Conservative media turned National Read Across America Day 2021 into an epic collapse of the culture war.
On Tuesday morning and into the afternoon, the alleged "cancellation" of the legendary children's author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, as the latest example of the rampage of guard liberalism ceaselessly reiterates the fact that Dr. Seuss was actually not canceled.
"The abandonment culture is canceling Dr. Seuss," lamented Brian Kilmeade, host of Fox & Friends, and later added, "It's out of control."
"People are too scared," repeated co-host Ainsley Earhardt. "They don't want to be involved in all of this, so they'd rather just cancel everything … the places we're going in this country right now."
Fox & Friends continues its emotional breakdown over the "radical" conspiracy to "eliminate children's books" by Dr. Seuss, and "people are too scared" to comment, so "they'd rather just cancel everything". It's like there's an anti-Seuss Cabal pulling the levers of power. pic.twitter.com/FDtmKYa6on
– Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) March 2, 2021
This Fox & Friends segment was not an isolated incident. Before 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dr. Seuss has been mentioned more than 30 times in Fox News and Fox Business. Fox Business host Stuart Varney even pointed to Dr. Seuss as one of the big stories of the day.
Dr. Seuss was an even bigger topic on Newsmax – a Trumpier alternative to Fox News – where it was mentioned more than 20 times during the network's Wake Up America morning show.
Given what they have been told, viewers on both networks could be excused for believing that the Dr. Seuss Controversy is the biggest news story of the day.
And it didn't stop with the morning shows. A Fox News reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki during Tuesday's briefing why Biden was Dr. Seuss failed to mention it in his Read Across America Day statement, and Fox News then tried to film Psaki's response (she referred the reporter to the Department of Education) as some sort of scandal. (Fox News did not respond to a question about commenting on its Seuss coverage as it was being made public.)
In a world where 2,000 Americans are still dying from Covid-19 every day and Congress grappling with issues like a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus plan and major reforms to voting rights, that focus on Dr. Seuss definitely silly. But what makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that five minutes of research shows that all of the outrage is a lot of ado about very little.
Dr. Seuss was not canceled
Right-wing outrage over Dr. Seuss can be traced back to a February 26 article in Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire publication about a left-wing educator group encouraging public schools to stop “Read Across America Day” with Dr. Seuss associate “Racist Undertones” in some of his books. The two are linked as the National Education Association previously used March 2, Geisel's birthday, as an opportunity to promote literacy.
At least one school district – the Loudoun County's public school system in Northern Virginia – has actually decided to promote Read Across America Day by Dr. Seuss to give the schools the guidance, “The Read Across America Day is not exclusively with Dr. To connect Seuss ”. Birthday."
The Daily Wire cited this guide as evidence that Dr. Seuss was "canceled". In response to the outrage the article sparked, Loudoun County schools issued a statement attempting to correct the record.
"Dr. Seuss books have not been banned in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS)," it later said. "We continue to encourage our young readers to read all kinds of books that are inclusive, diverse and reflective for our student community , don't just celebrate Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms. However, Dr. Seuss and his books are no longer the focus of Read Across America Day in public schools Loudoun County. "
Then, on March 1, President Joe Biden issued a Read Across America Day statement that broke years of precedent by telling Dr. Seuss didn't mention it. This led to headlines like "Biden CANCELS Dr. Seuss".
More fuel was added to the right-wing indignation fire on Tuesday than Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that publishes and licenses the author's work, announced that six Seuss books will no longer be published because they portray people of color “in this way are hurtful and false. "
Why does this re-evaluation by Dr. Seuss now instead? In part, this has to do with a 2019 study conducted by a nonprofit organization in connection with Read Across America Day entitled "Learning for Justice" that saw Seuss & # 39; labor traffic in "orientalist tropics" and " Anti-Blackness "graduated. Here is a key expert from this study:
Of the 2,240 (identified) human characters (in 50 books by Dr. Seuss), there are 45 colored characters that make up 2% of the total number of human characters. “Of the 45 characters, 43 exhibited behaviors and appearances consistent with harmful and stereotypical oriental tropes. The remaining two human characters "are identified in the text as" African "and both agree with the theme of anti-blackness." It is also important to note that each of the non-white pieces is male and that they are all "portrayed in submissive, exoticized, or dehumanized roles", particularly in their relationship with white pieces.
This study led to a re-evaluation of some of Seuss' work, including the six books that Dr. Seuss Enterprises no longer published. However, there is no indication that this private company's decision was due to pressure from the Woke Mob, and it is not as if Dr. Seuss' works pulled from the shelves of libraries and bookstores.
Conservatives don't want to let facts get in the way of their narrative
It is entirely sensible to reevaluate classical cultural works on the basis of the prism of the values prevailing today. This does not mean that these works have been "canceled" or are worthless – it just means being honest about how they fell short in terms of inclusivity and respect for other people.
But in the months since Donald Trump lost the presidency, right-wing media and Republican Congressmen have leaned into so-called "annulment culture" to crack down on Democrats without discussing politics or really anything substantial at all. Instead, Republicans have implied that Democrats want to ban traditions that are central to conservative identities. In short, they stir up the complaints of their base.
There have been some notable examples of this over the past week. Perhaps most absurdly, the right wing spent days fretting over Hasbro's alleged rejection of Mr. Potato Head.
Ainsley Earhardt worries about how she will know which gender of potato toys to buy (they are labeled "Mr." and "Mrs."), and Steve Doocy believes Hasbro was trying to get politically correct until "the backlash was enormous". and it went back in a panic (that didn't happen.) pic.twitter.com/yrPAo7yqrI
– Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) February 26, 2021
It turned out that all of the anger over Mr. Potato Head was based on a misinterpretation of a Hasbro press release. While the brand is now referred to as "Potato Head", Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head will not be "canceled" by the company – they will live on as characters in the broader Potato Head universe.
But even after Hasbro cleared the confusion, the CPAC Conservatives brought up Mr. Potato Head's pronouns as an example of a savage liberal wakefulness.
"You tried to cancel Kermit the Frog and Mr. Potato Head. See that? You have withdrawn from Mr. Potato Head. I think he told you that his preferred pronunciations are" he, his, he " # 39; are. " – Jim Jordan pic.twitter. com / gU9pwYh3rk
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2021
By Tuesday morning, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head merged into a single object of right-wing performative outrage. For example, during a Fox & Friends interview, Donald Trump Jr. used a question about Dr. Seuss to rail against the liberal “demolition culture” in general.
That may seem silly – and it is. But Republicans and their media supporters use these kind of culture war complaints to avoid talking about real issues, including those they advocate that are unpopular.
A egregious example of this was Fox & Friends First's Tuesday interview with Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). Despite the fact that both BuzzFeed and the Washington Post have published exposés in the past few days listing numerous allegations of sexual harassment against him, Cawthorn has not been asked a single question about it. Instead, he had the opportunity to find out in detail about the fake rejection from Dr. To complain to Seuss.
Madison Cawthorn was at Fox & Friends First for an interview this morning. He was never asked about the multiple sexual harassment allegations against him, but was given the opportunity to challenge Dr. To scold Seuss. pic.twitter.com/fC0XpVj8Lg
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 2, 2021
Later on Tuesday, when FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before a Senate committee about the January 6 riot and right-wing domestic terrorism case, Fox News was the only network that did not cover it live.
Instead, they talked more about abandonment culture and Dr. Seuss.
And Fox held even more panel discussions on the demolition culture well into Tuesday afternoon. It was even the main story on the Fox News website on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) closed the circle of right-wing disinformation by using a debate on the Suffrage Act to raise questions about Dr. To complain to Seuss in a sort of Soundbite tailored for additional Fox coverage.
"First they forbid Dr. Seuss and now they want to tell us what to say," he lied.
Aside from the silliness of using hyped culture war themes to distract from real problems, there are a few ironies in the right obsession with "breaking off culture." First, as writer Charlotte Clymer pointed out on Twitter, schools are far more likely to prohibit LGBTQ-themed books than books that contain racism or bigotry.
And I found that for the final year we have data for (2019), of the 10 most challenged and banned books, * EIGHT * were all LGBTQ-themed.
It appears that social conservatives have been working overtime "canceling" LGBTQ books
– Charlotte Clymer @ (@cmclymer) March 2, 2021
And second, other works by Dr. Despite the racial insensitivity of some of his books, Seuss points out that he would not identify with the agendas of right-wing politicians who are now using him as a club.
By Fiona Macdonalds 2019 BBC piece "The surprisingly radical politics of Dr. Seuss ":
Spiegelman describes Dr. Seuss' war edition (during World War II) as "very impressive evidence of animation as the art of persuasion" and explains how they "rant with conviction and fervor against isolationism, racism and anti-Semitism. Most of the other American editorial pages of the time are missing … practically the only editorial cartoons outside the communist and black press that denied Jim Crow's military policies and Charles Lindbergh's anti-Semitism. “Dr. Seuss, he argues, "made these drawings with the fire of sincere indignation and anger that fuel any real political art."
Fox News' lying isn't exactly new – after all, the network has spent weeks misleading people into believing that the recent widespread power outages in Texas are somehow an indictment against the Green New Deal.
But that on a day when so much else is happening, the network had such a big deal with Dr. Seuss does, shows how much the network is still struggling to identify itself in the post-Trump world. And it's also a reminder of how ready it is to construct an alternate reality for its viewers where the most important things are their complaints.
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