Complete failure — the media's critical race theory debacle gets worse

Regurgitating the GOP

  
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Did you know the entire “country” is now “panicked” about critical race theory? That absurd claim was laundered in a New York Times headline this week, as the newspaper tried to unpack the current, manufactured outrage being fueled by conservatives in their never-ending bid to wage cultural wars.

The ginned-up moral crisis continues to rage because news outlets like the Times are doing a monumentally awful job framing the story and making nonsense claims like the “country” is “panicked” about an obscure, insightful academic pursuit, usually only taught in colleges and graduate schools. (Spoiler: Most of the country has no idea what critical race theory is, let alone “panicked” by it.)

Last month, I noted how the media were helping to fuel the critical race theory hysteria. Since then, the problem has become exacerbated as news outlets defy common sense and simple journalism standards by refusing to be clear about what the controversy is really about. It’s about deep-pocketed players on the right once again hijacking the national debate by pushing manufactured outrages, and watching the mainstream media relentlessly echo their claims. (The conservative Washington Examiner has published more than 40 critical race theory pieces — this month.)

Instead of forcefully debunking, journalists remain overly impressed with how the GOP has been able to turn critical race theory into a big news story — while journalists themselves help turn critical race theory into a big news story. The press has become part of the problem. When the right-wing freaks out over a narrative, the press instinctively asks how high should they jump.

Today the answer is, quite high as the media attention continues unabated. The nonstop reportage and commentary represent a red flag because the American media, and particularly the political press, typically couldn’t care less about what’s being taught in U.S. schools. But with Republicans and the entire right-wing media infrastructure obsessing over the made-up classroom dispute, suddenly the media are laser-focused on the academic issue.

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It’s like journalists have entered some sort of Twilight Zone where they agree to relentlessly cover the GOP-fueled controversy, while simultaneously omitting the most important fact that would instantly deflate the hullabaloo — critical race theory isn’t taught in schools.

We’ve seen this play out countless times in recent years. The media-fueled critical race theory insanity is reminiscent of when Fox News and the GOP went berserk in the summer of 2010 condemning the so-called Gound Zero Mosque being built in New York City. Constructed around constant lies, the smear campaign was legitimized by weeks’ worth of intense mainstream media coverage, which often echoed right-wing misinformation.

Today, it’s the same thing all over again with critical race theory, which examines the history of institutional racism in America.

“We’re saying, ‘What is the fuss about?’” said Lynn Daniel, a ninth-grade English teacher in the Phoenix area. “We don’t get it. This objection is being pushed upon us, and it’s not even happening in our classes. I don’t understand it.”

Reminder: When Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to ban critical race theory from classrooms in the Sunshine State, the Miami Herald reported, “Superintendents across the state have said they do not teach critical race theory in their schools. But that did not stop the State Board [of Education] from considering the rule” to ban it. (For the record, it would be perfectly fine if the theory were taught in classrooms.)

It’s the same all across the country — Republicans are taking draconian moves to protect students from the alleged sorcery that is critical race theory, yet Republicans can’t find examples of it actually being taught in schools. For journalists covering the made-up controversy, that’s the story — conservatives are feverishly pushing a concocted claim and the entire Republican Party is playing along, creating unnecessary chaos for educators across the country.

But that’s not how the story is being covered. Instead, most news accounts fail to mention that critical race theory isn’t taught in schools. Incredibly, the news coverage often looks past the gaping hole in this story and instead helps the GOP spread the madness as the media failures pile up:

• The Times’ 1,700-word “panicked” piece on critical race theory made no mention that the topic isn’t taught in schools.

•Yahoo! News this week posted a piece about how “Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is calling on "every governor" in the United States to "ban" the funding of critical race theory instruction in public schools.” Nowhere in the story was it pointed out critical race theory doesn’t exist in public classrooms.

* The Washington Post published a 3,000-word look at the GOP’s critical race theory campaign, emphasizing how it was shaping up to be a major cultural issue for the 2022 midterm election cycle. The Post made no mention that the race topic isn’t taught in schools.

The simple truth is that if reporters point out the theory isn’t taught in schools, then there’s no GOP-manufactured controversy to cover. So journalists look the other way.  

Education writer Alexander Russo recently offered up some timely advice for how to cover the critical race theory story: “Think carefully about how you frame the story, make sure to assess the extent of the problem, and give context to readers. Address the heated emotions without necessarily taking them at face value —or making them your central focus.”

Unfortunately, most of the wise counsel has been ignored as the media dutifully pumps up the hollow GOP smear campaign.

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(Photo: Thibault Savary/Getty Images)

GOOD STUFF:

Last month, I wrote about the extraordinary, 35-page report produced by Republican legislators in Michigan utterly debunking Trump’s lies about a rigged election, and how the vote count in that state, and Joe Biden victory, were legitimate.

Against that backdrop comes this report from The Hill, “Michigan GOP Executive Director Quits Under Pressure From Trump Allies”:

The executive director of the Michigan Republican Party has quit his post just a few months after taking over the top job amid pressure from supporters of former President Trump.

Jason Cabel Roe, a longtime Republican operative who took over the state party in February, sparked anger among Trump acolytes after he acknowledged the former president lost Michigan’s electoral votes in 2020.

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FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Jonathan Edwards, “Drop and Roll”

If nothing else, Edwards is wonderfully consistent. 50 years (!) after his cult classic, “Shanty” became an acoustic stoner classic, he’s back with another from the exact same genre. “Drop and Roll,” complete with irresistible harmonica energy, would tempt anyone to take a puff.

🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.

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