Hate is on the rise! Not only are hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan in every state in America, but antigovernment groups lurk in plain sight, spreading baseless conspiracy theories and plotting to stage another Jan. 6.
These radicals may claim they are advocating “parental rights,” “religious freedom,” or “border security,” but they’re motivated by hatred, exclusion, and racism, this narrative goes. Whatever they say can and should be dismissed as “misinformation” or “disinformation,” because it contradicts the Left’s official narrative.
Don’t you dare express your own doubts about the Left’s narrative, or you, too, will qualify as an “extremist.”
You may be a card-carrying Democrat who checks all the right boxes, but if you think adult material doesn’t belong in school libraries, none of that matters. You may fully support gay marriage, but don’t you dare wonder out loud if kids on experimental “gender” drugs may grow to regret altering their own bodies. You may serve refugees, but you’d better watch yourself if you think the mass of humanity crossing the southern border may be just a bit problematic.
Welcome to Gaslighting 101. You see, some on the Left are hard at work manufacturing their own villains.
The strategy goes something like this: Take over America’s institutions and weaponize them against the very values that helped establish them in the first place. When people complain, brand them as the extremists to shame them into silence.
Take K-12 education, for example. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when teachers broadcast their lessons into children’s bedrooms, some parents caught sight of exactly what the schools were teaching their children, and they raised the alarm.
As it turns out, parents don’t like it when teachers tell their kids they’re inherently oppressors because of their skin color. Parents don’t like it when their 5-year-old daughter hears she might be a boy. Parents really don’t like seeing books with images of **** sex—like Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir”—in school libraries.
When parents decided to make a stink, school districts insisted there wasn’t anything wrong. Parents had to physically bring books such as “Gender Queer” to school board meetings, and hold up adult images for all to see.
Even then, organizations such as the American Library Association repeatedly claim there’s nothing wrong with books like this. They go out of their way to mention that most “banned or challenged books” were “written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color,” thus suggesting that parents complain because they themselves are bigoted or hateful.
The Biden administration has adopted this line—and worse—to silence parents. In 2021, the National School Boards Association sent the White House a letter comparing concerned parents to domestic terrorists and suggesting the government should use the Patriot Act to silence them. The FBI issued a memo on this basis. It later came out that the White House had helped draft the letter seeking government action.
Ultimately, the outrage became too much. The school boards association issued an apology, the FBI retracted its memo, and the White House tried to sweep it all under the rug.
In June, however, after multiple meetings with the White House, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a new salvo against concerned parents. The SPLC, which has weaponized its history of bankrupting the Ku Klux Klan to demonize mainstream conservative and Christian organizations, decided to add parental rights groups such as Moms for Liberty to its “hate map,” which plots conservatives and their organizations alongside Neo-Nazis and Klan chapters.
President Joe Biden himself met at least six times with the Southern Poverty Law Center ahead of this release, and SPLC staff have visited the White House at least 11 times since Biden took office, according to official logs. It seems highly likely that the SPLC’s involvement represents round two of the attack on parents.
Americans are experiencing a “big sort”—the highly educated elites are growing increasingly distant from the working men and women who form the backbone of the country’s values. Liberals tend to dominate higher education and white-collar jobs, and as they dominate, they construct intellectual “bubbles” that insulate them from the rest of America. These bubbles also entrench leftist ideologies at odds with America’s founding values.
This explains why various institutions have bought the liberal line on a host of political issues, seemingly without acknowledging that they are making themselves political.
Corporations such as Disney and brands such as Bud Light rush to criticize parental rights laws and celebrate transgender ideology. The American Library Association defends adult content in school libraries. The American Historical Society opposes efforts to block the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Financial institutions adopt “environmental, social, and governance” strategies based on climate alarmism, despite their horrible track record of predicting disasters that never come to pass.
Then the Biden administration runs roughshod over the Constitution. Biden attempts to rewrite the law to “forgive” $400 billion in student debt. Biden, who defended the Hyde Amendment when he was in the U.S. Senate, directs his Defense Department to pay for abortion travel. His administration pressures Big Tech to silence Americans who question the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines online.
When called out on his abuses, Biden employs the most egregious gaslighting. He blames Republicans and the Supreme Court for stopping his student loan scheme. Biden condemns Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who has stalled the promotion of military officers in protest against the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, as “totally irresponsible”—as if Biden hadn’t politicized the issue in the first place. The White House has defended its efforts to censor Americans, claiming it took “responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security.”
This gaslighting, often repeated uncritically by the legacy media, drives Americans crazy. Conservatives who see the truth behind all this smoke and mirrors, feel increasingly ostracized, demeaned, and shamed into silence.
Vivek Ramaswamy, co-founder and executive chairman of Strive Asset Management and a Republican presidential candidate, last week told Tucker Carlson that gaslighting of this sort inspired the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
“You want to know what caused Jan. 6, [it was] pervasive censorship in this country in the lead-up to Jan. 6,” Ramaswamy said Friday at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa. “You tell people in this country they cannot speak, that is when they scream. You tell people they cannot scream, that is when they tear things down.”
Ramaswamy was not defending the Capitol riot, but explaining how the frustration of pandemic mandates, the silencing of dissent as “misinformation,” and the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 presidential election boiled over into violence at the Capitol that day.
The rage that inspired the Capitol riot didn’t come out of a vacuum—and the Left is recreating the conditions for this kind of outrage.
Biden’s normalization of the Southern Poverty Law Center should be particularly concerning for conservatives. As I wrote in my book “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the SPLC fired its co-founder amid a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal that led a former employee to come forward and expose the “hate” accusations as a “highly profitable scam.”
That “scam” involves exaggerating hate by placing mainstream conservative and Christian groups on a map with chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, convincing donors to fork over cash to fight “hate.”
Yet the map is more than just a fundraising scheme. In 2012, an armed terrorist used the map to target the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. He planned to shoot everyone in the building—and would have succeeded if it weren’t for a brave security guard. The SPLC condemned the attack, but has kept the council on the map ever since.
After the SPLC branded Moms for Liberty an “antigovernment extremist group,” protesters mobbed the group’s summit last month in Philadelphia, and the moms received violent threats in the aftermath of SPLC’s smear.
The SPLC represents the tip of the spear when it comes to gaslighting Americans and defaming conservative views. Its new “antigovernment extremist” label applies not only to moms and dads fighting adult content in school but also to the Constitution Party and to historic conservative groups such as Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society.
Even as the SPLC demonizes conservatives as “antigovernment,” it carries water for Antifa radicals who lobbed Molotov cocktails at government buildings. Earlier this year, authorities arrested an SPLC lawyer in Atlanta on domestic terrorism charges. He had joined protesters who threw Molotov cocktails at police officers and construction equipment—not exactly a “pro-government” action.
Like so much of the Left, the Southern Poverty Law Center attempted to weaponize the Capitol riot. After that violent attack, the SPLC called for censuring or expelling every Republican in Congress who voted to contest the 2020 election results, even though congressional Democrats had voted to contest the 2016 election results in a similar fashion.
When Joe Biden spoke in front of a red backdrop, demonizing “MAGA extremists” in a scene reminiscent of Supreme Leader Snoke’s Throne Room, his every word echoed the SPLC. The president has made this leftist smear group’s gaslighting his own, and the more Americans he demonizes, the more absurd his attacks will appear.
At least, if Biden loses in 2024, he can blame those pesky “antigovernment extremists.”
Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal (where this first appeared) and the author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”