Table of Contents
-What is Gain of Function Research? Why are the terms changing? Will Dr. Fauci ever confess to wrong doing?
-Why the 1619 Movement is Fake History
-Why is the Far Left Afraid of Our American History?
-Why is the Teacher Union Advancing Critical Race Theory?
-Have we Lost Control of Our Prison System with its Privatization?
-What Is The Lincoln Project?
What is Gain of Function Research? Why are the terms changing? Will Dr. Fauci ever confess to wrong doing?
Gain of function research explained
The term ‘gain of function’ is perhaps one of the most misunderstood in the scientific lexicon. I would like to explain what the phrase means from the perspective of a scientist who has done gain of function research for the past 40 years.
Gain of function (GoF) research gives an organism a new property or enhances an existing one. The organism can be a virus, bacterium, fungus, rodent, bird, fish or anything that can be experimentally manipulated (technically whales and elephants could be included in the definition but it would be very difficult to to GoF research on them).
Many have the impression that GoF research involves making an organism more deadly – for example, increasing the capacity of a virus to cause disease. That impression is incorrect. Certainly GoF research might lead to a more dangerous organism, but most of the time that is not the goal.
There are two broad approaches to GoF research. I’ll illustrate them with viruses but the principles could apply to any organism. In one approach, a virus is passaged in a host until a virus with different properties is obtained. An example is the adaptation of a strain of poliovirus – the type 2 Lansing strain – to replicate in mice and paralyze them. The Lansing strain does not infect mice, but an investigator passed the virus 99 times from mouse to mouse and ended up with a new strain that could now paralyze the mice. The new version of the virus had a new property – it could now infect mice. This experiment was GoF research.
Another way to do GoF research is to use recombinant DNA technology to engineer changes in the genome of the organism. In experiments done in my laboratory, we took a small piece of the genome of the mouse-adapted Lansing strain of poliovirus – coding for just eight amino acids – and spliced it into the genome of another poliovirus that is unable to infect mice. The recombinant virus from this experiment had a new property – the ability to infect mice. This experiment would also be classified as GoF.
An illustration of how GoF can be done on mice is our creation of transgenic mice susceptible to poliovirus. Mice cannot be infected with the virus because they do not produce the cell receptor for poliovirus. We introduced the human poliovirus receptor gene into the mouse germline, leading to mice that produce poliovirus receptor. After infection, these poliovirus receptor transgenic mice can be infected with poliovirus and develop paralysis. The mice have a new property – susceptibility to poliovirus infection. The mice are a product of a GoF experiment.
GoF research may have a myriad of useful outcomes. Do you want to make a different tasting beer? Modify an enzyme in the yeast used for fermentation. But in the past 30 years GoF research has received a bad name. The catalyst was a series of experiments on highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses. These viruses rarely infect humans and do not transmit well among people. In experiments to understand what limited transmission, the virus was genetically modified and passaged among ferrets. The result was a virus that could transmit among ferrets by respiratory droplets. These GoF experiments were met with criticism, entirely unwarranted as the passaged viruses had lost their virulence for ferrets! Nevertheless since then a dark cloud has unjustifiably hung over all GoF research.
GoF research has been in the press again recently as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the SARS-CoV pandemic of 2003, wildlife sampling efforts in China revealed many SARS-like coronaviruses in bats. To assess the potential of these viruses for infecting humans, their spike protein encoding genes were substituted into the SARS-like CoV WIV1. These recombinant viruses reproduced in human airway cells – no different from WIV1 – but at least one caused more severe disease in mice. Consequently these are GoF experiments. Some have suggested that such GoF work gave rise to SARS-CoV-2 in a lab, but this notion is impossible, as none of these viruses are close enough to be a precursor of the current pandemic virus.
The production of recombinant coronaviruses to assess pandemic potential was carried out in several laboratories, all funded by the NIH. Recently Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress that the NIH did not fund GoF coronavirus research. The press has suggested that he lied, but the truth is that his definition of GoF research is that it only involves passaged of organisms in animals. This interpretation is not correct but being wrong does not mean you are lying.
I want readers to understand that the goals of GoF research are laudable, and only a small subset has the potential to harm humans. Consequently these experiments are highly regulated and carried out under high levels of biological containment. GoF is not a dirty word.
What is Gain-of-Function Research & Who is at High Risk?
“Gain-of-function” is the euphemism for biological research aimed at increasing the virulence and lethality of pathogens and viruses. GoF research is government funded; its focus is on enhancing the pathogens’ ability to infect different species and to increase their deadly impact as airborne pathogens and viruses. Ostensibly, GoF research is conducted for biodefense purposes. These experiments, however, are extremely dangerous. Those deadly science-enhanced pathogens can, and do escape into the community where they infect and kill people. What’s more, this line of research can be used for biological warfare.
- Rumors that Iraq was preparing to use weaponized anthrax – as a “weapon of mass destruction” – provided the US government with a justification for the 2003 invasion.
In 1992, Meryl Nass, MD, analyzed the characteristics of an anthrax epidemic in Zimbabwe, Rhodesia in 1978-1980, that was claimed to be a natural occurrence. Dr. Nass demonstrated that the pattern of the epidemic, the spread, and weather conditions, could not have occurred due to a natural event; it must, therefore, have been triggered as a bioweapon. She reported her findings in the journal Physicians for Social Responsibility Quarterly, 1992.
Government officials and the recipients of government grants and contracts for “gain-of-function” research argue that these experiments are critical for understanding the subtle changes that can make a bird virus a pandemic threat.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, has played a major role in promoting and funding gain-of-function research, both in the US and China. Newsweek reported: “He argued that the research was worth the risk it entailed because it enables scientists to make preparations [ ] that could be useful if and when a pandemic occurred.”
- Those claims are belied by the empirical evidence
GoF experiments have neither prevented a pandemic, nor provided useful information about safe and effective pandemic countermeasures. Numerous prominent scientists argue that these experiments deviate from morally justifiable research, and the experimentally altered pathogens have put the entire human species at risk.
In 2011, controversy erupted when two separate teams of researchers – one headed by Ron Fouchier from the Netherlands, another headed by Yoshihiro Kawaoka from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo – announced that they had modified the H5N1 avian flu virus so that it jumped from birds to mammals and between mammals. Both research teams were funded by the NIH – NIAID. They used reverse genetics to build a more lethal virus by combining directed mutations and natural selection, suggesting that this H5N1 variant could be efficiently transmitted between humans.
The UK Independent reported: “An increasing number of scientists outside the influenza field have expressed concern over attempts to deliberately increase the human transmissibility of the H5N1 bird-flu virus. This is done by mutating the virus so that it can pass by airborne droplets between laboratory ferrets, the standard “animal model” of human influenza.”
Scientists, who are committed to the precautionary principle in medicine, medical research, and in public health policy, eschew GoF experimentation. These critics cite the Nuremberg Code prohibition against conducting experiments that pose a risk to human life. Such experiments “should be undertaken only if they provide humanitarian benefits that sufficiently offset the risks and if these benefits are unachievable by safer means.”
The risks posed by influenza GoF experiments include frequent documented escapes of deadly pathogens into the community, which have a potential for triggering a pandemic. These risks far outweigh any speculative benefits. What’s more, as Dr. Marc Lipsitch of Harvard and Dr. Alison Galvani of Yale argue:“the creation and manipulation of potential pandemic pathogens are too risky to justify…there are safer more effective experimental approaches that are both more scientifically informative and more straightforward to translate into improved public health.”
Dr. Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard School of Public Health stated that recent disease-enhancing experiments “have given us modest scientific knowledge and done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemics, and yet [these experiments] risked creating an accidental pandemic.”
Alison Galvani, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases); Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis (CIDMA) of Yale University. Dr. Galvani is one of Yale’s youngest-ever tenured faculty member. She went to Oxford for her undergraduate degree and did her PhD in theoretical epidemiology with Robert May, the former head of the UK Royal Society. She received a Blavatnik Award from the New York Academy of Sciences . Dr. Galvani is an interdisciplinary scientist who prides herself on challenging dogma.
The considerable risk of laboratory enhanced transmitability of influenza viruses was obvious. Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah stated: “A readily transmitted H5N1 virus could be extraordinarily lethal; therefore, the risk for accidental release is significant, and deliberate misuse of the data to create a biological weapon is possible.”
The controversy escalated when the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) issued its recommendation (December 2011) that the controversial H5N1 reports be published with significant redactions.“Methodological and other details that could enable replication of the experiments by those who would seek to do harm” are to be redacted. The research and the NSABB recommendation polarized the scientific community which recognized that the easily transmitted H5N1 laboratory creation could be extraordinarily lethal. This laboratory-engineered virus poses a significant risk for accidental release into the community.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota and a vocal critic of the decision to publish the H5N1 research, stated that the flu research community has not rigorously weighed the risks and benefits of gain-of-function studies. He stated that proponents of “gain-of-function” research have overstated the benefits, including the potential for developing better vaccines and antiviral drugs, or improving surveillance measures. “We still do H5N1 surveillance in the same way a year later.”
Adel A. F. Mahmoud, an infectious disease specialist at Princeton University and the former president of Merck Vaccines is quoted in Science: “The scientific justification presented for doing this work is very flimsy, to put it mildly, and the claims that it will lead to anything useful are lightweight… The mutations guided nothing.”
Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, cautioned that the security precautions are “insufficient and amazingly lame.” He stated in the journal Science:
“this work should never have been done”
A New York Times editorial in 2012, dubbed the experiment “An Engineered Doomsday.”
“Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how [an avian influenza virus] could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists. […]
The most frightening research was done by scientists at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, who sought to discover how likely it is that the “bird flu” virus, designated A(H5N1), might mutate from a form that seldom infects or spreads among humans into a form highly transmissible by coughing or sneezing. Thus far the virus has infected close to 600 humans and killed more than half of them, a fatality rate that far exceeds the 2 percent rate in the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed as many as 100 million people.
Professor Lord May of Oxford, the former president of the Royal Society and a former chief science adviser to the UK government, is an outspoken critic about this line of research.
“The work they are doing is absolutely crazy. The whole thing is exceedingly dangerous.”
Yes, there is a danger, but it’s not arising from the viruses out there in the animals, it’s arising from the labs of grossly ambitious people.”
He noted China’s poor safety track record: “The record of containment in labs like this is not reassuring. They are taking it upon themselves to create human-to-human transmission of very dangerous viruses. It’s appallingly irresponsible.”[Independent, 2013
Professor Simon Wain-Hobson, PhD, an eminent virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris is an outspoken critic of viral-engineering, and the risk this research poses. In a column in the journal Nature (2013), Dr. Wain-Hobson noted:
“Influenza virologists are going down a blind alley and the powers that be are blindly letting them go down that alley.”
He said it is very likely that some or all of “these hybrids could pass easily between humans and possess some or all of the highly lethal characteristics of H5N1 bird-flu.”
H5N1 GOF work — indeed all virological GOF work — should be suspended until virologists open up and engage in public discussion of their work and the issues it raises. Given that the flu community failed utterly to use the year-long hiatus to good effect, it is clear that an independent risk–benefit assessment of GOF work is needed.”
Prof. Wain-Hobson stated: “The virological basis of this work is not strong. It is of no use for vaccine development and the benefit in terms of surveillance for new flu viruses is oversold.” He emphasized in Nature News the fact that this chimeric virus “grows remarkably well” in human cells: “if the virus escaped, nobody could predict the trajectory.”
As veteran investigative reporter, Sam Husseini, the communications director of the non-profit, Institute for Public Accuracy, who has closely followed this line of research, states there are probably hundreds of high containment biosafety (BSL-3 and BSL-4) laboratories. As of 2017, at least 263 laboratories were registered in the US as level BSL-3 and level BSL-4.
According to a report by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the probability of a flu virus release from a government laboratory into the community could become pandemic requires that “the Precautionary Principle should apply [in proceeding with this line of research]”. Numerous pathogen escaped accidents have occurred at BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs.
The journal SCIENCE reported that multiple laboratory accidents at CDC’s highest security laboratories released smallpox vials, anthrax samples, H5N1 influenza samples, and H9N2 avian influenza pathogen. The lapses, Science reported, “at the world-renowned infectious disease research agency, are sure to raise questions about safety at other labs studying highly pathogenic agents, including university labs that are modifying influenza strains to make them more virulent.:
Former CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden stated:
“whatever you think about [such so-called gain-of-function studies],“I think it’s clearly the case that these incidents indicate that we need to really ensure that whatever work is done needs to be done safely and securely.”
These accidents led the government to temporarily suspend funding for gain-of-function research from 2014 to 2017 for SARS, MERS and avian flu viruses.
Husseini notes that exceptions from suspended funding included laboratories at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) laboratory, whose high risk coronavirus research was backed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who awarded the Wuhan laboratory with a $3.7 million contract AFTER the government had suspended funding for avian flu viruses research.
When the “Ban on Making Lethal Viruses [was] Lifted,” the review process became even more secretive and opaque. Dr Francis Collins, head of the NIH, announced that there would be no public disclosure about the projects funded by the government. Critics, including microbiologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University stated the lack of openness is “disturbing and indefensible.” He stated that clearer minimum safety standards and a mandate that the benefits ‘outweigh’ the risks were needed, rather than merely ‘justifying’ them.”
The Washington Post reported that in January 2018, urgent cables from the US Embassy warned that the Wuhan laboratory’s operations had serious safety problems. One of the cables specifically warned that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.
Dr. Fauci appears to have ignored those cables and the Wuhan Institute’s requests for assistance. Despite alarms raised about lax safety at the Wuhan laboratory, Dr. Fauci provided an additional $3.7 million grant in 2019 for “gain-of-function research for the purpose of understanding how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans”
Currently, a heated disagreement about the origin of the global COVID-19 pandemic is raging because the proponents of GoF research – those who fund and those who receive funds – are desperate to distance the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Chinese laboratory that has engaged in high risk GoF experiments; experiments that put humanity at risk.
Newsweek reported that this phase of the research at the Wuhan laboratory in 2019, was run by Peter Daszak, of EcoHealth Alliance, a so-called nonprofit that has received millions of dollars from the US government during the Obama and Trump administration .
On May 12th, The Washington Post reported that EcoHealth is a “longtime partner” of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Given the Post’s earlier report about the US Embassy cables warning about major safety hazards at the Wuhan lab, and in light of the Chinese government refusal to allow an independent investigation into the origins of the global pandemic, the Washington Post acknowledged:
“Theoretically, an accident during such activities could prompt an outbreak. If researchers, for example, had found SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, and cultured the virus in the lab, it could have infected humans as the result of a mishap.”
Daszak, who has a multi-million dollar stake in Chinese bat research, dismissed the possibility outright: “I have never heard anything suspicious from this lab. It’s a preposterous idea”.
Honest scientists recognize and warn about the danger posed by GoF research and the potential for unleashing a lethal pandemic. Documented indisputable evidence confirms continued safety hazards at the high security laboratories from which pathogens regularly escaped into the community.
A report by GM Watch (May 20th) focuses on the hazardous bat and coronavirus experiments at the Wuhan laboratory. Dr Richard Ebright alerted the public about evidence that the Wuhan Institute and US-based researchers were genetically engineering bat viruses to investigate their ability to infect humans. He stated that they experimented with commonly used methods that leave no sign or signature of human manipulation. He cited a scientific paper published in PLoS (2017) by Wuhan scientists, including Shi Zhengli, the virologist leading the research into bat coronaviruses, who worked in collaboration with Peter Daszak.
that funding for the experiment was shared between Chinese and US institutions, including the National Institutes of Health and US Agency for International Development.
“The researchers report having conducted virus infectivity experiments where genetic material is combined from different varieties of SARS-related coronaviruses to form novel “chimeric” versions. This formed part of their research into what mutations were needed to allow certain bat coronaviruses to bind to the human ACE2 receptor – a key step in the human infectivity of SARS-CoV-2.
The WIV scientists did this, Ebright points out, “using ‘seamless ligation’ procedures that leave no signatures of human manipulation”. This is noteworthy because it is a type of genetic engineering that Andersen and his team excluded from their investigation into whether SARS-CoV-2 could have been engineered – and it was in use at the very lab that is the prime suspect for a lab escape.
The evidence rebuts claims by journalists and some scientists that the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic could not have been genetically engineered because it lacks the “signs” or “signatures” that supposedly would be left behind by genetic engineering techniques.”
Dr. Ebright cited a just-published pre-print scientific report by the Wuhan scientists who describe how they “spiked proteins from bat SARS-related CoV (SARSr-CoV), among other coronaviruses, to bind to bat and human ACE2 receptors – in other words, how efficiently they infect humans.” He points out that the paper states, “All work with the infectious virus was performed under biosafety level 2 conditions” which is not suitable for such high risk experimentation. This level is suitable for work involving agents of only “moderate potential hazard to personnel and the environment”.
Dr Jonathan Latham, a virologist, is Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project, which conducts independent scientific analysis of genetic engineering and its risks. He is the Editor of Independent Science News. He criticised the research on bat coronaviruses that has been taking place in Wuhan and the US. He argues that these experiments are “providing an evolutionary opportunity” for such viruses “to jump into humans.” He emphasized that the experiments were “providing opportunities for contamination events and leakages from labs, which happen on a routine basis”.
GM Watch notes: “Given that lab accidents are common, including in China where the SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities multiple times, the details emerging about the research activities of the WIV and US scientists again underline the need for a credible independent investigation of the most forensic kind into the origins of the current pandemic. And a broader investigation is also needed into the full range of biological threats arising from various areas of potentially hazardous but laxly regulated biotechnology research.”
Inside America’s Secretive Biolabs, an investigative report by USA Today May 2015 reveals hundreds of accidents, safety violations and near misses put people at risk.
“Vials of bioterror bacteria have gone missing. Lab mice infected with deadly viruses have escaped, and wild rodents have been found making nests with research waste. Cattle infected in a university’s vaccine experiments were repeatedly sent to slaughter and their meat sold for human consumption. Gear meant to protect lab workers from lethal viruses such as Ebola and bird flu has failed, repeatedly.
A team of reporters who work for the USA TODAY Network of Gannett newspapers and TV stations identified more than 200 of these high-containment lab facilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia operated by government agencies, universities and private companies. They’re scattered across the country from the heart of New York City to a valley in Montana; from an area near Seattle’s Space Needle to just a few blocks from Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza restaurant and shopping district.”
Human Error in High-Biocontainment Labs: A Likely Pandemic Threat, by Lynn Klotz, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2019
“Incidents causing potential exposures to pathogens occur frequently in the high security laboratories often known by their acronyms, BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) and BSL4. Lab incidents that lead to undetected or unreported laboratory-acquired infections can lead to the release of a disease into the community outside the lab; lab workers with such infections will leave work carrying the pathogen with them. If the agent involved were a potential pandemic pathogen, such a community release could lead to a worldwide pandemic with many fatalities. Of greatest concern is a release of a lab-created, mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, such as the airborne-transmissible H5N1 viruses created in the laboratories of Ron Fouchier in the Netherlands and Yoshihiro Kawaoka In Madison Wisconsin.
Such releases are fairly likely over time, as there are at least 14 labs (mostly in Asia) now carrying out this research. Whatever release probability the world is gambling with, it is clearly far too high a risk to human lives. Mammal-transmissible bird flu research poses a real danger of a worldwide pandemic that could kill human beings on a vast scale.”
Dr. Fauci, the head of the NIAID since 1984, has been in the forefront in supporting highest risk pathogen experiments. Dr. Fauci bears grave responsibility for having ignored a continuous series of documented reports — all of which warned of impending catastrophic pandemics, directly caused by experimental. laboratory-created pathogens.
It should be evident to everyone, that as long as irresponsible government officials continue to fund and promote experiments whose aim is to increase the virulence and lethal capacity of biological pathogens and viruses, the risk that those lethal pathogens can, have, and will escape from laboratories, is certain.
- Those accidental escapes pose catastrophic existential risk for the global human community.
- If we want to preserve our existence on the planet, our government must stop funding this line of research.
Gain-of-Function Research: Ethical Analysis
Gain-of-function (GOF) research involves experimentation that aims or is expected to (and/or, perhaps, actually does) increase the transmissibility and/or virulence of pathogens. Such research, when conducted by responsible scientists, usually aims to improve understanding of disease causing agents, their interaction with human hosts, and/or their potential to cause pandemics. The ultimate objective of such research is to better inform public health and preparedness efforts and/or development of medical countermeasures. Despite these important potential benefits, GOF research (GOFR) can pose risks regarding biosecurity and biosafety. In 2014 the administration of US President Barack Obama called for a “pause” on funding (and relevant research with existing US Government funding) of GOF experiments involving influenza, SARS, and MERS viruses in particular. With announcement of this pause, the US Government launched a “deliberative process” regarding risks and benefits of GOFR to inform future funding decisions-and the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) was tasked with making recommendations to the US Government on this matter. As part of this deliberative process the National Institutes of Health commissioned this Ethical Analysis White Paper, requesting that it provide (1) review and summary of ethical literature on GOFR, (2) identification and analysis of existing ethical and decision-making frameworks relevant to (i) the evaluation of risks and benefits of GOFR, (ii) decision-making about the conduct of GOF studies, and (iii) the development of US policy regarding GOFR (especially with respect to funding of GOFR), and (3) development of an ethical and decision-making framework that may be considered by NSABB when analyzing information provided by GOFR risk-benefit assessment, and when crafting its final recommendations (especially regarding policy decisions about funding of GOFR in particular). The ethical and decision-making framework ultimately developed is based on the idea that there are numerous ethically relevant dimensions upon which any given case of GOFR can fare better or worse (as opposed to there being necessary conditions that are either satisfied or not satisfied, where all must be satisfied in order for a given case of GOFR to be considered ethically acceptable): research imperative, proportionality, minimization of risks, manageability of risks, justice, good governance (i.e., democracy), evidence, and international outlook and engagement. Rather than drawing a sharp bright line between GOFR studies that are ethically acceptable and those that are ethically unacceptable, this framework is designed to indicate where any given study would fall on an ethical spectrum-where imaginable cases of GOFR might range from those that are most ethically acceptable (perhaps even ethically praiseworthy or ethically obligatory), at one end of the spectrum, to those that are most ethically problematic or unacceptable (and thus should not be funded, or conducted), at the other. The aim should be that any GOFR pursued (and/or funded) should be as far as possible towards the former end of the spectrum.
The Wuhan Lab and the Gain-of-Function Disagreement
A disagreement between Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci has put $600,000 of U.S. grant money to the Wuhan Institute of Virology back into the spotlight, while making “gain-of-function” research a household term — all amid calls for more investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2.
At issue is whether the National Institutes of Health funded research on bat coronaviruses that could have caused a pathogen to become more infectious to humans and, separately, if SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — transferred naturally from bats to humans, possibly through an intermediate host animal, or if a virus, a naturally occurring one or a lab-enhanced one, was accidentally released from the Wuhan lab.
There are a lot of unknowns, speculation and differences of opinion on these topics. But let’s start with what we do know: In 2014, the NIH awarded a grant to the U.S.-based EcoHealth Alliance to study the risk of the future emergence of coronaviruses from bats. In 2019, the project was renewed for another five years, but it was canceled in April 2020 — three months after the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S.
EcoHealth ultimately received $3.7 million over six years from the NIH and distributed nearly $600,000 of that total to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, a collaborator on the project, pre-approved by NIH.
Wuhan, of course, is where the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic emerged in late 2019.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has studied bat coronaviruses for years and their potential to ultimately infect humans, under the direction of scientist Shi Zhengli, as the Scientific American explained in a June 2020 story. Such zoonotic transfer — meaning transmission of a virus from an animal to a human — of coronaviruses occurred with the SARS and MERS coronaviruses, which led to global outbreaks in 2003 and 2012. Both viruses are thought to have started in bats, and then transferred into humans through intermediate animals — civets and racoon dogs, in the case of SARS, and camels in the case of MERS.
Experts have suspected the SARS-CoV-2 virus similarly originated in bats. Researchers in China — including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — have said the virus shares 96% of its genome with a bat virus collected by researchers in 2013 in Yunnan Province, China. (While that’s quite similar, Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa who studies coronaviruses and a pediatric infectious disease physician, told us it would be “impossible” to take such a virus and make the kind of changes required to turn it into SARS-CoV-2 in a lab. One would need a virus that’s 99.9% similar, and “in theory it might work.”)
An article published in Nature Medicine in March 2020 said that the virus likely originated through “natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer,” or “natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer.” The researchers, who analyzed genomic data, said SARS-CoV-2 “is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” While they said an accidental laboratory release of the naturally occurring virus can’t be ruled out, they said they “do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”
In an April 2020 statement, University of Sydney professor Edward Holmes, who was involved in mapping the genome of SARS-CoV-2, responded to “unfounded speculation” that the bat virus with 96% similarity was the origin of SARS-CoV-2. He said: “In summary, the abundance, diversity and evolution of coronaviruses in wildlife strongly suggests that this virus is of natural origin. However, a greater sampling of animal species in nature, including bats from Hubei province, is needed to resolve the exact origins of SARS-CoV-2.”
The U.S. Intelligence Community said in an April 30, 2020, statement that it “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” and that it “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
The zoonotic transfer theory hasn’t been proven; for example, no intermediate animal host, as was the case for SARS of MERS, has yet been identified. Lab-accident theories haven’t been proven either — whether a lab worker could have been infected by a naturally occurring virus and then transmitted it outside the lab, or, as Paul and others suggest, a lab-manipulated virus could be the origin.
But recently there has been renewed debate over the origin. On May 14 the journal Science published a letter from 18 scientists calling for “more investigation” to determine how the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” they wrote. “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
Jesse Bloom, one of the organizers of that letter, who studies viral evolution at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told us in an email: “We know that SARS-CoV-2 is similar to other coronaviruses that circulate in bats, so the deep origins of the virus are definitely from bat coronaviruses. As far as the immediate proximal origins, we simply don’t know the details.”
Bloom said zoonotic transfer either directly from a bat to a human or through an intermediate host animal is possible, as is a lab accident from research of similar viruses. “Because we don’t know the details for either of these scenarios, it’s not possible to say whether a hypothetical lab accident would have involved a virus exactly identical to that isolated in nature, or one that had been grown or somehow modestly manipulated in a lab. At this point, all of these are hypothetical scenarios, and while different scientists may have different guesses at how likely each scenario is, we need more information before anyone can be certain.”
The scientists are hardly alone in calling for more investigation.
As the letter noted, the U.S. government, along with 13 other countries, also had called for more inquiry into the origins in a March statement this year.
“It is critical for independent experts to have full access to all pertinent human, animal, and environmental data, research, and personnel involved in the early stages of the outbreak relevant to determining how this pandemic emerged,” the statement said. “With all data in hand, the international community may independently assess COVID-19 origins, learn valuable lessons from this pandemic, and prevent future devastating consequences from outbreaks of disease.”
The European Union made a similar statement. Both came in response to the release of a report by an international team convened by the World Health Organization. That report said a laboratory leak of a virus, involving “an accidental infection of staff,” was “an extremely unlikely pathway,” but the WHO director-general said that he didn’t believe the evaluation “was extensive enough.”
“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the day the report was publicly released on March 30. “Let me say clearly that as far as WHO is concerned all hypotheses remain on the table.”
In a May 11 Senate hearing, Paul raised the issue of the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and said some in the government weren’t interested in investigating the lab-leak theory. The Kentucky senator said that “government authorities, self-interested in continuing gain-of-function research say there’s nothing to see here.” He went on to assert a tie between U.S. researchers and the Wuhan Institute of Virology and accused them of “juicing up super-viruses,” asking Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, if he still supported “the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan.”
Fauci responded that “the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
In a subsequent interview on “Fox & Friends” on May 13, Paul said he didn’t know whether SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab. “Nobody knows,” he said. But he posited that if it did, Fauci, among others, “could be culpable for the entire pandemic,” adding, “I’m not saying that happened. I don’t know.”
Paul made the money-is-fungible argument, saying the NIH gave money to the lab, regardless of what that particular grant funded. But then asserted that NIH funding furthered risky gain-of-function research. The answer to the question of whether it did or didn’t depends on whom you ask and their definition of gain-of-function.
Hours after his May 11 exchange with Paul, Fauci said at a fact-checking conference hosted by PolitiFact.com that it would “almost be irresponsible” to not collaborate with Chinese scientists given that the 2003 SARS outbreak originated in China. “So we really had to learn a lot more about the viruses that were there, about whether or not people were getting infected with bad viruses.”
He called the EcoHealth collaboration “a very minor collaboration as part of a subcontract of a grant,” and said Paul conflated that with the claim that “therefore we were involved in creating the virus, which is the most ridiculous, majestic leap I’ve ever heard of.”
Fauci said he wasn’t convinced that the coronavirus developed naturally. “I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened.”
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson raised these issues on his show on May 11, saying: “The guy in charge of America’s response to COVID turns out to be the guy who funded the creation of COVID. We’re speaking of Tony Fauci and the gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan laboratory that the U.S. government with his approval paid for.” There’s no evidence that the Wuhan laboratory, with or without funding from an NIH grant, created SARS-CoV-2.
The night before, Carlson referred to a May 2 article on Medium by former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade. In that piece, Wade wrote about “two main theories” of SARS-Co-V-2’s origin: “One is that it jumped naturally from wildlife to people. The other is that the virus was under study in a lab, from which it escaped.” Wade asserted that the “clues point in a specific direction” — a lab-leak. But he said at the outset: “It’s important to note that so far there is no direct evidence for either theory. Each depends on a set of reasonable conjectures but so far lacks proof.”
Gain-of-function is a term that could describe any type of virology research that results in the gain of a certain function. But the type that’s controversial, including among scientists, is research that causes a pathogen to be more infectious, particularly to humans.
In 2014, the U.S. government put a pause on new funding of gain-of-function research, which it defined this way: “With an ultimate goal of better understanding disease pathways, gain-of-function studies aim to increase the ability of infectious agents to cause disease by enhancing its pathogenicity or by increasing its transmissibility.” A 2016 paper on the ethics of gain-of-function research said: “The ultimate objective of such research is to better inform public health and preparedness efforts and/or development of medical countermeasures.”
The pause — intended to provide time to address concerns about the risks and benefits of these studies — applied to certain research on influenza, MERS and SARS.
“Specifically, the funding pause will apply to gain-of-function research projects that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route,” the White House said in an Oct. 17, 2014, announcement.
As a Nature article at the time explained, there had been fierce debate among scientists on exactly what research should be deemed too risky. And some confusion on where the line would be drawn for this pause.
“Viruses are always mutating,” the article said, “and [Arturo] Casadevall [then a microbiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City], says that it is difficult to determine how much mutation deliberately created by scientists might be ‘reasonably anticipated’ to make a virus more dangerous — the point at which the White House states research must stop.”
In July 2014, a group of scientists and experts called the Cambridge Working Group issued a statement calling for such a pause of “[e]xperiments involving the creation of potential pandemic pathogens … until there has been a quantitative, objective and credible assessment of the risks, potential benefits, and opportunities for risk mitigation, as well as comparison against safer experimental approaches.”
Well over 300 scientists have since signed on to the statement, which expressed concern about the risk of accidental infection in lab studies that created “highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza.”
Paul cited the Cambridge Working Group in his May 11 and 13 remarks. But the group has not made “any statement … about work in Wuhan,” Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and one of the founder members of the group, said on Twitter.
Lipsitch further said that some members of the working group “may categorically oppose all GOF studies that enhance virulence, transmission, or immune escape. My personal view is that some such studies can be justified on risk-benefit grounds, while those on flu to date cannot.”
On Dec. 19, 2017, the U.S. government’s pause, or moratorium, was lifted. The Department of Health and Human Services announced a framework for evaluating whether funding should be granted for research involving “enhanced potential pandemic pathogens,” or PPPs. It said research on PPPs was “essential to protecting global health and security,” but the risks needed to be considered and mitigated.
The framework defined a “potential pandemic pathogen” as one that was both “likely highly transmissible and likely capable of wide and uncontrollable spread in human populations” and “likely highly virulent and likely to cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans.” And an enhanced PPP was a PPP “resulting from the enhancement of the transmissibility and/or virulence of a pathogen.”
The framework said enhanced PPPs don’t include “naturally occurring pathogens that are circulating in or have been recovered from nature.”
So, did the NIH’s grant to EcoHealth fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab? There are differing opinions on that. As noted above, whether research is “likely” or “reasonably anticipated” to enhance transmissibility can be subjective.
EcoHealth and the NIH and NIAID say no. “EcoHealth Alliance has not nor does it plan to engage in gain-of-function research,” EcoHealth spokesman Robert Kessler told us in an email. Nor did the grant get an exception from the pause, as some have speculated, he said. “No dispensation was needed as no gain-of-function research was being conducted.”
The NIAID told the Wall Street Journal: “The research by EcoHealth Alliance, Inc. that NIH funded was for a project that aimed to characterize at the molecular level the function of newly discovered bat spike proteins and naturally occurring pathogens. Molecular characterization examines functions of an organism at the molecular level, in this case a virus and a spike protein, without affecting the environment or development or physiological state of the organism. At no time did NIAID fund gain-of-function research to be conducted at WIV.”
And in a May 19 statement, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said that “neither NIH nor NIAID have ever approved any grant that would have supported ‘gain-of-function’ research on coronaviruses that would have increased their transmissibility or lethality for humans.”
Richard Ebright, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University and a critic of gain-of-function research, told the Washington Post that the EcoHealth/Wuhan lab research “was — unequivocally — gain-of-function research.” He said it “met the definition for gain-of-function research of concern under the 2014 Pause.” That definition, as we said, pertained to “projects that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility in mammals via the respiratory route.”
Alina Chan, a molecular biologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, said in a lengthy Twitter thread that the Wuhan subgrant wouldn’t fall under the gain-of-function moratorium because the definition didn’t include testing on naturally occurring viruses “unless the tests are reasonably anticipated to increase transmissibility and/or pathogenicity.” She said the moratorium had “no teeth.” But the EcoHealth/Wuhan grant “was testing naturally occurring SARS viruses, without a reasonable expectation that the tests would increase transmissibility or pathogenicity. Therefore, it is reasonable that they would have been excluded from the moratorium.”
Chan, who has published research about the possibility of an accidental lab leak of the virus, also said: “But we need to separate this fight about whether a particular project is GOF vs whether it has risk of lab accident + causing an outbreak.”
The University of Iowa’s Perlman told us the EcoHealth research is trying to see if these viruses can infect human cells and what about the spike protein on the virus determines that. (The spike protein is what the coronavirus uses to enter cells.) The NIH, he said, wouldn’t give money to anybody to do gain-of-function research “per se … especially in China,” and he didn’t think there was anything in the EcoHealth grant description that would be gain of function. But he said there’s a lot of nuance to this discussion.
“This was not intentional gain of function,” Perlman said, adding that in this type of research “these viruses are almost always attenuated,” meaning weakened. The gain of function would be what comes out of the research “unintentionally,” but the initial goal of the project is what you would want to look at: can these viruses infect people, how likely would they be to mutate in order to do that, and “let’s get a catalog of these viruses out there.”
Perlman also said that making a virus that could infect human cells in a lab doesn’t mean the virus is more infectious for humans. Viruses adapt to the cell culture, he said, and may grow well in a cell culture but then, for instance, not actually infect mice very well.
Back in February, MIT biologist Kevin Esvelt told PolitiFact.com that a 2017 paper published with the help of the EcoHealth grant involved, as PolitiFact described it, “certain techniques that … seemed to meet the definition of gain-of-function research.” But Esvelt said “the work reported in this specific paper definitely did NOT lead to the creation of SARS-CoV-2,” because of differences between the virus studied and SARS-CoV-2.
In the May 11 hearing, Paul also pointed to the work of Ralph S. Baric, a professor of epidemiology and a microbiologist who studies coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina. Paul described Baric’s research as “gain of function” in collaboration with the Wuhan lab. A 2015 paper by Baric, Shi and others, published with NIH funding in the journal Nature Medicine, examined the potential of SARS-like bat coronaviruses to lead to human disease. Researchers created a “chimeric virus” with the spike protein of the bat coronavirus and a mouse-adapted SARS backbone and found viruses could replicate in human airway cells. The study said “the creation of chimeric viruses … was not expected to increase pathogenicity.”
Fauci told Paul at the hearing: “Dr. Baric does not do gain-of-function research, and if it is, it’s according to the guidelines and it is being conducted in North Carolina, not in China.”
In a statement to us, Baric said: “Our work was approved by the NIH, was peer reviewed, and P3CO reviewed,” meaning reviewed under the HHS 2017 framework. “We followed all safety protocols, and our work was considered low risk because of the strain of coronaviruses being studied. It is because of our early work that the United States was in a position to quickly find the first successful treatment for SARS-CoV-2 and an effective COVID-19 vaccine.”
Kelsey Cooper, Paul’s communications director, told us “there is ample evidence that the NIH and the NIAID, under his direction, funded gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” citing Ebright’s statements. “In light of those facts, the question Dr. Paul asked was whether the government has fully investigated the origin of the disease, which it clearly has not. This research and the lab should be thoroughly investigated and opened to public scrutiny.”
Perlman told us that he thought Fauci’s response in the May 11 exchange was correct — that no money was given for gain-of-function research. But, he added, there’s a scientific discussion to be had on the benefits and risks of research making recombinant viruses, which involves rearranging or combining genetic material. The politicization of the issue, Perlman said, “doesn’t do anybody good.”
The shifting sands of ‘gain-of-function’ research
The mystery of COVID’s origins has reignited a contentious debate about potentially risky studies and the fuzzy terminology that describes them.
In Greek mythology, the Chimaera was a fire-breathing monster, a horrifying mishmash of lion, goat and snake that laid waste to the countryside. In 2015, virologists led by Ralph Baric at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill reported the creation of their own chimaera. They took a version of the coronavirus responsible for the deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in the early 2000s — now known as SARS-CoV — and adorned it with surface proteins from a different coronavirus taken from Chinese horseshoe bats. In the laboratory, this particular mash-up was able to break into human cells and also make mice ill1. This chimaera came with a message: other coronaviruses have the potential to spark a human pandemic. In just a few years’ time, that warning would prove prescient, as a distant cousin of SARS-CoV has now killed more than 4.9 million people worldwide.
“It probably didn’t get the recognition it should have had from the general virology community and people involved in pandemic preparedness,” says Katherine Spindler, a virologist at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the work. “Hindsight is 20:20.”
But the 2015 study did raise broad interest for another reason: some wondered whether such an experiment should ever have been attempted. The work was considered by some an example of ‘gain-of-function’ virology, in which scientists bestow new abilities on pathogens to study them.
The term first gained a wide public audience in 2012, after two groups revealed that they had tweaked an avian influenza virus, using genetic engineering and directed evolution, until it could be transmitted between ferrets2,3. Many people were concerned that publishing the work would be tantamount to providing a recipe for a devastating pandemic, and in the years that followed, research funders, politicians and scientists debated whether such work required stricter oversight, lest someone accidentally or intentionally release a lab-created plague. Researchers around the world voluntarily paused some work, but the issue became particularly politicized in the United States.
US funding agencies, which also support research abroad, later imposed a moratorium on gain-of-function research with pathogens while they worked out new protocols to assess the risks and benefits. But many of the regulatory discussions have taken place out of the public eye.The COVID lab-leak hypothesis: what scientists do and don’t know
Now, gain-of-function research is once again centre stage, thanks to SARS-CoV-2 and a divisive debate about where it came from. Most virologists say that the coronavirus probably emerged from repeated contact between humans and animals, potentially in connection with wet markets in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first reported. But a group of scientists and politicians argues that a laboratory origin has not been ruled out. They are demanding investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where related bat coronaviruses have been extensively studied, to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 could have accidentally leaked from the lab or crossed into humans during collection or storage of samples.
The arguments have highlighted questions about gain-of-function (GOF) research. But the classification is hard to define precisely. “What we mean by the term depends on who’s using the term,” says Gerald Keusch, associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Boston University in Massachusetts.
Here, Nature attempts to elucidate what constitutes GOF, and what science and medicine can learn from it.
The meaning of GOF
What is GOF? Debate over that question got heated at a US Senate hearing in July, when Senator Rand Paul (Republican, Kentucky) and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), went head-to-head over a 2017 paper4 by scientists at the Wuhan Institute. NIAID had supported the research through a New-York-based organization called EcoHealth Alliance. And it had done so at a time when funding for some GOF science was barred. The authors genetically grafted spike proteins — the viral keys that grant access to mammalian cells — from eight different, naturally occurring coronaviruses onto another coronavirus from the wild, called WIV1. They found that these new creations, in lab dishes, could infect monkey kidney cells, as well as human cells, through the same gateway — the widely expressed ACE2 receptor — that is used by SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2.
Senator Paul insisted that the work constituted GOF. Fauci was adamant that it did not.
It’s no surprise that politicians and scientists would disagree on GOF’s meaning, because it can mean different things in different contexts. At its most innocuous, GOF is a classic genetics term to describe mutations that give a gene, RNA or protein new abilities or expression patterns. Gain of function might result in bacteria that are extra sensitive to potassium ions5, for example, or an Arabidopsis plant with short stems and curly leaves6. A complementary approach — loss-of-function — involves disabling a gene to see what happens to organisms that lack it.Bird-flu research: The biosecurity oversight
The term GOF didn’t have much to do with virology until the past decade. Then, the ferret influenza studies came along. In trying to advise the federal government on the nature of such research, the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) borrowed the term — and it stuck, says Gigi Gronvall,a biosecurity specialist at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. From that usage, it came to mean any research that improves a pathogen’s abilities to cause disease or spread from host to host.
Virologists do regularly fiddle with viral genes to change them, sometimes enhancing virulence or transmissibility, although usually just in animal or cell-culture models. “People do all of these experiments all the time,” says Juliet Morrison, a virologist at the University of California, Riverside. For example, her lab has made mouse viruses that are more harmful to mice than the originals. If only mice are at risk, should it be deemed GOF? And would it be worrying?
The answer is generally no. Morrison’s experiments, and many others like them, pose little threat to humans. GOF research starts to ring alarm bells when it involves dangerous human pathogens, such as those on the US government’s ‘select agents’ list, which includes Ebola virus and the bacteria responsible for anthrax and botulism. Other major concerns are ‘pathogens of pandemic potential’ (PPP) such as influenza viruses and coronaviruses. “For the most part, we’re worried about respiratory viruses because those are the ones that transmit the best,” says Michael Imperiale, a virologist at the University of Michigan Medical School. GOF studies with those viruses are “a really tiny part” of virology, he adds.
But this little slice of the field became the focus when the NSABB talked about regulating or monitoring GOF research (see ‘Evolving terminology’). After the ferret flu studies were eventually published, researchers and regulators struggled to determine what sorts of experiment should receive extra scrutiny as a potential biosecurity risk.
Dr. Fauci Admits to Misleading the Public on Health Information
White House Wuhan Coronavirus Taskforce member Dr. Fauci admitted in a recent New York Times interview that he has been changing the numbers on herd immunity for the public based on “a gut feeling” Americans can now handle the truth. From the story (bolding is mine):
Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.
In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”
In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.
Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.
Dr. Fauci said that weeks ago, he had hesitated to publicly raise his estimate because many Americans seemed hesitant about vaccines, which they would need to accept almost universally in order for the country to achieve herd immunity.
Early on in the pandemic, Fauci declared that Americans should not wear masks. Now, he demands they wear one, nearly at all times, and says they should continue to do so even after they are vaccinated. From a CNN interview last weekend:
TAPPER: Once somebody has been immunized — I guess, for Pfizer, it’s two doses. I’m not sure what it is for Moderna or the other vaccines coming down the pike.
But once it’s — once the process is complete, does that mean they can take off their masks, they don’t have to social distance, they can just go about their lives as before?
FAUCI: I would recommend that that is not the case. I would recommend you have an added area of protection.
Obviously, with a 90-plus percent effective vaccine, you could feel much more confident. But I would recommend to people to not abandon all public health measures just because you have been vaccinated, because even though, for the general population, it might be 90 to 95 percent effective, you don’t necessarily know, for you, how effective it is.
Why the 1619 Movement is Fake History
What the 1619 Project Gets Wrong About Slavery and America’s Founding
In the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests—in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer and the important dialog that has resulted—I am inclined to revisit The New York Times’ controversial 1619 Project.
This project propagates a popular narrative, which has taken hold among many in the media, politics, and education, to link the foundational origins of the American experiment not to the context of the American Revolution of 1776 but to 1619, the year that enslaved Angolans arrived on the shores of colonial Jamestown, Virginia.
In this view, all of America’s current institutions, public attitudes, economics, and social structures—or, perhaps more pointedly, the alleged horrors and woes therein—are a result of slavery.
Among other claims, it credits slavery for the dismal state of America’s prison system, for suburban traffic congestion, for the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, even for capitalism itself. All this, even though many of this narrative’s adherents belong to the most respected, most lucrative institutions in the country—which is a testament to the unique constitutional freedoms that Americans enjoy.
Many who hear or read such views are incredulous, including the founders of the 1776 Project, who are attempting to dispel the belief that black America’s destiny has been shaped in the crucible of slavery and racism.
Bob Woodson, the 1776 Project’s founder, objects to the argument that the “shadow of slavery and Jim Crow” hangs over the destiny of black Americans.
“Nothing is more lethal,” he says, “than to convey to people that they have an exemption from personal responsibility.”
The 1776 Project’s organizers, for example, criticize the characterization of America as a place in which all whites are villains and all blacks are victims. It is easy, they argue, “to point to slavery and Jim Crow and then be done with your account of black American history. But that is lazy thinking.”
In fact, despite what the liberal media would have you believe, many African Americans have bitterly fought the narrative that blacks are eternally constrained by the attitudes and structures of racism.
Black History Month usually marks an occasion when African Americans celebrate the many victories they have achieved during their struggle for equality, the genius of black leaders, artists, statesman, and scholars—in short, it has become a celebration of black excellence not of black subjugation.
But tracing all of America’s institutions back to slavery misses that mark. Slaves being brought to American shores, and settlers fighting wars of expansion against Native American groups, are almost beside the point.
Neither slavery nor conquest are unique to the American experiment. Indeed, those practices existed on the African continent from whence slaves arrived, and they were present among the indigenous people of America as well.
What sets America apart—what makes it a unique place among the community of nations—is certain aspirational ideals incorporated into a framework of laws and freedoms centered around the primacy of the individual vis-a-vis the state.
Was the American state, born out of conflict in 1776, a perfect union at the moment of its inception? Plainly, it was not. But it was unique in that it adhered to a set of laws and principles that enabled it to become more perfect over time.
To be sure, a major fault line in the formation of the new American state was the incongruous institution of slavery. But, even at the time, slavery was considered deeply problematic among America’s Founders.
They fully recognized that slavery was incompatible with the ideals of freedom, but they understood that unifying the colonies in opposition to the British monarchy necessitated a compromise on slavery—which was, by that time, a central part of the economies of the five southernmost colonies. Thus, viewing America’s foundational impetus as solely a product of slavery lacks nuance and historical perspective.
Notably, nowhere in the American Constitution is slavery endorsed as a fundamental right or ideal.
Benjamin Franklin thought that slavery was “an atrocious debasement of human nature” and “a source of serious evils.” John Adams, a lifelong opponent of slavery, declared it a “foul contagion in the human character” and “an evil of colossal magnitude.” James Madison called it “the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”
Less than a century after our nation’s founding, Americans threw off the wretched institution at the cost of much blood and treasure. More than 100,000 Union soldiers died in a war to free the slaves and unify the country. Freedom, then, was no mere afterthought, but an earnestly sought ideal shared by whites and blacks alike.
Of course, historical antecedents play a role in the way in which our nation’s institutions were formed. Admittedly, the legacy of slavery did shape, to some extent, the struggles and progress of blacks in this country. But so does the legacy of freedom passed down from the Founders—arguably, to a far greater extent.
The Founders did not completely scrap all of the institutions that had developed in Europe over the centuries; they kept English common law as the basis of our legal system, for example. But no one would argue that, because English common law remains a feature of American jurisprudence, it follows that British monarchy forms the basis of American society.
The 1619 Project: What it is and why you should not let your child read it
This politically advantageous doctrine supposes much more than any revolutionary civil rights issue. In fact, a complete upheaval of American history is more on par with this trend.
At the heart of nuanced social justice training lies a subset of ideologies most infamously aligned with Critical Race Theory and the Marxist movement. This training is known as the 1619 Project, and the notably Marxist ideologies which support its founding principles would make any well-read scholar write off the project as political doctrine that cannot exist outside the realm of metaphorical fiction. Despite its lack of historical accuracy, the doctrine has been introduced academically and professionally across America. As parents protest the adoption of this material by their local schools, schoolchildren are getting a taste of the true intentions behind the social justice movement.
The 1619 Project was founded by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an American investigative journalist and contributing writer for the New York Times. In the recent past, Hannah-Jones has been very vocal regarding her opinions on contemporary civil rights issues and has even gone as far as to publicly demand reparations for American minorities, herself included. This politically advantageous doctrine supposes much more than any revolutionary civil rights issue. In fact, a complete upheaval of American history is more on par with this trend. “Most schoolchildren can recite the founding date of the United States of America: July 4, 1776. But a searing project from the New York Times Magazine changes that date to August 20, 1619—the day 20 enslaved Africans first arrived on Virginia soil.”1 The Times covered this essay by Hannah-Jones, describing the 1619 Project as “an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”2
However, thousands of copies of 1619 Project curriculum have been taught in schools across the nation, leaving countless American children with the notion that their country is racist.Maria BuenanoTweet
The author of the project herself openly verified its fabrications, admitting that “she got it wrong when she reported that ‘one of the primary reasons’ the colonists revolted against England was to preserve the institution of slavery. Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones claims now that she meant to say ‘some of’ the colonists fought to preserve slavery, not all of them.”6 The truth of the matter is, the disillusionment which encompasses the 1619 Project knows no bounds, leaving even the most rational of historical tales and testaments to America’s founding twisted and radicalized to suit the whims of revisionists. Upon admitting to the doctrine’s faults, the 1619 Project’s founder and the New York Times have released statements regarding the misrepresentations and have since issued corrections to the project. However, thousands of copies of 1619 Project curriculum have been taught in schools across the nation, leaving countless American children with the notion that their country is racist. This curriculum, produced by the Pulitzer Center is available to all schools for free.
The main function behind implementing this type of an ideology to young students has long been thought to introduce the Marxist principles of collective responsibility, intersectionality, and victim mentality. Interestingly enough, not all socialists support the 1619 Project’s implications. The World Socialist Website labels the Project as a “fraud,” criticizing the repeated alteration and dishonesty of the project. 3 It is clear that none of the claims perpetuated by the 1619 Project hold legitimate historical accuracy, and it is questionable whether or not its founders even believe the doctrine which they perpetuate. Unfortunately, even though the flagrant fabrications and political motivations that fuel this curriculum are well-reported, its presence in K-12 curriculum is not. “[T]he poisonous errors and coarse misinterpretations of Nikole Hannah-Jones and her colleagues will be transmitted, like a disease, to young Americans.”4
Florida Citizens’ Alliance reached out to public schools in all 40 Florida districts requesting a public records release regarding whether or not Critical Race Theory (CRT), the 1619 Project , or the ideologies therein were being taught in Florida classrooms.Very few school districts issued a response about the matter. The few answers FLCA did receive included vague statements regarding the state’s lack of official CRT requirements and the teachers’ free will on the matter. It comes down to this—if a teacher wants to teach CRT or The 1619 Project as supplemental material, their students are subject to learning it.
There may be teachers who find themselves struggling under peer pressure. Ultimately, without careful critique and consideration, no theory or project ought to hold academic weight.“[T]he fact remains that history is complicated and requires patient study, a willingness to weigh and assess confusing, fragmentary, and sometimes contradictory evidence, and the sophistication to understand that historical events and actors are shaped by many factors, of which race, while often important, is only one. Students really ought to be taught to emulate scholars who understand this, rather than to follow a venomous twenty-first-century Madame Defarge intent on reducing American history to a dismal story of racists and their victims.”4
Institutionalizing a habit of academic carelessness is the biggest threat which the 1619 Project perpetuates. “The 1619 Project curriculum is actually worse than the dishonest and deceptive material on which it is based. A mature adult reader of the 1619 Project may be equipped to apply critical reasoning to its claims—particularly Hannah-Jones’ claim that the purpose of the American Revolution was to perpetuate slavery. We cannot reasonably expect middle school and high school students, to whom we ought to be teaching critical reasoning skills, to bring the same kind of skepticism to their reading of works we assign them.”4 It is the blind acceptance of twisted and falsified information taught as historical fact that is the most destructive force facing any community of learning today. Reaching far beyond history, this curricula has infiltrated the sciences and math departments of learning as well.5 The 1619 Project applies CRT to topics ranging from the “broken healthcare system” to traffic to American popular music to the wealth gap.7 This curriculum teaches children that racism is everywhere they look, including inside themselves.
“The premise of the curriculum is that Nikole Hannah-Jones has discovered a fundamental truth about American history that has eluded the historical profession: that the central, defining feature of American history and culture is racism. The exercises that make up this curriculum are all based on this premise.”4 This premise is anything but enlightening. “The New York Times shot for the moon on the 1619 Project. Its goal was nothing short of fundamentally changing the way Americans view the history of their country from a slow painful pursuit of freedom, to a deadly attempt to continue slavery and the oppression of minorities.”6
What do parents have today say about this anti-American curriculum? One Wallstreet Journal author notes that “only parents, not the government, can ensure that this critical knowledge will be carried from generation to generation.” They go on to highlight that this doctrine “has grown increasingly hostile to patriotism and parental authority. Its greatest enemies are true diversity, tolerance and the nuclear family structure.”7 The main concern parents should have regarding the 1619 Project curriculum is its decisive uprooting of parental authority within the family and the culture of shame and victimhood which is perpetuated by the project. Parents have voiced their concerns across the country regarding the adoption of this curriculum by their local schools. In a “poll conducted for The Heritage Foundation by Braun Research is based on a representative national sample of 1,001 parents plus 566 school board members. It suggests that school boards may be more conservative than parents when it comes to teaching history and civics—and that reframing teaching U.S. history with slavery as an animating force might face more resistance than some have assumed.” When these parents and board members were “asked whether schools curricula ‘should promote the view that our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written by the Founders,’ a claim made by the 1619 Project, a strong majority of board members—over 70 percent—said ‘no.’ Parents were more evenly divided, answering in the affirmative 47 to 46 percent, with the rest undecided or preferring not to say.” 8 The most important factor remains crystal clear—parents do not want the 1619 Project in their children’s classrooms.
“The 1619 Project curriculum is not an educational enterprise. It is a tool of political indoctrination. No school system should endorse it. No teacher should use it. And no student should be misled by it, nor punished for rejecting its fatally flawed premise.”4
Ultimately, historians have found important errors throughout the 1619 Project, and these errors are grave enough to unhinge the entire basis of the theory. The project is a political doctrine that has no place in any K-12 classroom. There is much more than meets the eye with this particular curriculum due to its manipulative nature and affiliation with Marxist ideologies. Establishing a culture of victimhood for schoolchildren is the most dangerous aspect of this entire evaluation. Academics has become a watered-down version of what learning was meant to be, leaving today’s children in the dust of adult political debacles. It’s time that parents and community members take a stand against extreme bias in academia to protect our children.
The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History
The year the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown is drilled into students’ memories, but overemphasizing this date distorts history
In 1619, “20. and odd Negroes” arrived off the coast of Virginia, where they were “bought for victualle” by labor-hungry English colonists. The story of these captive Africans has set the stage for countless scholars and teachers interested in telling the story of slavery in English North America. Unfortunately, 1619 is not the best place to begin a meaningful inquiry into the history of African peoples in America. Certainly, there is a story to be told that begins in 1619, but it is neither well-suited to help us understand slavery as an institution nor to help us better grasp the complicated place of African peoples in the early modern Atlantic world. For too long, the focus on 1619 has led the general public and scholars alike to ignore more important issues and, worse, to silently accept unquestioned assumptions that continue to impact us in remarkably consequential ways. As a historical signifier, 1619 may be more insidious than instructive.
The overstated significance of 1619—still a common fixture in American history curriculum—begins with the questions most of us reflexively ask when we consider the first documented arrival of a handful of people from Africa in a place that would one day become the United States of America. First, what was the status of the newly arrived African men and women? Were they slaves? Servants? Something else? And, second, as Winthrop Jordan wondered in the preface to his 1968 classic, White Over Black, what did the white inhabitants of Virginia think when these dark-skinned people were rowed ashore and traded for provisions? Were they shocked? Were they frightened? Did they notice these people were black? If so, did they care?about:blank
In truth, these questions fail to approach the subject of Africans in America in a historically responsible way. None of these queries conceive of the newly-arrived Africans as actors in their own right. These questions also assume that the arrival of these people was an exceptional historical moment, and they reflect the worries and concerns of the world we inhabit rather than shedding useful light on the unique challenges of life in the early seventeenth century.
There are important historical correctives to the misplaced marker of 1619 that can help us ask better questions about the past. Most obviously, 1619 was not the first time Africans could be found in an English Atlantic colony, and it certainly wasn’t the first time people of African descent made their mark and imposed their will on the land that would someday be part of the United States. As early as May 1616, blacks from the West Indies were already at work in Bermuda providing expert knowledge about the cultivation of tobacco. There is also suggestive evidence that scores of Africans plundered from the Spanish were aboard a fleet under the command of Sir Francis Drake when he arrived at Roanoke Island in 1586. In 1526, enslaved Africans were part of a Spanish expedition to establish an outpost on the North American coast in present-day South Carolina. Those Africans launched a rebellion in November of that year and effectively destroyed the Spanish settlers’ ability to sustain the settlement, which they abandoned a year later. Nearly 100 years before Jamestown, African actors enabled American colonies to survive, and they were equally able to destroy European colonial ventures.
These stories highlight additional problems with exaggerating the importance of 1619. Privileging that date and the Chesapeake region effectively erases the memory of many more African peoples than it memorializes. The “from-this-point-forward” and “in-this-place” narrative arc silences the memory of the more than 500,000 African men, women, and children who had already crossed the Atlantic against their will, aided and abetted Europeans in their endeavors, provided expertise and guidance in a range of enterprises, suffered, died, and – most importantly – endured. That Sir John Hawkins was behind four slave-trading expeditions during the 1560s suggests the degree to which England may have been more invested in African slavery than we typically recall. Tens of thousands of English men and women had meaningful contact with African peoples throughout the Atlantic world before Jamestown. In this light, the events of 1619 were a bit more yawn-inducing than we typically allow.
Telling the story of 1619 as an “English” story also ignores the entirely transnational nature of the early modern Atlantic world and the way competing European powers collectively facilitated racial slavery even as they disagreed about and fought over almost everything else. From the early 1500s forward, the Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, Dutch and others fought to control the resources of the emerging transatlantic world and worked together to facilitate the dislocation of the indigenous peoples of Africa and the Americas. As historian John Thornton has shown us, the African men and women who appeared almost as if by chance in Virginia in 1619 were there because of a chain of events involving Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and England. Virginia was part of the story, but it was a blip on the radar screen.
These concerns about making too much of 1619 are likely familiar to some readers. But they may not even be the biggest problem with overemphasizing this one very specific moment in time. The worst aspect of overemphasizing 1619 may be the way it has shaped the black experience of living in America since that time. As we near the 400th anniversary of 1619 and new works appear that are timed to remember the “firstness” of the arrival of a few African men and women in Virginia, it is important to remember that historical framing shapes historical meaning. How we choose to characterize the past has important consequences for how we think about today and what we can imagine for tomorrow.
In that light, the most poisonous consequence of raising the curtain with 1619 is that it casually normalizes white Christian Europeans as historical constants and makes African actors little more than dependent variables in the effort to understand what it means to be American. Elevating 1619 has the unintended consequence of cementing in our minds that those very same Europeans who lived quite precipitously and very much on death’s doorstep on the wisp of America were, in fact, already home. But, of course, they were not. Europeans were the outsiders. Selective memory has conditioned us to employ terms like settlers and colonists when we would be better served by thinking of the English as invaders or occupiers. In 1619, Virginia was still Tsenacommacah, Europeans were the non-native species, and the English were the illegal aliens. Uncertainty was still very much the order of the day.
When we make the mistake of fixing this place in time as inherently or inevitably English, we prepare the ground for the assumption that the United States already existed in embryonic fashion. When we allow that idea to go unchallenged, we silently condone the notion that this place is, and always has been, white, Christian, and European.
Where does that leave Africans and people of African descent? Unfortunately, the same insidious logic of 1619 that reinforces the illusion of white permanence necessitates that blacks can only be, ipso facto, abnormal, impermanent, and only tolerable to the degree that they adapt themselves to someone else’s fictional universe. Remembering 1619 may be a way of accessing the memory and dignifying the early presence of black people in the place that would become the United States, but it also imprints in our minds, our national narratives, and our history books that blacks are not from these parts. When we elevate the events of 1619, we establish the conditions for people of African descent to remain, forever, strangers in a strange land.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We shouldn’t ignore that something worth remembering happened in 1619. There are certainly stories worth telling and lives worth remembering, but history is also an exercise in crafting narratives that give voice to the past in order to engage with the present. The year 1619 might seem long ago for people more attuned to the politics of life in the 21st century. But if we can do a better job of situating the foundational story of black history and the history of slavery in North America in its proper context, then perhaps we can articulate an American history that doesn’t essentialize notions of “us” and “them” (in the broadest possible and various understandings of those words). That would be a pretty good first step, and it would make it much easier to sink our teeth into the rich and varied issues that continue to roil the world today.
Why is the Far Left Afraid of Our American History?
The Roots of America’s Dangerous Turn Left
To understand where the radical left plans to take America, you must understand the source of its ideas. We have been warning America about this for over 50 years!
America is in serious decline. Many Americans are deeply concerned. The radical left has gained control of the nation. Look at the Democratic Party today: Its leading personalities promote policies that are weakening the nation economically, socially, morally, militarily and geopolitically. How did they get control? What caused this nation to descend into this condition?
You need to understand what has happened inside this country and why. The problem is far deeper, and has been going on for far longer, than most people realize.
During the Cold War, there was a lot of fear within America about the spread of communism. Today, most Americans no longer consider it a threat of any concern.
But it is of grave concern. Few people realize it, but many mainstream political views in America today are identical to—and trace directly back to—the ideals and beliefs of communism.
One popular candidate running for the Democratic presidential nomination claims to be a socialist. Well, many Communists call themselves socialists. The fact that he has so much support reveals how dangerously ignorant the American people are.
What do you know about communism? A growing number of Americans support the government taking over health care and other major segments of the national economy. They fail to understand the dangers that accompany a Communist system.
Socialism and communism are alike in fundamental ways. Both say the centralized government or “the public” should own and control production, rather than individual business owners. Both call for centralized planning and control, which make for powerful governments that are highly susceptible to corruption. Socialism is considered the transition stage from capitalism to communism; in some cases, it is a less radical version that might eventually “mature” into communism.
In the early years of his ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote quite a lot about communism. We need to understand why he was so deeply concerned.
Mr. Armstrong wrote in the February 1962 Plain Truth: “[T]he ‘Communist Party’ is merely a trick term to pull the wool over our eyes and deceive us—a means of getting a fifth column into our midst—of getting the enemy’s government into our very midst—leading us to accept it as a part of our government. Its only object is to destroy our government.”
That is a basic truth: The Communist movement in America only has one object: to destroy America’s government! A number of nations have outlawed communism, yet America foolishly allows it as a political party here.
Although the Communist Party usa currently has little power as an official political party, the broader Communist movement has significant influence in many aspects of American politics and society. In an article about “the new communism,” Alan Johnson, professor of democratic theory and practice at Edge Hill University, wrote: “A worldview recently the source of immense suffering and misery, and responsible for more deaths than fascism and Nazism, is mounting a comeback; a new form of left-wing totalitarianism that enjoys intellectual celebrity but aspires to political power”. That worldview is communism. And it is still bent on subverting and toppling the established order.
Modern proponents of communism downplay its subversive goals. But subversion is the very foundation of it! The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels is considered the “sacred text” of communism. It stresses the need for a total overthrow of existing governments. The Manifesto concludes with some words that may sound eerily familiar to modern news watchers: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
The reason this may sound familiar is that students at the University of Missouri chanted a paraphrase of the line about chains in November as they protested, forced the resignation of the university president, and cried out for the whole system to be overthrown. Constitutional law attorney David French said these students are “revolutionaries, and the revolution they seek is nothing less than the overthrow of our constitutional republic, beginning with our universities”.
You do not have to look hard to find evidence of communism’s influence in America today!
The New Left was a powerful political movement that swept through the nation in the 1960s and 1970s. Agitators and educators worked to bring about changes in homosexual rights, abortion, gender roles, drugs and other issues. The movement was closely tied to the “hippie” movement, and it achieved many of its lawless goals. The New Left was almost identical to the Communist Party! The champions of the movement had stunning success in working their way into key positions in today’s Democratic Party! Look at the radical left today. Is it any different from communism?
“With Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party having collapsed, Hawaii’s Reds changed their tactics. They went underground and concentrated instead on infiltrating the Democratic Party …” Paul Kengor wrote in the October 2012 American Spectator. “For America’s Reds, it was the start of a long march to operate within the Democratic Party, transforming it from the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy to the party of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama”. When Nancy Pelosi came in, I was shocked. She was to be the speaker, representing the Democratic Party, and she had said the most obscene things I had ever heard a politician say. As I wrote in our January 2007 issue, that was a disaster for the Democratic Party and for the nation.
Regarding the Communist goal to overthrow the government, Mr. Armstrong went on to write: “Of course, if it could do this peaceably at the polls, it would—but it knows it can’t ….” That was true at that time—but in more recent years, these radicals have been able to win at the polls. This shows how much America has degenerated!The radical left has gained control of the government and much of the country. Where did the ideas of America’s leaders today come from? From our educational institutions.
The radical left has gotten control of the government and much of the country. What is the left’s end goal? Mr. Armstrong continued, “[I]f it could do it peaceably at the polls, it would—but it knows it can’t, so it does stand for the violent overthrow of the United States government.” This is what it is all about. It has never been merely a political party—it is a movement to destroy the government of America. And it has succeeded on an amazingly high level!
A Foothold in Education
In the 1960s and ’70s, America had many problems with rioting and violence on college campuses. Educators would ask who was in charge, and in almost every case, there was nobody in charge except the people who were rioting.
Soon, the New Left began to get into those institutions and gain control. It was in the education system that the left got its foothold into the nation: first in colleges, then high schools and even elementary schools. It is from the education system that a nation gets its leadership. Where did the ideas of America’s leaders today come from? From our educational institutions.
Consider this: The Soviet Union pushed harder to establish communism than perhaps any government in history. Much of that push happened not inside its own borders, but inside America! In 1970, kgb agent Yuri Bezmenov defected from the Soviet Union and escaped to Canada. He went to great lengths to warn the Americans about the stealth attack the Soviets were waging against them.
Bezmenov said, “Only about 15 percent of [the Soviet Union’s] time, money and manpower is spent on espionage as such.” The remaining 85 percent, he said, “is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or ‘active measures.’” Most of this happened in American schools! Some of the main methods were infiltrating universities with radical leftists, establishing Communist-staffed newspapers, and holding international seminars with Soviet participation.
According to a former staff director of a Senate investigations subcommittee, in the years between 1935 and 1953, the Communist Party usa “enlisted the support of at least 3,500 professors”.
Documents from the Soviet archives revealed that even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party usa received $2 to $3 million each year from the Kremlin. This funding was to further the party’s subversive activities.
Mr. Armstrong wrote in 1956 about the Communists “perverting our morals, sabotaging our educational system, wrecking our social structure, destroying our spiritual and religious life, weakening our industrial and economic power, demoralizing our armed forces, and finally, after such infiltration, overthrowing our government by force and violence! All this clearly disguised as a harmless political party! Communism is a worldwide psychological warfare!”
Communists first corrupt, pollute and agitate from within. But their final phase is a violent overthrow of the government. They aim to destroy the system, because they can’t build another one until that happens.
The Communist attack from within America is far more significant than you might realize. We are staring it in the face today.
The Real Watergate Scandal
In 1974, U.S. President Richard Nixon resigned from office over the Watergate scandal. It was discovered that the Nixon administration had broken into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and tried to cover it up. Many Americans these days know little about what happened at Watergate. To them, it is a scandal that brought down a corrupt president. But there is much more to the story.
President Nixon was a staunch opponent of communism, and the left hated him for it. At the time of Watergate, Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, said: “The American press get the pleasure in successfully crucifying Nixon, but the last laugh could be on them. See how they like it when the Commies take over the West.” He was only one of many people who were thinking that way.
What happened at that time has a lot to do with what we see today.
I remember hearing educator Dr. Herman Hoeh making this point in 1980. He said that President Nixon actually had come to recognize a Communist conspiracy to work their way into the New Left in America, and that he broke it up. “And for that,” Hoeh said, “he was driven out of the presidency because a part of his plan involved preventing the far left from capturing the Democratic Party. And hence, Watergate. That’s all a part of the story that most people don’t realize. Watergate was not an attempt to see who was at some party of the Democratic headquarters; it was far more serious.”
What happens if the far left gets control of the Democratic Party? Well, if it is elected, then it gets control of the government, the nation and everything that matters.
Now, more evidence has emerged backing up this view of what happened in the Watergate scandal. Geoff Shepard has documented it in his book The Real Watergate Scandal.
Shepard served as deputy defense counsel for the Nixon administration during the Watergate hearings. “It was the first and, hopefully, the only presidential resignation in our nation’s history,” Shepard told the Washington Times. “But it seared my soul, and I’ve spent many intervening years trying to understand how everything went so wrong”.
“Four decades later, I’ve begun to appreciate what the real tragedy was. In one of the ultimate ironies of political history, it appears that the smoking-gun tape [an audio tape in which Nixon apparently sought to limit the fbi’s investigation, and for which he was prosecuted for obstruction of justice] has been totally misunderstood, that the president need not have resigned, and that he was actually driven from office—and his senior aides imprisoned—through highly improper actions of judges and Watergate prosecutors”.
“John Dean, President Nixon’s principal accuser, has recently acknowledged that the president and his defense team were totally mistaken about the tape and its significance,” Shepard wrote in his book. “If we had known the context in which that conversation had taken place, the president would not have had to resign, and in Dean’s own words, ‘could have lived to fight another day.’”
“Documents I’ve recently uncovered in the National Archives tell a tale of secret meetings, secret memos and secret collusion that will shock many Americans and that constitute flagrant violations of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights …,” Shepherd wrote (Washington Times, op. cit.). The people who were supposed to be protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were trampling all over it behind closed doors. This was supposedly in pursuit of “justice” for a lawless president!
“Shepard said the left’s disdain for Nixon began when he was a congressman in the 1940s and brought down Soviet spy Alger Hiss, who was regarded as a leftist hero” (Townhall.com, Aug. 9, 2015). Why would a Soviet spy be a leftist hero?
Alger Hiss was educated at Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and was even in the delegation at the Yalta Conference where Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin divided up Europe. He was right there—and he was a Soviet spy. Through Hiss, the Communists were actually penetrating the Truman administration; he was in high places in the State Department.
Apparently the left likes Soviet spies, because when Richard Nixon brought Hiss down, he made himself a target. Shepard told Townhall, “And what happened in Watergate, if you look at it in retrospect, the eastern liberal elites got control of the special prosecutor’s office, and they had a power to prosecute. They criminalized prosecution. They staffed the place with all their friends” (ibid). He proves this in his book.
“Nixon came to national prominence as a result of this investigation,” Shepard wrote, “and Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950.” They had reached the statute of limitations and couldn’t really convict him of much, but they did convict him. “The liberal eastern establishment, particularly its many Harvard-educated members, never forgave Nixon for his leadership in bringing down one of their own.”
Soviet spy Alger Hiss was “one of their own.” He came right out of Harvard, America’s top university! These highly educated people had that spirit even then, and they wanted to get control of the government.
Most of these people hate the Constitution, the supreme law of the land! They are lawless! They can’t stand to be constrained by the Constitution and law.
The Watergate scandal wasnothingcompared to what these people did behind the scenes. They violated the Constitution time after time because they have no respect for it. They have such towering respect for their own intellect that they think they know more than the Founding Fathers! This has led the U.S. into catastrophic problems.
We must keep in mind that they have a plan: Their sole purpose is to destroy the government of the land. They seek to destroy the whole American system and replace it with another, which is really communism and tyranny. They want all of America looking to one man—like Russia looked to Stalin!
Destroying the Constitution
“John Sirica is a disgrace to the federal judiciary,” Shepard told Townhall (op. cit.). Sirica was the presiding judge over the Watergate trial. He colluded with prosecutors behind closed doors, and they worked everything out together. Judges and lawyers are supposed to remain separate, but Sirica worked with the prosecutors to bring Nixon down.
“Watergate prosecutors took the government files with them,” Shepard explained. “These are government documents, and they should have stayed at National Archives and then subject to review with researchers like me. But three of the key prosecutors took their files” (ibid). Why did they take the files? Because they wanted to hide what they were doing. They didn’t want the public to know that they were unjustly destroying a president and tearing down a government!
Though he had no real idea of the scope of these activities, Richard Nixon did see through a lot of what these people were doing. He had stopped them—and they hated him for that. They were determined to take him down.
“Nixon was done in by officers of the court,” Shepard wrote, “the very people sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution—federal judges and federal prosecutors who met in secret and reached backroom deals on how best to take him down and secure conviction of his senior aides. That is the real Watergate scandal ….”
You would think Americans would love the Constitution, but that is not the case in this country anymore. The radical left wants to destroy the Constitution! Many even argue that it is not the supreme law of the land and that we should get rid of it! Most of the educational institutions and the media would like to get rid of it. Even one of the Supreme Court justices said the Constitution is outdated and should not be used.It is shocking how much and how often the government is exposed for being deceitful. Americans have practically come to accept this as a fact of politics today.
This thinking is bringing America down! What will you have when the Constitution is destroyed? You will have nightmares like Stalin. What an example he set! Read some of Stalin’s history. He was a madman who imprisoned, exiled and executed millions of his own people! He purged nearly all the top leadership of his army because he was so paranoid about people trying to destroy him.
Not Just a Political Party
“Actually, the Communist Party is not a mere political party in the sense that Americans think of the term,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “It is a ruthless, totalitarian dictatorship. It is run with absolute power by a few men at the top, all of whom are completely subservient to one man who is a dictator-absolute! This one-man dictatorship is supposed to be necessary because there are many different interpretations of the Marxist philosophy. Therefore, to prevent division, they must have a supreme interpreter” (Plain Truth, op. cit.). When you give one man that kind of authority and power, it will always bring about a tyranny!
“It is not part ofany government. It is a government—a world government, which has set up, and therefore rules the Soviet government in Russia. It is supreme over the Soviet government! Instead of being another political party as part of the party system of American government, it is a foreign government whose sole purpose is to destroy and overthrow the government of the United States and set up a foreign Communist government here instead …” (ibid).
We must see that this trend will play out until the final phase: the violent overthrow of the system.
There is an additional dimension to this crisis in America: an Antiochus type at the pinnacle of power who is acting like something he is not.
Barack Obama was influenced as a youth by Frank Marshall Davis, a card-carrying Communist Party member (article, page 2). “Davis’s unflagging support of Stalin’s Soviet Union is apparent in a poem he wrote, lovingly titled, ‘To the Red Army,’” Paul Kengor wrote. The poem reads, “Smash on victory-eating Red warriors! Drive on, oh mighty people’s juggernaut! … Show the marveling multitudes, Americans, British, all your allied brothers, How strong you are, How great you are, How your young tree of new unity, Planted 25 years ago, Bears today the golden fruit of victory!”.
Anyone who publicly speaks of this crucial aspect of the president’s personal history is immediately branded a racist. But this is the truth!
Davis, Mr. Obama’s mentor, harbored a special hatred for Winston Churchill. Davis said, “[T]he only people Churchill gives a rap about are the white people of the British Empire,” and that Churchill wanted America to join him in bludgeoning “all other countries into submission.” That is a monstrous lie! Churchill was probably the greatest world leader of the 20th century, and the fruits prove it. But after Mr. Obama took office, he got rid of the bust of Winston Churchill in the White House, on loan from Britain. This was a major insult to America’s British allies. Apparently the president really believes Davis’s teaching against Churchill.
It was Mr. Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who introduced him to Davis, seeking in “Davis the father figure and role model that Obama lacked at home”. So he needed a father figure. He also had one in Jeremiah Wright.
Dr. Kengor wrote in his book The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis—the Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor: “In 1995, an aspiring politician named Barack Obama published an autobiography called Dreams From My Father. There, Obama acknowledged the people who influenced him throughout his life. Among the most prominent influences was the figure that Obama gingerly acknowledged only as ‘Frank’”—referring to Frank Marshall Davis, his mentor.
Mr. Obama is not the person most people think he is. He has a manufactured persona that he wants you to see.
It is stunning how much and how often the government of this land is exposed for being deceitful. Everything revolves around deceit. Americans have practically come to accept this as a fact of politics today—but it is deeply disturbing and will have dangerous consequences!
The leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has strongly criticized President Obama for the nuclear deal with Iran and other issues. He said: “The president is just totally inept, unless he has an agenda.” Well, let me tell you, he has an agenda—and he is using it to lead this country to its death!
Today we see and hear radical left groups chanting, “You can’t stop the revolution.” Add to that the explosive dynamic of dividing our races. People are preparing themselves for the violent overthrow of the American system!
Notice how viciously they are attacking America’s police, the last line of the nation’s defense. After that comes violent chaos and anarchy!
Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren reported last August on several recent killings of police officers. She showed over 20,000 names etched in stone at the National Law Enforcement Memorial, and she called on the president to come to that memorial and show support to the police officers and their families. Why don’t we hear from him? Dozens of policemen are being killed. Why won’t the president speak out about that? When one white policeman kills a black thug who was trying to kill him in Ferguson, Missouri, the president creates a furor. But when the police are being gunned down, he won’t speak out.They are viciously attacking America’s police, the last line of the nation’s defense. After that comes violent chaos and anarchy.
Mr. Obama sent Al Sharpton to Ferguson as his liaison to go after the white policeman even before his trial. In the end, even the attorney general admitted that the policeman was justified in shooting Michael Brown. But still people run around saying, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
In Baltimore, authorities are working hard to convict policemen involved in the death of Freddie Gray. Yet this man was a drug addict and a dealer with a long criminal record. If these people are truly looking for justice, why are they going after the police?
What will happen when the police are rendered powerless and the military is unprepared? Once the police are handicapped and can’t do anything, it won’t be long before cities burn (Isaiah 1:7). Even if the demonstrators don’t know anything about communism or the radical left, they are still being stirred up by the radical left, the Communists and those who know how to foment unrest.
This is all part of the left’s plan to destroy the police! You can’t take over a government and run it unless you get rid of the police who are loyal to the system!
Another question: Why would the president release nearly 200,000 illegal immigrants, a number of whom are rapists, robbers and even killers? Weekly or monthly, some illegal immigrant kills an American citizen. Why would anybody want to let those people, who shouldn’t even be here, run around and commit crimes—unless there is an agenda?
America’s foreign policy is also incomprehensible—unless there is an agenda. Just take the example of Egypt. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has come out publicly and told Islamic leaders in his country to purge radicalism from their religion! That is true—and it took courage! But how did America respond? Washington cut off all military aid to Sisi! Why would the president do that unless he had an agenda? Something is sick and diabolical here. Surely we ought to be able to recognize that. Egypt is prophesied in the Bible to align with the Iranian terrorist movement. And the U.S. plays a key role in making it happen!
Of course there is an agenda—and it is bad for America. It is time for the American people to wake up! Or is it already too late? The Prophet Hosea says that we allow ourselves “to be mixed up with foreigners …. Foreigners eat away his strength unknown to him” (Hosea 7:8-9; Moffatt translation). Foreigners are eating away America’s strength, yet we don’t even realize it because we have forsaken God.
It is amazing how few people will really talk about what is happening. Our people are sick in their reasoning and are faint of heart (Isaiah 1:5). When they see something fearsome, they are afraid to face it!
The Real Force Behind Communism
We must know our enemy in order to understand what is going on in America.
Revelation 12:12 reveals that Satan is the one behind it all. The devil is full of wrath, and he has gotten control of the government of this land! He controls the radical left. The fruits prove it. These people want to bring this system down. They are deceived (verse 9).
Our people don’t understand their Bibles as they once did. They don’t understand the many scriptures about Satan the devil. He has his agenda against America, and it will prevail.
“The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord” (verse 27). God blames the people for their sins, not the leaders! America is full of sins—and the whole world sees them! The leader may lead us to destruction, but God blames the people.
America’s problems are a direct result of America’s sins. No political candidate is going to “make America great again,” no matter what people think! I would like to see it happen, but it isn’t going to happen in this age. Everyone will come to recognize that truth before much longer! God will make America great again in the World Tomorrow. He is going to solve our problems—in spite of our rebellion. He will save America—and the world—at Jesus Christ’s return, which is what will happen immediately after all these crises climax.
Why the Left Really Wants to Kill America
The century-long attempt to kill capitalism in America gained a dramatic head of steam in the 1960s with the rapid ascendency of progressivism, a Marxist movement that would quietly seize control of the Democratic Party over the last half-century.
Which was something different. For most of America’s 244-year history, the dominant political parties that evolved had a common goal constantly working to improve the country they both loved. In the 1860s, a Republican president went to war to end slavery. A century later, a Democratic president launched another well-intentioned war, a war on poverty. Democrats and Republicans alike largely saw their country as a force for good, both at home and abroad. Beginning in the 1960s, that widely- shared view began to show cracks as the progressive movement began tightening its grip on the modern Democratic Party. Democrat icons of the 1960s — Adlai Stevenson, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Sam Nunn, Hubert Humphrey and JFK, to name a few — were genuine patriots who loved their country, a sentiment that was shared by a large majority of that era’s rank and file Democrats. Such is no longer the case. Here are four ways Democrats are looking to end the idea of America altogether:
Killing America by replacing patriotism with socialism
In October 2018, The New York Times reported that 69% of progressive Democrats are ashamed of being American. Increasingly influenced by the progressive wing of their party, Democrats as a whole have moved sharply away from that love of country, and veered toward socialism that sounded like communism: In February 2019, Public Opinion Strategies found that an astounding 77% of Democrats who plan to vote in 2020 self-identify as socialists. Aided and abetted by the complicit mainstream media, the modern Democratic Party has been remarkably successful at driving down patriotism: Gallup found that less than a third of Democrats are extremely proud of their country. That’s less than a third, and trending sharply downward.
Killing America by making citizenship meaningless
Why has the modern Democratic Party worked so diligently to erode patriotism? Because love of country is a major impediment to convincing voters to support what they really want, which is yielding their nation’s sovereignty to an international governing body, ultimately the United Nations. With patriotism marginalized, a society’s populace can more easily be led to no longer see themselves as citizens of their country, but as “citizens of the world.” (In his July 2008 speech in Berlin, progressive presidential candidate Barack Obama told an adoring crowd of 200,000 cheering Europeans, “I come to you as a Citizen of the World.”)
In Europe, the long-standing national identity of every progressive-run nation is already being intentionally erased, and it stands as a sort of bellwether of things to come over here.
Government-encouraged mass migration is its instrument, and the same thing is being attempted in America by the modern Democratic Party. This particular phenomenon is particularly associated with billionaire globalist George Soros. The Hungarian-born “stateless statesman” is the most prolific financier of the progressive push for a world without borders.
In his anti-capitalist best-seller, The Crisis of Global Capitalism, Soros sets out the progressive strategy. Complaining bitterly about “the sway of sovereign nations,” Soros has advocated for, and since spent immense sums each year fostering “open society alliances” among sovereign nations. The goal of these alliances is to indoctrinate citizens of western nations to accept the high-mindedness of doing away with national identities in favor of a collectivist world identity. With national identities erased, people no longer see themselves as patriotic citizens of their countries, but as united citizens of an enlightened global society. People who oppose the unfettered influx of migrants and refugees are shouted down as racists and xenophobes. Once open-border alliances have been solidified, the last obstacle is cleared for a borderless world governed by the UN. For global governance to become a reality, the sovereignty of every western nation, including America, must be eliminated, Soros believes.
When the election of Donald Trump dealt a calamitous setback to the near-term realization of fundamentally transforming America, Soros penned an angry rant comparing Trump to Hitler, and calling him a racist and a xenophobe. Known as “the puppet master” because of the enormous influence he exerts on Democratic Party hierarchy, Soros’s foremost target in taking down sovereign western democracies is the crown jewel of them all: the United States of America. In working toward the culmination of that takedown, the billionaire globalist mastermind has powerful allies at the highest levels of the modern Democratic Party.
Killing America through identity politics
To overthrow a capitalist society, The Communist Manifesto calls for fomenting a titanic struggle by pitting an alleged victim class against an alleged oppressor class. In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks rose to power by pitting the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.
Over the last half-century, the Democratic Party has taken the concept of Marxist/Leninist dialectical struggle to new heights through its use of identity politics. The term refers to politically subdividing the electorate into multiple factions (voting blocks), whose members are told they are singled out for persecution by a bigoted and unjust society. To wit: People of color are persecuted by racists & white supremacists, women by sexists & misogynists, refugees & illegal immigrants by nativists & xenophobes, Muslims by Islamophobes, gays & lesbians by homophobes & religious bigots, the 99% by the 1%, and so on. The goal of identity politics is to turn a majority of the American electorate against their country.
The self-serving narrative of identity politics is that caring, inclusive and tolerant Democrats will righteously defend the members (voters) of each identity group from the constant onslaught of outrages inflicted on them by an oppressive society. Identity politics is used as a political bludgeon to deceive Americans into believing their country is an incurably unjust place where things can be set straight only by killing off its existing economic and governing systems.
That is the observed pattern and it’s important. It tells us why the 2020 elections will determine whether our free market Republic survives, or falls from within to single-party socialist rule.
The Radical Left’s Ideas Could Destroy America for Generations
Rioting. Vandalism. Bullying opponents into silence. Calls to defund the police, abolish the Electoral College, and remake America as a socialist country. It’s hard to believe what we’re now seeing.
For months, the forces of Marxism, socialism, and anarchy have terrorized our streets and threatened the values that make America the greatest nation in the world. They have shown no signs of stopping, and many left-leaning politicians, members of the media, and celebrities either tacitly accept their behavior or openly cheer it on.
Today, America has a choice of two paths. We can embrace the foundational principles that created this nation of limited government and individual liberty. Or we can veer down the path of those who trash those principles, who teach our children that America was illegitimate from the start, and who want to make the vast majority of Americans subservient to an all-powerful government.
The time has come to fight for America and against the poisonous ideology of the radical left.
But this is not the typical fight between liberals and conservatives over whose vision for America should prevail. This is a much bigger fight.
This is a fight over whether America as we know it continues to exist at all.
This is a fight over whether we have freedom, peace, and prosperity, or speech codes, cancel culture, and enforced ideological conformity.
This is a fight where conservatives, moderates, and even more traditional liberals should be working together on one side to stop the radical Marxists on the other.
Vice President Mike Pence recently summed up this historic point in our history:
We stand at a crossroads of freedom. Before us lie two paths: One based on the dignity and worth of every individual, and the other on the growing control of the state. One road leads to greater freedom and opportunity, and the other road leads to socialism and decline.
Or even more succinctly, “The choice we face is whether America remains America.”
The radical left’s ideas could destroy America for generations. The only bulwark that can stop them is an informed and energized citizenry.
Amazingly, many citizens who are concerned about where they see the far left taking this country aren’t even registered to vote. If you are one of those people, your vote is one of the most effective ways you can stop the march toward Marxism.
Register to vote and make it your project to get 10 relatives and neighbors who aren’t registered to do the same. Then show up for your local, state, and federal elections—and bring them with you. The best way to fight for America is to vote for America.
If there is a candidate in your area who shares your principles and isn’t afraid to actually fight for them, call the campaign office and offer a few hours of your time each week to hand out brochures, stuff envelopes, or put up yard signs.
Additionally, you must arm yourself with facts so you can better understand the issues and you can also help inform your friends, relatives, and social networks about them. Let those in your circles know what’s going on. So many of us are so busy in our lives that we can’t pay attention to everything, and the other side counts on that.
If you are alarmed at the state of our nation and if you believe in America, this is the time to fight for America. This is the time to support law enforcement officers, to call for accountability in an education system that indoctrinates rather than educates, and to go on offense against the extremism of the radical left.
This is the time to fight for a nation where freedom and prosperity flourish, where opportunity abounds, and where civil society brings out the best in all of us. To fight for a nation of free enterprise, limited government, and traditional American values.
These are the principles that have been fought for and preserved by the blood and sacrifice of generations before us. And they are the same principles we must defend and protect today. It’s time to stand up for them, because there is too much at stake to stand on the sidelines.
The Two “Fatal Flaws Lurking in American Leftist Politics”
A humble attempt to help Jordan Peterson with his challenge
Dear Prof. Peterson:
I have had the pleasure of following you prior to your meteoric rise to fame, and I applaud your courageous battle to free society from the excesses of political correctness. This is my humble attempt to help you in your mission.
In your recent Big Think talk titled, “The fatal flaw lurking in American Leftist Politics,” and in the subsequent Munk Debate on the issue, “What you call political correctness, I call progress,” you challenged the mainstream left to identify the red line that fellow leftists shouldn’t cross, and for which they must be called out if they do.
Before continuing, readers need to be aware that you are not anti-left. Like Yin and Yang, both left and right are needed for a healthy, free, progressive society. The serious problems result from the extremes. Your battle against the radical left is not because it is inherently more dangerous than the radical right, but because unlike the right, which has pushed claims of racial superiority beyond the pale of acceptability, the left has yet to take any corresponding stand. But because the social sciences have become almost entirely dominated by the left, potentially harmful radical left policies are being advanced with little or no resistance.
Where is the catastrophe?
Despite your phenomenal popularity in recent months, there is a stumbling block preventing your doomsday warnings from being taken more seriously by the public. It’s that people wonder: Where is the catastrophe?
You regularly refer to the scores of millions killed by the tyrannical ideological regimes of the 20th century — Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China. You warn that it can happen again, here. But where is the evidence? All the leftists are doing is advancing the well-being of non-heterosexuals and other “oppressed” groups. What’s the big deal? Where are the death squads? Who is being hurt?
It is important, therefore, to open the public’s eyes to the tangible harm of political correctness. Citing that we can be fired for criticizing it may not be enough. As long as we tow the party line, our jobs will be safe. People are willing to pay a premium for safety. So you’ll need to show where the blood is. Perhaps I’ll help you see it.
Your proposed boundary
Prof. Peterson, you propose that the proper taboo for the left should be equality of outcome based on group identity, rather than equality of opportunity, which is a laudable goal.
This is, indeed, a worthwhile boundary to fight for. Yet it may be too limited. If equality of outcome becomes taboo, you may discover other boundaries the left should not be crossing.
I posit that there is a more basic “fatal flaw of the left” — actually, two fatal flaws. There are two lines the left has crossed. Each crossing is harmful, but the combination is catastrophic. These flaws should be so obvious that even leftists should acknowledge them once lights are pointed on them.
Fatal Flaw One: Erasing the line between objective and subjective harm
There are two basic categories of negative acts: 1) those that cause objective harm, and 2) those that cause subjective harm. Of course, an act can cause a combination of both, but it’s important to recognize the distinction.
Objective harm is the result of an act that, if you do it to me and I get hurt, you are the one who hurt me. Obvious examples are theft, assault, arson, rape, and murder. Less obvious examples are denying me civil rights, such as the vote, equal public education, opportunity for employment, freedom of movement, and access to residence and health care.
Subjective harm is the result of an act that, if you do it to me and I get hurt, I am the one who hurt me. These are acts that hurt my feelings, or that I find offensive. The classic example is an insult. If you insult me, and I feel upset, I really upset myself.
Most of the acts that cause subjective harm are verbal. My attitude towards what you say determines how much pain it will cause me.
However, there are words that can cause objective harm. Examples are yelling fire in a crowded theater, slander and libel (which can destroy people’s careers and social life), and incitement to violence.
The acts that are universally considered crimes by all civilized societies are the ones that cause objective harm. The proper job of a government is to protect its population from objective harm and to punish those who inflict it. A government cannot protect people from subjective harm, because our feelings are not in its control. And when a government does treat acts of subjective harm as crimes, it makes everything worse. It increases both subjective harm and objective harm.
Imagine what life would be like if I call the police on you whenever you hurt my feelings. Would you admit guilt? No! You will vehemently defend yourself from the charges and try to blame me. Would you like me better? You will hate me, and will probably look for an opportunity to do something worse to get revenge against me. You will also hate the judge and the government for being so unfair to you. Your anti-social feelings will grow.
But this is precisely what the left has done. It has erased the boundary between objective and subjective harm. It treats offending people like it’s the ultimate act of evil. It has declared the traditional slogan, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” to be a lie, and replaced its conclusion with, “but words can scar me forever/can kill me.” The revised slogan teaches that insulting me should cause me more pain and damage than breaking my arm.
The social sciences have become dominated by left-wing ideology. That’s why some psychologists are using neuroscience to justify the erasure of the boundary between objective and subjective harm. They point to the fact that when we feel offended, brain cells are activated. This thereby “proves” that the harm is objective, and that the utterers of the offensive words are as guilty of hurting us as if they hit us with a baseball bat. These psychologists ignore the fact that all feelings have corresponding brain activity, but that the pain generated by words is a result of the way our mind processes them. Wittingly or unwittingly, these psychologists reject the basic premises of therapy and wisdom.
The nature of the civil rights movement
The left sees its political activism as a fluid continuation of the civil rights movement of the previous century.
But it’s not.
The civil rights movement was not about combatting subjective harm. It was about objective harm, sanctioned and even perpetrated by no less than the government itself, with laws that discriminated against minorities, including women but especially Blacks. Thankfully, the Civil Rights Movement has successfully led to the elimination of discriminatory laws.
With some possible exceptions, such as rights for gays to marry, the social activists of today are fighting for laws against subjective harm. They want the government to guarantee that people will not feel offended by anyone. The attempt to achieve an impossible goal is bound to cause more harm than good.article continues after advertisement
Fatal Flaw Two: Replacing might makes right with might makes wrong
In the lawless world of nature, might makes right. You can kill me, and no one arrests you.
Civilization cannot function by might makes right, or we would suffer from unrelenting tyranny and bloodshed. The most basic feature of a civilized society is a legal justice system. It replaces might makes right with justice makes right. We take our grievances to a court of law, which applies principles of justice to determine guilt and punishment.
The Old Testament/Jewish Bible forbids judges from engaging in favoritism. They are to favor neither the rich/powerful person nor the poor/weak person. Sometimes the rich/strong person is the wrong one, and sometimes the weak/poor person is the wrong one.
Our natural tendency when witnessing a struggle is to side with the apparent underdog. As Wilt Chamberlain said, “Nobody roots for Goliath.” Siding with the underdog is great in entertainment, but readily leads to evil when it becomes a policy in real life. Weakness makes right is just as arbitrary and amoral as might makes right. It makes it impossible to objectively judge between right and wrong. It results in unjust punishment in instances when the top dog is actually in the right, and it facilitates the unethical use of weakness to manipulate the system.
And herein lies the second fatal flaw of the left. It has replaced might makes right not with justice makes right, but with might makes wrong/weakness makes right.
Policies can only work if they operate in accordance with the laws of nature. Weakness makes right turns the entire natural order on its head. Feeling pleasure in power is useful not only for survival in nature, but in civilization as well, as it drives us to strive for success rather than failure. In today’s new order, we’re expected to feel guilty about our natural instinct for power and to see weakness and victimhood as virtues rather than stations in life to avoid. Imagine what would happen to sports if the way to win a game is to lose. Well, the same thing would happen in real life.
The nature and harm of political correctness
The combination of these two flaws constitutes the essence of political correctness: The ultimate wrong is to offend the feelings of people with a status of weakness.
But people will legitimately ask, where is the harm? Where is the bloodshed?
Prof. Peterson, you think the situation is bad in higher education. But it’s much worse in lower education, because college students engage in bullying much less than younger kids, and are much less likely to turn to the school authorities for help with their social problems than are their younger counterparts.article continues after advertisement
I expect you may not be aware of it, but the anti-bullying psychology, created by left-thinking university psychology professors, is the ultimate in political correctness, turning every one of us into a potential bully or victim or, to use their preferred language, oppressor or oppressed.
Thanks to the successful political activism of the anti-bullying field, schools are now required to function as totalitarian police establishments responsible for children’s interpersonal relationships 24/7. School staff need to do double duty as security guards, detectives, and judges, treating any complaint of subjective harm as a serious crime needing thorough investigation, interrogation, adjudication, reporting, and punishing. Rather than eliminating bullying, these laws have led to a growing epidemic of bullying and intensified hostilities among students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Today is the most stressful time in history to be a school administrator, as they can face lawsuits for failing to accomplish the impossible. (Research has shown that the most highly regarded anti-bullying programs barely cause a dent in the problem, yet schools are supposed to know how to stop all children from being bullied.) Just today, the news reported that a Pennsylvania court awarded a student $500,000 dollars, because the school district could not stop fellow students from ridiculing her “gender-nonconformist presentation” — in all three schools she attended! Half a million dollars! American dollars, not Canadian! For a mere $500, I could have taught the girl how to stop being bullied, but now we, the taxpayers, have to fork out half-a-million bucks because schools can’t force all children to respect nonconformist gender presentation. In actuality, the schools’ attempts to stop the bullying made the bullying escalate.
Almost all school shootings are committed by victims of bullying. These kids are consumed with anger, hatred, and desire for revenge. Anti-bullying policies were intended to reduce the frequency of these horrific massacres. Instead, mass shootings happen with tragic and increased frequency. Should this surprise us? Ever since preschool, students have been taught to think of anyone who upsets them as an evil bully who deserves to be hated and eliminated from society. Even adults have taken to blaming bullies as justification for committing murder.
Have you seen the German film, The Lives of Others, about life under the East German totalitarian police state? The underlying political theme is the high rate of suicide resulting from government surveillance of citizens’ social lives.
Many children who take their own lives do so because they can no longer tolerate being bullied. Anti-bullying policies are intended to prevent suicides by victims of bullying. Instead, the suicide rate has skyrocketed among kids — tripling among girls — during the same period that schools have been officially combatting bullying. Why? For two reasons.
What happens when kids are taught that words can scar them forever or kill them? They become more upset when they are insulted, which unwittingly fuels the bullying, so they get insulted even more.
Second, schools have been informing children that they must tell the school authorities when they are bullied. What happens when kids get the school authorities to investigate the bullying complaint? Hostilities immediately escalate, as each side and their parents try to convince the school that they are right and the other is wrong, and the informer becomes known as a snitch, which can be a social death sentence. If the child is lucky, the school authorities will succeed in making the bullying stop. But too often, the bullying spirals out of control, even leading to serious violence. The victim of the bullying, feeling betrayed by the school’s false promise to make the bullying stop, may eventually despair and decide to put a permanent end to their suffering (and occasionally, to the suffering of schoolmates and teachers).
Prof. Peterson, you are a great advocate of truth; truth sets us free.
There are two simple, basic truths that the left — and the rest of us, too — need to recognize:
1. Subjective harm is different from objective harm.
2. Weakness does not make right.
We need to call to order anyone who denies either of these truths, just as we would denounce anyone who would argue for racial superiority.
Then the excesses of political correctness will be contained.
Why schools have stopped teaching American history
“Don’t know much about history . . .,” goes the famous song. It’s an apt motto for the Common Core’s elementary school curriculum.
And it’s becoming a serious problem.
A 2014 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that an abysmal 18 percent of American high school kids were proficient in US history. When colleges such as Stanford decline to require Western Civilization classes or high schools propose changing their curriculum so that history is taught only from 1877 onward (this happened in North Carolina), it’s merely a blip in our news cycle.
A 2012 story in Perspectives on History magazine by University of North Carolina professor Bruce VanSledright found that 88 percent of elementary school teachers considered teaching history a low priority.
The reasons are varied. VanSledright found that teachers didn’t focus on history because students aren’t tested on it at the state level. Why teach something you can’t test?
A teacher I spoke with in Brooklyn confirmed this. She said, “All the pressure in lower grades is in math and English Language Arts because of the state tests and the weight that they carry.”
She teaches fourth grade and says that age is the first time students are taught about explorers, American settlers, the American Revolution and so on. But why so late?
VanSledright also found that teachers just didn’t know enough history to teach it. He wrote there was some “holiday curriculum as history instruction,” but that was it.
Arthur, a father in Brooklyn whose kids are in first and second grade at what’s considered an excellent public school, says that’s the only kind of history lesson he’s seen. And even that’s been thin. His second-grade daughter knows George Washington was the first president but not why Abraham Lincoln is famous.
As the parent of a first-grader, I’ve also seen even the “holiday curriculum” in short supply. First grade might seem young, but it’s my daughter’s third year in the New York City public school system after pre-K and kindergarten. She goes to one of the finest public schools in the city, yet knows about George Washington exclusively from the soundtrack of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” She wouldn’t be able to tell you who discovered America.
So far, she has encountered no mention of any historical figure except for Martin Luther King Jr. This isn’t a knock on King, obviously. He’s a hero in our house. But he can’t be the sum total of historical figures our kids learn about in even early elementary school.
For one thing, how do we tell King’s story without telling the story of the Founding Fathers, the Constitution or of Abraham Lincoln? King’s protests were effective because they were grounded in the idea that America was supposed to be something specific, that the Constitution said so — and that we weren’t living up to those ideals.
The Brooklyn teacher I spoke with says instructors balk when it comes to history: They don’t want to offend anyone. “The more vocal and involved the parents are, the more likely the teacher will feel uncomfortable to teach certain things or say something that might create a problem.” Which leaves . . . Martin Luther King.
She cited issues around Thanksgiving, like teaching the story of pilgrims and the Native Americans breaking bread together as one that teachers might sideline for fear of parents complaining. Instead of addressing sticky subjects, we skip them altogether.
As colleges around the country see protests to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statues from their campuses, it’s becoming the norm to erase the parts of history that we find uncomfortable. It’s not difficult to teach children that the pilgrims or Thomas Jefferson were imperfect yet still responsible for so much that is good in America.
Jay Leno used to do a segment on his show called “JayWalking,” where he’d come up to people on the street and ask them what should’ve been easy historical questions. That their responses were funny and cringeworthy enough to get them on the show tells you how well it went.
Leno never asked the year the Magna Carta was published or when North Dakota became a state. He would ask what country we fought in the Revolutionary War, to name the current vice president or how many stars are on the American flag. And yet adults had no idea.
We talk often about how fractured our country has become. That our division increases while school kids are taught less and less about our shared history should come as no surprise.
Why is the Teacher Union Advancing Critical Race Theory?
Nation’s largest teachers union rubber-stamps plan to promote critical race theory across US
The National Education Association affirmed its approval for promoting and implementing critical race theory in public schools throughout the US.
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 6, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In a recently approved plan designed to “fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric,” the nation’s largest teachers union has committed to advancing critical race theory in schools across the country. The move comes as more than half of all U.S. states have moved to suppress or ban CRT in schools, and is a startling contradiction of claims that the theory is not being taught at the K-12 level at all.
The National Education Association (NEA) approved “New Business Item 39” to promote the teaching of critical race theory throughout the United States, despite backlash against the theory that many consider to be racist in itself.
“The teachers union has made critical race theory its #1 priority—and want(s) to implement it nationwide,” tweeted Christopher Rufo, a conservative writer and filmmaker who has worked to bring the threat of critical race theory into public consciousness.
According to Rufo, “critical race theory isn’t an exercise in promoting racial sensitivity or understanding history. It’s a radical ideology that seeks to use race as a means of moral, social and political revolution.”
Rufo said the NEA, which represents 3 million employees, boasts a $350 million annual budget and has “an army of operatives,” plans to “promote critical race theory in all 50 states and 14,000 local school districts.”
According to its “New Business Item,” the NEA wants to “(s)hare and publicize, through existing channels, information already available on critical race theory (CRT),” and commits to having “a team of staffers for members who want to learn more and fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric.”
The teachers union plans to use existing media to promote teaching “truthful and age-appropriate accountings of unpleasant aspects of American history, such as slavery, and the oppression and discrimination of Indigenous, Black, Brown, and other peoples of color.”
The plan goes on to explicitly approve the use of critical race theory, adding that “it is reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory.”
The NEA’s declaration stands in stark contrast to persistent claims that CRT is an obscure legal theory that is not being taught in public schools. On July 1, NBC reported that “(t)eachers nationwide said K-12 schools are not requiring or pushing them to teach critical race theory.”
“(R)esponses from more than 1,100 teachers across the country … appeared to suggest that the panicked dialogue on critical race theory made by lawmakers and the media does not reflect the reality of American classrooms,” NBC reported.
“What is the fuss about?” asked ninth-grade English teacher Lynn Daniel of Phoenix, Arizona. “This objection is being pushed upon us, and it’s not even happening in our classes. I don’t understand it.”
Despite such protestations, the NEA clearly outlines its support for CRT, acknowledging that curricula designed to teach radical concepts to children have already been created.
According to the document, the association plans to “(p)rovide an already-created, in-depth, study that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society,” and states the union’s opposition to “attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.”
Rufo said the NEA’s plan contradicts claims that CRT is not being taught in schools.
“The argument that ‘critical race theory isn’t in K-12 schools’ is officially dead,” he said.
The NEA’s “Business Item” comes amid increasingly vocal protests from parents expressing their disapproval of critical race theory being taught to their children. Parents in the Loudoun County Public School District in Virginia made national news for standing up against the theory, which they say is teaching kids to be racist. Last month, several parents were arrested after the school board abruptly ended a meeting and called the police to arrest remaining participants for trespassing.
The NEA failed to dispel any concerns about divisive political ideology when it announced its plan to “(j)oin with Black Lives Matter at School and the Zinn Education Project to call for a rally this year on October 14 — George Floyd’s birthday — as a national day of action to teach lessons about structural racism and oppression.”
Howard Zinn, whose A People’s History of the United States has had a profound influence on the teaching of American history in schools, is alleged to have been a member of the Communist Party.
So far, 26 states have moved to restrict or ban critical race theory in the classroom.
Just prior to banning CRT in Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “There’s no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.”
Rufo said the NEA has “declared war on parents who oppose critical race theory,” and encouraged parents to “fight back.”
To date, the association says its plan to promote CRT nationwide is stymied by its budget. The NEA says it will need another $127,600 to implement the scheme.
What Are They Trying to Hide? CRT Resolutions Mysteriously Disappear From Teachers Union Website
The National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in America, just passed resolutions promoting Marxist critical race theory (CRT) in schools and committing to fighting CRT opponents. Days after the 2021 Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly, dozens of those assembly resolutions and proposed resolutions disappeared from the NEA website.
Jessica Anderson, executive director at Heritage Action, first noted the deletions on Tuesday.
“The NEA, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, used their annual business meeting to cement a coordinated, national campaign to advance the divisive Critical Race Theory ideology. Once the news broke, parents everywhere erupted with concern. Now, the NEA is working to cover up their indoctrination of America’s students, and teachers by scrubbing the agenda items from their website,” Anderson said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Americans want unity and truth — not the divisive Marxism seeded in CRT. Parents like me refuse to accept this top-down attack from well-funded, Left-wing teacher’s unions,” she added.
“Three days after their annual meeting concludes, [the NEA], the nation’s largest teacher’s union, scrubs the agenda items announcing their nationwide campaign to push CRT from their website,” Anderson originally noted on Twitter. “Why are they covering up their support for CRT?”
She included a link to the archived web page, where the most notorious pro-CRT resolution, New Business Item 39, has been preserved.
As PJ Media’s Stacey Lennox reported, that resolution committed the NEA to pushing Marxist critical race theory, which teaches that a hidden racism permeates American society and that Americans must deconstruct aspects of their own society and culture to find latent “white supremacy.” CRT has unleashed a civil war in education, turning teachers, parents, and administrators against one another.
In New Business Item 39, the NEA pledged to “share and publicize, through existing channels, information already available on critical race theory (CRT) — what it is and what it is not; have a team of staffers for member who want to learn more and fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric.” The NEA also pledged to provide a study “that critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society, and that we oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.”
The NEA also pledged to join with Black Lives Matter at School and the Zinn Education Project to make October 14, George Floyd’s birthday, a “national day of action to teach lessons about structural racism and oppression.” The resolution mentioned CRT two more times, connecting it with “honesty in education.”
This radical embrace of CRT may come as little surprise to those familiar with NEA. NEA President Becky Pringle recently told CBS News that educators are “doing a disservice” to students by not teaching them about “systemic racism.” In a USA Today op-ed, she condemned opposition to CRT as “senseless fearmongering.”
New Business Item 39 was far from alone in disappearing from the NEA website, Fox News reported. Another resolution that passed — New Business Item 2 — pledged that the “NEA will research the organizations attacking educators doing anti-racist work.”
Not all of the resolutions that disappeared from the NEA’s website had passed at the annual meeting, however. New Business Item 33, which pushed for the NEA to call for mandatory vaccination, mask-wearing, and social distancing in schools, failed to pass at the annual meeting, but it also mysteriously disappeared from the website.
Before Fox News reached out to the NEA for comment, the links for the resolution pages that disappeared took users to a screen saying, “Sorry, but the page you are trying to view does not exist.” After Fox News reached out for comment, the links began redirecting to the 2021 assembly home page.
It remains unclear why the NEA removed the pages, but it does seem shifty.
Thousands of Teachers Vow To Defy State Bans on Critical Race Theory
Thousands of teachers are pledging to teach critical race theory in the face of state laws seeking to ban it from classrooms.
More than 5,000 educators have signed the Zinn Education Project’s “Pledge to Teach the Truth” since June 21. In the letter, the leftist education group claims the United States was founded on “structural racism and oppression”—tenets of the Marxist-based ideology called critical race theory.
“We, the undersigned educators, refuse to lie to young people about U.S. history and current events—regardless of the law,” the pledge reads.
“I refuse to teach my students an alternate history rewritten by the suppressors in power,” Jessica Williams, from Tucson, Ariz., said. “They have the right to learn about the contributions and impact that Black Americans, women, LGBTQ+, Latin/a/ex, Native Tribes, Asian and Pacific Islander, all religions other than Christianity, and all other non-white Europeans have had to America.”
The Zinn Education Project is not alone in its crusade. Two of the nation’s top teachers’ unions have pledged millions of dollars to advance critical race theory in the K-12 classroom. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union, voted to spend $127,600 advancing critical race theory at its annual conference last week. The American Federation of Teachers promised $2.5 million to fund lawsuits against critical race theory bans.
Unions Promise Money and Support to Members Advancing Critical Race Theory
School district leaders might deny that they’re openly teaching critical race theory, but the nation’s largest teachers union is launching a campaign to have them do just that.
Delegates at the National Education Association’s annual meeting last week approved a statement calling for a campaign to implement the theory in curriculum and oppose efforts to ban it. Other items approved include researching organizations “attacking educators doing anti-racist work” and naming Oct. 14 — George Floyd’s birthday — as a national day dedicated to teaching about oppression and structural racism.
On Tuesday, the leader of the nation’s other major teachers union joined the fray. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said critical race theory is not taught in schools, but pledged to back any teachers who address topics the laws seek to exclude from classroom conversations.
“Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history. We have a legal defense fund ready to go,” she said at the opening of the union’s annual professional development conference. She added that “culture warriors want to deprive students of a robust understanding of our common history.”
It’s unclear whether the NEA is encouraging members in states that have already passed anti-critical race theory legislation to violate the law. At the very least, it is arguing that teachers shouldn’t gloss over “unpleasant aspects of American history” according to the union’s adopted statement.
The theory — bitterly dividing communities across the country — teaches that racism is an integral part of U.S. systems and institutions that purposely disadvantage people of color. The unions’ stance comes as nine states have already banned instruction that references structural racism, white supremacy and other key principles of the theory. More than 20 other states have considered similar bills.
The union was “forced to some extent” to enter the fray because of how volatile the debate has become, said Bradley Marianno, an assistant education professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“Their members, particularly those who wish to instruct on elements of critical race theory, want to know that they have a union behind them if their jobs are jeopardized by their classroom instruction,” he said. “This is not a new role for teachers’ unions in the broadest terms but is also somewhat unique in that this one is tied so tightly to instruction informed by a single theory.”
Like the conflict over reopening schools, the clash over critical race theory is pitting parents who want a say in what schools teach against unions seeking to protect teachers’ autonomy, Marianno said, adding that they “will continue to butt heads throughout this school year.”
Weingarten, in fact, predicted that this coming school year could be even more challenging than the last.
“It won’t be easy, and some people will try to make it harder, like those who have disparaged educators, scapegoated our unions and blamed us for things outside our control, like school closures caused by a pandemic,” she said.
Marianno said the NEA’s action could be an effort to preempt any further bans on instruction related to critical race theory, but that the union has also “opened up the avenue for litigation” in the nine states with existing restrictions.
Not all teachers, however, agree with the focus on race and racial oppression in the classroom. The conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation is representing a Chicago-area teacher in a federal lawsuit, filed last week, that argues antiracist training for teachers and students is unconstitutional. Stacy Deemar, a middle school drama teacher, argues that the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 is violating prohibitions on discrimination by race, color or national origin. According to the lawsuit, the district has organized both teachers and students into racial “affinity groups” and required them to participate in “privilege walks” where they are segregated by color.
Meanwhile, teachers are receiving increasing support from civil rights groups, who are drawing comparisons between the current uproar over critical race theory and the struggles of the 1960s. One group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project, a nonprofit seeking to preserve the history of a student-led organization that participated in the civil rights movement, penned an open letter to teachers.
“We who resisted the laws of segregation by sitting at ‘White Only’ lunch counters, and organized voter registration campaigns among those historically denied the right to vote, stand now in support of those teachers and professors who today defy this new form of McCarthyism by pledging to continue writing, speaking, and teaching about systemic racism, structural inequality, and institutionalized white-supremacy past and present,” the letter said. “To all the courageous teachers who won’t back down from teaching their students the truth, we stand with you.”
Editor’s note: Reporting for this story was based partly on “business items” that the National Education Association passed at its annual meeting last week, but which no longer appear to be on the union’s website.
An item referring to critical race theory in curriculum appeared under New Business Item A prior to its approval and reads that the union will support and lead a campaign that results “in increasing the implementation of culturally responsive education, Critical Race Theory, and Ethnic (Native People, Asian, Black, Latin(o/a/x), Middle Eastern and North African, and Pacific Islander) Studies curriculum in Pre-K-12 and higher education.” The news of its passage also no longer appears to be on the union’s website, but was archived.
The battle over whether critical race theory, white privilege and transgender politics should be disseminated to school age children in Alaska and across the nation is likely to intensify in the coming months.
Last week, America’s largest teachers’ union vowed to use its extensive network and resources to expand the highly controversial philosophies in public schools across the country, including Alaska.
The three-million-member National Education Association (NEA) includes 13,000 thousand Alaskans. These are teachers, librarians, school counselors, classroom aids and others who work in Alaska’s public schools.
More than 6,700 NEA delegates, including 61 from Alaska, participated in the June 30 to July 3 national gathering. Meeting virtually over four days, the participants established overarching legislative and policymaking aims for state affiliates.
Action items approved at the national level include a resolve to teach and publicize critical race theory, while actively fighting against those who oppose such efforts.
The NEA stated that it will focus resources on rooting out what it deems to be “empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cis-heteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.”
The teachers also approved an action item to research and undermine groups that oppose critical race theory.
To accomplish this, the teachers state that they will “oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project,” which alleges that America was founded on fundamentally racist grounds. The union also pledged to partner with Black Lives Matter activists and the Zinn Education Project in calling for rallies on Oct. 14 – George Floyd’s birthday. The teachers hope to make it a teaching moment to highlight “structural racism and oppression” that plagues America today.
The Zinn Education Project recently posted a statement that has been signed by more than 5,000 teachers, including more than a dozen from Alaska, who vow to break any state laws that ban teaching critical race theory in schools.
In addition to advancing critical race theory, the NEA voted to decolonize curriculum by eradicating what it calls “white supremacy culture.” This will be done, in part, by training rank and file teachers to be critical race theory activists and Black Lives Matter proponents in their classrooms.
In addition to actively advancing critical race theory, the teachers also approved an action item to research and undermine groups that oppose their efforts.
One action item calls on state affiliates to fight bills that ban transgender male athletes from competing against girls.
“The attacks on anti-racist teachers are increasing, coordinated by well-funded organizations such as the Heritage Foundation,” the union stated in justifying this vote. “We need to be better prepared to respond to these attacks so that our members can continue this important work.”
The Heritage Foundation is a renown conservative think tank that has the mission “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”
In addition to fighting conservative groups, the NEA also voted to develop a plan to resist any state legislation that hinders educators from teaching identity politics focused on gender identity, sexual orientation and a host of other personal identifiers. This effort includes recruiting Hollywood actors, musicians and athletes to advocate on behalf of the NEA.
Another major focus at the recent meeting was the promotion of transgender and other sexual identities among students and teachers.
One newly approved action item calls on state affiliates to use resources to fight legislation that bans transgender male athletes from competing in girls-only sports. Additionally, teachers voted to fight measures that restrict gender confused youth from accessing what the union calls “gender-affirming health care.” This term is often used to include counseling as well as powerful cross-sex hormones that block the natural process of puberty. Along these same lines, the union passed a resolution stating that LGBTQ+ students have a right not to reveal their sexual orientation, identity or expression.
With regard to its own membership the union agreed to create a training program to serve its transgender and transitioning members.
On the academic front the NEA is working on a plan to replace test scores as a means of measuring student achievement. The union claims tests are “not the best measurement of equity or educational growth, but it, unfortunately, appears to continue to dominate states’ and districts’ plans in driving equity.”
American educators don’t need the government’s encouragement to import these views into the classroom. CRT is in the pipeline, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The critical race racket has become nearly ubiquitous in American education, as shown by the recent embrace of this radical ideology by America’s two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
As Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal reports, “[a]t its annual meeting earlier this month, the NEA adopted a proposal stating that it is ‘reasonable and appropriate for curriculum to be informed by academic frameworks for understanding and interpreting the impact of the past on current society, including critical race theory.’” The NEA also vowed to “‘fight back against anti-CRT rhetoric’ and issue a study that ‘critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.’”
As Riley notes, the AFT has similarly embraced this radical orthodoxy sweeping academe, partnering with “Ibram X. Kendi, an activist-scholar who openly embraces racial discrimination against whites.” Riley points out the perverse irony of Kendi’s assertion in “How to be an Anti-Racist” that “[t]he only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Some “anti-racism,” indeed.
The teachers unions’ embrace of a radical ideology that until only recently was the preserve of faculty lounges at elite liberal arts colleges shows just how quickly this worldview has become mainstream — not only in leftist circles, but increasingly, in elementary and secondary education as well. The great work of Heather MacDonald and Christopher Rufo in exposing the seepage of this pernicious doctrine into academia, corporate America, and even the military has shown just how rapidly CRT has come to dominate the national discourse.
This, despite gaslighting from the likes of AFT President Randi Weingarten, who claimed simultaneously that CRT is not being promulgated in America’s schools while pledging to defend, in a court of law if necessary, those teaching it.
To better understand how far CRT has been embedded into American education, we viewed more than a dozen webinars and lectures by leading social justice educators, CRT proponents, legal scholars, and elementary and secondary educators. They included: “How to Use the Books You Choose: Elevating the Status of Marginalized Identities in Children’s Literature through Classroom Teaching,” a February 9 webinar hosted by Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education; “Anti-Racist Teaching Practice,” a November 2020 webinar hosted by California State at Fullerton; “White Fragility,” a lecture by Robin DiAngelo hosted by the Family Action Network; and “Impacts of Racism on PK-12 Classrooms,” a February 2021 University of Iowa anti-racism professional development webinar series.
The lectures ran the gamut geographically and covered education at every level, from pre-kindergarten to the graduate level. What they revealed was nothing short of pure indoctrination. To fully appreciate the destructive quality of intersectional education — particularly in early childhood, when minds are malleable and nuance and perspective are elusive — we highlight what until recently few outside conservative think tanks seemed to fully appreciate: Critical race theory is being adopted in education at the earliest possible age with remarkable zeal.
Teaching Teachers to Radically Transform Curricula
Several of the webinars we viewed, including those sponsored by the Wheelock School of Education, were designed for elementary educators. It’s worth stressing that, lest one harbor any doubts about where American education is headed ideologically, these are programs that “teach the teachers.” What stood out is the nearly universal calls to radically transform, restructure, and reimagine curricula at every level to reflect critical race theory.
Take for example “Teaching History for Justice,” an April 30, 2021, webinar from Wheelock with Kaylene Stevens, program director for social studies education at Wheelock, and Chris Martell, assistant professor of social studies education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, co-authors of “Teaching History for Justice, Centering Activism in Students’ Study of the Past” (Teachers College Press, 2020). The webinar highlights the need to reorganize how social studies and history are taught.
For them, the “powerful individual”-based approach to teaching history, whereby students learn about leaders from Julius Caesar to Abraham Lincoln who have shaped history, is not only flawed but irredeemably grounded in white supremacy. What, then, should emerge to take its place?
For Stevens and Martell, the traditional approach must be supplanted by a movement-centered curriculum, one grounded in activist thinking, with the goal of encouraging students to become activists at the earliest possible age. Traditional models of instruction that aim to teach students to “think like a historian” or “think like a democratic citizen” are inherently lacking; they must be supplemented with “thinking like an activist.”
Figures they tell teachers are worthy of study, all cited approvingly, include Angela Davis (described as an “activist for racial and gender equity and democracy,” a “prison abolitionist,” and member of the Black Panther and Communist parties) and Marsha P. Johnson (an activist for queer and trans law and founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). If only Caesar had been an activist.
What’s more, Stevens and Martell ridicule a 19th-century history textbook that deigned to praise Lincoln as “one of the greatest of men.” Even more disturbingly, the authors lament that their book’s recommendations only begin with kindergarten, since anti-racist work would ideally start in early childhood settings.
Finally, sources with which students engage should rely less heavily on written texts and more on oral history and artifacts to better capture certain communities. The upshot of this new mode of instruction is more activism and indoctrination and less rigor — all at the earliest possible age. But don’t worry, they’re quick to remind us that “Teaching History for Justice” is “political but not partisan.” One can only help but wonder if some forms of activism are more encouraged than others.
As if this new mode of instruction is not bad enough, the luminaries at Boston University also determined that children’s books can be harnessed for CRT indoctrination. In a seminar entitled “How to Use the Books You Choose: Elevating the Status of Marginalized Identities in Children’s Literature through Classroom Teaching,” Dr. Andrea Bien and Dr. Laura Jiménez explain the emotional damage visited upon primary school-aged children — particularly those that belong to “underrepresented” groups — due to a lack of self-representation in children’s literature.
Jiménez states, “As a Latina lesbian, I did not see myself reflected in a book until I was 47 years old. . . . What that tells me is that my experience, my identity, my place in the world is not worthy of inclusion in literature.” To right this supposed wrong, the speakers posit that including more politically correct stories in children’s curricula must only come with the erasure of what they consider to be harmful or outdated books.
To the speakers, “The Rainbow Fish,” a children’s classic used by teachers nationwide to teach our youth about the values of friendship and sharing with others, ought to be promptly removed from classrooms. Why? Because the protagonist of the story decides to share his colorful scales—his unique and defining characteristic—with others as a token of friendship.
For Bien and Jiménez, this is not a kind and selfless act, but a harmful message to any child who does not fit the supposed societal norm that they must “mutilate” themselves to fit in. In the opinion of the speakers, the societal norm in the United States of America excludes any person that is not “white, straight, cis, Christian, male, and able[bodied].” “The Rainbow Fish” is, unfortunately, a singular example in this seminar’s hour-long crusade to reshape children’s literature in the United States for an alleged lack of attention to racial identities.
Make no mistake. The purpose of this seminar and countless others like it isn’t to simply engage in friendly discussion or debate. Rather, the purpose is to influence teachers from coast to coast to fundamentally reconstruct what and how America’s children are taught in schools.
Brazen Calls to Target Even the Youngest Children
What stood out as most striking across the board is how brazen social justice “educators” are in their calls for the transformation of America’s elementary education into little more than social justice bootcamps, while union leaders and liberal elected officials vociferously deny that CRT is being taught at all. After all, several of these “experts” contend that to refrain from this method of teaching is to set down a “hidden” or “implicit” curriculum, a tacit narrative inculcated by not teaching what ought to be taught. The message is clear: Teach this nonsense or you are complicit in oppression — or worse.
Another example of this weaponization of elementary education for ideological ends was a social justice webinar hosted by Be GLAD, a self-described “national organization providing professional development to states, districts, and schools” serving as “a professional development model in the area of academic language acquisition and literacy.” Perhaps most concerning, Be GLAD boasts the imprimatur of being a “U.S. Department of Education Program of Academic Excellence.”
Designed to train elementary school teachers in social justice education, the webinar covered the usual topics of “systemic racism” and “microaggressions,” toeing the leftist line that virtually every facet of American life is saturated in racism — from the banking and housing systems, to criminal justice, public health, and education. Calls for “systemic anti-racism,” a supposed panacea for these ills, include some familiar appeals to “[d]ismantle barriers,” and some novel ones perhaps unfamiliar to a lay (read: “rational”) audience, such as “[d]ecolonization of the mind.” Well, that’s a tall order for 7-year-olds.
Most jarring of all is how the presenters lauded the use of a “Black Lives Matter Process Grid,” in which students map out their identities, presented in tabular form and replete with corresponding lists of those with a “power advantage” (unsurprisingly straight, white, Christian males) and those with “oppressed disadvantage,” broken down by age, social class, gender, race, ethnicity, language, ability, sexual orientation, and religion.
In nearly every webinar reviewed, the presenters go out of their way to dismiss the idea that this methodology constitutes indoctrination. It goes without saying that encouraging teachers to educate that colorblindness is inherently racist and that diversity can be oppressive hardly encourages independent thought.
Sadly, this approach seems to be working. For example, in a webinar hosted by Cal State Fullerton’s College of Education entitled “Anti-Racist Teaching Practice,” speaker Monique Marshall, an elementary school teacher, presented the audience a video clip of a 6-year-old student. In the video, when asked to define his “multicultural identity,” the young boy began his response by stating that the color of his skin defined his “outside identity,” which elicited smiles from the presenting speakers.
To be clear, there are people with whom we trust the education of our youth who actively encourage children to view the color of their skin as an individual’s defining characteristic, thus dividing their students along the lines of race and identity. A far cry from “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” After all, for CRT enthusiasts, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s noble aspiration is not merely impractical but a concession to injustice and oppression.
Grassroots Resistance Must Continue
So where does this leave us? These seminars and workshops show CRT is no longer “fringe” but is well within the mainstream of elementary and secondary education. It’s no longer confined to post-secondary and graduate levels.
Therefore, recent grassroots efforts to combat this dangerous ideology are imperative. They symbolize that parents are finally giving the issue the attention it deserves.
While it may provide a minute’s solace that the Biden administration’s Department of Education removed express references to CRT from its July 19 notice in the Federal Register soliciting grant applications, these seminars demonstrate that American educators don’t need the government’s encouragement to import these views into the classroom. CRT is in the pipeline, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Continuing to expose its advance is necessary so American elementary and secondary education can escape the grips of a worldview that, despite its professed aim of racial progress, is deeply flawed and divisive.
Have we Lost Control of Our Prison System with its Privatization?
The existence of private prisons alongside public facilities has become a contentious public policy debate in recent decades in the United States. Proponents of privatization argue that by having private, for-profit businesses run jails and prisons, taxpayers end up paying less for incarceration of inmates. However, opponents argue that cost savings haven’t manifested as promised and that private prisons have a detrimental impact on society by failing to focus on rehabilitation of inmates, but instead on warehousing offenders in exchange for a fee per inmate.
What is Privatization?
Privatization of prisons involves either having private for-profit entities take over operation of an existing public facility or having private companies build and operate new facilities that they own. Contracts for private jails, prisons, and detention facilities usually involve the local, state, or federal government paying the private company a fee per prisoner.
Privately operated prisons have become a multi-billion industry in the United States over the last few decades. According to an investigation by nonprofit news organization ProPublica, the two largest private for-profit detention companies together make more than $3 billion per year by housing inmates through contracts with state and federal governments.
The largest, Corrections Corporation of America, owns 66 detention facilities in the United States. The second largest, The Geo Group, Inc., owns 65 facilities. Together, they have the capacity to house nearly 157,000 prisoners or roughly 10 percent of the nation’s 1.6 million state and federal prisoners.
History of Privatization
The privatization of corrections facilities isn’t a new phenomenon in the United States. Privately owned and operated jails and prisons have existed alongside state-run prisons since the 19th century. Prisons in the nation’s early days were profit-driven regardless of whether they were run by private entities or by the government. Prisoners had to work to pay the cost of their imprisonment, and in the South a system arose in which prisoners were leased out for a profit and performed hard labor on farms or projects requiring cheap physical labor. Reformers advocated for laws to eliminate the profit-seeking motive from prisons, and in the 1920s and 1930s laws were passed that shifted the emphasis from labor to rehabilitation.
By the 1970s, laws were in place that allowed some services to be provided by private companies under contracts with state-run prisons, and that opened the door for the modern trend of privatization of prison operations to take root in the 1980s. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration’s “War on Drugs” plus a trend toward states implementing mandatory sentencing and “three strikes” laws had resulted in an increasing number of offenders being jailed, and in many instances for longer sentences. The national incarceration rate already had been on the rise since 1970, and continued to do so until 2005 — statistics show a 700 percent increase over that 35-year period. By the 1980s, overcrowding became a problem, and costs were rising along with a rising number of people incarcerated. How to tackle the prison problem became a focal point of vigorous public and political debate.
With an administration in place in the 1980s that favored free market solutions to national issues, the idea of increasing the capacity to incarcerate offenders through privately operated prisons was politically attractive. Private prisons offered the potential benefit of more efficient, businesslike operations at reduced costs per prisoner.
The first federal prison contract was awarded in 1983, and by the following year laws had been passed in Texas, Florida, and Tennessee that allows private companies to run correctional facilities. By the mid-1990s, more than 30 states had such laws, and the private prison industry was booming.
The Cost Argument
Proponents of private prisons have argued that when private companies are allowed to operate prisons, they can offer better service at lower costs than government-run facilities. Cost-savings are usually a focal point of the arguments in favor of privatization.
There are a couple of mechanisms whereby advocates say that private facilities can save money compared to government facilities.
- Decreased labor costs — Private prisons use non-union labor compared to state-run facilities that typically employee union personnel. The use of non-union labor can save costs on wages and benefits, which do not have to be negotiated through collective bargaining.
- Lower construction costs — Typically, private companies are covering the cost of building the facilities they run, which saves governments from having to finance construction through bonds or taxes. That may save governments money in the long-term by not having to pay interest on bonds, and frees up capital funds in the government’s budget that can be used toward other needs or projects.
- Lower costs for goods and services — Private companies argue that because they are not bound to government bidding rules, they can more competitively contract for goods and services needed for prison operations, such as clothes, food, or health care for prisoners.
When it comes to empirical evidence of cost savings, data on the cost of private vs. public prisons has yielded mixed results. A number of academic studies have found private prisons do result in costs savings to taxpayers of as much as 10 to 20 percent compared to public prisons. However, a study by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance found just a 1 percent cost savings compared to public facilities.
Another pair of studies looked at the cost per day, per inmate to operate public facilities versus private. These studies conducted by Abt Associates Inc. on behalf of the National Institute of Justice and one by the Bureau of Prisons both looked at the same four institutions, three public and one private. The Abt study found that the cost to run the public facilities was on average about 15 percent higher than the private prison. However, the Bureau of Prisons study found just a 2 percent average difference. An analysis by the National Institute of Justice of the two studies found that the private facility had significantly more prisoners than the public facilities and therefore could benefit from an economy of scale and resulting lower overhead costs per prisoner.
However, the Abt report and separately the U.S. Government Accountability Office have noted that comparisons between private and public prisons are challenging because the facilities differ in several ways and the available data isn’t really conducive to an apples-to-apples comparison.
Critics of privatization argue that companies that contracted to operate prisons have been able to selectively choose to operate low-security or medium-security facilities that inherently cost less to run and require less staffing, while public facilities have continued to bear the expense of operating higher security facilities. Critics also argue that cost analyses don’t take into account hidden costs to the companies, such as the costs to prepare and submit proposals or to negotiate contracts, or the costs to communities when private companies are given tax breaks or other incentives to build a prison.
Other Arguments in Favor of Privatization
In addition to the financial arguments, advocates of the trend toward privatization of prisons often focus on arguments related to the efficiency of business operations compared to government bureaucracy and the benefits of free market competition. Some of the main arguments in support of private prisons and jails include:
- Accountability — Privatization supporters argue that contracts between governments and private companies that operate jails and prisons include performance measures that the companies must meet to be in compliance with their contracts. Further, private prisons must meet minimum standards set by the American Correctional Association to remain accreditation. Contracts for private prisons typically include a cap on the number of inmates so that overcrowding doesn’t become a problem, but public facilities are bound to no such caps.
- Tax base — Advocates of privatization say that private prisons contribute to local tax bases by paying income and property taxes, or sales taxes during construction of facilities. Employing people in a community also can contribute to the local tax base.
- Competition — Supporters of privatization have said the existence of private prisons creates competition with public facilities that may spur public facilities to run more efficiently.
Criticisms of Private Prisons
Several of the arguments against privatization of prisons focus on outcomes, such as the potential for greater recidivism among inmates incarcerated in private jails and prisons. Among the primary arguments made against privatization are:
- Profit motive — Because private companies typically are paid per inmate incarcerated in their facilities, there is an incentive for private prisons to incarcerate as many people as they can. A September 2013 report by In the Public Interest, a group that advocates for transparency and accountability in private-public contracts, looked at private prison contracts and highlighted provisions in which governments guarantee that private prisons will have 80 to 100 percent occupancy, or else the private company is paid an “empty bed” fee. Opponents of privatization argue that these contract clauses act as incentives to convict more people and counteract public policy goals of reducing prison populations and rehabilitating offenders.
- Quality of services — Some studies have shown that the quality of services provided in private facilities is no better than those provided in public ones. Opponents of privatization argue that private prisons have underperformed public prisons on some measures, particularly when it comes to health care. Some research has shown that treatment of mental health disorders and HIV/AIDS among prisoners in private facilities lags behind public facilities. Additionally, a 2005 census conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that private facilities provided fewer educational programs, opportunities for work, and sex offender treatment programs than public jails, prisons, and detention centers.
- Lack of safety — Some evidence indicates that a higher number of inmate-on-inmate assaults occur in private facilities, and privatization opponents argue this is because private prisons have fewer guards and those guards aren’t adequately trained. ProPublica notes that a prison run by Corrections Corporation of America in Idaho had three times as many inmate-on-inmate assaults as a state-run prison with the same number of inmates. The Geo Group Inc. settled with the federal government in early 2014 over allegations that it intentionally understaffed its facilities, underequipped its staff, and failed to fix dangerous conditions such as malfunctioning locks, resulting in hazards to prison staff that was alleged to have violated occupational safety rules.
- Higher rates of recidivism — Some studies have shown a greater risk of re-offending among offenders who were incarcerated in private facilities. Opponents of privatization argue that inmates in private prisons aren’t getting the same emphasis on rehabilitation and education as those in public prisons, and therefore are being released with fewer skills for living productive lives.
The cold hard facts about America’s private prison system
The United States has more prisoners per population than any country in the world. In fact, about 1 in every 110 U.S. adults is currently incarcerated and 1 in every 38 U.S. adults is under some form of correctional supervision. These are big numbers, and whenever there are large numbers of people, business comes calling.
The privatization of prisons in America can be traced back to before the Civil War when in 1852, a facility now known as San Quentin opened in Marin County on the San Francisco Bay. More recently, in the 1980s, the private prison industry began booming, fueled by the War on Drugs. As of 2016, about 19 percent of federal prisoners are held in private prisons.
Private prisons are a multibillion-dollar industry – and growing. Take for example CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the largest operator of private prisons in the U.S. In fewer than 20 years, it’s seen its revenue increase by more than 500 percent, from roughly $280 million in 2000, to $1.77 billion in 2017.
With the government paying private prison operators about $23,000 per year per inmate (keep in mind, the minimum wage is $15,000 per year), it’s a lucrative business. CoreCivic’s reported 2017 revenue was close to $1.8 billion, and a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that with 80,000 beds supported by the government to the tune of $23,000 per inmate per year, it’s collecting about $1.8 billion annually from the government. Business is booming indeed – thanks to the American taxpayers.
To boot, with most private prison contracts, if the prison beds aren’t full, the government has to pay for them anyway. For example, in 2011, Arizona paid Management and Training Corporation (MTC) $3 million when a 97 percent quota wasn’t met. (By the way, this payout came a year after three prisoners convicted of homicide escaped Kingman – an Arizona state prison run by MTC – after workers ignored alarms indicating a breach. The escaped prisoners murdered a retired Oklahoma couple before being apprehended.)
Not only are your tax dollars funding these private prison operators, but you might also be investing in them without even knowing it. As of 2016, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP and U.S. Bancorp, all played a role in bankrolling private prison companies. And I can see why. Including the three main private prison companies – CoreCivic, The GEO Group and MTC – the industry rakes in about $5 billion in revenue a year.
And a lot of that cash is used to make sure that business keeps booming.
The Sentencing Project found that from 1999-2010, CoreCivic spent on average $1.4 million per year on lobbying at the federal level, and employed over 70 lobbyists at the state level. In addition, the largest private prison companies are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a public policy organization that has developed model bills for state legislators to use when proposing “tough on crime” initiatives.
This means that private prison companies, which benefit from having more prisoners, inevitably influence legislation for longer sentences, like the 1994 “three-strikes law” which imposed a mandatory life sentence on anyone convicted of more than two serious crimes. Not surprisingly, between 1992 and 2003, the number of people serving life sentences increased by more than 80 percent.
Private prisons are certainly direct beneficiaries of more prisoners and longer sentences. But are they good for our society?
The entire argument for private prisons rests on cost-savings. Private prison companies claim they can do the work of the government for less money. But do they?
The truth is, probably not.
There is no evidence that they actually save taxpayers any money. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2016 that the cost-savings promised by private prisons have simply not materialized. Some research even indicates that private prisons often refuse to accept inmates that cost a lot to house (i.e. the violent offenders), making the statistics they report highly misleading.
More worrisome, we have seen private prisons hit by scandal after scandal. For example, in 2016 the Walnut Grove correctional facility (run by the aforementioned MTC) was shut down after a federal judge disclosed that it “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” including rape of younger inmates by older prisoners and guards denying medical care to and having sexual relationships with prisoners.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said that privately operated federal facilities are less secure, less safe, and drastically more punitive than publicly operated federal prisons. Inmate on inmate assaults were almost 30 percent higher in private prisons, and new inmates were often automatically placed in solitary confinement due to overcrowding.
In 2016, following this report, the Justice Department announced that it intended to end its contracts with private prison operators as it deemed the facilities to be both less safe and less effective.
Later in 2016, when President Trump was elected, the stock prices of private prison companies CoreCivic and GEO soared. A year later, in 2017, the DOJ under Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the decision not to use private prisons. And in 2018, private prison companies donated $1.6 million in federally disclosed contributions to the midterm elections.
This private prison cycle of lobbying, donating money to campaigns, and getting more prisoners with longer sentences in order to squeeze out as many taxpayer dollars as possible, is a perversion of our judicial system. And it doesn’t even take into account the cheap labor many of these American companies receive from prisoners for as little as 17 cents per hour.
The economics are on the side of keeping as many people as possible in prison, for as long as possible. Is this what America wants?
With the Senate’s passage of the First Step Act this week, which reforms the way incarcerated prisoners are rehabilitated, let’s hope that America’s use of private prisons is next on our criminal justice reform agenda. After all, the question isn’t should we have private prisons, but why do we still have them?
Jailing Americans for Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex
No matter what the politicians or corporate heads might say, prison privatization is neither fiscally responsible nor in keeping with principles of justice. It simply encourages incarceration for the sake of profits.
In an age when freedom is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule, imprisoning Americans in private prisons run by mega-corporations has turned into a cash cow for big business. At one time, the American penal system operated under the idea that dangerous criminals needed to be put under lock and key in order to protect society. Today, as states attempt to save money by outsourcing prisons to private corporations, the flawed yet retributive American “system of justice” is being replaced by an even more flawed and insidious form of mass punishment based upon profit and expediency.
As author Adam Gopnik reports for the New Yorker:
[A] growing number of American prisons are now contracted out as for-profit businesses to for-profit companies. The companies are paid by the state, and their profit depends on spending as little as possible on the prisoners and the prisons. It’s hard to imagine any greater disconnect between public good and private profit: the interest of private prisons lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible.
Consider this: despite the fact that violent crime in America has been on the decline, the nation’s incarceration rate has tripled since 1980. Approximately 13 million people are introduced to American jails in any given year. Incredibly, more than six million people are under “correctional supervision” in America, meaning that one in fifty Americans are working their way through the prison system, either as inmates, or while on parole or probation. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the majority of those being held in federal prisons are convicted of drug offenses — namely, marijuana. Presently, one out of every 100 Americans is serving time behind bars.
Little wonder, then, that public prisons are overcrowded. Yet while providing security, housing, food, medical care, etc., for six million Americans is a hardship for cash-strapped states, to profit-hungry corporations such as Corrections Corp of America (CCA) and GEO Group, the leaders in the partnership corrections industry, it’s a $70 billion gold mine. Thus, with an eye toward increasing its bottom line, CCA has floated a proposal to prison officials in 48 states offering to buy and manage public prisons at a substantial cost savings to the states. In exchange, and here’s the kicker, the prisons would have to contain at least 1,000 beds and states would have agree to maintain a 90 percent occupancy rate in the privately run prisons for at least 20 years.
The problem with this scenario, as Roger Werholtz, former Kansas secretary of corrections, recognizes is that while states may be tempted by the quick infusion of cash, they “would be obligated to maintain these (occupancy) rates and subtle pressure would be applied to make sentencing laws more severe with a clear intent to drive up the population.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what has happened. Among the laws aimed at increasing the prison population and growing the profit margins of special interest corporations like CCA are three-strike laws (mandating sentences of 25 years to life for multiple felony convictions) and “truth-in-sentencing” legislation (mandating that those sentenced to prison serve most or all of their time).
And yes, in case you were wondering, part of the investment pitch for CCA and its cohort GEO Group include the profits to be made in building “kindler, gentler” minimum-security facilities designed for detaining illegal immigrants, especially low-risk detainees like women and children. With immigration a persistent problem in the southwestern states, especially, and more than 250 such detention centers going up across the country, there is indeed money to be made. For example, GEO’s new facility in Karnes County, Texas, boasts a “608-bed facility still smelling of fresh paint and new carpet stretch[ing] across a 29-acre swath of farmland in rural South Texas. Rather than prison cells, jumpsuits, and barbed wire fencing, detainees here will sleep in eight-bed dormitory-style quarters, wearing more cozy attire like jeans and T-shirts. The facility’s high walls enclose lush green courtyards with volleyball courts, an AstroTurfed soccer field, and basketball hoops, where detainees are free to roam throughout the day.” All of this, of course, comes at taxpayer expense.
“And this is where it gets creepy,” observes reporter Joe Weisenthal for Business Insider, “because as an investor you’re pulling for scenarios where more people are put in jail.” In making its pitch to potential investors, CCA points out that private prisons comprise a unique, recession-resistant investment opportunity, with more than 90 percent of the market up for grabs, little competition, high recidivism among prisoners, and the potential for “accelerated growth in inmate populations following the recession.” In other words, caging humans for profit is a sure bet, because the U.S. population is growing dramatically and the prison population will grow proportionally as well, and more prisoners equal more profits.
In this way, under the pretext of being tough on crime, state governments can fatten their coffers and fill the jail cells of their corporate benefactors. However, while a flourishing privatized prison system is a financial windfall for corporate investors, it bodes ill for any measures aimed at reforming prisoners and reducing crime. CCA understands this. As it has warned investors, efforts to decriminalize certain activities, such as drug use (principally possession of marijuana), could cut into their profits. So too would measures aimed at reducing the prison system’s disproportionately racist impact on minorities, given that the incarceration rate for blacks is seven times that of whites. Immigrants are also heavily impacted, with roughly 2.5 million people having been through the immigration detention system since 2003. As private prisons begin to dominate, the many troubling characteristics of our so-called criminal justice system today — racism, economic inequality, inadequate access to legal representation, lack of due process, etc. — will only become more acute.
Doubtless, a system already riddled by corruption will inevitably become more corrupt, as well. For example, consider the “kids for cash” scandal which rocked Luzerne County, Penn., in 2009. For ten years, the Mid Atlantic Youth Service Corporation, which specializes in private prisons for juvenile offenders, paid two judges to jail youths and send them to private prison facilities. The judges, who made over $2.6 million in the scam, had more than 5,000 kids come through their courtrooms and sent many of them to prison for petty crimes such as stealing DVDs from Wal-Mart and trespassing in vacant buildings. When the scheme finally came to light, one judge was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison and the other received 28 years, but not before thousands of young lives had been ruined.
In this way, minor criminals, from drug users to petty thieves, are being handed over to corporations for lengthy prison sentences which do nothing to protect society or prevent recidivism. This is the culmination of an inverted justice system which has come to characterize the United States, a justice system based upon increasing the power and wealth of the corporate-state.
No matter what the politicians or corporate heads might say, prison privatization is neither fiscally responsible nor in keeping with principles of justice. It simply encourages incarceration for the sake of profits, while causing millions of Americans, most of them minor, nonviolent criminals, to be handed over to corporations for lengthy prison sentences which do nothing to protect society or prevent recidivism. This perverse notion of how prisons should be run, that they should be full at all times, and full of minor criminals, is evil.
14 Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons
When someone decides to break the law and is found guilty of their actions, what should their consequence be? For many years, the solution has been imprisonment that is overseen by some level of government. In the United States, prisons may be overseen by local, regional, state, or national authorities.
The problem with a prison is that it can be very costly to run. In the United States, more than $80 billion is spent annually to support a general population incarceration rate of about 1%. Numerous solutions have been suggested, including the idea of having the government get out of the business of incarceration.
The advantages and disadvantages of private prisons often look at managing costs while improving rehabilitation opportunities. Here are some of the key points to consider in this debate.
What Are the Advantages of Private Prisons?
1. Private prisons are potentially cheaper for taxpayers.
Private businesses can leverage pricing controls for resources with greater flexibility than a government provider. A private business can act quickly to search for best practices, improve operation efficiencies, and implement cost-savings measures. It also reduces the size of government because operational responsibilities shift to a private institution, which further reduces taxpayer costs.
2. There is an economic benefit to the local community.
Communities that have private prisons operating within their oversight often receive new tax revenues, have new jobs to provide local workers, and this creates more spending for the support businesses.
3. Prisoner population levels are appropriately maintained.
Many public prison systems are operating at a capacity that is much higher than originally intended. In California, the public prison system was operating at 137.5% of capacity before the Supreme Court required the state to begin reducing overcrowding. Private prisons can better control population levels by transporting prisoners to specific locations where there are greater needs. This lessens the threat of overcrowding on local systems while still allowing for profitability.
4. Private prisons can lower the rates of reoffending.
A study of a private prison in Arkansas tracked over 650 women who were released after they completed a re-entry program. After 5 years, only 1 in 5 of the women being tracked had committed another criminal offense. This means that private prisons have the potential to lower the rates of reoffending by up to 50% in some regions.
5. Facilities can be used for various purposes.
Many private prisons are today being used for immigration housing and detention purposes. They can also be retrofitted to serve a variety of community needs if the need for a prison goes away. This allows for the investments that a community provides to not be in vain should prisoner levels not be as high as anticipated.
6. Governments have contracted prisoners out to third-parties for several years.
Specific services for the public prison system have been contracted out to private businesses for more than a century. This includes inmate transportation, food preparation, medical services, and even vocational training. These structures easily transition over to the management and operations of the entire prison. Private prisons have been in place with the modern US criminal justice system since 1984, when Corrections Corporation of America was awarded their first operational contract.
What Are the Disadvantages of Private Prisons?
1. Prisoners tend to serve longer sentences in private prisons.
Studies from the University of Wisconsin system have shown that prisoners who are being held in private prisons may serve sentences that are up to 7% longer than prisoners who are in public prisons serving a similar sentence. This is directly correlated to the profit-potential that each prisoner provides the organization that is overseeing the incarceration.
2. Many private prisons do not house costly prisoners.
Many private prisons are given the opportunity to pick and choose which prisoners they house. High-risk prisoners tend to be costlier to supervise, which means they have a higher cost to the business. These costly prisoners are shipped back to public prisons, sticking taxpayers with the cost while the private prison profits off the “easier” prisoners. A study by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics found that Arizona public facilities were 7 times more likely to house a violent offender a 3 times more likely to house an inmate convicted of a serious offense compared to private prisons in the area.
3. Private prisons can leave communities with costly facilities that are empty.
Private prisons are operated on a contractual basis. The community is often responsible for the facility, while the private prison is responsible for filling the beds. If the private prison sees no profit in continuing the operation, they can close their doors and stick a community with an empty facility, no jobs, and the bills that remain for the initial construction.
4. Private prisons tend to be more violent because of low staffing levels.
Private prisons see up to 50% more violence when compared to public prisons with regards to inmate-on-officer assaults. For-profit facilities also see over 60% more inmate-on-inmate assaults. This is often due to low officer staffing levels that are in private facilities. Some officer-to-prisoner ratios in private prisons can exceed 1 officer to every 120 prisoners.
5. Prisoners can be thousands of miles away from their family.
Prisoner exchange programs can cause inmate transfers that may be hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from their family. This removes the prisoner from their network of support, forcing them to rely on internal systems to meet their needs. This creates more barriers to rehabilitation, making the private prison more about housing prisoners and less about bringing them back into society as a productive member.
6. It creates the foundation for corruption.
Because prisoners are required for a private prison to be profitable, their budgets are never 100% certain. To solve this problem, there are several instances of corporations working with local systems of justice to extend sentences to longer lengths or charge with higher-level crimes for longer sentences.
7. Employee wages are often lower and there are often fewer benefits.
One of the ways that the private prison system saves money is by providing employees with lower wages and fewer benefits than employees in the public prison system. Correctional officers in the public system can earn up to $75,000 per year. In comparison, many correctional officers in the private system may earn as little as $14 per hour.
8. There may be zero cost-savings advantages.
Comparisons of private vs public prisons that are of similar size and house similar inmates show that both systems face similar cost-per-day rates, despite the fact that private institutions often pay lower wages and employ fewer workers.
The advantages and disadvantages of private prisons involve cost, efficiency, and effectiveness. When a private prison is operating with best practices and focused on rehabilitation, it can be a beneficial addition to a community. Unfortunately, many corporations have a reputation of focusing on profits over purpose, which can create numerous hardships.
What Is The Lincoln Project?
The Lincoln Project is an American political action committee (PAC) formed in late 2019 by former and incumbent Republicans. During the 2020 presidential election, it aimed to prevent the re-election of Donald Trump and defeat all Republicans in close races running for re-election in the United States Senate. In April 2020, the committee announced its endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Before the 2020 election
The committee was announced on December 17, 2019, in a New York Times op-ed by George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson. Other co-founders include Jennifer Horn, Ron Steslow, Reed Galen, and Mike Madrid. Conway is an attorney and the husband of Kellyanne Conway, at the time an advisor to Trump; Schmidt managed John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign; Weaver oversaw McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000; and Wilson is a media consultant. All four are outspoken critics of Trump; Schmidt left the Republican Party in 2018. Jennifer Rubin, in a Washington Post op-ed, described the four founders as “Some of the most prominent NeverTrump Republicans”. Horn is a Republican operative and former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Steslow is a marketing strategist and political consultant, Galen is an independent political consultant, and Madrid is a former political director for the California Republican Party. Galen serves as the Lincoln Project’s treasurer. Sarah Lenti, a political consultant who had worked with Galen on the George W. Bush presidential campaign, was recruited as executive director.
The committee is named for Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who fought to keep the country unified. On February 27, 1860, Lincoln delivered his Cooper Union speech in Manhattan during his campaign to be the first Republican president. Several members of the committee—Schmidt, Wilson, Horn, Galen, Madrid, and Steslow—spoke in the same venue on the 160th anniversary of that talk, from the lectern that Lincoln had used. The group was outspoken in their criticism of Trump and the current divide in the Republican Party, with Madrid saying that “two views cannot exist in one party” and Steslow saying he will “vote blue no matter who.” Schmidt warned that a second term with Trump would be “unrestrained and validated.” The Lincoln Project also campaigned against U.S. Senators up for reelection who had supported Trump.
The members of Lincoln Project’s advisory board—Conway, Schmidt, Weaver, Wilson, and Reed Galen—published another op-ed in The Washington Post on April 15, 2020, endorsing the presidential candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, writing: “We’ve never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be defeated.” The op-ed argued that Trump was unqualified to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn.
Stuart Stevens announced, on May 28, 2020, that he had joined the project. Stevens had previously been the chief strategist for Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign in 2012. Prior to that, he had worked for George W. Bush and Bob Dole. Jeff Timmer, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, is an adviser to the project. On June 2, 2020, the project announced the release of their podcast, Republicans Defeating Trump (later renamed The Lincoln Project), hosted by Ron Steslow.
On August 23, 2020, Kellyanne Conway announced that she was leaving her White House position to spend more time with her family. At the same time, George Conway announced that he was withdrawing from The Lincoln Project for similar reasons. On August 24, 2020, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele announced that he had joined the Lincoln Project. Weaver suffered a heart attack in mid-2020, and withdrew from the project for health reasons.
In October 2020, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, through lawyer Marc Kasowitz (who had previously represented Donald Trump) threatened to sue the group for its Times Square billboard display mocking the couple for the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lincoln Project said the billboard would remain, releasing a statement saying: “While we truly enjoy living rent-free in their heads, their empty threats will not be taken any more seriously than we take Ivanka and Jared. It is unsurprising that an administration that has never had any regard or understanding of our constitution would try to trample on our first amendment rights.”
In January 2021, responding to a magazine article accusing him of sexual misconduct spanning a period of years, co-founder John Weaver acknowledged having sent inappropriate sexual messages to multiple men, for which he apologized. According to The New York Times, Weaver offered young men professional support in exchange for sex; that report also accused him of cultivating a non-sexual online relationship with a fourteen-year-old boy and then engaging in “sexual banter” with him after his eighteenth birthday. Following the revelations, the Lincoln Project said “John’s statement speaks for itself”. It later issued a follow-up statement describing him as “a predator, a liar, and an abuser” and denouncing his “deplorable and predatory behavior”.
In February 2021, Jennifer Horn, a founder, announced her resignation from the organization, citing Weaver’s misconduct. Later that month, the Lincoln Project announced plans for an external investigation to review Weaver’s conduct during his tenure with the group. That same day, Steve Schmidt, a founder, and several other advisors also resigned. In the following months, Ron Steslow, Mike Madrid, and George Conway, all founders and board members, left the organization.
The Lincoln Project prepared to sue Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani for defamation after he claimed in a broadcast interview with Steve Bannon that the organization had planned the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Giuliani said he relied on an anonymous source and offered no evidence for his allegations. The Lincoln Project sent him a three-page letter on January 29, 2021 that read in part, “You committed a textbook act of defamation. You publicly accused The Lincoln Project of an infamous and criminal act that it had nothing to do with, as you very well know.” They demanded an apology by February 3.
In October 2021, a group of five people organized by the Lincoln Project, carrying tiki-torches and dressed like the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, appeared in front of the campaign bus of Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia in the 2021 election. They called the stunt “a demonstration” designed to highlight “Youngkin’s continued failure to denounce Donald Trump’s ‘very fine people on both sides‘” comment. The stunt was criticized by Youngkin’s campaign, as well as by the campaign of his rival Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and others.
The Lincoln Project produced a number of anti-Trump and pro-Biden television advertisements. The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin called the project’s ads “devastating for several reasons: They are produced with lightning speed, and thereby catch the public debate at just the right moment; they hammer Trump where he is personally most vulnerable (e.g., concerns about his vigor, concerns about foreign corruption); and they rely to a large extent on Trump himself—his words and actions.” As of June 2020, about two-thirds of the group’s television advertisements were focusing on the 2020 presidential election, but the Lincoln Project also created ads backing Democrats in other races, such as an ad in Montana promoting Governor Steve Bullock‘s Senate candidacy against incumbent Republican Steve Daines. Additionally, they released videos attacking Republican Senators Cory Gardner, Martha McSally, Thom Tillis, Susan Collins, Joni Ernst and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, all of whom were up for reelection in 2020, as enablers of Trump.
On March 17, 2020, the committee released a video, titled Unfit, which criticized Trump for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
On May 4, 2020, the group released Mourning in America, a video styled after Ronald Reagan‘s Morning in America 1984 campaign ad. The ad focused on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and said that the country was “weaker and sicker and poorer” under Trump’s leadership. On June 1, 2020, the Lincoln Project released another ad, Flag of Treason, that blasted Trump’s record on race relations in the U.S., highlighted the use of the Confederate battle flag by Trump supporters at Trump rallies, and emphasized the support Trump has received from white nationalists. Both ads ran on television in crucial swing states.
In early June 2020, the Lincoln Project released an ad, Mattis, that repeated criticisms of Trump by former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, following the Lafayette Square and Saint John’s Church attacks against protesters, and asked viewers, “Who do you trust: the coward or the commander?” The ad also criticized Trump for having “dodged the draft” and for hiding “in a deep bunker—firing off tweets.”
On June 17, 2020, the Lincoln Project released two ads. The first, entitled #TrumpIsNotWell, ran 45 seconds and showed a video of Trump walking slowly and haltingly down a ramp at West Point, and a video of Trump appearing to struggle to lift a glass of water, with narration suggesting that Trump was physically unfit. The ad’s voiceover said, over images of Trump: “He’s shaky, weak, trouble speaking, trouble walking. So why aren’t we talking about this? The most powerful office in the world needs more than a weak, unfit, shaky president. Trump doesn’t have the strength to lead, nor the character to admit.” The ad was controversial: some observers viewed it as appropriate in light of Trump’s past comments and mockery about the health of his rivals, while disability rights activist Rebecca Cokley of the Center for American Progress criticized the ad as ableist. The second ad released on June 17, Tulsa, criticized Trump for planning a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma (the site of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre) on Juneteenth, a holiday marking the abolition of African American slavery.
On June 18, 2020, the Lincoln Project released an ad entitled Chyna, attacking Trump on his China policy, with narration saying “They know who Donald Trump is: weak, corrupt, ridiculed, China beats him every time. No matter what he says, China’s got his number.” The ad attacked Trump for his handling of the trade war with China and made reference to Ivanka Trump‘s business dealings in China, including the Chinese government’s grant of trademarks to her. The project released the ad just after Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton published an excerpt from his memoir, The Room Where It Happened, in which Bolton wrote that Trump had asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to assist him in getting elected and had told Xi that he should continue building internment camps detaining Uyghurs. The ad made reference to Bolton’s book.
On June 28 and June 30, 2020, the Lincoln Project released two ads, respectively entitled Bounty and Betrayed, attacking Trump for failing to respond to reports of an alleged Russian bounty program targeting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In Bounty, a narrator said, “Now we know Vladimir Putin pays a bounty for the murder of American soldiers. Donald Trump knows too and does nothing.” In Betrayed, former Navy SEAL and emergency room doctor Dan Barkhuff said that “any commander-in-chief with a spine would be stomping the living shit out of some Russians right now—diplomatically, economically, or, if necessary, with the sort of asymmetric warfare they’re using to send our kids home in body bags.” Barkhuff called Trump “either a coward who can’t stand up to an ex-KGB goon” or “complicit.”
On July 2, 2020, the Lincoln Project released Fellow Traveler, an ad saying in Russian with English subtitles that “Comrade Trump” had been “chosen” by Vladimir Putin and had “accepted the help of Mother Russia.” The ad featured communist imagery such as the hammer and sickle, as well as photographs of Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and Soviet leaders from Joseph Stalin to Mikhail Gorbachev and referenced the Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
The group has occasionally created ads in collaboration with television and film figures: the ad Debt was written by John Orloff, while the ad Wake Up was written and directed by Jon Turteltaub. Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill narrated the ads Fauci and Absentee respectively.
Fundraising and expenditures
The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money spent on politics, reported on its website OpenSecrets.org that the Lincoln Project raised $87,404,908 and spent $81,956,298 during the 2019-2020 election cycle. $51,406,346 came from individuals who had donated $200 or more. (An earlier estimate was $78 million from its creation until the November 2020 election.) By the end of March 2020, it had raised $2.6 million in contributions. Its fundraising substantially increased in subsequent months; from July to September 2020, the Lincoln Project raised $39 million.
The group started out with few major donors; as of October 2020, about 39% of contributions to the group came from small donors ($200 or less). This is an unusually high proportion of small-dollar donors for a super PAC; most super PACs are almost exclusively funded by wealthy contributors. The top contributors are classical musician and Getty family heir Gordon Getty ($1 million), Stephen Mandel ($1 million); and the Sixteen Thirty Fund ($300,000). Six-figure contributions from Hollywood producer David Geffen, investor John Pritzker and financier Jonathan Lavine. Other major donors include Silicon Valley investors Ron Conway, Michael Moritz and Chris Sacca, financier Andrew Redleaf, Walmart heiress and philanthropist Christy Walton, Martha Karsh (who is married to billionaire financier Bruce Karsh), and Continental Cablevision CEO Amos Hostetter Jr.
As of May 2020, the group’s expenditures were mostly in producing, buying, and placing ads. The Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-finance watchdog group, wrote at the time that (like most PACs) most of the Lincoln Project’s money had gone to pay subcontractors, “making it difficult to follow the money” to vendors, and that “almost all” of the money raised had gone to firms run by the group’s board members, specifically Galen’s Summit Strategic Communications and Steslow’s Tusk Digital. Firms run by the board members account for $50 million in expenditures of the $90 million raised, according to a February 2021 news report. The Lincoln Project eventually grew to an organization of over 40 employees and over 60 interns.
The Lincoln Project achieved success in having its ads go viral and with its “nontraditional strategy of playing mind games with the president.” Politico said that the Lincoln Project “successfully established itself as a squatter in Trump’s mental space, thanks to several factors: members each boasting hundreds of thousands of social media followers, rapidly cut ads that respond to current events and a single-minded focus on buying airtime wherever Trump is most likely to be bingeing cable news that day, whether it’s the D.C. market or his golf courses across the country.” Quoting co-founder George Conway as saying that the project takes advantage of Trump’s narcissistic reactivity, inability to take criticism, and inability to think ahead, Roxanne Roberts wrote in The Washington Post that the project’s ads are “specifically designed to trigger the president” so that he “talks about things he shouldn’t be talking about”, in effect “raising millions of dollars…for the Lincoln Project”.
The Lincoln Project’s output has been prolific in terms of both tweets and videos. The group’s ads sometimes made use of comedy, as in the ad Trumpfeld (a spoof of Seinfeld), in which laugh tracks are laid over segments of a Chris Wallace interview with Trump, and in Nationalist Geographic (a spoof of National Geographic), which mocks Trump as “Impotus americanus,” “the most corrupt of its species.”
Joanna Weiss of Northeastern University‘s Experience magazine wrote in Politico that most of the Lincoln Project’s ads “pack an emotional punch, using imagery designed to provoke anxiety, anger and fear—aimed at the very voters who were driven to (Trump) by those same feelings in 2016”, citing scientific research indicating that fear-mongering ads might be effective with Republican voters. Project co-founder Reed Galen described the strategy as “(speaking) to Republican voters with Republican language and Republican iconography”.
In addition to targeting the Washington media market and thus Trump himself, the project has also targeted swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and has spent money against Republican Senate candidates in Arizona, Iowa, Montana, and other states. As summarized by Lenti after the election, “we were focused on Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. […] We were looking at college-educated women, suburban women, older men.”
The project has identified a faction within the Republican Party which seems to disenfranchise African American voters as the Jim Crow caucus.
Democratic strategist James Carville praised the group for being more efficient and aggressive than Democratic PACs, saying: “Let me tell you, the Lincoln group and The Bulwark, these Never Trumper Republicans, the Democrats could learn a lot from them. They’re mean. They fight hard. And we don’t fight like that.” The New Republic wrote that “they make punches that Democratic officials and operatives often seem inclined to pull”.
Writing in The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin said the Lincoln Project stood “head and shoulders above all the rest in the hard work of beating back President Trump and Trumpism” and wrote of the group’s founders: “They made their careers helping to elect Republicans, but in the era of Trump, they have put partisanship aside in the cause of patriotism and defense of American democracy. Their ads have been the most effective and memorable of the presidential campaign, singeing Trump in a way Democrats have not quite mastered.” Author and columnist Max Boot praised the Lincoln Project for “turning out brilliant videos at a relentless pace that puts most political organizations to shame” and for seeking to demolish “the Trumpified GOP” and replace it with “a sane and sober center-right party in America.” Boot wrote that the Lincoln Project’s founders, by “leading the charge against the Republican Party, … have shown greater fealty to conservative principles than 99 percent of elected Republicans.”
The Lincoln Project was criticized by former Romney campaign staffer Oren Cass, who described it as “a group of political operatives who are not conservatives.” Writing in The Atlantic, Andrew Ferguson described the ads as “personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs.” Rich Lowry, writing for the conservative publication National Review, described the Lincoln Project’s stated goals as “self-serving tripe, as a glance at the insult-filled Twitter feeds, op-eds, and cable appearances of the principals instantly demonstrates”, and described the group’s advertisements as being “clearly meant to garner retweets rather than to speak to on-the-fence voters.” Jeet Heer wrote in The Nation that “To the extent that the ads articulate any political vision, it is a desire to return to the hard-line military aggression of the George W. Bush era.” Heer also wrote in March 2021: “The ineffectiveness of the ads should be no surprise. Twenty twenty was a polarizing election… In that environment, the Lincoln Project made the wrong arguments to the wrong voters”, and described the group as a “successful scam”.
Project co-founder Reed Galen has said some of the ads are meant for an audience of one: Trump himself. The Lincoln Project’s feud with Trump enhanced its national profile, including through earned media, and the group said it raised $1.4 million after Trump’s tweets responding to the May 4, 2020 Mourning in America video.
Political science professor Lincoln Mitchell wrote that the group’s “brutal” ads “seem to have been successful at getting inside Trump’s head” and that their work is “attracting attention across and beyond the political spectrum”. However, Mitchell said that the project’s expenditures (July 2020) are nowhere near enough to buy enough airtime on television—still America’s most popular news source—to reach uncommitted voters, and that it is uncertain whether the ability to trend on social media will translate into votes for Joe Biden. The New York Times wrote in October 2020 that “The Lincoln Project ads have been dismissed by some as “anti-Trump porn,” more concerned with going viral than moving voters.”
A May 20, 2020 ad entitled GOP Cribs, which highlights the significant wealth that Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale built up while working for Trump, is believed to have played a role in Parscale’s removal from that position.
Paige Williams published a long analysis in The New Yorker, highlighting the project’s influence on Republican politics and claiming that its conservative-style attacks on Donald Trump were playing a very decisive role in the 2020 election.
After the 2020 election, critics including U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jacobin editor-at-large David Sirota questioned the Lincoln Project’s effectiveness after Trump increased his share of the Republican vote compared to 2016. Lenti, the Lincoln Project’s executive director, argued that in the states and demographic groups it had targeted in its “digital get-out-the-vote operation”, “it was moving 1 to 4 percent of those voters who were independents or Republicans to cross the line to make the difference in those states for Biden.
The Lincoln Project is holding accountable those who would violate their oaths to the Constitution and would put others before Americans.
The fight against Trumpism is
The Lincoln Project launched with two stated objectives. The first was to defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. The second was to ensure Trumpism failed alongside him. As we have seen, our fight against Trumpism is only beginning. We must combat these forces everywhere and at all times. Our democracy depends on it.
President Abraham Lincoln led the United States through its bloodiest, most divisive and most decisive period of our history. He fought not because he wanted to, but because he knew the dual goals of preserving the Union and the end of slavery would be achieved only through armed conflict. Lincoln always kept the enormous human cost of the struggle in the front of his mind. At Gettysburg, he implored us not to forget those that had given “their last full measure of devotion” to preserving the American experiment. As it became clear that the Union would be victorious, Lincoln’s thoughts turned to how the nation would “bind up its wounds” and move forward together.
Today, we find ourselves divided again – tribalism in the country and hyper-partisanship in government has led to ever uglier examples of how our political system is failing. President Donald Trump and those who ascribe to Trumpism are a clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic.
The Rise and Fall of the Lincoln Project
There have been plenty of grifters in the political world. But what made the Lincoln Project grift unique was that much of it played out on television.
There was nothing special about the Lincoln Project. Its ads were coarse, but this is a coarse age, and its efforts were neither creative nor particularly offensive. Its opacity and self-dealing, its unwieldy coterie of advisers and hangers-on, have all been mainstays of the #Resistance. Far from the only anti-Trump Super PAC run by former Republican consultants, the Lincoln Project lacked originality even in its ambitions. When, post-election, its founders sought to break into the media business, they were angling to become little more than a slightly older, slightly lower-end version of Crooked Media, the podcast and events network created by several Obama-administration alumni.
Despite this unoriginality, this utter bog-standard-ness, the Lincoln Project raised roughly $100 million from its announcement in December 2019 to its effective implosion this February. That eye-popping sum came from a flood of small donors. But the Lincoln Project also won over large and long-standing Democratic players. David Geffen gave the group half a million dollars. Chuck Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC forked over almost $2 million, and the dark-money network Sixteen Thirty Fund coughed up more than a quarter million.
In short, the Lincoln Project managed to extract money from not only the emotionally unstable and congenitally irate but also the institutionally liberal. Why did blue America shower a group of washed-up former Republicans with money? And why choose these ones?
Cut through the Lincoln Project’s onion rings of advisers, staffers, and volunteers, and one finds a small network of men at the heart: Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson. Schmidt, Weaver, and Wilson announced the group along with erstwhile Wachtell Lipton partner George Conway, husband to pollster-turned-Trump-White-House-adviser Kellyanne Conway. Their December 17 New York Times op-ed, full of self-seriousness and high dudgeon, made public the existence of a super PAC, initially incorporated by Galen on November 5 as “Rough Riders for America,” but renamed “the Lincoln Project” on December 9.
Wilson, known more for bravado than for brass-tacks execution, went from working for Rudy Giuliani to a leading role on Kobach’s unsuccessful 2004 congressional bid in Kansas, a race he lost by double digits even as George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 11 percent in the district. Wilson then backed Bill McCollum’s unsuccessful 2010 Florida gubernatorial primary bid against Rick Scott, and in 2016 he made some forgettable ads for a pro–Marco Rubio entity ludicrously called Baby Got PAC. Wilson also managed to accrue more than $380,000 in IRS tax liens, a foreclosure on his home, and a claim from American Express for more than $25,000. Nonetheless, his acerbic tweeting landed him a following among online liberals, a writing gig with the Daily Beast, some CNN hits, and $65,000 raised online toward making a documentary that he never produced.
Ron Steslow, Mike Madrid, and Jennifer Horn rounded out the group’s eight “cofounders.” Horn, a former New Hampshire GOP chairwoman, had butted heads with some Trump allies in the Granite State but served two terms before stepping down in January 2017. She reemerged as a vehement Trump critic when steering Bill Weld’s quixotic Republican primary effort against Donald Trump in 2019. Like Conway, Horn’s day-to-day involvement in the group appears to have been peripheral.
Steslow ran a small digital practice called TUSK that counted Orrin Hatch and the Colorado Republican Committee among its clients. He helped steer Carly Fiorina’s 2016 presidential campaign and ran a number of small anti-Trump organizations prior to 2019. But his firm’s fortunes were uncertain. In 2018, TUSK did under $100,000 in federal election business — roughly 5 percent of the amount it received from Fiorina’s campaign. In 2020, the Lincoln Project would pay TUSK more than $21 million.
Like Wilson, Madrid was a quintessential regional political consultant, well-established in California. A self-styled expert on the Latino vote, Madrid had worked for both Republicans and moderate Democrats. In 2018, he steered former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid. But with Gavin Newsom entrenched in Sacramento and the GOP taking a harder line on immigration, Madrid found himself a man without a party.
Unlike the other Lincoln Project founders, Weaver and Schmidt were, if not exactly household names, well known to America’s political junkies. Yet theirs was an unlikely alliance. A New Jersey native, Schmidt dropped out of college shortly before graduating. After managing a series of unsuccessful campaigns around the country, he wound up in Washington at the outset of the Bush administration.
Inside the Beltway, Schmidt’s career took off: Within a year and a half, he was the communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee and shortly thereafter joined the Bush administration in a senior role. In 2004, Nicolle Wallace tapped Schmidt to run the Bush reelection campaign’s war room, the media-tracking engine that drives a campaign’s rapid response to emerging stories in real time. Following Bush’s win, Schmidt would be tasked with managing the confirmations of justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito — showdowns that put his media savvy to the test and had him continuing to work closely with Wallace, by then White House communications director.
In 2006, Schmidt decamped for California and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reelection bid, helmed at the time by Matt Dowd and staffed by, among others, Reed Galen. Another alumnus of Texas politics, Dowd had been the chief strategist on the Bush reelection, but he fell out with Karl Rove. In the Golden State, Dowd embraced the intersection of celebrity and politics, and reportedly began an extramarital affair with First Lady of California Maria Shriver. Following Schwarzenegger’s reelection, Dowd became a conspicuous critic of the Bush administration and, by the end of 2007, joined ABC as a pundit, transitioning from campaign cowboy to television talking head.
It was in California that Schmidt encountered John McCain and John Weaver. Schmidt had worked for Lamar Alexander’s 2000 presidential bid and thus had no part in the long-simmering feud between the Bush and McCain camps. Having followed Dowd to California, he could not be mistaken for a Rove-ite. (That year, Wallace also left the White House, moving with her then-husband to New York City.)
McCain was preparing to run for president. By the time McCain’s presidential aspirations ended in defeat, both Weaver and Schmidt had taken a turn helming the operation.
John Weaver came up in Texas politics at the same time as Rove. No love is lost between them. In the mid 1980s, the two men were rivals for control of the state party and, according to a 2004 Atlantic article, Rove circulated a rumor that Weaver had made a pass at a young man. That was dismissed as a smear 17 years ago, but since the revelations about Weaver’s behavior became public, Rove has claimed that he was long aware of Weaver’s pattern of inappropriate behavior toward young men.
The media have typically characterized the mutual dislike between Rove and Weaver in ideological terms: Weaver, the principled moderate, versus Rove, the ruthless ideologue. Rove is believed to have actively blackballed Weaver after 2000, with a willingness to play hardball that mapped onto the media’s preconceived notions about divisions in the Republican Party — divisions centered on Bush and McCain.
Yet Weaver is probably the chief architect of this self-serving narrative. Indeed, his principal skill is cultivating the media. Any political reporter over a certain age likely has a story of John Weaver being “helpful” — confirming a useful, juicy tip or dropping some insider bit of information that helped get urgent copy to print. In GOP circles, Weaver is notorious for leaking to the press, including about dysfunction in campaigns in which he himself holds a senior role, about the ineptitude of flagging candidates paying his bills.
The rivalry with Bush was politically useful for McCain and professionally essential for Weaver. A television mainstay, McCain worked hard to draw contrasts between himself and the increasingly unpopular incumbent, laboring to solidify his identity as a straight-talking maverick despite a fairly conventional Republican voting record. For his part, Weaver had a bad run of luck after Bush’s inauguration. He divorced, was diagnosed with leukemia, and, furious with Bush, advised a string of Democrats, including John Kerry. Yet institutional Democrats remained wary of Weaver and, before the era of small-dollar donors, had the means to keep him out. He was on a lonely island by 2005, excluded by Rove from the Bush reelection effort and looking for work.
McCain’s persistent loyalty to Weaver pulled him back from political Siberia. Mike Murphy, McCain’s 2000 campaign guru, had also steered Mitt Romney into the Massachusetts governorship and declared his neutrality between the two likely 2008 primary contenders (n.b., I worked for Murphy in 2016). It thus fell to Weaver to usher the McCain-for-president campaign into its second iteration.
But Weaver never got to see the campaign reach fruition. In July 2007, beset by flagging fundraising, Weaver was ousted along with Galen, who was then his deputy, after an internal power struggle. A year later, a similar power struggle would lead to Steve Schmidt’s promotion to take over the campaign. In the interim, Weaver managed to attract the lasting ire of McCain, who blamed him for a controversial New York Times story suggesting that McCain had had an extramarital affair. McCain turned his back on Weaver, and reportedly banned his former consigliere from his funeral.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
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For his part, Schmidt spent the waning months of the McCain campaign in a kind of frenetic overdrive — one McCain veteran described it to me as “a lot of early-morning meetings and a lot of yelling.” Riven by the competing factions in McCain’s orbit, the campaign had never had a great deal of focus. Schmidt brought his Bush-era war-room experience to bear and imposed some discipline. But even as tactics and operations improved, fundamental problems of strategy and organization remained, problems exacerbated by the selection of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee — a selection Schmidt had pushed.
As the campaign began to lose control of Palin, many in McCain’s orbit came to suspect Schmidt and Wallace, who had also come aboard the McCain campaign, of leaking to the press to cover themselves. Many McCain loyalists still speak of Schmidt and Wallace with an animus typically reserved for Judas. In the end, like Weaver, they wound up excluded from the senator’s memorial.
For all the chaos and turnover, the McCain campaign had one constant: an intimate, even incestuous relationship with the media. As Ryan Lizza put it in a 2008 New Yorker article, “the chumminess with the press usually spills into the evenings, and McCain’s senior advisers dine almost nightly with the people covering the candidate.” MSNBC played constantly aboard the Straight Talk Express, by then a party bus for the political chattering class.
Launched in 1996, MSNBC struggled initially to find its footing. Pitched as an in-depth alternative to CNN, the channel invested heavily in opinion-makers across the political spectrum. Early 2003 saw the launch of Scarborough Country, featuring former congressman Joe Scarborough, who had resigned from the House 18 months earlier to spend more time with his family.
Initially, the show echoed the paleoconservative sensibilities Scarborough had evinced in Congress. Then, in 2007, Don Imus said “nappy-headed hoes” and Scarborough made his move. He lobbied hard for a shot at guest-hosting MSNBC’s morning slot. He tapped Mika Brzezinski, who had come to MSNBC from CBS that year, to co-host. Pioneering an open-ended and conversational format, anchored by their personal chemistry, the show worked. Morning Joe was born.
Two months later, Tim Russert died. MSNBC lost its key man heading into the 2008 election.
Scarborough, apparently at the direction of MSNBC chief Phil Griffin, pitched his new show at the very viewers with whom Russert had established a deep bond. By the summer of 2008, New York magazine was hailing Scarborough as liberal America’s favorite Republican, an avatar for the provincial bigotries of the Acela Corridor.
Scarborough was hard on the McCain campaign but harder still on Bush and the GOP generally. His second book, released in the spring of 2009, was ostensibly a guide to how Republicans could rise from the dead by rejecting the politics of Rush Limbaugh in favor of Scarborough’s own middlebrow sensibilities. In reality, the book told liberals what they wanted to hear Republicans get told. Attendees at its May launch party included Mark Halperin, previously of ABC but by then a Morning Joe staple. Donald Trump also attended.
Halperin was finishing Game Change, his account of the 2008 campaign co-authored with John Heilemann. Schmidt was a key source for the book. McCain loyalists saw his participation in the book as confirmation of self-serving treachery. But by late 2010, Schmidt was a Morning Joe regular, supplementing a day job at the massive public-affairs firm Edelman.
Weaver, meanwhile, was attempting to put something akin to Scarborough’s vision into motion. Jon Huntsman, scion to an immense fortune, and a former ambassador turned governor turned ambassador (again), entered the 2012 GOP primary against front-runner and longtime familial rival Mitt Romney. Liberal America’s favorite Republican, Huntsman spoke Mandarin on a debate stage, trotted out his photogenic family for Vogue, and finished a distant third in New Hampshire. He dropped out a week later. The next year, his daughter Abby joined MSNBC from ABC.
The second Obama term was a bad time for the world of Morning Joe. By late 2014, MSNBC’s ratings were in the toilet across the board, leading to a comprehensive overhaul of the network’s lineup. Morning Joe survived, but many shows did not.
Schmidt was still a regular on Morning Joe. Wallace joined the network in 2014 after an ill-starred, one-season turn on ABC’s The View, and quickly joined Schmidt and Halperin at the Morning Joe table.
Weaver was worried about being frozen out of the coming presidential race, which promised to have a massive Republican primary field. In early 2015, after reporting indicated that Trump was seriously considering a run, Weaver reached out and, according to a Politico article at the end of that year, began attempting to insinuate himself with the campaign. At the same time, he was convincing John Kasich of Ohio to run.
In June, Trump announced his candidacy for president, one day after Jeb Bush had. A little more than a month later, Kasich entered the ring.
The back half of 2015 saw a love-fest between Morning Joe and Trump. By December, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple was criticizing Scarborough and Brzezinski for the frequency and levity of their phone-in interviews with Trump. Yet the bonhomie continued. On March 16 and 17, Schmidt used appearances on Morning Joe to lavish praise on Trump. The afternoon of March 17, he interviewed at Trump Tower to take over and run the campaign.
Schmidt didn’t get the job and returned to MSNBC as a contributor. Kasich didn’t win the nomination, but Weaver continued to draw $10,000 monthly from his super PAC well after the primary and general election concluded. Trump went on to win the White House doing more or less the exact opposite of what Scarborough’s book had recommended.
Morning Joe became increasingly critical of Trump as the race shifted from the primary to the general election, leading to periods of estrangement between Trump and the show. Yet even after Trump stopped appearing on air, Brzezinski and Scarborough claimed that the three of them spoke multiple times a week. Then, in the summer of 2017, seemingly frustrated by the shift in treatment, Trump attacked both hosts directly via tweet. The pair responded with a Washington Post op-ed suggesting that the president had offered to kill a National Enquirer story in exchange for better coverage.
Beyond the personal feuding, however, by mid 2017, the Morning Joe viewership had had enough of indulging Trump. In May, MSNBC gave Wallace her own show, focused almost single-mindedly on pounding the anti-Trump drum. Showing the same deftness of a decade earlier, when he shifted from populist rabble-rouser to conversation-setter, Scarborough also adopted the mantle of the #Resistance. In July, Scarborough announced he was leaving the Republican Party (Schmidt would follow suit eleven months later). In October, Halperin was fired for sexual misconduct. Morning Joe moved away from insider water-cooler chat and increasingly embraced the simmering hysteria of the wealthy, white, and liberal.
Morning television is hard on the people who make it. The hours are terrible, the pressure is immense, and the competition is cutthroat. Morning news shows often take on cult-like qualities, especially during election seasons, with the workplace devouring the lives of its participants like so many of Saturn’s children. Scarborough’s second marriage ended in 2013; Brzezinski’s first in 2016. The co-hosts married each other in 2018. Wallace divorced her husband a year thereafter.
In early 2019, Schmidt left the network to advise billionaire Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, then considering an independent bid for president. The Schultz effort was a disaster from beginning to end. The coffee magnate announced his exploratory efforts on 60 Minutes in February, sparking gleeful derision from Republicans and intense hostility from Democrats. Two days later, he took to the Morning Joe stage to explain himself, in what turned into a 23-minute-long interrogation, by turns soporific and bizarrely defensive despite the gentleness of the hosts. Schultz kept at it until early September 2019, but his goose was cooked. Schmidt found himself out of a job. Within two months, he had signed once again with MSNBC.
Weaver was also looking for a new hustle. In May, the same month that Kasich’s super PAC finally stopped paying Weaver his monthly haul, he signed on to serve as a lobbyist for a Russian uranium firm to the tune of $350,000, with a $40,000 monthly retainer. By then, Huntsman had been serving as ambassador to Russia since late 2017. To Weaver’s chagrin, reporters found his Foreign Agent Registration Act documentation, and he was forced to walk away from the contract. How much of the front-loaded payment he had by then received is unclear, but Weaver claimed at the time that “no funds were transferred, no actions taken.”
Thus was born the Lincoln Project.
Assured of access to the Morning Joe audience, the founders began to cut ads to flatter that audience’s fears. Critics pointed to Weaver’s Russian dalliance, to his and Wilson’s appalling personal finances, to Schmidt’s cynical Schultzian gambit, to bloated costs that the Lincoln Project was paying to firms owned by some of its founders. No matter. Morning Joe had its own political arm and a deeply personal grudge against the president.
Making the Lincoln Project a centerpiece of Morning Joe’s political coverage had two self-reinforcing effects. It raised the group’s profile and credibility instantly, opening hitherto unseen spigots of small-dollar donations from liberal viewers. At the same time, the rest of the political press, unwilling to risk the ire of liberal America’s premiere television real estate, played along. The revelations of apparent financial self-dealing compounded, and troubling rumors about Weaver began to mount. But having been designated the unofficial super PAC of an incandescently anti-Trump press, the Lincoln Project was not to be questioned.
By the back half of 2020, it became difficult at times to see where the show ended and the Lincoln Project began. MSNBC contributor and Morning Joe mainstay Kurt Bardella, a former Darrell Issa spokesman known for tweeting insane things and running a country-music newsletter, joined the group as a senior adviser. Mika Brzezinski breathlessly announced the “breaking news” and had Bardella on air to regale the audience about the importance of the Lincoln Project’s mission.
That mission was never terribly clear. Pushing against a Trump reelection seemed less important to the Lincoln Project than trolling the president into tweeting. Simultaneously, the mission expanded to include “Trump enablers” — meaning any incumbent Republican officeholder. Donations flooded in.
The Lincoln Project previewed its ads on Morning Joe, gaining millions in free airtime and hoping to inspire an angry tweet from the president. Its stable of advisers and associates filled panels there and on Wallace’s show as well. If one tuned in to MSNBC between the hours of 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., there was a decent chance the Lincoln Project would be the topic of discussion, at the table, or both. Soon, senior leaders in the group became mainstays in the cable network’s primetime coverage as well. The network was generating its own “news” and its viewers were shelling out for the experience.
Understandably, many observers view the Lincoln Project as a study in doing politics in our digital age. Its founders were prolific tweeters, and the organization’s fundraising spiked in the wake of a presidential tweet. Yet for all its ostensible online savvy, for all the millions of social-media followers gleaned by its members, and for all the millions of dollars it raised online, the Lincoln Project was from birth to death a product of television. The primary validator and exponent of the group, the entity that blessed its mission and created its audience, remained Morning Joe. As soon as the Lincoln Project lost access to television, it began to wither and die.
By midsummer 2020, the New York Post was working to confirm that Weaver habitually groomed young men looking to work in politics, offering to mentor them and seeking sexual favors in return. In early August, with the Post closing in, the Lincoln Project announced that Weaver had been “admitted to the hospital after a cardiac problem.” Weaver withdrew from public life and the Post abandoned the story.
The group had dodged a proverbial bullet. According to later reporting by the New York Times, the group’s senior leadership had been made aware of Weaver’s behavior two months after the group had formed, but word had not leaked, and so Weaver remained part of Schmidt’s post-election media ambitions. In the interim, Schmidt, Wilson, and an expanding roster of new associates continued to flog the organization on MSNBC and CNN, in the pages of America’s liberal magazines and newspapers, and across the Web itself. November came and went, as did the decisive Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
Eventually, however, the Internet struck back. Frustrated with a lack of movement by the Post, and concerned by the Lincoln Project’s grandiose plans to transform into a media empire, several of the men Weaver had targeted came forward on Twitter in January 2021.
Denials were followed by denunciations, which were followed in turn by resignations. When Horn left the group, Schmidt excoriated her as an opportunist, and the Lincoln Project posted private messages between her and a journalist. When Weaver’s targets pointed out that they had raised concerns with Mike Madrid and Keith Edwards, a Lincoln Project staffer who went to work for Jon Ossoff’s Senate campaign while still on the Lincoln Project payroll, Schmidt downplayed Madrid’s role with the group.
When the New York Times reported that Weaver had approached nearly two dozen men, including one as young as 14, Schmidt released a sprawling manifesto condemning Weaver and recounting his own experience of sexual abuse at a Boy Scout camp. Schmidt ranted and raved. He made exaggerated encomiums to McCain. He blamed Weaver for everything. And he insisted categorically — and contrary to what the New York Times later reported — that he had been unaware of Weaver’s behavior.
Then, on February 12, Schmidt resigned. That night, he went on television.
In 2016, Donald Trump rode cable news to the Republican nomination, stoking outrage in order to get billions in free airtime from the networks. Whether consciously or not, the people at MSNBC decided to mobilize their share of that power and play an active role in the 2020 election. The group that formed to meet their ambitions instead gave expression to the failings and appetites of its masters. (A request to the Lincoln Project for comment was not returned.)
Some years ago, I was at a bar with a fellow practitioner of the political craft. Deep in our cups and trading war stories, one of us brought Weaver up. “Brilliant,” my bar mate said. “But the least ethical person I’ve ever met in this business. And that says something.” I guess it just depends on which business.
What is Gain of Function Research? Why are the terms changing? Will Dr. Fauci ever confess to wrong doing?
virology.ws, “Gain of function research explained.” By Vincent Racaniello; ahrp.org, ” What is Gain-of-Function Research & Who is at High Risk?;” pubmed.ncbi.nim.nih.gov, “Gain-of-Function Research: Ethical Analysis.” By Michael J Selgelid; factcheck.org, “The Wuhan Lab and the Gain-of-Function Disagreement.” By Lori Robertson; nature.com, “The shifting sands of ‘gain-of-function’ research: The mystery of COVID’s origins has reignited a contentious debate about potentially risky studies and the fuzzy terminology that describes them.” By Amber Dance; townhall.com, “Dr. Fauci Admits to Misleading the Public on Health Information.” By Katie Pavlich;
Why the 1619 Movement is Fake History
dailysignal.com, “What the 1619 Project Gets Wrong About Slavery and America’s Founding.” By Armstrong Williams; libertyscholar.org, “The 1619 Project: What it is and why you should not let your child read it: This politically advantageous doctrine supposes much more than any revolutionary civil rights issue. In fact, a complete upheaval of American history is more on par with this trend.” By Maria Buenano; smithsonianmag.com, “The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History: The year the first enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown is drilled into students’ memories, but overemphasizing this date distorts history.” BY Michael Guasco;
Why is the Far Left Afraid of Our American History?
thetrumpet.com, “The Roots of America’s Dangerous Turn Left: To understand where the radical left plans to take America, you must understand the source of its ideas. We have been warning America about this for over 50 years!” BY GERALD FLURRY; americanthinker.com, “Why the Left Really Wants to Kill America.” By John Eidson; thedailysignal.com, “The Radical Left’s Ideas Could Destroy America for Generations.” By Kay C. James; psychologytoday.com, “The Two “Fatal Flaws Lurking in American Leftist Politics”: A humble attempt to help Jordan Peterson with his challenge.” By Izzy Kalman; nypost.com, “Why schools have stopped teaching American history.” By Karol Markowicz;
Why is the Teacher Union Advancing Critical Race Theory?
lifesitenews.com, “Nation’s largest teachers union rubber-stamps plan to promote critical race theory across US: The National Education Association affirmed its approval for promoting and implementing critical race theory in public schools throughout the US.” By Ashley Sadler; pjmedia.com, “What Are They Trying to Hide? CRT Resolutions Mysteriously Disappear From Teachers Union Website.” BY TYLER O’NEIL; nygunforum.com, “Thousands of Teachers Vow To Defy State Bans on Critical Race Theory;” news.yahoo.com, “Unions Promise Money and Support to Members Advancing Critical Race Theory.” By Linda Jacobson; alaskawatchman.com, “Teachers union, which includes 13,000 Alaskans, votes to push critical race theory in schools.” By Joel Davidson; thefederalist.com, “Where Are Teachers Getting Critical Race Theory? In Teachers’ Colleges: American educators don’t need the government’s encouragement to import these views into the classroom. CRT is in the pipeline, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.” By Peter Kirsanow, Christopher Ross, and Maximos N. Nikitas;
Have we Lost Control of Our Prison System with its Privatization?
cincinnaticriminalattorney.com, “Prison Privatization in the United States.” By Brad Groene; foxnews.com, “The cold hard facts about America’s private prison system.” By Liberty Vittert; hufpost.com, “Jailing Americans for Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex: No matter what the politicians or corporate heads might say, prison privatization is neither fiscally responsible nor in keeping with principles of justice. It simply encourages incarceration for the sake of profits.” By John W. Whitehead; vittana.org, “14 Advantages and Disadvantages of Private Prisons.” By Louise Gaille;
What Is The Lincoln Project?
en.wikipedia.org, “The Lincoln Project.” By Wikipedia Editors; lincolnproject.us, “DEDICATED AMERICANS PROTECTING DEMOCRACY: The Lincoln Project is holding accountable those who would violate their oaths to the Constitution and would put others before Americans;” nationalreview.com, “The Rise and Fall of the Lincoln Project.” By LUKE THOMPSON;