During my six years as an editor in the public policy division at the far-right Christian mega-ministry Focus on the Family, I was a first-hand witness to—and sometimes practitioner of—many types of sleight-of-hand propaganda commonly propagated by radical fundamentalist conservatives in the culture war we were determined to win.
And if it was bad then, 15 to 20 years ago, it’s Goebbels-level nightmarish now, under the far-right’s new Furher, Donald Trump. Back then, we cut corners, fancifully fudged facts, sometimes sullied reputations, and often created easily shattered straw men. Today’s dogmatists employ a higher-octane no-holds-barred version of that win-at-almost-all-costs game plan. Yet, such viciousness can appear subtle.
An example of that subtle-but-viciously deceptive strategy can be seen in this clip from a Fox News commentary. The clip features a “concerned” mother and activist who is warning Fox viewers about “the radical left’s” takeover of the public education system and its “indoctrination” of young children with “anti-American propaganda.”
The show’s host, Pete Hegseth, sets up the segment by featuring a Tweet from Furher Trump about “Radical Left Indoctrination” in the educational system. Then Hegseth introduces his guest, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder of an organization called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. (Cardoza-Moore once gushed that Donald Trump is “willing to live his faith unlike any other leader I have ever seen in history.” Trump, she says, “bases his administration on the Bible.” That nonsense could—and likely will—be a topic for another post.)
As the Fox segment continues, this quote from a school textbook appears on the screen: “The U.S. Constitution implicitly endorsed the unequal and discriminatory treatment of African Americans.” Oh, the horror. Cardoza-Moore protests that the Constitution “absolutely does not” implicitly endorse unequal endorsement of African Americans.
The nation’s Founders carefully avoided openly, explicitly addressing slavery when they wrote the Constitution, but in defining some humans (African American slaves) as three-fifths human* (for tax purposes), did they not imply that African Americans were (are) less than fully human? And does it not logically follow that a less-than-fully-human being may be treated as such? And in broader terms, does not the Founders’ failure to explicitly address the slavery issue within the Constitution also imply that the practice of slavery—which inherently discriminates against the enslaved class—was acceptable? Yes, it absolutely does.
So, what Hegseth and Cardoza-Moore did in this interview—certain to become a talking point for shallow-thinking Trumpists—was to skirt the truth. Sure, nowhere within the U.S. Constitution will you find an explicit statement suggesting whites discriminate against people of African origin. But being labeled three-fifths human while being forced to work long, hard hours to enrich other people can be described as nothing short of unequal and discriminatory treatment. But expect no Trumpists to evaluate the matter beyond Cardoza-Moore’s third-grade-level assessment and declaration.
And then, it wasn’t sufficient to simply carp about what they proclaim as textbook propaganda. Next, providing no evidence of any link between the two, Cardoza-Moore ties the so-called liberal textbook propaganda to riots in the streets. She alleges, “This [“liberal indoctrination”] poses the greatest national security threat to our constitutional republic.”
Yes, according to Cardoza-Moore, textbooks that correctly teach our nation’s children that our nation’s founding was less than perfect will destroy us. That threat is greater than pandemics, than other nations interfering in our elections, than our collective ignorance, and than a president who has spouted close to 20,000 lies since taking office.
I recall during my Focus on the Family tenure making—and being encouraged to make—similarly deceitful declarations. The ends justified the means. Since then, the far-right—conquered by Trump and his disciples—will do and/or say anything to win. They’ve taken the treacherous, cunning methods we employed decades ago to apocalyptic levels.
During my Focus years I really believed I was doing God’s work, as do most of today’s boots-on-the-ground Trumpist stormtroopers. And that’s what makes them so dangerous. They are true believers; many of them would not be swayed even by a Damascus Road experience.
For many of those true believers, when the new Furher loses the November 3 election, their propaganda-style lies and deceit will be passé. Expect violence to replace propaganda November 4.
* Article I, Sec. II, Paragraph III: The Three-Fifths Clause (1787)