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They’re really this hardcore

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 22:15 EDT
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The super hard core right wing takeover of the Texas State School Board has been completed. Under the guise of eradicating liberal bias, the school board created a set of standards that require schools to teach factually incorrect right wing propaganda in lieu of history. And it’s bad:

Several changes include sidelining Thomas Jefferson, who favoured separation of church and state, while introducing a new focus on the “significant contributions” of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.

The new curriculum asserts that “the right to keep and bear arms” is an important element of a democratic society. Study of Sir Isaac Newton is dropped in favour of examining scientific advances through military technology.

There is also a suggestion that the anti-communist witch-hunt by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s may have been justified.

Some of that is to be expected—their anti-modernist, pro-paranoid worldview isn’t a surprise anymore. But even I was surprised to see that someone appears to have a vendetta against the theory of gravity, and that the school board has decided to indulge it. Pro-science liberals are often joking that the attacks on the theory of evolution are the equivalent of attacking the theory of gravity, but that’s because we foolishly thought they’d never go that far. But I guess we’re wrong—if it’s going to piss a liberal off, I suppose at least some wingnuts are going to deny the theory of gravity. Perhaps believing in gravity is the top of a slippery slope towards believing in evolution? Or maybe they just want to discourage kids from believing that science itself exists outside of the realm of weapons development? Who fucking knows?

But it gets worse! They’ve set new records in denialism of American slavery.

The education board has dropped references to the slave trade in favour of calling it the more innocuous “Atlantic triangular trade”, and recasts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as driven by Islamic fundamentalism.

I will say that this gets to the heart of the mode of thought that’s best described as “slavery denialism”—anything from denying that the Civil War was fought because of slavery to minimizing the horror of slavery. I think the initial assumption about slavery denialists is that they’re in denial because they don’t want to admit that America has such an ugly history, and so they minimize it. But what I’ve learned about denialists is that it’s usually something a bit different—they want to sow confusion about an issue mostly because they either aren’t down on horrible thing X or they actually kind of dig the idea of of horrible thing X or they share attitudes with the perpetrators of horrible thing X. Minimizing is part of this, because it’s about implying that people with attitudes like theirs aren’t so bad, but part of it is always perpetrating the attitudes that caused horrible thing X.

You definitely see that going on with this euphemism for the slave trade. “Atlantic triangular trade” reduces the human beings that were forced into slavery to commodities like tobacco or sugar. To use this euphemism is to implicitly agree with slave owners that enslaved people don’t count as human beings. What seems on the surface to be minimizing is, if you look a little deeper, actually agreeing with the ideology underpinning slavery and making excuses for it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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