Takes One To Know One

Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense

Cory Doctorow
8 min readAug 14, 2022
A finger pointing at the reader.

I first learned about Dr. Thomas Radecki in the mid-1980s, when my grandmother became concerned that my Dungeons and Dragons hobby was going to unmoor me from reality and send me spiraling into delusion and misery, ending in murder.

Radecki was the psychiatrist who testified that the teenager Darren Molitor had murdered another teenager, Mary C. Towey, because he had been driven mad by D&D. Though the court rejected his testimony, Radecki built a career on his willingness to give expert testimony to the effect that young people were being driven to ghastly crimes by D&D.

I forgot about Radecki for decades, and then, last week, I learned that he had lost his medical license following revelations that he had enticed his patients — young people seeking treatment for addiction — into trading drugs for sex. He impregnated one of them. He is now serving an 11–22 year prison sentence.

Radecki attained fame by falsely accusing others of victimizing vulnerable young people for profit. He went on to victimize vulnerable young people for profit.

Takes one to know one.

You can’t possibly have missed the “groomer” panic. Far-right evangelicals have a new blood libel: that any mention of queer sexuality, even a pride flag, is part of a sinister plot to “sexualize children.” Whether it’s the moral panic over Drag Queen Story Hours or the assaults on school libraries, the religious right has convinced itself that the true motivation of progressive, inclusive politics is to groom children for sexual assault. Indeed, in the fever swamp of the right-wing imagination, any child-targeted material produced by someone you disagree with is “grooming.”

The irony, of course, is that “grooming” is epidemic in the religious right and Trumpland. Trump himself has a long history of openly sexualizing young girls, including his own daughter.

It’s not just Trump. Matt Gaetz, a leading Trump surrogate, is credibly accused of trafficking an underage girl for paid sex, and yet the Florida school where “don’t say gay” rules are now in effect are inviting this accused predator to meet with the children in their care.

The religious right’s faith leaders are also regularly responsible for child sex scandals: while many youth pastors are surely upright and caring, as a profession, youth pastors have a serious grooming problem (as do Catholic priests) (and, of course, the Southern Baptists).

When your entire movement is shot through with sexual predators who target kids and get away with it because their allies help cover it up for decades, perhaps it’s only natural that you assume your adversaries are all motivated by predatory impulses.

Takes one to know one.

Remember Critical Race Theory? I know, it’s been almost entirely supplanted by the “groomer” panic (the same way that Flat Eartherism was absorbed into Qanon), but it was a major hit, just a couple months ago.

The right accused progressives of having hijacked the educational system to teach revisionist histories of America that brainwashed kids into ahistorical notions of American race relations.

The panic was nonsense: beyond the fact that the right dramatically distorted the tenets of critical race theory, they also ignored the fact that critical race theory is not being taught to young schoolchildren at all.

But you know who does advocate for false racial histories of the US to be taught to young children?

The right.

Not only do they insist that enslaved Africans enjoyed slavery, they promote this view in textbooks that call enslaved Africans “immigrants.”

The right doesn’t even know how wrong they are about US history and race. They think that their beloved public monuments to Confederate war-criminals are part of a centuries-old tradition of southern pride — when in reality, these mostly date to 1900–1920 and were erected to terrorize Black people who were advocating for racial justice.

These beloved statues were part of a deliberate misinformation program aimed at teaching Americans lies about their own history — the very thing the right accuses Critical Race Theory of doing.

Takes one to know one.

I mentioned that Qanon has absorbed Flat Eartherism. Though Qanon isn’t as much in the news these days as it was at the height of Trumpmania, it continues to chug along, mostly because Trump himself trots it out as a distraction every time things look bad for him.

At the core of Qanon is the centuries-old blood libel: that Jews steal Christian babies for ritual sexual assault and murder. This false belief has mutated many times, and was at the core of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s, which imagined that thousands of children had been done in this way.

Qanon’s conspirators are, obviously, impervious to logic, but they’re also entirely indifferent to the plight of actual children. When Qanoners hijacked the #SaveTheChildren hashtag, they were focused on the imaginary children of their fevered imaginations, and completely indifferent to the thousands of children whom Trump’s border service had torn from their parents, imprisoned in cages, and then handed out to religious “foster parents” who had no way of reuniting these traumatized children with their parents.

Qanoners claimed their enemies were secretly kidnapping and tormenting children, while backing a political leader who was openly kidnapping and tormenting children.

Takes one to know one.

The faux populists of the right — Trumpy types, by and large — have recently discovered that as much as they love corporate monopolies, these sprawling, global, immortal transhuman colony-organisms (AKA “multinational corporations”) do not love them back.

But even as they profess their hostility to monopolies, they argue for weaker regulation and oversight of them (see, for example, the outrage that the IRS is finally going to get enough funding to pay to audit the super-rich and their giant corporations).

This is an old right-wing trick. When the architects of the neoliberal revolution at the Chicago School of Economics created the idea of “regulatory capture,” they observed that powerful companies could hijack their regulators and inveigle or coerce them into shoring up dominant companies’ advantage, giving them an open field free of upstart competitors.

This is true, of course, but the right’s conclusion was so unhinged that it would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so serious. The Chicago School economists who developed the theory of regulatory capture argued that the only way to prevent companies from bribing their regulators was to abolish regulation and regulators altogether.

This is like chopping off your legs to prevent hangnails.

Chief among the regulations that these economist took aim at? Antitrust regulations — the rules that prevented companies from growing so large that they could capture their regulators.

Today, the foremost proponents of “free markets” make billions by capturing governments and sucking up floods of public money.

Takes one to know one.

In 1954’s “Bugs and Thugs,” Bugs Bunny has tricked a couple of gangsters into climbing in the oven, and, as they cower there, Bugs pretends that the police have broken in. He goes on to list all the things he wouldn’t do if his friends were in the oven: “Would I turn on the gas if he was in there? Would I throw a lighted match in there?”

68 years later, it’s still hilarious.

It’s funny because Bugs is telling us what he is doing by insisting that he would never do it. Like, if you offer your friend a bite of your sandwich and they say, “No way, you’ve probably secretly hidden cockroach eggs in there and now you’re trying to trick random people into eating cockroach caviar without knowing it and keeping a secret notebook under your pillow with a list of all your victims.”

If that happened and your friend had a habit of offering you a bite of their sandwiches, you’d probably start turning them down.

English aristocrats of the medieval period had an Old Norman French motto: honi soit qui mal y pense. It means, “shame on anyone who thinks evil of it,” and it continues to appear on all kinds of heraldic nonsense to this day, including the brass buttons on RCMP uniform coats and the Canadian Parliament’s Black Rod —a ceremonial mace that is wielded by the official attendant and messenger to the Queen.

The original meaning of this motto was something like, “If you think I’m up to no good, you’re a bad person,” but in contemporary French, it means something more like, “Hey, that thing you accused me of? It’s so weird that the only way you could have thought of it is if you were up to it yourself.”

Or, put another way: takes one to know one.

The conspiratorial right has a wide agenda, but at the center of it is inflicting cruelty on children: cutting school budgets, opposing paid parental leave, forcing people to bear children they don’t want and can’t care for, torturing trans and queer kids, kidnapping migrant children and permanently separating them from their families, making excuses for political and spiritual leaders who rape and traffick children, and, of course, ensuring that as many children as possible die by gun violence.

The right’s insistence that the only way to solve gun violence against children is to surround them with armed, minimally trained adults is a “takes one to know one” move for the ages.

Not only do the self-appointed guardians of children virulently oppose any controls on the sale of assault rifles, they are even more opposed to any controls on handguns.

The thing is, while school shootings are terrifying and appalling, they are, statistically, a spectacular distraction. If your kid is shot, there is a very good chance that it will be with your gun or the gun of a friend’s parent, and the finger on the trigger will likely be their own or that of a friend.

The right says that a ban on assault rifles is a prelude to controls on all manner of firearms. They’re right: if America ever did decide to #SaveTheChildren, we wouldn’t stop at AR-15s.

But no one in the Trump movement, no Qanoner, no foaming fool screaming about critical race theory or grooming at a school-board meeting will ever admit the true causes of child misery and death in America. Instead, they will accuse their political enemies of conspiring to destroy the lives of America’s children.

Takes one to know one.

Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering (Tor, 2023); and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias (Tor, 2023).