Apologies Our Sorry Media Won’t Report

Okey Dokey

On September 29th, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting, in its own words (and capitalization), “Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators.”

In that letter, signed by NSBA President Viola Garcia and Interim Executive Director & CEO Chip Slaven, the NSBA stated that, among other things, “as these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and
hate crimes.”

On that basis, the letter requested “a joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority
and oversight.”

They further requested that the “review” they were asking for “examine appropriate enforceable actions against these crimes and acts of violence under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, the Conspiracy Against Rights statute, an Executive Order to enforce all applicable federal laws for the protection of students and public school district personnel, and any related measure. As the threats grow and news of extremist hate organizations showing up at school board meetings is being reported, this is a critical time for a proactive approach to deal with this difficult issue.”

It’s all very urgent and breathless—and weirdly specific for a letter from an association of school boards, even one with an expensive legal counsel on staff or retainer.

In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Monday, October 4, that “the FBI would take the lead on the law enforcement response” to what he characterized as “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

Then a few days ago, it emerged that the letter from the NSBA had been carefully orchestrated with the Biden administration:

President Joe Biden’s White House colluded with the National School Boards Association to launch a war on parents who want to hold their school districts accountable by sharing information the administration thought could be used to justify domestic terrorism charges.

Emails obtained by Parents Defending Education through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that NSBA President Viola Garcia and CEO Chip Slaven conspired and exchanged information with the White House before releasing an official demand from the Biden administration to get federal law enforcement involved in targeting parents.

Even without the use of terms like “colluded” and “conspired” and “launch a war,” the facts of the case are damning: it would appear Garcia and Slaven worked with the Biden administration on the content and wording of their letter in order to enable the DOJ to handle it as they did: by activating the machinery of government against parents concerned about their childrens’ education. That’s why the language had been so very precise and legalistic.

The whole thing had been a setup.

And so last Friday, the day after the cooperation between Garcia, Slaven, and the Biden administration became public knowledge (thanks to the Parents Defending Education), the NSBA issued an apology:

National School Boards Association disavows letter that led to FBI parent crackdown
Samuel Chamberlain, New York Post, Oct. 22

In short: the NSBA Board of Directors sent a letter to NSBA members stating that they “regret and apologize for the letter (of September 29).”

Meanwhile, under questioning from Ohio Republican Jim Jordan at a Congressional hearing on Thursday, Garland himself tried to smooth the waters:

Garland also insisted during the hearing that the department was not going to investigate parents who take issue with school board policies.

“The Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools,” he said. “That is not what the memorandum is about at all, nor does it use the words ‘domestic terrorism’ or ‘Patriot Act.’”

“I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children,” Garland added. “Nor can I imagine a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism.”

What drove the NSBA to apologize and the Attorney General to back down?

Possibly the story of Scott Smith, the father who figures in the September 29 NSBA letter as “an individual arrested… during a school board meeting discussion distinguishing current curricula from critical race theory and regarding equity issues.” Here’s the opening of an October 12 article from the Daily Mail summarizing Smith’s story:

A Virginia father who went viral after being dragged out of a Loudoun County school board meeting and arrested for protesting its proposed transgender policies has now revealed he was trying to tell the room that his daughter had been raped by a boy at school in the girls’ bathroom.

Scott Smith was photographed on June 22 being dragged out of the heated meeting with his torso exposed in Leesburg, Virginia. The 48-year-old plumber was ridiculed on social media afterwards and was painted by the left to be a deranged, right-wing bigot.

But in an interview with The Daily Wire that was published on Monday, he explains that he was trying to stick up for his daughter, who was attacked at Stone Bridge High School on May 28 by a boy ‘wearing in a skirt.’

Smith says the boy took advantage of the school’s trans policies to get into the girls’ bathrooms and assault her.

Two months after the incident, the boy – who has not been named because he is a juvenile – was arrested for forced sodomy.

And in October, he was arrested again on different charges for allegedly assaulting a different girl, at a different school. He is now in a juvenile detention center.

But Smith says Loudoun County schools went out of their way to protect the child – ‘a sexual predator’. The school still has not commented.

That Smith was trying to bring his daughter’s horrific rape to the attention of a Loudon County school board meeting after months of the school system trying to suppress the story made a lot of headlines around America and the world.

On October 15, the Superintendent of the Loudon County Public Schools publicly apologized “for saying during a June event that the Virginia district had no record of assaults taking place in its bathrooms.” That is, for lying.

Ziegler also said he is “sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming, and affirming environment that we aspire to provide.” He told affected students and families: “We acknowledge and share in your pain and we will continue to offer support to help you and your families through this trauma.”

While headlines about Loudon County were zinging around the world, so was the idea that the FBI might be willing to treat angry parents as domestic terrorists deserving of PATRIOT Act prosecution.

Surprisingly enough, neither a school system’s deliberate cover-up of a rape nor the equivocation of angry parents with domestic terrorists were well received by that portion of the American public permitted to hear about them.

So both the NSBA and Attorney General ultimately backed down.

But neither the NSBA’s apology nor Garland’s aw-shucks answers (including statements that he’d never about the sexual assault in Virginia) change the fact that Garcia and Slaven worked with the Biden Administration to craft a letter that specifically asked for protesting parents to be treated as domestic terrorists, or that Garland responded to that letter by releasing the hounds of the FBI.

In other words, the whole thing had been carefully orchestrated, and is only now being mothballed because it generated more pushback than anyone had probably anticipated.

Naturally, CNN’s coverage comes down to this:

School boards around the country are under fire. What exactly do they do?
CNN.com, Oct 24

School board members around the country have faced heckling, protests, even death threats and at least one lawsuit recently.

Constituents have shown up at normally placid meetings to voice dissent of everything from mask mandate policies — or the lack of them — to teaching critical race theory and policies around transgender students.

Last month, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for help looking into the threats and bullying.

“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the school boards association stated in the letter.

Here’s a look school boards and what they do to elicit such strong feelings.

That article was published after all the events described above, including the NSBA’s apology and Garland’s backpedaling. Oddly enough, “covering up rapes” is not one of the things school boards do that CNN suggests might “elicit strong feelings.”

The New York Times ran articles on October 5 and 6 about the NSBA’s initial letter and Garland’s subsequent memo, but has had nothing to say about the story since.

It’s hard to say who comes off worse: the Loudon school system for covering up a rape, Slaven and Garcia for coordinating with the Biden Administration to label discontented parents as domestic terrorists (and for using Scott Smith as an example of the kinds of parents requiring such a draconian action), the Biden Administration for their role in all that, the Attorney General for unleashing the apparatus of federal law enforcement on local school board issues, or the establishment media for playing up Slaven and Garcia’s rogue letter and Garland’s memo but completely ignoring the various twists and turns since then—up to and including the NSBA’s apology.

“Well,” the charitably inclined might say, “things are moving pretty fast these days, the major media don’t have time to follow up on every story they publish. And who’s to say they won’t get around to it eventually?”

Another story from last week, with roots that go back three years, might offer such charitable souls some food for thought.

At one point during a “Town Hall Meeting” last Thursday, Joe Biden made a gesture frequently used to mean “okay” or “zero.” (In the context of his particular usage, he presumably meant “zero.”)

Right wingers on social immediately began mocking Biden’s support for white power. Not because they genuinely believed the gesture meant that Joe Biden was advocating white supremacy, but because this was an idiotic notion the left had tossed around at Trump supporters in the past. Turnabout clearly struck them as fair play. (The Boomerang Principle: is there nothing it can’t do?)

To refresh your memory with perhaps the most notable example: during the highly-charged Brett Kavanaugh hearings in 2018, at one point the television cameras caught a woman behind Brett Kavanaugh making the “okay” sign.

“What fresh hell is this!!!???” one professional hysteric tweeted, “Kavanaugh’s assistant Zina Bash giving the white power sign right behind him during the hearing? This alone should be disqualify (sic) !!!”

Her tweet (since deleted), and others like it, ensured that the issue raged on social media for days. Even Vox eventually had to point out its essential absurdity, although in a typically Vox way:

But in a way, the Zina Bash fake news is stranger, because it seems to confirm something we all already know: The Trump administration contains racists who want to use policy to harm nonwhite people. You don’t need a hand signal to know that.

(Naturally the author, Dylan Matthews, doesn’t offer any support for the idea that the Trump administration was populated by “racists who want to use policy to harm nonwhite people.” The glib assertion is simply supposed to stand on its own merits: there’s no need to back it up because it’s “something we all already know.”)

Numerous establishment media made similarly ham-handed efforts to excuse Zina Bash, who turned out to be an extremely unlikely candidate for white supremacy, without necessarily dismissing the idea that some people in some circumstances might actually be using the gesture as a genuine expression of support for white supremacy. In the months and years that followed, any prominent figure’s public use of the gesture—which has been around since long before I was born—was scrutinized extensively by hysterics in and out of the media.

But only if said figure was a conservative.

Hence the rightist side of social media gleefully attacking the president’s “white power gesture”—most of it transparently tongue in cheek. Not to say: “OMG, you guys, Joe Biden is totes a white supremacist!” but to say: “Can you see how idiotic this is now?”

The answer was clearly no. No, the feverish hysterics could not see how idiotic this was.

Case in point:

That’s a tweet from Politifact, clarifying that Joe Biden had not in fact flashed a white power sign: he was making a zero with his hand. The tweet went out within one day of the Town Hall in which he’d made that gesture.

Strangely, Politifact had nothing to say about the “fresh hell” of Zina Bash’s use of the same gesture during the Kavanaugh hearings. That was three years ago.

A full year before their failure to fact check claims that Bash was issuing secret white power symbols out to the world during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Politifact actually fact-checked a Babylon Bee article entitled “ISIS Lays Down Arms After Katy Perry’s Impassioned Plea To ‘Like, Just Co-Exist.’ ” Because that’s the kind of clarity Americans need. And Politifact said they did so because “The article raised red flags at Facebook, and we’re fact-checking it here as part of Facebook’s efforts to fight fake news.”

Will Facebook begin flagging posts about the NSBA’s September 29th letter as “fake news” or “misinformation” now the NSBA itself has recanted? Will Politifact examine the various hot takes it incited?

Or are their “investigators” too busy trying to determine whether the National Park Service has really begun strapping down America’s founding fathers to prevent their spinning in their graves?

So anyone who thinks the establishment media will get around to correcting their stories about the NSBA and Attorney General Garland and Scott Smith is probably being a little naive.

But as I noted last week, or the week before, or maybe both, cracks are beginning to appear in the facade: there has been some critical coverage of Democratic policies and personalities (including Joe Biden) in the Danish press lately. Saturday Night Live actually mocked the president on Saturday, and on Sunday, Berlingske’s Mikkel Danielsen acknowledged the “Let’s go, Brandon” cultural meme without dismissing it as a racist trope of the alt-right. And at least Twitter and Facebook haven’t banned their users from sharing stories about the NSBA, Merrick Garland, or Scott Smith. (Yet.)

Strange days.

Enjoy them while you can: the election year 2022 isn’t far off: the few wagons that have wandered off will surely circle again soon enough.