Here’s a good example of bad journalism, breaking several rules, including guilt by association, and all but silencing an important opposing view — from an organization under attack.
It concerns the convention in Philadelphia starting Thursday of the national group called Moms for Liberty. The Inquirer has carried several stories, starting with one about how some staffers at the Museum of the American Revolution protested that the Moms were rented space at the museum for a meeting.
The War that the museum celebrates was fought for freedom, including freedom of speech and assembly, and the directors of the museum stood by those rights in rejecting the hurt behinds of the anti-democratic protesters. I wrote about it here.
Protesters have been picketing the Philadelphia Marriott, where the MFL summit takes place. They, too, are exercising their freedom. I’m fine with that, even though I disagree with them, and also with some of the things that MFL says. Our nation is founded on the open debate of ideas, even ideas you don’t like.
Out of 19 paragraphs in this Philadelphia Inquirer story, exactly one allows Moms for Liberty to speak for itself, at the very end. That is very wrong.
Also very wrong is the reliance on one group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, as the single source for all the anti-MFL material.
When launched, in the South, the SPLC did a meritorious job of tracking anti-civil rights groups. It brought the Ku Klux Klan to its knees by law suits that crippled it financially.
That’s when I was a proud supporter of SPLC.
Over the years, it drifted from that mission to a more progressive one — opposing anyone on the right, and throwing around the word “hate” like rice at a wedding.
Its own direction and leadership were called into question more than once, such as this piece in the liberal The New Yorker.
The word “hate” can be used against SPLC itself, argued the New York Post.
In the following Inquirer story, you can see for yourself it opens with a condemnation from the Southern Poverty Law Center, as it were a recognized, even-handed arbiter, which it is not, and how a SPLC staffer is allowed to comment and criticize thoughout the piece.
The only opposing voice comes from quoting second-hand materials.
If anyone from MFL were asked to comment on this slanted piece, reporter Maddie Hanna does not say that. She allows them only a generic statement in the last paragraph.
As happens more often than it should — such as in fawning stories about illegal immigrants — the Inquirer acts as if there is no opposing view, as if it can’t find anyone to quote on the invasion that is underway.
Note, too, how the Inquirer describes MFL as a “polarizing” force, using a loaded word (that also was used against Barack Obama.) Hell, I’m a polarizing force.
That is opinion, and opinion doesn’t belong in news stories.
The attempt is made to fold MFL in with other “hate groups,” like neo-Nazis, as identified by the progressive partisan SPLC.
MFL’s slogan that “we don’t co-parent with the government,” is taken as anti-government rhetoric. To me, it is an expression of the parents’ paramount right and responsibility for their children.
The piece is one-sided and faulty. Now, you can read it for yourself.
Moms for Liberty calls itself a parent empowerment group. But as the polarizing organization arrives in Philadelphia this week for its annual summit, it’s being identified as something else: an “antigovernment extremist group.”
That’s according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the veteran civil rights organization that tracks domestic extremism. This year, the group added a number of “parental rights” groups — the Southern Poverty Law Center refers to them as “anti-student-inclusion” — to its tally of hate and antigovernment extremist groups.
Moms for Liberty has accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of espousing “hate” toward its members. Here’s why the organization says Moms for Liberty warrants the designation:
What makes Moms for Liberty an antigovernment group?
Founded in Florida in 2021, Moms for Liberty was born out of opposition to COVID-19 mandates in schools and now claims 285 chapters across 45 states. It pivoted to targeting diversity education and how LGBTQ issues are handled by schools, as part of a broader conservative movement that has accused schools of indoctrinating students around race, gender, and sexuality.
That messaging is what landed Moms for Liberty on the SPLC’s list, said Maya Henson Carey, a research analyst with SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
“It’s really looking at their overall narrative: that public educators and public schools are attempting to indoctrinate and sexualize children through this radical Marxist agenda,” Carey said.
The SPLC notes statements from Moms for Liberty leaders, including the group’s slogan that “we do not co-parent with the government,” comments referring to “government schools,” support for abolishing the federal Department of Education, and accusations that teachers unions are responsible for indoctrination.
In one example flagged by the SPLC, Moms for Liberty said last year that “the K-12 cartel — also known as the national teachers union (NEA) — met and drafted a proposal to replace the word ‘mother’ with ‘birthing person.’” Describing the proposal as “insane,” Moms for Liberty said that “as the teachers union pushes an agenda focused on everything but educating our children, American parents are rising up, taking back our school districts and putting the focus back on educating our children.”
The SPLC didn’t designate Moms for Liberty as a hate group, which “really attack an entire class of people,” Carey said. Still, she said, “their tactics are definitely hateful.”
She drew parallels to segregationist parent groups that arose after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision — saying Moms for Liberty similarly aims to “suppress” different groups of people.
Carey pointed to the group’s opposition to critical race theory — an academic framework that examines racism as embedded in institutions, but that critics have used as a catchall for diversity education and “divisive” lessons. A Tennessee Moms for Liberty chapter, for instance, filed a complaint in 2021 alleging that texts about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and Ruby Bridges’ autobiography violated the state’s anti-critical race theory law.
Moms for Liberty has also opposed policies accommodating transgender students and has referred to gender dysphoria as being “normalized by predators.” And while Moms for Liberty has said it’s focused on removing inappropriate sexual content, efforts to ban books from libraries have disproportionately targeted stories about LGBTQ people or people of color, Carey said.
Moms for Liberty isn’t the only education-related group to land on the SPLC’s list this year. Others include No Left Turn in Education, started by a Gladwyne mother, and Parents Defending Education, which has been filing complaints against school districts across the country — including Lower Merion — saying it’s “fighting indoctrination in the classroom.”
Local Moms for Liberty chapters — Pennsylvania has the second-largest Moms for Liberty presence nationally, according to the group — appear on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” alongside neo-Nazi groups, like the National Socialist Movement, and white nationalist groups, like the Patriot Front.
Carey said the education groups represent a trend of “a shift to public spaces” by extremist groups, that “comes with them showing up for school board meetings and running for public office. A lot of these antigovernment and hate groups are really infiltrating the lives of everyday Americans.”
Some Moms for Liberty chapters have been linked to groups like the Proud Boys. Last week, an Indiana chapter made national headlines for a quote it attributed to Hitler in its newsletter: “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.” (Following a backlash, the chapter condemned Hitler and updated its newsletter: “The quote from a horrific leader should put parents on alert … If the government has control over our children today, they control our country’s future. We The People must be vigilant and protect children from an overreaching government.”)
Some right-leaning groups, including Christian conservative groups, have previously accused the SPLC of unfairly labeling them hate groups. Moms for Liberty continues to be embraced by leading Republicans: GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy are all expected to speak at the Philadelphia summit, which begins Thursday.
In a statement, Moms for Liberty cofounders Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich said parents deserve to be a part of their child’s public school education.
“Name-calling parents who want to be a part of their child’s education as ‘hate groups’ or ‘bigoted’ just further exposes what this battle is all about: Who fundamentally gets to decide what is taught to our kids in school — parents or government employees?” they said. “We believe that parental rights do not stop at the classroom door and no amount of hate from groups like this is going to stop that.”