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Commentary: Accuracy in Media pulls a stunt in Ohio to muddy the waters on Critical Race Theory

Rear view of schoolboy raising his hand to answer the question on a class at elementary school.
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Accuracy in Media recently set up secretly taped meetings with school administrators in Columbus, Cincinnati, Mason and Dayton where they posed as parents interested in moving into the district.

You've probably been reading and hearing lately about a right-wing organization called Accuracy in Media running clandestine sting operations in Ohio school districts.

They're trying to get school administrators — in Columbus, in Cincinnati, in Mason, in Dayton — to admit, while being videotaped surreptitiously, that they are teaching unwitting students Critical Race Theory, an amorphous concept that can be used to describe pretty much whatever you want it to mean.

Accuracy in Media's secret agents set up meetings with school administrators where they pose as parents interested in moving into the district.

The most these fraudulent "parents" can get out of the educators is that if the Ohio General Assembly outlawed teaching concepts concerning social justice, they'd just go ahead and do what they are doing and call it something else.

Sounds like a good plan.

With these ethically dodgy videos, Accuracy in Media has produced a double-decker nothingburger on a sesame seed bun.

LISTEN: Critical Race Theory in the Classroom

Some people describe what Accuracy in Media has been doing as "guerilla journalism."

Pseudo journalism is closer to the mark.

It is a clown show, designed to produce cherry-picked sound bites that make it seem that Ohio educators are hell-bent on making schoolchildren hate America.

Of all the bad habits of this country's right-wing culture warriors, the one that makes reasonable Americans' blood boil the most is this worn-out practice of setting up "straw men" who either do not exist or are so ephemeral that they are barely noticeable to the naked eye.

Critical Race Theory — CRT for short — is one of those straw men.

CRT is an academic study that your son or daughter is unlikely to encounter unless he or she goes to law school.

An article in Education Week in May 2021 said the core idea of CRT "is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies."

Any person who has grown up — or who is growing up — in a nation where we had to fight a civil war to end slavery and where the battles for civil rights have gone on in the streets and in the courts ever since that war ended should know this intuitively.

Unless they simply want to deny that institutional racism exists.

The Knights Templar of the Culture Wars prop up these straw men and make a show of punching and kicking the straw men until they knock them down.

Straw men are easy pickins. They're made of straw, after all. They're not real.

Once they've knocked them down, the culture warriors will thump their chests and proclaim victory over the forces of darkness.

Phony-baloney stuff. Bad street theater.

COMMENTARY: Ohio GOP uproar over Critical Race Theory is an election turnout tool

Accuracy in Media, though, is not alone in this crusade.

Ohio Value Voters, an organization of evangelical Christians, runs an organization called the Protect Ohio Children Coalition.

Diane Stover, the coalition's program director, said on the Protect Ohio Children website they are all about monitoring schools and school boards "looking for evidence."

"When schools take steps to bring indoctrination into the classrooms, we are here to shine light on the darkness of dangerous and radical materials being presented to children across the state of Ohio," Stover wrote.

We don't know what "dangerous and radical materials" she is talking about. That is up to her coalition to decide for all 11.8 million of us.

But Accuracy in Media is the organization that has shown up on our doorstep, uninvited.

It's a group that has been around since 1969, founded by Reed Irvine, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank, who was mad about what he saw as a leftist bias in what people refer to now as the "mainstream media."

"Accuracy" may be part of the organization's name, but it hasn't been very accurate over the years in its outlandish claims.

RELATED: Local school district could face lawsuit over banning of antiracism teaching

Here are some of Accuracy in Media's greatest hits:

  • During the Clinton administration, White House counsel Vince Foster, who had a close relationship with the Clintons, committed suicide.  Accuracy in Media claimed "Foster was murdered," presumably by the Clintons. It was a popular storyline for fringe groups like Accuracy in Media, but three independent studies found it to be false — including one by Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who nailed President Clinton for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
  • During the Iraq war, Accuracy in Media was critical of media coverage, saying it was biased against U.S. involvement. But the group also defended how U.S. treated prisoners, saying "waterboarding is not torture." Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were "enjoying hotel living conditions." All nonsense.
  • In March 2020, Accuracy in Media president Adam Guillette said the media was exaggerating the impact of COVID, denying there was a pandemic. Since then, there have been 1.1 million COVID-related deaths.
  • Accuracy in Media titled one of its 2008 reports "Is Barack Obama a Marxist Mole?" Obama was described as "the most radical candidate ever to stand at the precipice of acquiring his party's presidential nomination. It is apparent that he is a member of an international socialist movement."  Nonetheless, the "Marxist mole" was elected president not once, but twice.

The one constant in the life of Accuracy in Media is that they have consistently been on the wrong side of history.

Little wonder then that now they are here in Ohio, attacking history itself.

They'll lose that battle, too.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.