Toronto’s weekly city mag­a­zine. To read more of his ar­ti­cles, go to thegrid.to/keenan­wire­blog.

“You could call it Love­joy’s Law: If, dur­ing an ar­gu­ment, some­one begs you to ‘please think of the chil­dren,’ they’re prob­a­bly . . . hop­ing to dis­tract you from the worth­less­ness of their po­si­tion.”

He­len Love­joy should be the poster child of the Beer Store cam­paign to keep its re­tail mo­nop­oly.

Ed­ward Keenan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.