If you lived on an exclusive diet of right-wing media, you might be forgiven for thinking that the critical issue facing our troubled republic today was, not COVID, not the Republican war on democracy, not even the fact that J Lo and Ben Affleck have gotten back together after a 17-year break, but a formerly obscure academic doctrine called “Critical Race Theory.”
In a piece published last week, Adam Harris of The Atlantic, traced the transformation of “Critical Race Theory” from something only spoken about in academic quarters to an easy way to rile up an audience on Fox News, where a “cartoonish” version of the theory has become something of a bugaboo.
Harris quotes the conservative researcher who’s done the most to “warn” conservatives of the alleged danger of the doctrine boasting that “[w]e have turned critical race theory into a national issue and conservative political leaders are starting to fight.”
In the Federalist, John Daniel Davidson responds with an adult version of an old childhood chant “I’m rubber, you’re glue, Critical Race Theory bounces off of me and sticks to you.” According to Davidson, right-wingers aren’t really obsessed with the topic; they’re merely reacting to left-wing provocations:
Republicans aren’t the ones who initiated this battle. They’re responding — rather mildly, given the stakes — to an aggressive, long-term campaign on the left to ratchet up racial tension, divide Americans by race, and insert frankly racist ideas into every facet of public life as part of a larger strategy to gain and wield political power.
He claims that
Corporate America, Big Tech, and Hollywood are all explicitly pushing critical race theory, sometimes in rather ham-fisted and offensive ways.
His proof of this nefarious plot?
- Some “private schools across the country are incorporating critical race theory into their curricula, ignoring the concerns of parents who oppose it on the grounds that it’s academicized racist garbage.”
- The U.S. Navy has put a book by a critical race theorist on a reading list.
- The Disney corporation has launched a “diversity and inclusion” program” for its employees that includes elements of critical race theory, suggesting, for example, that when we talk about racial inequality we should focus less on equality of opportunity and more on equality of outcome. Disney also set up “affinity groups” for people of color, though they’re not actually exclusive by race.
That’s it. That’s his proof that “elite” whites are imposing the allegedly “racist” doctrine of critical race theory on our fractured country.
If there is some sort of plot, it would have to follow a variation on Fight Club’s first rule: not to talk about itself. Because if you look at the media, virtually every reference to critical race theory appears on conservative publications.
To get a sense of who’s talking about it in the media, I looked to my own collection of RSS feeds from dozens of publications across the political spectrum, from the New York TImes to the Gateway Pundit.
Here are the results for articles with “critical race theory” in their titles; for better resolution, go directly to the IMGUR image by clicking here. You may notice it’s a long list, perhaps because putting “critical race theory” in the title is crack-like clickbait for conservative readers.
See how many liberal or left wing sources are on the list. (Hint: There’s only one.)
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