Colorado’s far-right have set themselves ablaze over a news story calling out a state official’s glaring political attempt to tie Nazis to liberals and then toss that bomb into public schools.
Even in a political atmosphere of anything goes, the stunts stand out and deserve to be called out.
The self-immolation started a couple of weeks ago after Chalkbeat Colorado Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer — solely — uncovered and reported on a right-wing, Republican state school board member successfully inserting his anti-liberal politics into how Colorado students will learn about the Holocaust.
“Over the last year and a half, (state school board director) Steve Durham has pushed for the state’s academic standards to connect the Holocaust and other genocides to socialism,” Meltzer wrote in the Oct. 12 edition of Chalkbeat. The story was picked up by several newspapers statewide, including Sentinel Colorado. “Durham succeeded in omitting the word “Nazi” from an early version of the standards in favor of the party’s full name, the National Socialist German Workers Party.”
Meltzer goes on to include information about the debate over whether Adolf Hitler and his regime were some kind of socialist government or, as many history academics have said in the decades since the fall of the Third Reich, actually called themselves socialist as part of their populist ploy to become the authoritarian dictatorship everyone agrees it was.
It’s been pretty much settled social science for decades, and that’s not actually what this new controversy is about.
Durham, a decades-long Colorado Springs Republican politician, has long made clear his disdain for “socialism.” Like so many Republicans, “socialism” has become the Fox News-approved wink-wink-nudge-nudge slur for liberals and Democrats.
Soon after the Chalkbeat story was posted, the Colorado Springs Gazette published a house editorial torturing the subject and proclaiming that, Hitler and his genocidal fiends were indeed “socialists.” The Gazette backed Durham’s scheme to try and force teachers to tie Hitler to socialism. And in a stunning, Trumpish moment of “we’re not saying” that Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should ever “be compared to Hitler. They are not killers. They merely share Hitler’s political identity and much of his fundamental economic and social ideology.”
It sullies the state of journalism that a newspaper’s editorial page would sink to the level of Tucker Carlson’s Fox News fanaticism to draw any kind of parallel between Sanders, who is Jewish, Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina, and the depraved murderous regime of white supremacists who overwhelmed a nation and drove it to slaughter millions of Jews, gays and others in human history’s most sordid catastrophe.
Any “political identity” and “fundamental economic and social ideology,” between the two American Democrats and Hitler is non-existent or meaningful in the scope of public-school academic regimen.
The argument of the Gazette’s Editorial Page, and that of a handful of right-wing extremists across the state, has nothing to do with the academic merits of dissecting how an entire nation fell behind a regime’s intent to hold power by demonizing a race of people with a catalog of propaganda and false narratives, including that capitalism was an element of Judaism.
“Associating socialism/communism with genocide is rational,” right-wing pundit Krista Kafer wrote for the Denver Post OP-ED page. “And if memories fade, the next generation could be seduced by Marx’s fatal conceit.”
Kafer bends the truly rational push for Holocaust survivors and others to ensure that the apocalyptic genocide is not ever white-washed or minimized — by associating it with people like Sanders — in an effort to guarantee that it never happens again.
We live in a world where neo-Nazis and others actively work as Holocaust deniers, and anti-Semitism florishes, even among main-stream Republicans and household-name American celebrities.
It is not rational to equate Nazi Germany to nations like Norway, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Iceland and endless more that have capitalistic societies with varying degrees of socialist programs ranging from universal healthcare to free college or old-age pensions.
It is not rational to attempt to tie socialism with hundreds of millions of Americans who like and depend on Social Security, the U.S. socialistic retirement system, Medicare, public schools and Medicaid programs.
This histrionic high-school-debater tantrum is nothing but a deceitful distraction from what Meltzer’s article was about: A Republican state board of education director successfully inserted his political bent against socialism and liberals into Colorado classrooms.
Had Meltzer not been aware of what Durham had done, and had she not taken the time to report on his scheme, none of us would know.
Early American capitalism was a part of why millions of Black Africans were kidnapped and enslaved in fledgling American businesses, and our nation’s nascent capitalism had a part in the nation’s sordid genocide of Native Americans.
But those human catastrophes do not define American capitalism. And the Nazi’s ghastly crimes were not defined by any real or feigned socialism the Third Reich fascists employed to exterminate millions of men, women and children and invade much of Europe.
Public schools must be free of these blatant attempts to sow partisan points and political philosophies in the classroom.
The danger here, made apparent by the Chalkbeat story, is real and growing.
Currently at least one other candidate for state school board, in the 6th Congressional District, Republican challenger Molly Lamar, has consistently said similar things about public schools needing to be reined in for not being forced to insert far-right propaganda into classrooms.
“Lamar made clear her real intentions as an activist during an Oct. 20, 2021 interview on FoxNews,” The Sentinel Editorial Board wrote in a state school board endorsement. “She spends several minutes on a tirade about the insertion of critical race theory in Cherry Creek schools. She talked about how parents have lost control of their children in classrooms focused on leftist brainwashing, devoid of “back-to basics” academics.”
Earlier this month, the Denver Post reported that an attempt by state school board Republican Debora Scheffel failed by only one vote to throw out the state’s social studies curricula guidelines and replace them with the “American Birthright” program. It’s the same far-right dogma forced on Florida schools by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Sentinel editorial endorsement pointed out.
This argument isn’t about the navel-gazing, deeply academic exploration of what compelled an entire nation of educated people to fall behind the most gruesome event in human history, it’s about inserting twisted partisan propaganda into public education, solely for political gain.
It undermines the powerful voice of trusted newspaper editorials by spending it on such a vulgar and shameful caprice.
The offensive and disingenuous editorial doesn’t just besmirch valuable work done by journalists at the Gazette, it sullies all of journalism.