Monday, September 25, 2023

The Texas SBOE is Considering PragerU’s "Avoidance Curriculum": It's a Whitewashing of an Already Whitewashed Curriculum

PragerU is neither a certified, nor university- or research-based curriculum, much less a university. It's an organization founded by Dennis Prager, a conservative radio host, that produces conservative content on politics and society that you can learn more about in this piece by Robert McCoy in The Progressive.

This brief recounting of what it contains is a bright, neon warning sign of an agenda for right-wing dogma, lies, distortions, and indoctrination by via "selective omissions and mythologizing, molding the historical figures depicted into vehicles for rightwing messaging and cudgels in the modern conservative culture war." 

Geez, it's a whitewashing of an already whitewashed curriculum. Check out, for example, this May 3, 2023 piece by Austin American-Statesman's columnist Bridget Grumet titled, Grumet: Protests are a part of U.S. history. What story will Texas' textbooks tell?

If anything, PragerU amounts to an "avoidance curriculum," that seeks to avoid the difficult truths of history by structuring out critical discourse, thought, and pedagogy itself. This, of course, begs the question of why far-right conservatives have such a deep-seated shame of their own history? And why is it that everybody else—most particularly our public school children and youth—have to pay the price of not just their willful ignorance, but for a curriculum that they themselves did not receive.

Although the SBOE Agenda for their November meeting has not yet been posted (see SBOE website for prior agendas), one of its members told me to look out for the SBOE's consideration of PragerU at its November 14-17 meeting of the board. We must not allow this organization any access as a vendor to Texas public schools. 

-Angela Valenzuela

PragerU’s Propaganda Is Now Being Taught in Schools

The media group was just approved to spread its brand of historical disinformation to classrooms in Florida, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire.

Dennis Prager,Gage Skidmore

In 2022, the conservative media organization PragerU launched PragerU Kids, an online video series intended for K-12 students as a purported antidote to leftwing indoctrination in schools. “Woke agendas are infiltrating classrooms, culture, and social media,” PragerU’s website says. “Is there anywhere that’s still safe for our children? Yes! It’s called PragerU Kids.”

This summer, Florida’s Department of Education approved the organization’s videos for use, “at district discretion,” as supplemental material in K-6 classrooms—perhaps an unsurprising decision from a state that is currently waging a war on “woke indoctrination” (read: instruction about race and sexual orientation) in public schools. Although Florida was the first to do so, at the time, PragerU told Fox News that “[m]ore states are coming on board.” Indeed, it has since been reported that New Hampshire followed suit, with its board of education approving PragerU as an educational vendor for a financial literacy course on September 14. Oklahoma has now also announced a partnership with PragerU Kids to develop an Oklahoma-specific history curriculum.

Among the material now greenlit in Florida and Oklahoma is Leo and Layla’s History Adventures, a cartoon program intended for third through fifth graders. The series follows the titular protagonists, a brother and sister, as they time travel to seek the advice of historical figures on developments within their school, community, and social circle. Most episodes follow an encounter between Leo and Layla and a renowned figure from the past, who offers the show’s young viewers “lessons that teach the truth about Western civilization.”

But Leo and Layla falls far short of these lofty aims, as PragerU Kids appears less keen on creating a program that offers an honest glimpse into the past than on warping it with selective omissions and mythologizing, molding the historical figures depicted into vehicles for rightwing messaging and cudgels in the modern conservative culture war.

In one episode, for instance, while watching the news, Leo and Layla hear about local police abolitionists who “want the U.S. system torn down.” To learn more about “abolition,” they time travel to 1852 to meet Fredrick Douglass, who recounts his disagreements with fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and teaches the siblings the virtues of compromise. Garrison, PragerU’s Douglass says, “refuses all compromises, demands immediate change, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he likes to set things on fire.”

“We’ve got that type in our time, too,” Leo and Layla interject, and Douglass admonishes them to avoid “radicals” like his ex-friend Garrison, heeding only those “willing to work inside our system.”

The video creates an impression of Fredrick Douglass as a staunch anti-radical, committed to combating injustices only within the bounds of the “system.” But nothing could be further from the truth. While PragerU describes Douglass’s falling out with Garrison, it curiously fails to mention his friendship with John Brown, who influenced Douglass to look beyond mere moral suasion as a means to oppose slavery.

From his first meeting with Brown in 1847 onward, Douglass would later write, “my utterances became tinged by the color of this man’s strong impressions.” In 1849, Douglass said he would “welcome the intelligence tomorrow” that a slave revolt was sweeping the South, and, in 1852, the year in which Leo and Layla’s fictional visit is set, Douglass told a Pittsburgh crowd, “The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers.” In other words, Douglass’s political views at the time were practically the opposite of those in his PragerU portrayal.

In another Leo and Layla episode, the siblings consult Benjamin Franklin during his tenure as ambassador to France on the notion of “the American dream.” The diplomat tells the children that, in 1780s France, most people are “stuck doing the same thing their entire lives” due to hereditary titles within the ancien régime; across the Atlantic in America, however, “individual citizens determine the outcome of their lives.” When Layla notes that, despite the absence of a monarchy or nobility in the United States, some are still “born into better situations than others,” Franklin holds that “the natural outcome from equal opportunity” is that “some will always have less and some will always have more.”

Notably, however, PragerU’s rendition of Franklin fails to address Layla’s observation: that true equality of opportunity has yet to be achieved in the United States, where the playing field is stacked against those born into less wealth. Surely, in reality, Franklin, who held some fascinating ideas about the public’s right to regulate “superfluous” private wealth and inheritance—going so far as to propose amending Pennsylvania’s constitution so the state could “discourage” the “enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few Individuals”—would have offered a more thoughtful response.

In perhaps the most controversial episode of the series, the children seek clarification about the contested legacy of Christopher Columbus from none other but the Genoese navigator himself. When the young time travelers question the cartoon Columbus about his brutal enslavement of Native Americans, he shrugs off the charge. Slavery is “as old as time” and “better than being killed,” he says, before asking, “how can you come here to the fifteenth century and judge me by your standards from the twenty-first century?”

The episode overlooks the fact that, even among his contemporaries, Columbus was regarded as a ruthless tyrant. On Hispaniola, a governership marked by maiming and torture of Spanish colonists led Columbus to be removed from his post and arrested by the Spanish monarchy. “Even those who loved him had to admit the atrocities that had taken place,” Spanish historian Consuelo Varela told The Guardian after colonial testimonies about Columbus’s reign came to light in the early 2000s. This is not even to mention, of course, the well-documented horrors he wrought on the Native American population, whose perspective PragerU presumably felt was not worth including in the Leo and Layla episode.

The series, at times, blurs the line between history instruction and religious proselytizing, with some episodes dedicated to Biblical figures like Moses and to other religious figures like Mother Teresa.

A similar saintly glow is painted around Ronald Reagan, who extols the virtues of Reaganomics in the first Leo and Layla episode. “You’re amazing Mr. Reagan! You saved everyone’s lives and made them better at the same time,” Leo decisively exclaims: a statement that only holds true if one’s definition of “everyone” excludes those impacted by the Reagan Administration’s union busting, mishandling of the AIDS crisis, brutal foreign policy in Central America, and those for whom the benefits of “trickle-down” tax cuts for the wealthy never trickled down, to name a few who might object to Leo’s sentiment.

While Leo and Layla is a show about history, or at least PragerU’s version of it, an entire episode is dedicated to smearing renewable energy—flying in the face of both the cartoon’s typical format and the scientific consensus. Rather than time traveling to meet a historical figure, Leo and Layla teleport to meet their uncle, a fictional environmental scientist, at a windmill farm. The siblings are told that they have been misled about solar and wind power, which, he says, actually damages the environment. “Look around you,” their uncle says, gesturing to the surrounding windmills, “does this look natural to you?” This unfounded message becomes explicable—but no less troubling—when one considers that PragerU is a notorious purveyor of climate denial, which was propelled in no small part by the funding of fracking industry billionaires.

When the news broke that Florida had approved PragerU as an educational vendor, Marissa Streit, the CEO of the rightwing media organization, told WESH, “We want our kids to accomplish academic excellence without it being laced with political narratives. Kids should be learning without being indoctrinated with left-wing propaganda.”

But PragerU’s founder and namesake, Dennis Prager, embraces characterizations of the group’s content as indoctrination. At this year’s Moms for Liberty summit, the Miami Herald reports, Prager conceded that accusations of “indoctrinat[ing] kids” are “true,” saying, “We bring doctrines to children. That’s a very fair statement. But what is the bad of our indoctrination?”

The effort to introduce PragerU content into public schools highlights what media critic Eric Alterman once observed as a conservative propensity to “work the ref”—or, accuse neutral institutions of harboring a leftwing bias in order to push that institution to the right. In this case, PragerU’s “anti-woke” Republican proponents seek not only to scrub schools of what they (falsely) deem pernicious leftist influences—which is troubling enough in itself—but also to teach rightwing dogma. As a result, this coming school year, students could potentially be taught junk history like Leo and Layla rather than material that engenders actual engagement with the reality and complexity of the past.

That, to answer Dennis Prager, is “the bad” of PragerU’s “indoctrination.”

Robert McCoy is a former editorial intern at The Progressive.

A voice for peace, social justice, and the common good! Since 1909, The Progressive magazine has aimed to amplify voices of dissent and voices under-represented in the mainstream, with a goal of championing grassroots progressive politics.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

"Research: Color-Blind Attitudes and Behaviors Perpetuate Structural Racism" A Meta-Analysis

I spoke with someone yesterday evening from India who told me that when one of her family members first migrated to the U.S., they shared with their family back home that the U.S. has a caste system, too. I shared with her that class indeed becomes caste when entire subgroups—mostly, albeit not exclusively, of color—are generationally deprived of resources, including a lack of access to good schools, health care, safe neighborhoods, and so on. She asked me how it is that Americans don't see this and thusly, allow this to happen?

I hate to sound professorial at a party, but it was fresh on my mind. As I had just read this study of studies on color-blindness that now appears in the May 23, 2022 issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and authored by Yi, Nevill, Todd, & Mekawi, I answered her how question by addressing the underlying psychology of when folks say that they do not see race. That is, they don't see it when they have don't what to fix racialized systems of oppression. "Yeah, white supremacy," she said.

Specifically, Yi, Nevill, Todd, & Mekawi look at 83 previous studies from research consisting of more than 25,000 participants between 1995 to 2019. This meta-analysis clarifies how "color-blind" attitudes keep us from having a more equitable society with the primary reason being that its absence feeds the vacuum that remains for "victim blaming." The more that minoritized communities are blamed for these same disparities, this lets white people and institutions off the hook for assuming responsibility for what we know are the continued effects of exclusion and subordination.

The researchers break down color-blindness into either "color evasion," "power evasion," or both. Power evasion correlated to prejudice towards Blacks while color evasion did not, adding conceptual depth to a growing literature on color-blindness and the psychology of white supremacy.

This has implications for anti-bias training, working (or not) in diverse contexts, and inclusive curriculum in both K-12 schools and in higher education institutions. Today's "anti-woke" and "anti-diversity" initiatives seek to engineer colorblindness much to our detriment as a society. Yet, addressing these is the very "medicine" we need if we are to resist the impulse to "other" people who are different from ourselves and evolve as human beings.

It doesn't just help whites, but all groups in society to be aware of racial ideologies and how they work to either address, or conversely, to perpetuate, our nation's highly unequal status quo.

-Angela Valenzuela


Yi, J., Neville, H. A., Todd, N. R., & Mekawi, Y. (2022). Ignoring race and denying racism: A meta-analysis of the associations between colorblind racial ideology, anti-Blackness, and other variables antithetical to racial justice. Journal of Counseling Psychology70(3), 258. 

Research: Color-Blind Attitudes and 

Behaviors Perpetuate Structural Racism

The psychologists behind a new study say their field 

can play an important role in dismantling systemic

racism by first helping us better understand what 

creates it.

Researchers presented evidence that ignoring structural racism leads to more, not less, racism.Adobe Stock

Psychologists say an important step in rooting out systemic racism is to first acknowledge it, rather than deny or minimize its existence.

In a review article published online May 23 in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, researchers looked at 83 previous studies in which specific types of color-blind ideology were found to increase anti-Black perspectives and give a pass to racist behaviors and attitudes. More specifically, power evasion (the denial of racism) led to these negative outcomes, and color evasion (ignoring race) did not necessarily do so.

The researchers noted in the paper that by helping people better understand the individual-level behaviors and ideologies that contribute to anti-Black sentiment, counseling psychologists can help dismantle the systemic racism those behaviors and attitudes lead to.

These findings can inform best practices for mental health professionals and others who work in fields such as education, social work, and various nonprofits, said the study's lead researcher, Jacqueline Yi, a clinical-community psychology doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a press release.

“The denial of structural racism appears to be a big barrier to racial equity because it allows for more victim-blaming explanations of systemic inequality,” Yi said. “The more that BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] individuals are blamed for racial disparities, the less likely it is for white people and institutions to take responsibility for the continued effects of systemic racism.”

Researchers Looked at Color and Power Evasion Separately

Psychologists define "racial ideology" as a belief system that informs one’s interpretation of and response to racial stimuli. For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 83 previous studies that had looked at the effects of color-blind racial ideologies on anti-Black prejudice and a willingness to show racial empathy or openness to diversity.

The researchers categorized color-blindness as either color evasion or power evasion. The first means ignoring someone’s race or ethnicity to reduce prejudice and possible tension, or focusing on human similarity rather than differences linked to racial group membership. The second, power evasion, is the denial, minimization, and distortion of the existence of institutional racism. All the studies in the new review focused on either color evasion, power evasion, or both.

The studies that were reviewed took place between 1995 to 2019 and included more than 25,000 participants.

The review found that power evasion was associated with greater prejudice against Black people and was not an effective way to “get past” or address structural racism; instead, it perpetuated anti-Blackness. Color evasion, however, was not associated with greater levels of prejudice.

The researchers also concluded that the denial of structural racism was more closely linked to anti-Black prejudice than to prejudice against other people of color; and that people who denied the existence of structural racism were more likely to endorse stronger beliefs, such as that societal inequality is acceptable, and they reported fewer intentions to engage in social justice behaviors.

Researchers noted some limitations: They did not analyze responses from study participants by race or ethnicity, meaning power evasion and color evasion attitudes from Black, white, and non-Black people of color were combined. And most of the studies in the analysis included mostly white participants.

Systemic Racism Needs to Be Addressed — Step 1 Is to Better Understand Why It Continues

Barbara Ford Shabazz, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and the owner of Intentional Activities, a personal and professional coaching company, says that better understanding attitudes that contribute to systemic racism will ultimately help address it. “Awareness and acknowledgment of the insidious effects of structural racism are not as prevalent as they could and should be,” she says.

The shocking murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, led to nationwide protests in opposition to racial violence directed toward Black people. In response at the time, the NAACP's president and CEO, Derrick Johnson, said, “This is about the systemic and pervasive nature of racism in this nation that must be addressed."

Doctors similarly pointed to systemic racism as driving racial inequities in COVID-19 infections and deaths in a 2020 New England Journal of Medicine article.

Research like this new analysis from Li and her team helps build a framework to address the specific mental health concerns that victims of racism face, and eventually dismantle structural racism, Dr. Shabazz says.

Color-blindness may be an attractive ideology because it allows people who benefit from a racist society to ignore their own privilege and lets them off the hook for contributing to it, adds Jocelyn Smith Lee, PhD, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

Even though the data from this research did not suggest that color evasion contributes to anti-Black sentiment, Dr. Smith Lee adds: “That approach is also harmful.”

Shabazz agrees. “The willful avoidance of appreciating diversity and [not] looking at racial disparities only reinforces white comfort, power, and privilege, rendering this approach wildly ineffective.”

Based on their findings, the researchers noted future directions for study, such as developing a tool to measure color-blind racial ideology, investigating the implications of color-blindness across ethnic groups, and studying the motivations behind it.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Federal grant pays $126K salary of Florida official who pushes DeSantis education agenda

The U.S. Department of Education should respond to requests for comment on how federal funds are being used in Florida. After all, the far-right seeks to abolish the department.

-Angela Valenzuela

Federal grant pays $126K salary of Florida official who pushes DeSantis education agenda


A new Florida Department of Education employee who’s reaching out to conservative school board members makes $126,000 a year, a salary funded by a federal grant designed to boost “well-rounded educational opportunities,” health and safety and effective use of technology.

Terry Stoops was tapped in April to head the department’s new office of Academically Successful and Resilient Districts. Most of his contacts during his first months on the job were to school board members who’d been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and representatives of conservative groups, his emails and calendar show.

In April, for example, he met several school board members at a “Learn Right” summit in Sarasota spearheaded by a founder of Moms for Liberty, the conservative group launched in Florida and focused on schools.

He emailed more than a dozen school board members endorsed by the governor in the 2022 election cycle and others who had the backing of Moms for Liberty, including Alicia Farrant, elected to the Orange County School Board in November.

And in May, Stoops met with the Herzog Foundation; its goal is “Advancing Christian Education.”

The education department did not respond to several requests for information about Stoops’ role or how his work meshed with the purpose of the federal grant. In an email, spokeswoman Cassie Palelis only said Stoops was a contract employee “offering day-to-day guidance and best practices” to school board members and superintendents.

After this story published online Friday, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz responded on X, formerly Twitter, with “Cry More!”

The U.S. Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment on Florida’s use of the federal funds.

DeSantis, who is running for president, told Fox News in June that if elected he would try to abolish the federal education department and other agencies. If Congress would not approve doing that, “I’m going to use those agencies to push back against woke ideology and against the leftism we see creeping into all institutions of American life,” he said in that interview on June 28.

The Imminent Threat of a Constitutional Convention & Invitation from Nancy MacLean, Ph.D., author, Democracy in Chains


Consider signing up for this important webinar next Tuesday, featuring political historian, Dr. Nancy ,MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains. A radical re-write of the U.S. Constitution is incredibly serious, including, for starters, a diminishment of Fourteenth Amendment rights that guarantee us all equal protection under the law. 

I've read her outstanding book, Democracy in Chains, and have assigned it to my students, as well, over the years. Her book has received significant acclaim Winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Finalist for the National Book Award The Nation's "Most Valuable Book."

Here is a link to one of several Youtube videos where Nancy is featured.I just registered. Forewarned is forearmed.

-Angela Valenzuela

View invitation in browser.

As you know, I have warned that the Koch network’s checkmate strategy to shackle democracy is a Constitutional Convention. And they are now close to achieving it.
In a new preface to Democracy in Chains just published, I explain the convention strategy and its progress in more detail (along with the mutually advantageous relationship between the Koch network and the Trump administration that produced closer fusion between libertarianism and reactionary populist authoritarianism). 
The webinar Tuesday will orient attendees to the mounting danger. If the Republicans manage to gain control of Congress in November of 2024, they will surely convene the convention that Republican-dominated states have authorized – and employ a crooked accounting of state authorizations trumpeted by the Federalist Society to yield the required 34 states.  

Please join me, former Wisconsin U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, and other experts for a webinar this coming Tuesday sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Common Cause, and the Center for Media and Democracy to learn more.

The Imminent Threat of a Constitutional Convention

The Far Right is waging a dangerous, dark money campaign to force a constitutional convention that could radically rewrite the U.S. Constitution and severely hamper the federal government’s ability to address some of today’s most pressing problems. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent pursuit of a constitutional convention to specifically address gun violence could inadvertently advance those efforts. What threats does the Far Right’s strategy pose to our foundational governing institutions and the hard-won progress America has achieved in our pursuit of a truly pluralistic, multiracial democracy?
Arn PearsonCMD Executive Director (moderator)
Russ FeingoldACS President; co-author of The Constitution in Jeopardy
Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy, Duke University; author of Democracy in Chains
Jonathan Mehta SteinExecutive Director, California Common Cause
The American Constitution Society is a State Bar of California approved CLE provider. This event has been approved for 1 hours of California MCLE credit.
As the nation's leading progressive legal organization, ACS is committed to ensuring that all aspects of our events are accessible and enjoyable for all. If you require any accommodations, please contact us at
(If that button doesn’t work, go here to register:
Please join us if you can, read up if you can’t, and help alert your networks to this urgent danger and the need to get to work early in the states now to stave off this threat in 2024. The stakes of this election are far higher than people now realize.
Yours in the work,

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Texas teacher fired for showing Anne Frank graphic novel to eighth-graders

So outrageous. Does this mean we should ban the Bible because it mentions breasts multiple times? Geez, as a result of this piece, I now also know of multiple mentions in the Bible of men's genitals. See, this is what book bans and correlated teacher firings do. They make the "forbidden fruit" even more interesting, if not enticing. 

It shouldn't be this way at all where books like Anne Frank and the Bible get weird attention that just shouldn't be. And what's wrong with youth knowing about sexuality? It's all around them. And how normal for a young girl wonder about such things? This doesn't make it pornography. She's even more human and thusly, accessible now.

So why is this happening? The deeper, troubling issue is clearly that it's not important for children to know the truths of Nazi Germany, empathetically, through the eyes of this incredible young girl experiencing the horrors of this moment upon the occupation of the Netherlands where she lived.

I hope young people, students,  and families show up at their school board meetings and defend teachers like these while protesting this insane, fascist agenda behind book bans.

-Angela Valenzuela

Move comes as education laws restricting teaching of race, sexuality and other topics are being implemented across the US

 | Wed., Sept. 20, 2023 | The Guardian

Anne Frank's Diary, the Graphic Adaptation. Photograph: The Guardian

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Naomi Klein on Conspiracy Culture and “the Mirror World”: Let's Go Back to that "Collective Unsettling" and Make the World Anew

Check out this excellent interview of journalist Naomi Klein on her new book, Doppleganger: A Trip into the Mirror World. I like how she unpacks what I am sure so many—if not most of us—felt throughout the pandemic that continues into the present. Specifically, this consisted of a "collective unsettling," experienced by the "lockdown class" to not just see, but to be so perceivably impacted by the consequential societal inequities that had been unmasked. I appreciate Klein's analysis herein on how the pandemic resulted in 

"an absolute frontal confrontation with the logic at the heart of capitalism that tells you you’re on your own. You are an island. All of your successes are yours alone, and people who don’t have them, it’s their fault. " 

All of a sudden, a largely racialized workforce of frontline workers, such as those working in meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses, forced all to consider that they breathe the same air as the rest of us, too. Many wondered and grew concerned that they, too, have rights and that these workers' needs, rights, and risks are not only borne unevenly, but affect the whole. 

This was a hard pill to swallow under neoliberal, individualist capitalist thought that nevertheless appreciated in that moment government "largess" of eviction control and flexible working arrangements.

Citing Arundhati Roy's eloquent 2020 Financial Times piece on how the pandemic held promise as a portal to a new and better world, what started out as a fresh kind of hopefulness for societal change for some, myself included, got taken up and distorted by extremists.

After all, with what seemed to be a racial reckoning in 2021, many of us were hopeful that this heralded a new multiethnic, multiracial democracy where greater justice lives.

Klein's research illuminates a core strategy by the likes of Steve Bannon in taking up the rightful anger against big pharma and the elite and artfully flipping these sentiments to manufacture—via social media—xenophobia, racism, transphobia, and the like. She cautions against the online cruelty and de-platforming of her Doppelganger, former feminist, "Naomi Wolf"—with whom Klein is often confused—hence, the title of her book. De-platforming extremists, she cautions, hardly means that they're no longer a threat to democracy when people like her are able to balloon their following, for example, by turning coats and becoming regular spokespersons on the Steve Bannon Show.

I recently listened to this excellent interview of author Naomi Klein Youtube interview on Democracy Now! and encourage you to do the same if you prefer to listen to her talk about her doppelganger, Naomi Wolf, and how this led her into the mirror world of the far right.

I understand this "mirror world" of which she writes as largely a bait and switch strategy. First, your against big pharma. Next your against immigrants crossing the border. First it's about "ending all wars;" next, it's about starting a war with China. I look forward to reading this text. In the meantime, let's pause and consider Klein's thesis and analysis of the far-right's manufactured, dangerous, and conspiratorial “mirror world.” It should concern us all that Steve Bannon is forging, in Klein's words, an "international nationalist alliance, authoritarian alliance," with Wolf allowing herself to be a tool for that agenda while enriching herself.

A good, immediate first step for all of us is to listen for the authenticity of the specific policies that any pundit, politician, or marketer like Steve Bannon professes since the mirror world is about sowing confusion and capitalizing on issues that used to be important to the left. Geez, they are wide open in their intentions that it's about taking power. The world is so fearful and boy, can they sell you a dream they'll never deliver on. They haven't yet. They're happy to take your money though.

Let me read your policy proposal and strategy on China, Steve Bannon. How will you accomplish your expressed ends? 

In short, there is a vacuum that right-wing media is exploiting primarily to take power in the service of this unholy, "international nationalist alliance." For the record, China is a market-capitalist country, sometimes described as "socialism with Chinese" characteristics. My husband and I have been to China. They are beautiful people. Very kind and respectful. Incredible history and very ancient. Impressive and magisterial in so many ways. It saddens me that there are not better relations between our countries.

I think we should all go back to that space of a "collective unsettling," that hopeful portal, and make the world anew. THAT's the conversation we should be having and that gets structured out with these intentionally diversionary politics. Weapons of mass distraction, I call them. 

Let's unite and do this by getting involved at the grassroots level. Join or re-commit to a coalition, a civil rights organization, a nonprofit, and any organization doing important work and premised on the humanization of all. It's going to take a lot of work, so the effort itself must rejuvenate. 

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela



Klein, N. (2023). Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World. MacMillan books.

Klein, N. (2023, Sept. 13).  To Know Yourself, Consider Your Doppelgänger, New YorkTimes.

Lewis, H. (2023, Sept. 12). From Feminist to Right-Wing Conspiracist: What Naomi Wolf's Odyssey can teach us about seeing patters where they don't exist, The Atlantic. Retrieved:

Naomi Klein on Conspiracy Culture and

 “the Mirror World”

Sep 15, 2023 | 2:00 AM

View on the original site.

Naomi Klein, author, professor, journalist, and contributing editor at The Intercept, has ventured into the far-right “mirror world,” exploring the movements and figures promoting conspiracy theories, misinformation, and its hold on large segments of society. This week on Deconstructed, we bring you a live conversation between Ryan Grim and Klein at the George Washington University Amphitheater, organized by Politics and Prose. Klein and Grim discuss Klein’s newest book, “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World.” They discuss the labyrinthine world of conspiracy theories and how the right has effectively sowed confusion and capitalized on issues abandoned by the left.

Ryan Grim: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Ryan Grim.

On Wednesday of this week, I interviewed Naomi Klein about her new book, “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World,” which begins with Naomi following her doppelganger, other Naomi — that’s the feminist-turned-Steve-Bannon-ally, Naomi Wolf — down a series of rabbit holes.

Describing her journey to these shadowlands, she also looks into the mirror, and asks all of us to look in the mirror as well, and ask what role we’ve played in ceding turf to the right, or abandoning principles — like skepticism of corporate greed and big pharma, opposition to censorship and mass surveillance, and so on — that have long been the domain of the left. By abandoning that territory, did we play a part in clearing the ground for the mirror world? And how can we reclaim our confidence and our voices in such disorienting times?

We spoke at George Washington University at an event hosted by Politics and Prose. That independent bookstore, by the way, will also be hosting a reading for my own forthcoming book, “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution.” I’ll be in conversation there with my Breaking Points colleague Krystal Ball on November 27th.

Now, here’s Naomi Klein with a brief reading from her new book, followed by our conversation.

[Deconstructed intro theme, continued.]

Presenter: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in giving a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Naomi Klein and Ryan Grim.

Naomi Klein (Reading from “Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World”): In my defense, it was never my intent to write this book. I did not have time, no one asked me to, and several people cautioned against it. Not now, not with the literal and figurative fires roiling our planet, and certainly not about this.

“Other Naomi,” that is how I refer to her now; this person with whom I have been chronically confused for over a decade. My big-haired doppelganger. A person whom so many others appear to find indistinguishable from me. A person who does many extreme things that cause strangers to chastise me, or thank me, or express their pity for me. The very fact that I referred to her with any kind of code speaks to the absurdity of my situation.

For a quarter of a century, I have been a person who writes about corporate power and its ravages. I sneak into abusive factories in faraway countries and across borders to military occupations. I report in the aftermath of oil spills and Category 5 hurricanes. I write books of big ideas about serious subjects.

And yet, in the months and years during which this text came into being, a time when cemeteries ran out of space and billionaires blasted themselves into outer space, everything else that I might have written appeared only as an unwanted intrusion, a rude interruption. In June 2021, as this project began to truly spiral out of my control, a strange new weather event, dubbed a “heat dome,” descended on the southern coast of British Columbia, the part of Canada where I now live with my family.

The thick air felt like a snarling, invasive entity with malevolent intent. More than 600 people died, most of them elderly. An estimated 10 billion marine creatures were cooked alive on our shores. An entire town went up in flames. It’s rare for this out-of-the-way sparsely populated spot to make international headlines, but the heat dome made us briefly famous.

An editor asked if I, as someone engaged in the climate fight for 15 years, would file a report about what it was like to live through this unprecedented climate event.

“I’m working on something else,” I told him, the stench of death filling my nostrils.

“Can I ask what?”

“You cannot.”

There were plenty of other important things I neglected during this time of feverish subterfuge. That summer, I allowed my nine-year-old to spend so many hours watching a gory nature series called Animal Fight Club that he began to ram me at my desk like a great white shark. I engaged in all of this neglect so that I could, what? Check her serially suspended Twitter account? Study her appearances on Steve Bannon’s live streams for insights into their electric chemistry? Read or listen to yet another of her warnings that basic health measures were actually a covert plot orchestrated by the Chinese Communist Party, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, and the World Economic Forum, to sow mass death on such a scale, it could only be the work of the devil himself?

My deepest shame rests with the unspeakable number of podcasts I mainlined, the sheer volume of hours lost that I will never get back. A master’s degree worth of hours. I told myself it was research. That, if I was going to understand her and her fellow travelers who are now in open warfare against objective reality, I had to immerse myself in the archive of several extremely prolific and editing-averse weekly and twice-weekly shows, with names like “Q Anon Anonymous” and “Conspirituality,” that unpack and deconstruct the co-mingling worlds of conspiracy theories. wellness hucksters, and their various intersections with COVID 19 denial, anti-vaccine hysteria, and rising fascism.

This, on top of keeping up with the daily output from Bannon and Tucker Carlson, on whose shows Other Naomi had become a regular guest. “I feel closer to the hosts of Conspirituality than to you,” I whimpered one night into my best friend’s voicemail.

I told myself I had no choice. That this was not, in fact, an epically frivolous and narcissistic waste of my compressed writing time, or of the compressed writing time on the clock of our fast-warming planet. I rationalized that Other Naomi, as one of the most effective creators and disseminators of misinformation and disinformation about many of our most urgent crises — and as someone who has seemingly helped inspire large numbers of people to take to the streets in rebellion against an almost wholly hallucinated tyranny — is at the nexus of several forces that, while ridiculous in the extreme, are nonetheless important, since the confusion they sow and the oxygen they absorb increasingly stand in the way of pretty much anything helpful or healthful that we humans might at some point decide to do together.

Thank you.

[Audience clapping.]