July 21, 2022

Tanya Basu: The book ban movement has a chilling new tactic: harassing teachers on social media

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Tanya Basu reports for the MIT Technology Review on the new, scary tactics of conservative activists.

Nancy Vera was awakened suddenly at midnight on July 12 by the sound of a single gunshot, the bullet ricocheting off her home. She looked at a security camera just in time to see a truck speed away.

Vera was shocked but not surprised. The president of the Corpus Christi, Texas, branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), she had recently handed out books with LGBTQ characters at a pride event for local students, alongside a drag queen.

Vera thought the event was a fun opportunity to connect with local parents and distribute books to kids. But conservatives, including her local sheriff, called the event an example of the “grooming and indoctrination of young people in our country.” “Grooming” is a slur commonly used by devotees of the conspiracy theory QAnon, which claims that powerful people and institutions are ensnaring children in sex trafficking rings.

“This type of rhetoric is going to get people killed,” she says.

Corpus Christi, where Vera lives, has become a flashpoint for a growing push among Christian and conservative groups across the US to get certain books and topics they deem inappropriate for children removed from school libraries and curriculums. Now the fight is turning increasingly ugly, with people targeting individual teachers’ private social media accounts for scrutiny and even harassment.

On July 9, the conservative group County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF) held a public seminar in Corpus Christi about monitoring school curriculums and “researching social media of teachers, school board members, staff of school districts and elected officials,” effectively teaching people how to stalk and harass educators online.

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