Pity the poor Southern Poverty Law Center. Over the years, it's gone from noble, to shrill, to…well…pathetic. These days, it seems to exist only to scare people with exaggerated figures about supposed swarms of Klansmen, skinheads, neo-nazis, whatever will get the mailing list rattled. But the guys in white hoods are getting a bit thin on the ground and long in the tooth. Yes, there's an occasional and unfortunate Glenn Miller, but a rare, homicidal racist in a nation of over 300 million people does not a national threat make.
Last year, the SPLC tried its hand at painting anarcho-capitalists as a rising new threat through a convoluted chain of logic that somehow sought to link voluntaryists to the Patriot movement. Uh huh. Since even the SPLC can't follow that line of reasoning (it keeps leading them to a dumpster behind a 7-11), now the scaremonger group cautions that some people who oppose Common Core education standards are right-wing extremists.
Oh yeah. And they're back to invoking the John Birch Society.
Now, it's true that some people with doubts about the new Common Core standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers, but also favored by the feds, are right-wing extremists (do not forget the emphasis; very important). Of course, some people who brush their teeth are right-wing extremists.
And some people just get tagged as right-wing extremists when it's time for another SPLC mailing.
Then again, some opponents of Common Core are members of teachers unions who call the standards dangerous to personal privacy and educational autonomy. Some are advocates of child-directed education who oppose standardized testing. Some worry that the standards are developmentally inappropriate for children.
But, warns an SPLC report that sounds as if even its authors take it less than entirely seriously (PDF):
To the propaganda machine on the right, the Common Core—an effort driven by the states—is actually "Obamacore," a nefarious federal plot to wrest control of education from local school systems and parents. Instead of the "death panels" of "Obamacare," the fear is now "government indoctrination camps."
The disinformation campaign is being driven by the likes of Fox News, the John Birch Society, Tea Party factions, and the Christian Right. National think tanks and advocacy groups associated with the Koch brothers, whose father was a founding Birch member, have taken up the cause.
By raising the specter of "Obamacore," activists on the radical right hope to gain leverage against their real target—public education itself.
You can read the whole report, if you like, though I can't imagine why. It does acknowledge that there are "legitimate debates" over Common Core, but mostly it tosses together libertarian bloggers, fundamentalist preachers, nutjobs, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Tea Party members, the Koch brothers (obligatory disclaimer: David Koch sits on the Board of the Reason Foundation), and anybody else SPLC doesn't like who criticizes Common Core. And, yes, the John Birch Society, probably because the people on the SPLC's mailing list know who that is and find the group scary. It jogs even their memories, though, just in case: "Chief among the Patriot groups is the John Birch Society (JBS)—the ultra-right organization that once called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a communist agent."
Never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often have very different criticisms to make of common core standards; it's time to throw them in the blender o' progressive nightmares. All of this is really a plot against public education.
And public education is good!
And never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often have very different positions on the role government should play in schooling and what constitutes a good education.
To show just how incoherent this all is, the report closes by citing education historian Diane Ravitch on the value of public schools, while also noting her opposition to Common Core. That's right, the almost 40-page warning that Common Core opponents are out to kill public education ends by invoking an opponent who supports public education.
Err…So what's the point of all this?
Right-wing extremists! John Birch Society! BOO!