The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: critical race theory

How Fox News Cooked Virginia Story To Promote Youngkin's Campaign

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Say what you want about Fox News—and please do say what you want about Fox News!—but you have to admit they're informative. Just this week, I learned something thanks to the crack Fox News team working tirelessly to create fresh new content for American eyeballs. I learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by top members of arch-right Republican think tanks and political campaigns. Can you imagine that? An entire Virginia county in which everyone you meet works for a Republican candidate or is a "senior fellow" at something?

Go to Arby's, and the guy making your sandwich is actually a senior fellow at the Conservative Sandwich Institute. Go to pump some gas, and the woman behind the counter of the sketchy convenience store you try to never go into leads a second life as a National Rifle Association board member. Get mugged, and you'll soon learn the person stealing your money is part of a nationwide "libertarian legal organization."

Wait, that last one happens all the time. But the other two are still weird, right?

These are the conclusions that can be drawn from a Fox News report—one that actually aired on actual television—attempting to drum up drama over the supposed cruelty of local school boards that have not sufficiently bowed to far-right paranoia about whatever they think "critical race theory" is, or the trauma of asking children to wear masks, or whatever else stone-cold ignorant pro-Trump fascist boot-polishers are going on about in their twitching Facebook posts.

Fox's "straight news" story featured a set of "Fairfax County parents" wanting to "push back against" the county's school board. They were all very upset over who-gives-a-damn. But as Media Matters quickly determined, all three were actually Republican freaking operatives who were not disclosed as such. The whole thing was rigged!

Parent One: a "notorious" ex-Trump administration Department of Education official currently holding down a position as "senior fellow" at a right-wing think tank.

Parent Two: the freaking chair of "Educators for Youngkin," a group boosting the crackpot Republican gubernatorial nominee by helping to drive the very far-right paranoias Fox is reporting on.

Parent Three: founded a parent's group currently suing the county school board over admission standards—a longtime race-baiting conservative cause.

What are the odds? Imagine picking out three "concerned" parents, and whoops, every one of the three is a Republican activist working to orchestrate the attacks on school boards that Republican candidates are trying to turn into the next big Fake Social Crisis. What are the odds?

Yeah. The whole thing was fake. James O'Keefe-level fake.

The odds are not zero that this collection of "concerned" professional conservative cranks provided the footage themselves, shipping it to Fox prepackaged for Fox viewer consumption. Those things do, after all, happen.

Conservatives have been drumming up new paranoias about what's going on in their local schools ever since the first moments of desegregation. They are absolutely convinced that their children are secretly learning how not to be racist, even when their asshole racist parents don't want them to learn that.

They are convinced that schools are asking children to wear masks during a deadly ongoing freaking lung-destroying organ-tearing pandemic because it is a secret plot to Who The F--k Knows. The first generations to be freed from the horrors of polio are in absolute panic over the thought of vaccinating children, something only the fringes of the pseudoscience fringe considered controversial until Donald Trump sniffed that viruses were just made-up attempts to tarnish his glorious reign of grift and incompetence.

And here comes Fox News, the "serious" news side, like clockwork, to package up the fringe of the fringe and turn it into nationwide party talking points.

Why does this only happen on the conservative side? The New York Times is notorious for presenting Republican operatives as supposed jus' folks. The Washington Post and every other outlet you can name has had a turn at it. But the reporters regularly land on local Republican operatives to present as "concerned parents" or "concerned business owners" or "concerned woman who believes face masks trap and amplify the powers of evil spirits, evil spirits named Timmy and Bob and Chadwick and Timmy Jr., and who advocates for squirting pool-cleaning chemicals up your nose because Bob absolutely hates that and will convince his evil spirit roommates to go hide out in your neighbor's place instead." I can't recall the last time Fox News or the Times or anyone else "accidentally" profiled a parent who "accidentally" turned out to be a Democratic candidate's campaign manager or similar.

Pretty weird, that.

Well, we learned one thing: We learned that Fairfax County, Virginia, is populated exclusively by Republican operatives who don't like their local school board decisions. It's a bit of an odd situation in that it's not clear how the school board became populated with residents who are not uniformly Republican operatives pushing whatever specific talking point Republican election strategists are rushing to Fox News to help convey. Still, such explanations are best left to experts, and there's not a single damn person associated with this story who could be considered one.

Still, it seems like a follow-up story is in order. Are all residents of Fairfax County Republican operatives and surrogates, or just all the parents? Wait—are we even sure all three of these people have kids? At these schools, as opposed to private ones?

Are their kids employed by far-right think tanks too, or is getting your first conservative think-tank gig considered the Fairfax County rite of passage to adulthood?

Trump's Mob: Gullible, Conspiracy-Minded, And Willfully Ignorant Of History

Driving home from the Dog Park, I was surprised to hear the (Dixie) Chicks terrific song Wide Open Spaces on the country oldies station. The group had been banished from country radio since 2003 after saying George W. Bush made them embarrassed to be Texans.

Now that Bush has made Donald Trump's unofficial Enemies List, the Chicks are evidently forgiven after 18 years. Meanwhile, most of my friends in Texas are embarrassed, but not because of Dubya — the make-believe rancher who's given up brush-clearing to paint portraits of lap dogs and his own feet.

And more power to him: the only Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to win an actual national majority. That was in 2004, with Bush still popular due to his ultimately disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. (I was myself removed from a college teaching job after a series of columns arguing that the Bush administration's case for attacking Saddam Hussein was transparently fraudulent.)

But I digress. Never mind that Bush was the worst president in living memory, dragging the country into futile wars on false premises and presiding over the 2008 banking crisis. Before the roof fell in, he did achieve an actual majority .

And a big part of what's going on in the United States today is that no Republican candidate—very much including Trump — has much chance of winning a national majority in the foreseeable future. This appears to have made an awful lot of Americans —particularly under-educated white ones, to be perfectly blunt — scared half to death.

Seemingly fearful of being relegated to second-class status, many "Real Americans," as they're styled on Fox News, appear eager to embrace minority rule. So long as they're the ones wielding power, that is. Tucker Carlson tells them that Democrats are scheming to "replace" them with aggrieved and undeserving voters of different races.

Because they're gullible and prone to apocalyptic thinking — "the rapture" was all the rage in evangelical circles not long ago — one result has been a succession of what can what can only be described as "moral panics" over largely imaginary threats such as "Sharia Law," "Cancel Culture," and "Critical Race Theory." Since 2010, for example, several states have found it necessary to ban Islamic religious courts from exercising legal authority.

As if.

Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Notice anything else about them?

Even the stuffiest Republican thinkers can get all worked up over the follies of campus leftists, of which there's never any shortage. The Washington Post's George Will wrote a stern column recently about a fracas involving a professor of management at UCLA, who unwisely engaged a student who worried that having to take a final exam would injure "the mental and physical health of our Black classmates" traumatized by George Floyd's murder.

The professor replied with mild sarcasm, asking how he was supposed to identify Black students in an online course. Also. what about racially mixed students, of which UCLA has many? For this, the poor dope got suspended from teaching, banned from campus, and denounced by spineless administrators. (He's been reinstated and has filed a lawsuit.)

Well, he should have known better, although I'm prone to bickering and sarcasm myself. I'm also familiar with humorless campus leftists. My wife and I were once admonished by professorial guests for owning a Merle Haggard album. We thought Okie from Muskogee was funny; they thought it a fascist outrage. (Haggard himself was surprised so few got the joke.)

And speaking of "cancel culture," public school teachers and administrators nationwide are being harassed and run out of their jobs for the largely imaginary crime of teaching "Critical Race Theory."

In Grapevine, Texas, a Black high school principal got fired for the sin of writing a letter to colleagues expressing the anodyne view that "Education is the key to stomping out ignorance, hate, and systemic racism." (Also for having ten years ago posted a Facebook photo of himself kissing his white wife.) In Queen Anne's County, Maryland a highly successful Black school superintendent was hounded from the district for expressing polite concerns about racial injustice.

Activists calling themselves "conservative" are besieging school boards across the country, basically arguing that history lessons about slavery and Jim Crow teach white children to be ashamed of their race and country. At Boise State University, they have proposed eliminating whole academic departments—Global Studies, Sociology and History—to combat left-wing dogma.

In other news, Trumpist Republicans are working systematically to rig the electoral system to bring their champion back to power regardless of voters' wishes. Never mind that Trump got more than 7 million fewer votes than Joe Biden in 2020, losing the Electoral College by 306 to 232. With GOP state legislators counting the votes, an identical outcome in 2024 would make Trump a big, big winner.

At least that's the plan.

Hawley Defends Violent Anti-Mask Protestors As FBI Launches Probe

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is up in arms after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Monday that the FBI will partner with local law enforcement to respond to harassment and violence against school board officials and teachers across the country.

In his memo announcing the effort, Garland said, "In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools." Those engaging in the violence are often angry about mask mandates in schools and the supposed teaching of what they call "critical race theory."

Read Now Show less

Bannon Deploys ‘Homeschooling Moms’ To Promote Far-Right Agenda

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Steve Bannon has a long history of promoting the homeschooling movement. Back in 2010 — seven years before he became White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration — Bannon and his ally David N. Bossie pushed homeschooling in their documentary Fire from the Heartland. And journalist/author Heath Brown, in an article published by the Daily Beast, outlines some ways in which Bannon is using homeschooling moms to promote his MAGA agenda during the Biden era.

Bannon, on his "War Room" podcast, recently urged parents to sign a pledge to homeschool their children as a way of protesting against mask mandates in public schools. The COVID-19 pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 4.6 million people worldwide — including over 662,000 people in the United States. But the far-right Bannon, like many other allies of former President Donald Trump, has been pushing the idea that Americans need to worry about masks, vaccines and expert immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci more than COVID-19.On "War Room," Bannon recently declared, "The firestorm that you're about to see is the American mothers. When you've got to go back to school and Fauci's been talking about vaccinating the kids and using the school, going back to school as a forcing function between the mask and the CRT (critical race theory)."

Critical Race Theory is a type of academic study that can be found in some colleges and universities. CRT, which argues that racism of the past continues to affect institutions in the present, isn't even being taught in grammar schools, middle schools or high schools. But that has stopped MAGA Republicans from relentless fear-mongering over CRT, as they are always in search of new ways to terrify White voters.Brown, author of the 2021 book Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State, explains, "It's not the first time that Donald Trump's former chief strategist has put together women, race, and education. It was an undercurrent of his 2010 Citizens United movie, Fire from the Heartland, which featured conservative leaders like Phyllis Schlafly, Michele Bachmann and Dana Loesch, who'd each been vocal advocates for homeschooling as a socially conservative respite from all that was supposedly wrong with public education. And now, it's key to Bannon's 2022 congressional electoral strategy."

In his article, Brown digs into the history of the homeschooling movement, noting that far-right Republicans were railing against what they saw as a liberal agenda in public schools back in the 1970s. One of those Republicans was Bob Dornan, who spent many years in the House of Representatives back when Orange County, California was a hotbed of conservatism. Heath's article includes video of Dornan speaking at a 1970s event in Sacramento before he became a congressman:Dornan is now 88, and Heath cites him as an example of someone who has viewed schools as a culture war battleground. Now, according to Brown, Bannon is pushing that type of message.

"For Bannon, it would seem, schools are battlegrounds of belonging and ownership," Brown observes. "Forbidding schools from teaching about racism is a way to defend the neighborhood, whether it is in Charleston or Richmond."

GOP Bill Whitewashes History, Requires Students To Memorize ‘Patriotic’ Texts

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) wants to make sure kids are taught to be patriotic in their schools. His new bill would strip federal funding from any school that does not force them to memorize his selected historical texts.

On Wednesday, Smith filed H.R.4923, the Love America Act. If enacted, it would, according to its official title, "prohibit Federal funding for educational agencies and schools whose students do not read certain foundational texts of the United States and are not able to recite those texts or that teach that those texts are products of white supremacy or racism."

Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) and Barry Moore (R-AL) signed on as original co-sponsors. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) filed a companion bill in the Senate on July 26.

"Americans have every reason to be proud of the ideals our country was founded on, but radical, left-wing education activists are hijacking school curriculums and injecting poisonous ideology onto our nation's youth," Smith was quoted as saying in a press release issued by his office. "These Critical Race Theory advocates seek to reframe our founding as racist in an effort to turn America into an unrecognizable socialist country. America's foundational texts are the shining lights for every free and prosperous nation across the globe. This legislation will empower those who love our country to instill the same sense of pride in America that has been passed down through the generations."

The bills as currently written would not just encourage patriotic education; they would block all federal funding to any school that does not teach U.S. history as the bills mandate.

According to the Senate version:

Federal funds shall only be provided to an educational agency or school in which —

(1) students in the first grade read and are able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance;
(2) students in the fourth grade read the Constitution of the United States and are able to recite its preamble;
(3) students in the eighth grade read the Declaration of Independence and are able to recite its preamble; and
(4) students in the tenth grade read and are able to identify the Bill of Rights.

It would also bar funding if a school teaches that any of those documents is a "product of white supremacy or racism."

According to information found on the website of children's book publisher Scholastic, not all first graders can typically read unfamiliar multisyllabic words like "indivisible" and "allegiance." And reciting the more than 200-word preamble to the Declaration of Independence might prove challenging to adults, let alone eighth graders.

A spokesperson for Smith did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

In October 2017, Smith told students that he believed in local control of schools. "Missouri educators are the best people to make curriculum decisions for Missouri students," he argued. "We don't need the federal government stepping in at every turn."

The bill is the latest in a series of GOP proposals to bar anti-racism education.

They seek to remove from school curriculums basic details of American history, including that the Constitution contained a clause counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for apportionment of congressional seats; that anti-slavery language included by Thomas Jefferson in the draft of the Declaration of Independence was deleted before its adoption; and that the final Declaration included a clause calling Native Americans "the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Texas Governor Doesn’t Want King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech Taught In Public Schools

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Already trying to peel away voting rights in the state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is also pushing a bill that would practically remove women and people of color from a portion of required social studies curriculum. Senate Bill 3 would no longer require teachers to teach civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream," the Emancipation Proclamation, and women's suffrage; What's worse the Senate in a 18-4 vote along party lines on Friday passed the governor's racist political vendetta branded as a ban on critical race theory.

The list of social studies elements stripped from required teachings includes "Native American history, work by civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, historical documents related to the Chicano movement and women's suffrage, and writings by Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass," according to The Texas Tribune.

Texas Senate Committee advances Critical Race Theory Bill | KVUE www.youtube.com

Sen. Bryan Hughes, author of the bill, wrote in its text that a teacher or other school district employee may not "require or make part of a course inculcation" any concept that holds one race or sex superior to another, define a "hard work ethic" as racist or sexist, or assigns moral character with a particular race or sex. The bill would also prevent teachers and school employees from teaching that: "the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or (...) with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality..."

The Senate bill follows earlier House legislation that similarly banned instruction that holds one race or sex superior to another or defines a "hard work ethic" as racist or sexist, or assigns moral character with a particular race or sex, and Abbott signed the bill into law during the regular legislative session. That legislation, however, added the requirement that diverse literature on race be included in school instruction. Abbott wants to change the law back to a version that doesn't include the diverse literature requirement, KVUE reported.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released the following statement obtained Friday by ABC-affiliated KVUE:

"Texans roundly reject 'woke' philosophies that espouse that one race or sex is better than another and that someone, by virtue of their race or sex, is innately racist, oppressive or sexist.
"Senate Bill 3 will make certain that critical race philosophies, including the debunked 1619 founding myth, are removed from our school curriculums statewide. Texas parents do not want their children to be taught these false ideas. Parents want their students to learn how to think critically, not be indoctrinated by the ridiculous leftist narrative that America and our Constitution are rooted in racism.
"Final passage of this bill into law will require the House Democrats who have fled the state to return to the House for a quorum. If they do not, this bill will die, but the Senate will pass Senate Bill 3 over and over again until the House finally has a quorum. I am grateful for Sen. Hughes' leadership on this important issue."

Hughes said in debate The Texas Tribune covered on the chamber floor that the Senate bill counteracts the "pernicious, wrong, harmful" effects of critical race theory. The race theory, however, is not taught in Texas schools and has been defined by scholars as a framework that suggests the U.S. legal system and laws that govern this nation are rooted in race and racism.

"When a fire starts in the kitchen, we don't wait for it to spread to the living room and bathroom, but we start to put it out," the Republican said. Democratic Sen. Juan Hinojosa countered with: "I don't see a fire in the kitchen."

Right-Wing Poll Shows Democrat Winning Virginia Governor’s Race

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A right-wing group's latest Virginia poll found that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Glenn Youngkin. After the pollster tried to sway voters with a series of fearmongering attacks on McAuliffe, voters still backed the Democrat.

The American Principles Project, a dark-money group led by organizers of the failed anti-marriage equality movement, released a survey on Friday of 600 Virginia voters it deemed likely to participate in this November's election. It found former Gov. McAuliffe leading former investment firm executive Youngkin 46.4 percent -- 41.3 percent.

"Many political observers are already carefully watching Virginia as a bellwether for next year's midterms, and judging from this poll, Republicans should be cautiously excited," the group's president, Terry Schilling, claimed in a press release. "Despite Democrats' recent dominance in the state, Glenn Youngkin looks to be very competitive, thanks to widespread disapproval with the radical left-wing agenda being pushed by President Biden on down."

No Republican has won statewide in Virginia since 2009.

Schilling urged Youngkin and Republicans to put anti-LGBTQ attacks, criticism of the state's public schools, and fearmongering about anti-racism education "front and center" in the campaign.

But the poll's findings undermine much of his argument.

Among those surveyed, Virginians widely approve of President Joe Biden's job performance, 53.9 percent -- 45.2 percent. That number is almost identical to Biden's 54 percent -- 44 percent victory in the state last November.

It also found voters prefer Democratic candidates for the state House of Delegates by a margin of 45.4 percent -- 41.1 percent. Democrats hold a 55-seat majority in that 100-member body.

Though none of the people surveyed said they work for "the Virginia school system," 50.39 percent said they approve of the state's K-12 public schools, while just 35.5 percent disapprove.

When pressed about school reopening during the pandemic, just 44.4 percent said they want schools "fully open without mask mandates for students" for the 2022 school year. The majority (54.9 percent) said either that schools should reopen fully with mask mandates or that schools should keep the option of virtual learning. Youngkin has been pushing for a total return to in-person learning, regardless of COVID-19 safety considerations, since March, well before even most adults in the state were fully vaccinated.

The pollster asked several questions, trying to play up Youngkin's support for public funding for private and parochial schools and his support for a ban on teaching about "Critical Race Theory." But a minority of voters said either issue would make them more likely to support the Republican.

After hearing the group's attacks on McAuliffe, voters were again asked who they'd back. McAuliffe still was ahead 45.8 percent -- 42.9 percent.

In a radio interview on Friday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam — who is unable to seek reelection under Virginia's one-term-in-a-row limit — called attacks on anti-racism education a "dog whistle" being used "to scare people in an election year."

"Critical race theory," he told WAMU, is "a graduate level academic subject that is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum in Virginia. I'll repeat that. It is not a part of our K through 12 curriculum. And what I'm interested in and what our administration is interested in is teaching an accurate version of our history."

This is not the first time the American Principles Project has tried to inject far-right social issues into political campaigns.

Last year, it spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats over their support for LGBTQ equality.

"Biden and his fellow Democrats have pledged to use the power of the federal government to destroy women's sports and push young children into highly experimental and dangerous sex-change procedures," Schilling claimed in September. "In the coming weeks, we will be making sure voters in Michigan and nationwide know the extreme agenda Joe Biden and Democrats want to impose on the country."

The group devoted half of its $4 million investment in anti-transgender attacks to trying to defeat Biden and Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan. Both won anyway.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

‘Critical Race Theory’ Was Weaponized Against Obama In 2012 — And Flopped

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A few weeks before he died, Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart teased his masterplan to take down President Barack Obama ahead of the 2012 election. In part, the plan relied on associating Democrats with the little known academic study of systemic racism called "critical race theory" and rendering it radical and toxic enough to damage them in the upcoming election cycle.

"This election we're going to vet him from his college days to show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008," Breitbart declared during a speech at Conservative Political Action Conference. "The videos are going to come out."

The most-hyped video among the ones Breitbart promised was ironically already publicly available and had been reported on during the 2008 election. It finally surfaced after Breitbart's death in early March 2012. The footage showed a law-school era Obama who was then the president of the Harvard Law Review talking about and hugging an academic named Derrick Bell at a 1990 protest. The video was supposedly evidence of Obama embracing — literally in this case — extreme anti-white views.

As Joel Pollak, then-editor-in-chief of Breitbart News, would tell CNN's Soledad O'Brien, "Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away last year, but during his lifetime, he developed a theory called critical race theory which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown."

Ultimately, the smear attempt flopped. But it marked conservative media's first crack — led by Breitbart, Steve Bannon (who at the time was a board member of Breitbart News Network), and their employees — at poisoning the specific phrase "critical race theory" and seeding it in the wider public discourse.

This attempt may also partly explain why the current fear-mongering about critical race theory spread so fast and successfully. Right-wing media and activists, as well as their peers at conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute, seem to know exactly what they are doing because they have dusted off the same playbook from 2012. And they even share some of the same funders.

Hug-Gate: Breitbart's Campaign Against Derrick Bell

Back in 2012, Breitbart and the rest of the conservative media apparatus were laser focused on painting Obama as a secret radical ahead of that year's general election — a tactic not all that much different from what they had tried in 2008. In fact, Andrew Breitbart's final written piece, published posthumously, connectedObama to famed leftist organizer Saul Alinsky.

Once the hug video was published, Breitbart flooded its homepage with stories about Bell and his supposed transgressions. Between March 7 and March 14, 2012, the site published dozens of video clips and articles purportedly exposing Bell, Obama, and critical race theory.

Then-Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, a familiar face from the current discourse on critical race theory, painted Bell as a Louis Farrakhan-loving antisemite whose work Obama loved and assigned as reading in his law school classes.

On March 7, 2012, Shapiro authored a story headlined "Obama: 'Open Up Your Hearts And Your Minds' To Racialist Prof" in which he wrote: "This is just the beginning. And this video is a smoking gun showing that Barack Obama not only associated with radicals, he was their advocate."

Open up your hearts and minds -- Shapiro

Pollak and Shapiro also appeared on Hannity on March 7 to discuss their "exclusive" scoop.

On March 11, 2012, Shapiro penned a supposed critical race theory explainer in which he claimed that Obama's entire administration was "an ode to CRT."

In the months that followed, Shapiro's "CRT" motif was apparent in Breitbart's coverage of the administration. There were suggestions that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who graduated from Harvard Law in 1986, was suddenly an ardent proponent of critical race theory, as was deputy White House counsel Cassandra Butts.

At one point, Pollak suggested that then-Attorney General Eric Holder's infamous statement about the United States being a "nation of cowards" on race was evidence that Holder — and likely the rest of the Justice Department — were also under the spell of critical race theory.

In the end, the effort to paint the Obama administration as a bunch of secret radicals stationing critical race theorists at the head of every public institution was short-lived. Even reactionary Fox personalities like Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly panned Breitbart's big scoop in March.

Same funders, same playbook, different year

Fast forward to 2021 and right-wing circles are rabid with critical race theory outrage. Republican state legislatures are promoting legislation to curb it — even when they don't know what it is. School board meetings are being overrun by conservative activists who are organizing online. At every level, the GOP is betting on its new boogeyman to convert "racial anxiety into political energy" ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

And once again, Breitbart is publishing scores of articles about "critical race theory." Some are even written by the same guy, Joel Pollak, who was pushing the same narrative back in 2012.

Ben Shapiro, now one of the most popular conservative pundits in the country, is once again helping lead the right-wing media campaign against critical race theory. But this time his megaphone is bigger, broadcasting the same talking points about critical race theory to his millions of followers on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Per Media Matters' internal data, Shapiro is responsible for 13 of the top 20 posts (receiving the most interactions) about critical race theory on Facebook since the 2020 election. Last month, we reported that among Facebook pages that post about politics, nearly 90 percent of the posts that mention critical race theory were by right-leaning pages.

There are even similarities in the dark money behind the 2012 and 2021 efforts. Robert Mercer (advised by Bannon, who became executive chairman of Breitbart after Andrew Breitbart's death) infamously financed Andrew Breitbart's early smear campaigns. His daughter Rebekah has donated large sums of money to two think tanks that seem to be behind the newest weaponization of critical race theory. Bannon, for his part, is now predicting the current anti-"critical race theory" campaign will not only win the House of Representatives back for Republicans in 2022, but may also prove to be a right-wing presidential winner in 2024.

Nearly a decade later, Breitbart News' failed smear of critical race theory is back — and this time it appears to be working.

Research contributions from Carly Evans.