By: Jamison Foser
If there is anybody out there who still doesn’t believe that the conservative media will attack President Obama no matter what he does, consider this: Right-wingers are telling children to skip school as a protest against Obama’s encouragement of students to stay in school.
I know, I know. You think I’m kidding. Or exaggerating. That I’m caricaturing the conservatives’ position in order to make them look ridiculous.
Wrong. They defy caricature. There’s nothing you can imagine that is too crazy for these people to say. They’ll claim Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya (his birth announcements in Hawaiian newspapers were just one part of an elaborate, decades-long conspiracy involving Kenyans, the media, Hawaii’s Republican governor, and the Stonecutters). They’ll say he has a diabolical plan to create government "death panels" to kill off the old and the young. They’ll claim he is building a secret private army (consisting of — I swear I am not making this up — AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteers) that is "just as strong" as the U.S. military so that he can "seize power" and create a "thugocracy."
And when President Obama delivers the least-controversial message you could possibly imagine — "Stay in school" — they call it "indoctrination" and an attempt to "get ’em while they’re young,"warning, "They are capturing your kids" and "your republic is under attack."
That’s right: "Your republic is under attack," and Barack Obama is "capturing your kids." By urging them to stay in school and … learn. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan explained in a letter to schools:
In a recent interview with student reporter, Damon Weaver, President Obama announced that on September 8 — the first day of school for many children across America — he will deliver a national address directly to students on the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.
Well, clearly, no red-blooded American would stand idly by as the president of the United States urges children to work hard in school. That’s something Adolf Hitler would do! (Oops — I keep forgetting: Conservatives can’t seem to come to a consensus about whether Hitler was bad.)
So Glenn Beck and his fellow tinfoil hat-wearers sprang into action. Beck went off on his "indoctrination" rant, warning of secret private armies (no, he isn’t worried about Blackwater — it’s the thought of English majors signing up to help teach people how to read that keeps him up at night).
WorldNetDaily said Obama’s planned speech "raises the specter of the Civilian National Security Force" and promoted comparisons to Hitler’s youth brigade. Mark Steyn said the speech is part of a "cult of personality," though he did admit it isn’t on the scale of Saddam Hussein’s.
NewsBusters’ Mark Finkelstein alerted his followers to the striking similarity between President Obama’s plan to encourage students to work hard and Chairman Mao’s leadership of China. Because, you know, one day you’re urging kids to get good grades, and the next you’re ordering mass executions.Duh.
(Incidentally, while I know of no evidence Chairman Mao spoke to China’s schoolchildren via television, we know then-President George H. W. Bush did so in 1991. Somehow, Poppy Bush’s pep talk didn’t result in the rise of a Hitler Youth-style paramilitary organization.)
Some conservative media didn’t simply complain about Obama’s dastardly efforts to promote hard work and learning among America’s schoolchildren. No, they came up with a solution: Children should stay home from school.
Radio host Tammy Bruce asked "TownHall Patriots" to help organize "PASS Day Picnics" — that’s "Parentally Approved Skip School Day," for the uninitiated. In a blog post under a close-up photo her hand holding a gun, Bruce added that "Urkel" — that’s her pet name for Obama; get it? — is going to "make a grab for your kids" and that he is "setting us on fire."
Newsmax writer Pam Geller agreed that the last place kids should be next Tuesday is school, urging parents to keep their kids home lest they be "brainwash[ed]" by the "fascist in chief."
What’s the lesson in all of this? That we shouldn’t ever take anything the conservative media say seriously? Well, sure. That’s a start. But — and maybe it’s just me — I think there’s a real opportunity here. If the conservative media show such knee-jerk opposition to anything Barack Obama says that they’ll urge schoolchildren to skip class so they don’t have to hear the president poison their minds with a bunch of nonsense about studying and working hard, Obama should use it to his advantage. Just think how vigorously Fox News will promote health care reform — if President Obama comes out against it.
Jamison Foser is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Foser also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign up to receive his columns by email.