Lt Gov Mark Robinson, Book Banning, and Moms for Liberty

After stirring the pot with his condemned remarks on LGBTQs and spearheading an effort to ban books on LGBTQ and racial history topics in schools and classrooms, Lt Governor Mark Robinson has gone notably silent. While there were rumblings that GOP leaders wanted him to tone things down, the real reason Robinson might have gone incognito in recent weeks is that he has served his purpose in the current national effort by the right to stir up the base.

Many of the specific titles Robinson mentioned during his Fall Faux Outrage Tour 2021 are now being challenged by “concerned parents” around North Carolina and other parts of the country.

But just who are these “concerned parents”?

Lt. Governor Robinson’s antics about schools and book bans weren’t something he cooked up on his own. It’s becoming obvious that Robinson’s efforts were part of a national push on this issue - an astroturf campaign being funded to stir up hate and resentment to drive dissatisfaction among rural and suburban conservative and evangelical voters that never pass up an opportunity to bash people who are gay, trans, Black or Jewish, in whatever combination creates the most local outrage.

It would be easy for a casual news consumer, seeing the big ruckus from Robinson, then these “local concerned parents” to think this is some genuine North Carolina effort reflecting concerns in local communities.

It’s not. And we’ve seen this before.

Remember a few years back how Lt Governor crackpot Dan Forest was joined at the hip with the NC Values Coalition to stir up the evangelical base about gay marriage, abortion, and transsexuals? There was considerable push-back because was easy to criticize the group as a small cadre of crackpots with astroturf money whining for attention.

The hard right learned from this and have gone “stealth” with their latest effort, Moms for Liberty, one of the main organizations behind the rash of book banning in NC and other states.

Moms for Liberty is a relatively new organization, officially incorporated on January 1st. Since then, they’ve grown to 135 chapters in 35 states. The group is run by two right-wing former school board members, Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice.

The group’s agenda includes doing away with COVID-19 protective measures in public schools and eliminating “critical race theory” and “sex education” from libraries and school curricula, wrapped up in the rhetoric of “protecting children” and “parental rights”.

Media Matters and TruthOut have the lowdown on who is funding and promoting their efforts.

Moms for Liberty is affiliated with a soup of right-wing groups with similar goals, such as Parents Defending Education, a group of corporate lobbyists for the private school industry and funded by the Koch network, and Prager U. The group is also a big promoter of the Heritage Foundation, a Koch network think-tank laser-focused on reshaping public education and promoting taxpayer funding for commercial private K-12 schools.

While Moms for Liberty is receiving funding from and has connections to national radical right groups, they’re organized by local chapters. All they need are one or two angry bigots in one county to file some complaints and, voila, their hate mongering is getting local media coverage and being normalized without all those pesky questions about who is actually behind it.

In news reports and other coverage of these demands to ban books or curricula at your local library or school, you won’t hear about Moms for Liberty, just a group of local “concerned parents” who have filed the complaint. Even the usually reliable Durham IndyWeek promoted the “local concerned parent” narrative here, completely missing what’s actually going on.

Checking the Moms for Liberty website, you’ll find that they have a few angry parents signed up in nine North Carolina counties:

  • Alexander
  • Ashe,
  • Cabarrus
  • Iredell
  • Mecklenburg
  • Orange
  • Stanly
  • Union

If you know a librarian, school board member, or school administrator in one of those areas, give them a “heads up” about Moms for Liberty - if no complaint has been filed by the local angry bigots yet, you can be assured that one is one the way and they should be prepared to combat this nonsense in the local press.

The publicity on their book bans does, of course, backfire on the zealots. Some have gained national attention, such as a Tennesee school’s ban on the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic Holocaust graphic novel “Maus”. The book promptly sold out at Amazon. A professor at North Carolina’s Davidson College has put up a free online course for McMinn County high school students about the book. Kids are even organizing book clubs to read the books being banned.

Similarly, when “Gender Queer”, an award-winning autobiographical novel became the target of “concerned parents” in Wake county and other areas around the country, it topped the LGBTQ graphic novel sales chart at Amazon and sparked new interest in the work.

But the banning the books isn’t the point. This national campaign is intended by its funders to fuel hate and bigotry in local communities, giving isolated crackpots a feeling of being part of a bigger movement and motivating them to organize for the upcoming midterms. Their main agenda is undermining confidence in public schools and driving voters to Republican candidates that want to line the pockets of GOP donors with sweet, taxpayer money to turn public education into a commercial enterprise.

All NC GOP leaders have to do is sit back, stay silent, and let Moms for Liberty and a few "concerned parents" beat their chests and throw poo at school boards for them as they reap the benefits of bigoted butts to the polls.

In some states, the situation is much more serious. NBC News notes that books on race and sexuality are being pulled in "record numbers" from Texas libraries and several librarians are retiring or leaving the profession.

Ten current or recently retired Texas school librarians who spoke to a reporter described growing fears that they could be attacked by parents on social media or threatened with criminal charges. Some said they’ve quietly removed LGBTQ-affirming books from shelves or declined to purchase new ones to avoid public criticism — raising fears about what free-speech advocates call a wave of “soft censorship” in Texas and across the country.

Five of the librarians said they were thinking about leaving the profession, and one already has. Sarah Chase, a longtime librarian at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, a Fort Worth suburb, said the acrimony over books contributed to her decision to retire in December, months earlier than she’d planned.

Rest assured, the brouhaha from Moms for Liberty will suddenly grow quiet after the 2022 election, then the funders will ramp up another astroturf bigot outrage campaign in the months leading up to the 2024 general election.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen with these movements over and over again, similar to the astroturf Koch-backed Tea Party template of a few years ago. It’s just a repeat of the faux outrage hate campaign promoted by NC Lt. Governor Dan Forest, former Governor Pat McCrory, and the NC Values Coalition about transsexuals and bathrooms, LGBTQ books, and gay marriage that popped up in the months before voters headed to the polls.

As soon as it drives their base to vote, outrage from these “concerned parents” will suddenly die down or move on to something else.

It’s pretty obvious that Lt Governor Mark Robinson’s various efforts over the past few months - the so-called “F.A.C.T.S.” task force on “leftist influence” in public schools, the anti-CRT bill promoted by Robinson and Phil Berger, and Robinson's calls for removal of the same LGBTQ-themed books from schools that Moms for Liberty is now pursuing. And, of course, all of this is being promoted by Art Pope’s Carolina Journal, yet another Republican operative group with close ties to the Koch and Heritage Foundation.

What can you do?

First, spread the word about Moms for Liberty. Let your friends and neighbors know that this movement is a sham and not the “local concerned parents” it’s pretending to be.

Second, when you see a local news outlet reporting on the book bans and they don’t mention this national organization and its funding, call them out on it. Get them to do their job to go beyond just reporting the views of a few “concerned parents” to get comments from library and education professionals and LGBTQ organizations, the NAACP, and Jewish groups. Highlight the fact that groups pushing and funding these campaigns are using censorship and bigotry to undermine confidence in public schools and educators.

Urge them to investigate the connections between Mark Robison and other NC GOP figures and organizations to Moms for Liberty and other groups funding and promoting this bigoted agenda. Show your local libraries and schools that you have their back.

If you don’t speak up, a few ultra-right big donors will continue to use your kids as an excuse to spread hate and bigotry just for political gain. If they have their way, you might not have a public school at all.



Good stuff, Teddy

Marky Mark is waiting for the Funky Bunch to tell him what to do next, I would bet.

Robinson's work ... now in Virginia

By the way, Virginia's supposed "moderate" Republican governor has set up a "tip line" to snitch on Virginia teachers promoting "Critical Race Theory" in their classrooms.

Seems much like Mark Robinson's much-hyped "F.A.C.T.S." task force from a few months ago.

It's all part of the same push to undermine confidence in public schools and teachers.