Book-Banning 'Moms For Liberty' Remind Me Of 'Harper Valley PTA' (And '1984')

Moms For Liberty founders Tina Descovich, left, and Tiffany Justice, right, with Megyn Kelly, center

Here we go again. What we have here is a classic moral panic, a repeating theme in American public life.

Remember the McMartin preschool trial in Los Angeles back in the 1980s? Bizarre allegations of satanic sexual abuse were made against a family-run day care center in Manhattan Beach. Replete with sensational media coverage, the investigation and two criminal trials ended up lasting for seven years and costing almost $15 million — the longest criminal trial in U.S. history. A total of seven day care workers were charged with 321 counts of sexual abuse involving some four dozen children.

Prompted by true believers using anatomically correct dolls, little kids too young for kindergarten told fantastic tales involving flying witches, hot air balloons, dinosaurs and secret tunnels that children accessed by being flushed down the toilet before being abused by famous movie stars.

In the end, not a single episode of child molestation was ever proven, and there were no convictions, although some of those accused spent years in jail. All charges were eventually dropped. In the end, the mother whose accusations prompted the original probe was diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia and died of alcohol poisoning.

Lawrence Wright’s terrific book Remembering Satan tells a similarly horrific tale of “recovered memory syndrome” that convulsed Olympia, Washington, around the same time. Father-daughter incest, orgies, unholy rites and mass infanticide — under the right circumstances, it appears, suggestible individuals can be persuaded to confess to almost anything.

If all that sounds reminiscent of the QAnon cult belief that Hillary Clinton conducts murderous satanic rituals in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant (that has no basement), then you must be paying attention. Exactly why Americans are so prone to these repeated episodes of collective hallucination is hard to say. But fundamentalist Christianity appears to be the common denominator.

Which brings us to "Moms for Liberty" and their impassioned crusade against, yes, public librarians. Exactly what these women think the word “liberty” means is not clear. They are censors and book-banners of great passion and determination. Rather like the Junior Anti-Sex League in George Orwell’s 1984.

In Arkansas, near Little Rock, the Saline County Republican Women have even erected billboards declaring war on “X-RATED LIBRARY BOOKS.” Judging from the examples cited on the related website, most are R-rated at best. They’re largely earnest tomes such as Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human. It is shelved in the “Young Adult” section of the library.

“The opinion/instruction in this book directly and continuously opposes Christianity and the Word of God,” readers are told. The group accuses the county library staff of pushing “the LGBTQ agenda” and sneers that they should instead serve “the people of Saline County, not the interests of people in California.”

California, which gave the nation Ronald Reagan, is now synonymous with Sodom and Gomorrah among the GOP elect.

How many young women in Saline County become pregnant during high school for lack of understanding of what used to be called “the facts of life,” I can’t tell you. But I can assure you they learn more about sex in pickup trucks than in the public library.

Seriously, how many libertine librarians have you known? A less subversive cohort would be hard to imagine.

Even granting that the institution known as “Drag Queen Story Hour” has got to be the dumbest example of liberal folly since “Defund the Police,” the notion that junior high librarians — of all people — have dedicated their careers to “grooming” children for sexual purposes ... well, it’s just too silly to talk about.

Besides, if you follow the news, it’s in the churches, not the libraries, where all the action is. Scarcely a week passes around here without some preacher being busted for sexual misconduct.

Well, coaches and English teachers, too.

During my own long-ago youth, the naughtiest book I read was Peyton Place, the scandalous 1950s bestseller that lifted the lid off a small New England town. I certainly didn’t borrow it from the library. Paperback copies were everywhere.

The novel portrayed sexuality as fascinating, yes — also intoxicating, ubiquitous and dangerous. Kind of scary, actually. If anything, the women were worse than the men. After the lights went down, hardly anybody in Peyton Place, it seemed, was who they pretended to be.

That’s why Jeannie C. Riley referenced the novel in her classic country song Harper Valley PTA: “This is just a little Peyton Place/And you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites.”

I can’t help but start humming the tune whenever the Moms for Liberty take the platform.

Anyway, I could tell you what I think these pious crusaders do when they get back home after reading aloud naughty passages from library books to audiences of fellow Holy Housewives. (Assuming they do go home, instead of checking in at the No-Tell Motel for a couple of hours.) But never mind. Imagine it yourselves. I’m sure you can.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

Reprinted with permission from Suntimes.

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Dismissing Khashoggi As An 'Activist,' Pompeo Provokes Fresh Outrage

Mike Pompeo

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has come under fire for criticizing the global condemnation of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, questioning Khashoggi’s journalistic credentials, and cozying up to the Saudi crown prince, whom a U.S. intelligence report concluded had ordered the assassination.

Khashoggi, an ardent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was tortured and then murdered by the kingdom's agents in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018.

After the murder, former President Donald Trump and Pompeo, then his top diplomat, sprung to the Saudi kingdom’s defense, with Trump describing the public outrage at the Saudis at the time as “just [what we] went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent.”

Despite four years passing since the CIA found that MBS had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination and almost two years since intelligence from the Biden Administration affirmed the conclusion, Pompeo, an ex-director of the CIA, and the Trump family, have continued to legitimize the crown prince and parrot the kingdom’s propaganda.

The murder was “ugly” but not “surprising,” Pompeo said in his new book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, wherein he mocked the media for posthumously portraying Khashoggi as “a Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward martyred for bravely criticizing the Saudi royal family.”

Pompeo argued that Khashoggi was “an activist who had supported the losing team in a recent fight for the throne” and could only be considered a journalist “to the extent that I, and many other public figures, are journalists,” insisting that “we need to be clear about who he was,” according to NBC News.

Khashoggi — who blasted MBS, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, for allegedly oppressing critics in the months leading to his death — was “cozy with the terrorist-supporting Muslim Brotherhood,” an oft-repeated allegation that Khashoggi had vehemently denied time after time when he was alive.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Post’s CEO and publisher Fred Ryan Jr. blasted Pompeo for “so outrageously” mischaracterizing the Saudi-born journalist, “falsehoods,” he said, that Pompeo perpetuates to “dishonor a courageous man’s life” and “as a ploy to sell his books.”

The Post’s editorial board, in a scathing opinion Tuesday, blasted Pompeo for misrepresenting Khashoggi in an outlandish tirade that “reveals much more about Mr. Pompeo than his critics.”

“[Pompeo’s comments show] that, rather than acting as a principled leader of U.S. diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo coddled the person who sent the Khashoggi hit squad,” the publication wrote.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN, a non-profit advocating for democracy and human rights in the Middle East, accused Pompeo of echoing MBS’s justification for Khashoggi’s death.

"Pompeo's crass and craven comments appearing to justify Jamal Khashoggi's murder by disparaging his political views and falsely associating them with terrorism mirror the same justifications Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and other tyrants use to excuse their crimes," Leah wrote in a statement.

Speaking to NBC on Monday, Khashoggi’s widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, said that her late husband was “not part of the Muslim Brotherhood” and that she hungered “to silence all of these people who publish books, disparage my husband, and collect money from it.”

“Whatever [Pompeo] mentions about my husband, he doesn’t know my husband. He should be silent and shut up the lies about my husband,” Helen Elatr Khashoggi said. “It is such bad information and the wrong information. … This is not acceptable.”

Pompeo dismissed the criticism on a right-wing podcast hosted by Fox New’s Bret Baier, saying that the Post "went on a major mission to undermine the work that we [in the Trump administration] were trying to do to keep America safe and our relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

"I didn't write that to sell books,” Pompeo told Baier. “I wrote that to explain how we were thinking about keeping the American people safe."

“Americans are safer because we didn’t label Saudi Arabia a pariah state,” Pompeo tweeted late Tuesday, responding to the Post’s statement. Just b/c someone is a part-time stringer for WaPo doesn’t make their life more important than our military serving in dangerous places protecting us all.

On the road promoting his book — which, upon review, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Tim Weiner branded a “master class in the performative anger poisoning American politics” — talked up the prospect of a potential White House run in a CBS Morning interview Tuesday.

"Susan [his wife] and I are thinking, praying, trying to figure out if this is the next place to go serve. We haven't gotten to that conclusion. We'll figure this out in the next handful of months," Pompeo told CBS’s Gayle King.