We have seen a clear pattern. Republicans and their allies in the right wing media seize upon a label or phrase that contains a term that can be exploited to gin up rage among the base and then relentlessly flog falsehoods about it with the goal of making it toxic. The current favorite is ‘critical race theory’, the label given to the academic study of the way that racism has been institutionalized in the US via its laws. It is usually taught at the college level in selected courses that deal with race and society. In right-wing hands, however, it is being portrayed as a massive propaganda effort that seeks to portray all white people as evil and is being taught all the way down to the level of primary schools.
You can see why this label has great fear-mongering appeal. It has the word ‘race’, a surefire winner, it has the word ‘critical’, which can be used to imply that YOU are being criticized, and it has the word ‘theory’ which suggests that it is the product of pointy-headed liberal academics.
Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military person in the US, had an exchange with Republican members of congress who charge that the military has become too ‘woke’ because its military academies teach critical race theory and Milley came to its defense.
During Wednesday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing, two Florida Republicans — Reps. Matt Gaetz and Michael Waltz — cited a slide on “white rage” used in a voluntary lecture at West Point and a book titled “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” that was found on the syllabus of one class.
Milley later told the panel that he believed it was important “for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read.”
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” Milley said at one point.
Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson and right wing troll, who actually epitomizes the ‘white rage’ that Milley talked about wanting to understand, seized on his testimony to call Milley a ‘pig’ and ‘stupid’. Americans tend to genuflect before the military so I am not sure if this was a good move on Carlson’s part.
This strategy of trying to make a label toxic does not always work. By relentlessly using it, you can end up actually making it mainstream if establishment figures refuse to reject it and even embrace it. We saw that with the word ‘socialism’. Right wing media tried to make it the kiss of death for any politician but when some proudly embraced it and won elections, it lost its sting.
In this clip, among other things, Seth Meyers highlights Milley’s remarks.