One of the most depressing aspects of contemporary public discourse is not only how disingenuous so many arguments can be but also how mind-numbingly dumb they are as well. A classic example of that concerned the question of whether the parental-rights organization called Moms for Liberty is a hate group that extols the memory of Adolf Hitler.
The story made headlines around the country late last month because one of its chapters located in Hamilton County, Ind., used a quote widely attributed to the Nazi leader in its newsletter. The quote states that: “He alone, who OWNS the youth, GAINS the future.”
This was picked up on by the group’s opponents, and much of the coverage of the dustup treated it as a given that the organization was using the Nazis as their role model.
Of course, the opposite was the case. Their purpose is fighting back against what they consider to be the indoctrination of American children by schools using curricula that inappropriately include aspects of critical race theory, in addition to sexual and gender ideology. They not unreasonably fear that foisting these toxic teachings on kids by left-wing ideologues will have a terrible impact on both children and the country.
That said, quoting Hitler in virtually any context other than in a condemnation or scholarly context is a perilous and usually foolish endeavor. The implicit analogy that contemporary progressives are following a Hitler-type game plan is a mistake and itself inappropriate, no matter how wrong or dangerous their efforts may be. The only possible analogies to Hitler and the Nazis are to other acts of genocide. Even then, comparisons of other heinous crimes to the efforts to demonize and ultimately exterminate Jews should be done very carefully.
The chapter apologized unreservedly for their blunder, and that should have been the end of it. Of course, it was not.
The group, whose views were already unpopular on the left, was widely bashed by progressive outlets as a “hate group.” Indeed, a Jewish Democrat running for mayor of Carmel, Ind.—a heavily Jewish suburb of Indianapolis located in Hamilton County—was quoted in JTA, blasting them for engaging in “hate speech.” But while the organization can be faulted for making an inappropriate analogy, it’s quite another thing to speak of them as being hateful.
The promiscuous use of Holocaust analogies is a bipartisan problem in 21st-century America. Those on the right who compared COVID lockdowns, or mask or vaccine mandates, to Nazi tactics were way out of line, even if many criticisms of these policies were ultimately proven correct. And Democrats, even those who loudly proclaim their opposition to antisemitism, like President Joe Biden or Jewish Democratic groups, who have analogized Republicans and former President Donald Trump to Nazis are equally wrong.
One of the unintended consequences of efforts to raise awareness of the Holocaust while universalizing its lesson and seeking to link it to ordinary acts of hate or unkindness is that this singular chapter of history has been reduced to a metaphor for anything deemed very bad. The idiotic “anyone I don’t like is Hitler” rule has gone mainstream, and the impact on the already degraded state of public discourse has been as obvious as it is awful.
What’s needed is a nationwide moratorium on Nazi or Holocaust analogies. But even as we deplore their use, that doesn’t excuse the illogical and largely defamatory labeling of those who deploy them, whether on the left or the right, as Nazis or antisemites.
That is especially true of the treatment of Moms for Liberty. More to the point, the attempt to use the Hitler quote controversy as ammunition to label them as a hate group, as the extremist left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center has done, or as a danger to the Jewish community isn’t just disingenuous, it’s an outright smear.
Indeed, the effort to portray them as Hitler followers has been mainstreamed by those outlets that routinely portray the group as Nazi-like book banners because they speak up about the inclusion in school libraries of books they consider inappropriate. All such decisions are debatable, and there are examples of books that are pulled from the shelves that shouldn’t be. But the truth is many of those who attack the group over this issue in mainstream outlets would never dare show or read in public some of the books in question because they are pornographic. That doesn’t stop them from attacking anyone who speaks up about the ideological indoctrination and sexualization of children in public schools.
That was on display when the group held a national summit earlier this week in Philadelphia. The importance of their efforts was highlighted by the fact that Republican presidential candidates, including the two top contenders—Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—addressed them. Yet coverage of the event in liberal corporate media remained stuck on the misleading “hate group” claims and treated the very concept of parental rights as a troubling intrusion into the educational process.
The attempt to stigmatize attendees at their conference was demonstrated in a pair of Philadelphia Inquirer articles in which readers were advised as to how best to avoid staying in a hotel in which Moms for Liberty members were present. Not unsurprisingly, the example of people who felt themselves victimized by their proximity to these activists were described as members of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, who were attending that group’s biennial international conference. The articles took it as a given that these were two “opposing groups” that shouldn’t have been booked in the same hotel.
It may be that some of those attending the Jewish conference may disagree with Moms for Liberty. Nevertheless, the notion that opposing the imposition of intersectional and CRT teachings in the schools—ideas that are not only profoundly wrong but grant a permission slip for antisemitism and attacks on the existence of Israel—is antithetical to Jewish life or evidence of antisemitism is sheer madness.
The demonization of the group was further illustrated by the demonstrations against their presence. As one attendee—author and columnist Bethany Mandel—wrote subsequently in the New York Post, the hotel where the event took place was besieged by violent protesters seeking to bully their opponents into silence. Mandel reports that one of the people supposedly protesting “hate” threatened to take her 6-month-old baby (held in a chest carrier) from her.
Anyone can disagree with the positions taken by Moms for Liberty. The same goes for those who are against opposing life-altering surgery that mutilates bodies or hormone treatments for children who think they are transgender. Or in thinking that racializing society according to CRT patent nostrums is wrong. Nevertheless, these are positions that the majority of Americans support. But the scene outside their hotel, as hateful threats filled the air, was evidence of something dark in contemporary American society.
Mandel’s recently published book Stolen Youth, co-written with fellow columnist and Jewish mother Karol Markowicz, provides an eloquent riposte to those who argue that noticing the damage being done to American children by the education establishment is hateful or opposed to Jewish values. To the contrary, they are speaking for the best interests of families in a way that those who are effectively sacrificing children on the altar of their ideological obsessions about race, sex or gender, have abandoned.
Rather than addressing the concerns raised by mothers like Mandel, Markowicz and other Moms for Liberty, the Jewish left and their partisan allies prefer to simply ignore the problems and engage in smears of their critics. All Americans including Jews of all political stripes need to think clearly about this crisis in the schools. Rolling back the damage being done to children by ideologues in the education system and the politicized teacher’s unions that have done so much harm in recent years isn’t about politics. It’s about the survival of our nation and the best interests of our children.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter and Threads at: @jonathans_tobin.