Think of the children

a cliché that evolved into a rhetorical tactic
(Redirected from What about the children)

"Think of the children" (also "What about the children?") is a phrase that evolved into a rhetorical tactic. Used literally it refers to children's rights, as in discussions of child labor. In debate, this plea for pity is wielded as an appeal to emotion which constitutes a logical fallacy.

"Think of the children" was popularized by the comedic television program The Simpsons as a form of satire; used by the character Helen Lovejoy.


  • Children are simultaneously the victims of predators and vulnerable to exposure to dangerous images. All accompanied by the shrill cry of 'will no one think of the children?'
    • Scott Beattie (2009). Community, Space and Online Censorship. Ashgate. pp. 165–167. ISBN 978-0-7546-7308-8. 
  • Lessig entreats us to think of the children. It is an appeal to emotion and a rhetorical ploy.
    • Borschke, Margie (November 2011). "Rethinking the rhetoric of remix". Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy 141.
  • Moral panic has become in current media discourse the inevitable outcome of any story involving 'youth': in the blogosphere, 'Won't someone think of the children!' — the imagined battle-cry of the faux-outraged columnist — is in danger of becoming the new Godwin's law'
    • Rebecca Coleman; Debra Ferreday (2011). "Reading Disorders: Online Suicide and the Death of Hope". Hope and Feminist Theory. Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-415-61852-6. 
  • Since the early days of computer regulation, hysterics have made recourse to the 'Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse': child pornographers, organized crime, terrorists, and pirates. Invoking one or more of these terrible fellows is often sufficient to stifle further debate and end critical thought ... 'Won't someone think of the children?!'
  • The problem with using the 'Won't anyone think of the children' defence when arguing against adoption rights for LGBT couples is that, because there isn't a shred of evidence to support your argument (on the contrary, it discriminates against children already born) -- what you're really saying can be interpreted as: 'Those gays can get married and do whatever it is they like to each other but I wouldn't trust some of them near a child.'
    • Carol Hunt (January 5, 2014). "Don't use our children as shields to protect status quo; The Helen Lovejoy argument against gay adoption is simply discrimination in a 'caring' guise, writes Carol Hunt". Sunday Independent (Independent Newspapers Ireland Limited): p. 27. 
  • Too many people these days are thinking of the children, or at least claiming to think of them. Keeping kids safe and virginal — protected from seeing the 'wrong' things — is the rallying concept so many people use to forward their agendas. Ban this, eliminate that, censor the other thing — it's all done in the name of protecting children. Not, heaven forbid, because anyone wants to force their morality and sensibility on the rest of us. Perish the thought.
  • 'Think of the children!' is a tried-and-true debate-stopper, but more often than not one that succeeds because of its ability to inhibit rational thought.
  • Unless society sticks to principles that require adults to be responsible regarding the welfare of children in their charge, the 'Think of the children!' reflex will suffocate order and justice.
  • The welfare of children does not trump all other values and principles. When we 'think of the children,' we need to think about the society they are going to grow up in as well.
  • I know this national missile defense plan has its detractors, but won't someone please think of the children?
  • 'We need to do it for the children,' cry the politicos. 'Think of the children!' 'For the children.' That's the phrase politicians in Washington use to justify an action so irrational that it cannot be justified any other way.
    • Russell C. Pavlicek (January 18, 2002). "Rewarding punishment". InfoWorld (InfoWorld, Inc.). Retrieved on November 3, 2014. 
  • The 'not-in-my-back-yard' (NIMBY) phenomenon was typically, sometimes hysterically, reinforced by a cry of, 'What about the children?' Any difference, particularly a difference of lifestyle, was a threat.

Popularized in media

  • 'Won't someone think of the children?' is the constant refrain of Reverend Lovejoy's wife in the cartoon series The Simpsons. Whatever crisis or panic grips the citizens of Springfield, she places the children at the centre of attention. The child, for her, is an innocent and helpless victim in constant need of protection.
  • '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.
    • Edward Keenan (April 26, 2014). "'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". The Toronto Star: p. IN2. 
  • 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. 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 (April 26, 2014). "'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". The Toronto Star: p. IN2. 
  • In 'The Simpsons,' one of my favorite characters is Rev. Lovejoy’s wife. Whenever the citizens of Springfield discuss any controversial issue, her immediate and hilariously shrill response is 'For heaven’s sake, would someone please think of the children?'
  • Like Rev. Lovejoy’s wife, we do need to think of the children. However, we need to think of all the children. The existence of gay and lesbian parents is a fact, not ideology. Proponents of anti-gay laws may be trying to 'save the children,' but the ultimate effect of such laws is to harm the physical and psychological well-being of millions of children currently raised by loving GLBT parents.
  • The sentence 'how many kittens must die,' for example, could be delivered in the same histrionic, moralizing tone as Helen Lovejoy's signature line 'Won't somebody please think of the children?' on The Simpsons (1989-). Audiences laugh in response not because they despise kittens or children but because moral crusaders can be infuriatingly narrow in their interests as well as politically correct killjoys.
  • This cry has been deftly and devastatingly parodied by The Simpsons since its debut in 1989, as the trademark of Helen Lovejoy, the parson's wife.
  • Movies subjected to the harshest cuts or outright banning during this early period were usually Italian- or American-made horror movies deemed too graphic in their portrayal of violence for sensible human consumption. They became known colloquially as the 'Video Nasties.' In modern-day language, it could be called the 'Hellen [sic] Lovejoy 'Think of the Children' Classification.'

See also

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