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“Libs of TikTok” and the right-wing war on public education

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One aspect of the culture war currently being waged by “Libs of TikTok” on Twitter, an account with 100,000 followers whose content is regularly recycled by conservative media, bears similarities to last year’s attacks on Critical Race Theory ( CRT) but with an arguably even more sinister accent. Typically taught in law schools, CRT is something most people will never encounter or engage with in their daily lives, but the concept has been distorted by the right, which has turned it into a monolith poisoning people. mind of children.

While the CRT’s “debate” on the right is presented as protecting white children from the plight of their country’s history and the continuing role of systemic racism in most Western countries, especially the United States, this that is being said about teachers, LGBTQI+ students and their allies by right-wing politicians and media in reaction to Libs of Tik Tok, which typically posts videos of educators from these communities or allies on its feed, exposes some in more conservative areas at risk of losing their jobs, a smart end around the protections allegedly provided by teachers’ unions.

As Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters for America, told Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, in a recent interview: “There was a teacher in Oklahoma who said he would support LGBTQ kids. whose parents rejected them, which is an unfortunately common and difficult occurrence for LGBTQ youth. He was later fired after his video was featured on Libs of TikTok.

It is fairly obvious to most that if they know that a particular community is at higher risk for suicide, teachers, family physicians and other authority figures have a professional duty to show compassion as this Oklahoma teacher and doing what they can to help at-risk children. noise about “parental rights” that has become so much louder in the last year of fabricated culture wars.

Nevertheless, some teachers have already had to pay the price in terms of economic hardship for the bigotry of a until recently anonymous person who appears to have the backing of at least one far-right media outlet, an unfunny impersonator of the Onion called the Babylon Bee or at least its owner, Seth Dillon.

The Libs of TikTok creator is also soliciting money through subscriptions on Substack, a platform that has become popular with a variety of high-profile culture warriors, including some who were once widely respected. by the left as Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald embarrassed himself last week by defending the account and attacking Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz for investigating who was behind it, accusing Lorenz of “doxxing” even before his article was published, an absurd charge. Libs of Tik Tok needed to be investigated because it engages in cruelty for its own good and influences many of the worst voices in the US Republican Party like Marjorie Taylor Greene to use inflammatory terms like “groomer” to attack his political opponents.

In another despicable post last November, before the Twitter feed became widely known to most of us, Libs of TikTok tweeted that The Trevor Project, which works to prevent LGBTQI+ youth suicide, is an organization of “grooming”, provoking a deluge of hatred. for organization both online and offline.

It’s strange that the term “grooming” has become such a big talking point on the far right in North America in recent weeks. I hadn’t heard of the term until people like far-right provocateur Tommy Robinson started talking about ‘grooming gangs’ in the UK in 2018, giving people like Donald’s friend another reason Trump Nigel Farage attacking Muslim immigrants in the age of Brexit. Despite his claims to want to see imprisoned those who abuse children in this way, Robinson’s public actions in trying to spread widespread anti-Muslim bigotry have actually resulted in freedom for some accused of these heinous crimes due to the cancellations of lawsuits caused by his actions.

It is extremely dangerous to claim that educators from LGBTQI+ communities and even the majority of teachers in general, as some have done, are predators bent on grooming children, just as Robinson accused Muslim men en masse of the same. .

Of course, that’s exactly the point. Many conservatives want to backtrack on gay rights and insulting people in these communities by calling them “groomers” is a Trojan horse for doing so. Like other slurs hurled at the right, expect this term to become a normalized part of far-right attacks on the progressive left and even centrists like “libtard” and “cuck” before it. The main difference being what it entails is far worse and could lead to violence in a way that those earlier insults don’t.

This entirely fabricated panic, much like that around the CRT earlier this year, quickly led to an alliance between the paranoid QAnon mob like those who disrupted school board meetings and sometimes threatened violence for the past year or so. , and those like former Education Secretary Betsy Devos, who want to end public education in favor of a mixed for-profit or religious model in the name of “choice.”

Ralph Reed, who is a prominent conservative voice in the United States, bridging the gap between “free market” libertarians and the religious right, recently explained the idea in simple terms to a reporter: “The wisest strategy is to use the momentum of this to drive parental rights and school choice. This is where it’s at, and it has the potential to be a game-changer. »

A former MTV host and current Fox News speaker named Kennedy made the purpose of this strategy even clearer on “Outnumbered” when discussing the case of a football coach in Seattle who forced athletes under his care to pray on the field after games leading to a legal challenge that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, saying, “This will be a very important case for religious freedom, but also perhaps to be a great moment in the history of our country where we rethink whether or not we have public schools. Maybe we shouldn’t involve the government in education at all so that parents and teachers and administrators can make those decisions themselves instead of the government imposing them on them, because that’s the aspect public school that creates the legal challenge.

This seems to be the ultimate end to all these attacks on public education by some states banning textbooks and creating legislation like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill: to further marginalize and defunding in favor of corporate charters and religious schools. These attacks will not stop at America’s borders and it is conceivable that these interests will look to poorer countries to spread their faith or maximize their profits through “education”.

American conservatives used to understand that one of the main engines of American prosperity has always been its public schools. As flawed and underfunded as they often are, especially in areas that were subject to past practices aimed at marginalizing communities like red-lining, this has mostly remained true.

It seems the right wing in the country is willing to take that risk to achieve a reactionary project that may not exactly be fascism, but to paraphrase what Mark Twain once said about history, it seems rhyme with.

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