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David Harsanyi / October 8, 2021

Biden Administration Is Trying to Intimidate Parents

The entire effort seems to be meant to chill speech. This form of state intimidation plays out in two ways.

Under a patina of impartiality, fact-checkers have long engaged in a uniquely dishonest genre of journalism, claiming mastery over truth and facts when, most often, they are merely editorializing on highly debatable contentions.

Here, the Associated Press, once the most reliable straight-news source in the nation, claims that a viral tweet from critical-race-theory opponent Christopher Rufo, which criticized the National School Boards Association (NSBA) for requesting the FBI investigate school-board protests as “domestic terrorism,” was false. “Contrary to false claims circulating online,” wrote the AP, “the National School Boards Association didn’t ask President Joe Biden to label protesting parents ‘domestic terrorists,’ and there’s no indication Biden or the Justice Department called them terrorists, either.”

Perhaps there is some unstated semantic reason AP author Terrence Fraser uses to rationalize his position, or maybe he failed to read the letter. Even The Washington Post reported that NSBA “likened the harassment and abuse over face coverings in schools to domestic terrorism.” The letter literally compared parents to “domestic terrorists” on two separate occasions; the phrase is the only real justification for White House intervention using the PATRIOT Act “in regards to domestic terrorism.” As the NSBA surely knows, “These parents are really annoying us” wouldn’t have triggered federal intervention. The call for the administration’s help is predicated on the existence of potential widespread violent “domestic terror” — a phrase that continues to lose meaning as it is weaponized for political purposes.

Here, for example, is wording from the letter: “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

The NSBA offers 20 recent instances of intimidation and harassment in the entire nation. We’ll have to take the organization’s word for it. In any event, it’s inexcusable to break the law. But even if there is a spike in criminal behavior, even violence (which has not happened), it is the job of the local police to investigate, not the FBI. Yet, Attorney General Merrick Garland quickly acquiesced to the NSBA with a memorandum to the FBI and U.S. attorneys’ offices directing them to investigate parents who are protesting school boards over issues the administration supports, such as critical race theory and mask mandates.

The Department of Justice’s directive doesn’t even specify what it classifies as a crime in these cases, because the entire effort seems to be meant to chill speech. This form of state intimidation plays out in two ways.

First, parents, who have every right to confront board members at meetings, write them angry emails and call their offices, shouldn’t be treated like the Weather Underground simply because a small fraction of them act like buffoons. If we used the Biden administration standard, presidents would summon the FBI to investigate domestic terrorism for virtually any political protest.

Can you imagine the outrage if a Republican administration had written directives on how to investigate women who were participating in “resist” meetings or the Black Lives Matter movement? When the Trump administration sent federal agents to Portland, Oregon, after professional antifa rioters — a group widely celebrated by left-wing commentators — tried to firebomb a federal courthouse, there was hysteria. “Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun,” wrote Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times. “Can we call it fascism yet?”

Second, Garland’s memorandum creates the impression that parents who are legally confronting school boards that enact (unscientific) masking policies for elementary-school children are in league with political extremists. It treats those who oppose curriculums that instruct kids to view fellow citizens solely through the prism of race or teach them that the United States is a fundamentally racist enterprise as would-be violent radicals — rather than patriots.

Domestic terrorism entails the use of violent, criminal acts to further specific ideological goals. There is no evidence such a movement exists. But contra the Associated Press, and many others, the same president who says the harassment of a senator in a bathroom by illegal-immigrant activists is just part of “the process” is using an NSBA claim of “domestic terrorism” as an excuse to deputize the nation’s top domestic police force to halt lawful speech.

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