Against 'Don't Say Gay' Propaganda | Opinion

The corporate media coverage of Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill provides the most important "teachable moment" of the decade for American parents.

Part of the lesson can be learned from the fact that many parents haven't heard of a Florida bill by the name of "Parental Rights in Education." But parents who follow the national news—or tune into "Saturday Night Live"—have heard of this bill by a different name: The "Don't Say Gay" bill.

This fake-naming was an unprecedented propaganda ploy. Never before has virtually the entire corporate media instantaneously united to affix a partisan-manufactured epithet-name on a state legislative proposal.

Another part of the lesson can be found from the "literally life-or-death" rhetoric emanating from the Democratic Party. White House spokesman Jen Psaki called it "horrific." Chasten Buttigieg, husband to former Democratic presidential candidate "Mayor Pete" Buttigieg, tweeted that the law "will kill kids."

What exactly does the bill say that was taken to be the moral equivalent of child murder?

The key provision at issue reads: "Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

That's basically it. Teachers in Florida will not be permitted to talk about sex-stuff until kids are in the fourth grade. The real lesson will be lost on you unless you take the corporate media and Democratic talking heads seriously. It's easy to chalk it up to their typical reactionary pathology—to assume that slight pushback on any issue would have engendered such intense backlash.

But we should take Jen Psaki, Chasten Buttigieg and the corporate media quite seriously here. And we should explore why this issue—Republican elected officials saying "no" to the pedagogical sexualization of very young children—evoked such a response.

A full exploration is beyond the scope of this op-ed, but two explanations have been presented: idiocy and intention. Last weekend, comedian Bill Maher opened a panel discussion by asking the question: "Is Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill designed to trap Democrats into saying they support teaching young children about sexuality?" Whether or not the bill was designed this way, Democrats and their corporate media apparatchiks have certainly done that. In an era of seemingly infinite political stupidity, it's difficult to think of anything more politically idiotic—not to mention morally dubious—than Democratic legislators skipping down the state capitol hallway shouting "Gay!" to protest a bill that defers sex-talk with kids until...fourth grade.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at The Rosen Shingle Creek on February 24, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Or perhaps there is a deeper intent. James Lindsay, author of the bestselling book Cynical Theories, has produced a podcast series titled: "Groomer Schools: The Long Cultural Marxist History of Sex Education." Lindsay argues that the apparently reflexive defense of sex-talk with kindergarteners actually has profound and deeply rooted ideological and institutional explanations. "At some point," Lindsay has argued, "you will realize that the real story is that [activists] want to keep this stuff happening so badly that they'll burn everything down for it."

Whatever the real story, the "Don't Say Gay" propaganda campaign isn't exactly a new story. It directly echoed another anti-parent slander campaign, which labeled moms "book banners" for objecting to obscene content in school libraries. Take, for example, an NBC News article titled and subtitled: "Here are 50 books Texas Parents Want Banned from School Libraries: Records requests uncovered dozens of attempts to remove library books related to titled dealing with racism, gender or sexuality." Number three on that list is Lawn Boy. The journalist describes this book as a "coming of age novel about a Mexican American character's journey to understanding his own sexuality and ethnic identity."

Why are parents upset about this book? Well, here are two passages. Page 19: "Not that it really matters, in fourth grade at a church youth group meeting out in the bushes, I touched Doug Goebbels d**k, and he touched mine. In fact, there was [sic] even some mouths involved." From page 91: "What if I told you I touched another guy's d**k? What if I told you I sucked it? I was ten years old, but it's true. I put Doug Goebbels' d**k in my mouth. I was in fourth-grade, it was no big deal. He sucked mine too. And you know what, it wasn't terrible."

If a stranger were to read this book to a fourth grader on the street, he might be arrested and prosecuted. Under the Parental Rights in Education bill, a fourth-grade teacher would have to provide a persuasive argument as to why this is age appropriate in order to read it. A third-grade teacher would be simply prohibited from leading a class discussion on 10-year-olds performing fellatio on each other.

This was the line in the sand that Florida Republican legislators were willing to draw. It's not really all that strong of a line. Yet, it was the line that took the corporate media and central figures within the Democratic Party to DefCon 1.

And therein lies potentially the most obvious and important lesson for parents: The profound—if not potentially infinite—gap between what the media will tell you about schools and what's really happening in schools. Parents must then stare into the abyss between propaganda and reality, and wonder: What am I not even being told at all? Also: Is there anything obscene or immoral that public schools might start doing to my child that the corporate media wouldn't label me a "bigot" for objecting to?

Any parent who isn't willing to wait around to find out better start asking tough questions to their school board members, principals and teachers. And parents who don't like the answers they get should start pressing lawmakers for bills that are even tougher than Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act.

Max Eden is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.