The other day, Media Matters spread a story about how the grassroots group Moms for Liberty had “quoted Hitler” in its local Indiana newsletter. That sounds really bad, right? The smear was, naturally, picked up by automatons at virtually every major news outlet whose job seems to be giving political oppo hits a patina of journalistic credibility.
While one expects the con artists at the Lincoln Project to latch on to this sort of hit, we don’t expect conservatism’s most celebrated hall monitor to do so. Yet, there was New York Times columnist David French affirmatively quote-tweeting a user who not only shared a video clip of a speaker at a Moms of Liberty conference defending the Indiana moms, but also called their outlook “Christofascism.”
It’s difficult to believe any sentient human really believes that a gaggle of suburban moms are readying for the next Beer Hall Putsch. Then again, the people who cynically spread this kind of smear rely on the credulousness of paranoid Trump-obsessed Democrats. They’ll believe anything, apparently. As Stalin (probably) said: “Everybody has a right to be stupid, but some people abuse the privilege.”
The contention makes literally zero sense. The quote in question — “He alone who owns the youth gains the future” – was used to hyperbolically compare the outlook of Hitler with Joe Biden and other Democrats. Similar framing, though perhaps distasteful, is well within the norms of American political debate. French can find them regularly in his own paper.
While Biden is no Hitler, like many of the left, he is something of an authoritarian when it comes to your children. Well not your children, exactly. The president believes they’re “all our” children. And not only that the state has the right to trap them in schools, but that bureaucrats have the right to dictate what they learn and read against the wishes of parents. As the murderous dictator Vlad Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
Even when these parents use the mechanism of our democracy to elect people to enact change in those state-run schools, they are labeled extremists and Hitler stans and book banners and censors. If they complain about the state of American education to their school boards, the federal government might label them a terror threat.
In any event, the local chapter had already apologized for using the quote by the time French was intimating the moms were Hitler fans. It was a national story. “We condemn Adolf Hitler’s actions and his dark place in human history,” the chapter chairwoman wrote. “We should not have quoted him in our newsletter and express our deepest apology.”
This too is gibberish, by the way. Of course a person can quote terrible people to point out the ideological similarities they share with political adversaries without endorsing their beliefs. I can quote Lenin and Stalin, and I challenge you to find a bigger anti-commie than myself.
Yet, even after the workings of the smear had been pointed out to him, French doubled down. “If the quote was fine, in context, why apologize?” he asked. Well, my guess is that some Hamilton County, Indiana branch members of Moms for Liberty were a bit shaken when giant legacy media organizations and New York Times columnists with hundreds of thousands of followers began throwing around accusations — or strongly insinuating — that they were Nazis. They’re still new at this. That’s just how it goes.
French also seems to believe that stripping parents of the right to have a say in the curation of school libraries — so, for instance, barring elementary schools from carrying illustrated books of 10-year-old boys engaging in oral sex or pseudo-historical books about American history — is a censorious “speech code.” He’s wrong, but it’s a perfectly legitimate debate. Smearing those who are involved in that debate is an ugly shortcut.