It's that time of the year again. Parents are busy preparing their children for the first day of school while children are busy holding on to every minute left in their precious summer vacation. But, out in the distance, an ominous threat is looming. That threat has a name ... gulp ... and it is ... whimper ... President Barack Hussein Obama.
Following news this week that Obama will speak directly to students next week in a special "back to school" address, media conservatives went absolutely apoplectic, calling Obama's forthcoming speech "indoctrination," as Fox News' Glenn Beck put it.
Beck's comments were only the tip of the iceberg in right-wing outrage. Others compared it to "brainwashing," communist China, and the Hitler Youth. Some (yes, Beck was of course among them) went as far as encouraging parents to keep their children home from school on the day of Obama's speech. Filling in for Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn said the president's speech was part of a "cult of personality" though not on the scale of Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein. Steyn also claimed that Obama's speech was based on the view that education exists to make kids "good subjects" of big government. Over on Lou Dobbs' radio program, guest host Chris Stigall pulled back the curtain on this smear ever so slightly when he said that he "didn't say the message was bad," just that he didn't want Obama to talk to his kid alone. Then there was Michael Savage, the third most listened to radio host in America, who put it this way: "Hitler had the Hitler Youth, and Obama would like to have the Obama Youth."
Of course, Fox News was hyping the outrage. On The Live Desk, Fox commentator Andrea Tantaros flexed her intellectual heft, saying of the president's speech: "They do this type of thing in North Korea and the former Soviet Union ... very cultish." Fox & Friends hosted a parent who plans to "keep kids home" from Obama's "indoctrination" speech, while the network's right-wing website TheFoxNation.com asked visitors "Will You Keep Your Kids Home the Day Obama Speaks to Schools?" I'm actually surprised the options for answers weren't "yes" and "absolutely."
Perhaps it would be helpful at this point if we actually discussed what exactly Obama plans on telling students during his speech on September 8. Well, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to school principals last week describing Obama's speech as being about "the importance of education" and "persisting and succeeding in school." Duncan also offered "classroom activities" to "engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education."
How absolutely communisty of Obama! How dare he subject our children to such indoctrination. If our kids take his advice, they might, they might end up in college, and we all know how liberal our colleges and universities make our once-wholesome boys and girls.
In all seriousness, Obama is hardly the first president to directly address students in the classroom. NBC's Kevin Tibbles noted that George H.W. Bush broadcast a speech to classrooms nationwide in 1991, while Fox News' Wendell Goler noted that both Bush and Ronald Reagan (you know, the one and only Gipper that the right always wants to win one for) broadcast speeches to classrooms nationwide.
Simply put, the freak-out over Obama's planned speech is due to baseless fears, stoked by conservatives in the media, that he will use the platform as an opportunity to push his agenda on unsuspecting students. Ironically, that is exactly what Reagan did two decades ago during his classroom speech. In fact, during Reagan's November 1988 address to classrooms, he spoke of the American "vision of self-government" and the need "to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America," but in the middle of the speech, the president went off on a tangent about the importance of low taxes.
With each passing week, it becomes more apparent that the conservative media will take anything Obama does and twist it beyond comprehension.
Other major stories this week
Conservatives boycotting WorldNetDaily
How far out there is the right-wing website WorldNetDaily? So far out that many of its fellow conservatives are not only disassociating themselves from it as fast as they can, but are actively figuring out how to boycott it. Just ask Jon Henke at The Next Right, who noted WND's embrace of the claim that the federal government is building concentration camps for U.S. political dissidents and wrote this week: "In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being 'so far removed from common sense' and later said 'We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.' The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. ... No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe idiocy that WND peddles. Those who do are not respectable."
WND founder and editor Joseph Farah responded to news of the conservative boycott against supporters of his "news" organization in the expected way -- by demonstrating why conservatives would want to boycott WND in the first place.
In his September 1 column, Farah dismissed Henke as "this fellow I have never known nor associated with nor even heard of." Farah then went on to spin Henke's post, suggesting he was moved to support a boycott solely "because of an article he read in the Boston Herald last week." In fact, it's clear from Henke's post that the Herald article was merely the last straw, not the entire rationale.
It is refreshing to see a conservative blogger of Henke's caliber standing up to the likes of Farah and WND. I just hope he has his long-form birth certificate on hand, because it's only a matter of time before Farah sends his slobbering, paranoid attack dogs errrr ... reporters after him.
Time to change the locks? Beck to receive "key to the city"
According to Seattle's KOMO News Radio, the mayor of Mount Vernon, Washington, Bud Norris (email@example.com), will "give the key to his city to conservative talk show host Glenn Beck on September 26."
You read that right. A key to the city for a man who, among other things, asked his listeners this week to pray to stave off Satan-like "perversion" of the country. A man who suggested this week that the Obama administration would use the bombings of a Canadian pipeline to justify a takeover of oil companies. This week, he also warned "regular Democrat[s]" that the "über-left" is about to smother you with a pillow." Then, of course, there are his infamous comments from late July that Obama has "a deep-seated hatred for white people" and that "this guy is, I believe, a racist."
If Glenn Beck is going to get a key to anything, it should be his own small, private room with white padded walls. I suppose we'd need to get the key back, though.
As for his comment about Obama being "racist," here's an update. According to a press release from ColorOfChange.org: "Eleven new companies whose ads were recently seen during Beck's program ... have pledged to ColorOfChange.org to take steps to ensure that their ads don't run on Beck's show. Fifty-seven companies have now committed not to support Beck's show."
This week's media columns
This week's media columns from the Media Matters senior fellows: Eric Boehlert explains why Glenn Beck and Fox News can't escape the "racist" trap; Jamison Foser discusses how the conservative media have taken a strong stand against ... learning; and Karl Frisch looks into the world of Lou Dobbs and his hate groupies.
Greg Lewis brings us "The arrogance and misinformation persist, even when Limbaugh is away" in The Friday Rush, a review of Limbaugh's radio shows over the past week.
This weekly wrap-up was compiled by Karl Frisch, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube or sign up to receive his columns by email.