Crazy, Correct, and...Crazy
zombie journalism eats human brains
The original framing collapses, but it sticks. It lives on in death, decomposing and prevailing. The people who were wrong are sane; the people who were right are cruel and stupid extremists.
Take Sonja Shaw as the latest and clearest example. The Los Angeles Times, which used to be a national newspaper before it became a regional social justice newsletter written by adult children, has just published a remarkable profile of a school board president in Southern California who is very, very, very dangerous and bad, and a terrifying far-right figure. The framing oozes bad faith; the story pretends to both-sides a complicated story — some say this, some say the other thing — while hanging narrative signals all over every paragraph so you know who the bad guy is.
See where we’re going? Is she righteous, or is she right-wing? Now, here’s a sample description of Shaw’s path to a school board seat, a paragraph up near the top of the story:
Shaw, 41, is the self-described soccer mom who has become the face of a conservative campaign to enact school board policies requiring teachers and principals to notify parents if their children indicate they are exploring gender identity. She was elected last fall to the Chino Valley Unified school board and quickly named president, part of a small wave of evangelical Christians and far-right candidates swept onto school boards in November 2022 in pockets of California that railed against COVID-19-related school closures, mask mandates and mass vaccination efforts.
So far-right lunatics and a small wave of bizarre evangelical outliers “railed against” things like “school closures,” probably while handling serpents and speaking in tongues. Wild-eyed, ignorant, guided by anti-science zealotry, they thought children should…go to school, which is a very extremist belief. The non-righteous right-winger Sonja Shaw is part of the stupid wave of lasher-outers who were so dumb that they questioned Covid-19 safety measures. Meanwhile, here’s a November 18 headline from the New York Times:
So the small wave of dangerous extremists, the crazy evangelical outliers who thought virtual school was harmful to children, were so obviously correct that every putatively mainstream voice now agrees with them. So they’re not crazy and stupid anymore, right? If you just nodded, you don’t know how journalism works. They were right at the wrong time in the narrative, which is being wrong and dangerous and ignorant.
A few paragraphs lower:
Nonetheless, California’s so-called parental rights movement continues to grow in volume and visibility, attracting an odd and sometimes menacing fellowship of Christian evangelicals, vaccine conspiracy theorists, anti-government militias and more moderate parents who believed they lost their voice during the prolonged COVID-19 shutdowns.
The call for parental notification policies has expanded into a push to ban Pride flags on school campuses, reject school diversity programs and purge classrooms and libraries of books that explore gender and sexuality or feature LGBTQ+ figures. Teachers and counselors who advise LGBTQ+ student groups have been cast as “groomers” looking to confuse students about their gender identity and sexual leanings.
Count the strawmen. “California’s so-called parental rights movement.” Why is it only so-called? Why isn’t it actually, literally just a parental rights movement? Because the Los Angeles Times doesn’t like it, full stop, and no attempt is made to justify the “so-called” hedge. Note the casual linking of “anti-government militias” — Timothy McVeigh, white courtesy telephone, please! — with “more moderate parents,” a mixture that the story makes no attempt to measure. How many people loading fertilizer onto Ryder trucks, and how many moderates? Dunno. The moderates are probably just a small minority, right?
About that push to “purge classrooms and libraries of books that explore gender and sexuality or feature LGBTQ+ figures”:
Parents aren’t demanding that schools be purged of “books that explore gender and sexuality or feature LGBTQ+ figures,” like you can’t mention the existence of Willa Cather anymore; rather, they’re demanding that middle school libraries, for example, not be stocked with books that graphically depict images of children sucking dick. Little different, yeah?
You can do this with nearly every paragraph, comparing the way the story describes events to the obvious reality of the same events, but here’s just one more example to make the point:
At the September board meeting after the district’s notification policy was put on hold, some parents ardently thanked her for standing firm despite the legal setback. Others lamented the district was waging costly battles on fringe topics while ignoring the basic functions of a school district.
“Twenty-five classrooms without A/C on just Day One of 100-plus-degree weather,” one teacher told the board. “We have so many [vacancies] that we have unqualified temp agency workers and aides in the classroom and substitutes filling in for teacher vacancies. And these [vacancies] aren’t just in the classroom but also with district personnel, which trickles down to affect our day-to-day teaching. What’s happening with the textbook pilot for AP literature? … Do any of these issues come up on your radar?”
So Sonja Shaw, by being a culture warrior, is destroying the schools she oversees. See, they don’t even have air conditioning anymore! But if you just notice the story itself, you see that Shaw was elected to the school board in 2022 — that is, in November of 2022. She caused classrooms to suddenly not have air conditioning? The story has taken a series of old problems in a school district and assigned them to the account of someone who’s been around for all of a single year. Sonja Shaw wants parental notification, so the air conditioning units fell out of school windows.
This is pure vicious backstabbing shit as journalism, a lazy and dishonest hit piece that doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. But the point is the headline, and the framing it provides. Not many readers will bother with the details, so an empty piece of character assassination does its pathetic job.
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