Last week, video surfaced of a Greenwich Public Schools elementary school assistant principal telling his unseen companion about how he discriminates against conservatives and Catholics in hiring. The video was released by Project Veritas, a famously discredited right-wing organization that has often been caught releasing deceptively edited videos or other materials designed to “prove” various conservative conspiracy theories.
Those are the two stubborn facts that school administrators, politicians, and news media must grapple with right now.
I’ll say this right up front: if this pans out, then that assistant principal, Jeremy Boland, deserves to be fired and to never have another position in a public school where he can do this kind of damage again. Period. An investigation by the Greenwich Public Schools is currently underway, and hopefully there will be some more definitive answers soon.
But the fact that this video, which just happens to “prove” one of the right’s most pervasive and destructive conspiracy theories, is being released during election season by a known bunch of right-wing liars should give us all pause. It’s impossible to take it at face value.
I say that having watched the video, and seeing for myself what Boland said. On first glance it really is damning, and it’s hard to imagine how they could have edited this together from innocuous statements, or what possible context there could be that would exonerate him. But it’s also impossible to ignore everything else Project Veritas has done, and the role they’ve played in the right-wing conspiracy theory slime factory.
The reason this video hits so hard is that there is a decades-long campaign on the right to convince parents that the public schools are “indoctrinating” children into believing left-wing, liberal ideas, turning innocent children into mindless Marx-spouting automatons or whatever scares conservatives the most at the time.
This is utter garbage.
These days, the right is going after what they label “gender ideology” and “critical race theory,” which, when translated from conspiracy-speak into English, means teaching kids that LGBTQ people exist, are normal, and deserve the same love and acceptance as anyone else, and that our country’s past and present are tragically scarred by dangerous, often violent white supremacy. This is otherwise known as the truth.
The problem is that most American adults grew up being taught very different things. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, school boards wanted children to grow up with a sense of national identity and pride. They wanted, more than anything else, to raise patriotic Americans. And so they infused the curriculum with our national mythology, much of which survived to be taught to children like myself in dingy, crowded elementary school classrooms in the 1980s. These myths included the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrim Fathers, Manifest Destiny, the Pioneers, and more. This is the heroic narrative of American civilization, the march of freedom and liberty across a continent and out into the world. We are the city on the hill, a beacon to the world, and the greatest nation ever to exist on the planet.
If only the reality wasn’t so much messier, so much bloodier, and so much more heartbreaking.
It’s hard to unlearn this mythology, especially when you first pick it up as a kid. There’s still so much of it rattling around my head, and I have to work to root it all out. But there are plenty of people on the right who think that any contradicting of America’s national mythology or any challenge to “traditional” values is evidence of a widespread conspiracy to indoctrinate kids into a liberal cult.
That’s what the parents’ rights movement is all about. Combine this outrage with the nihilism, violent rhetoric, and fanaticism of MAGA, and you get a very dangerous situation. That’s the context into which Project Veritas released their video. Anyone who already believes that schools are indoctrinating children has no problem accepting that there’s hiring bias against conservatives. This video just proves their point, right?
It does no such thing. But try telling them that.
It’s impossible to look at the Boland story without understanding this larger context. It could absolutely be that two things are true here: Boland is just as bad as the video says, and Project Veritas is a right-wing provocateur that thrives on chaos and outrage, and is willing to lie to pour gasoline on the fire.
Project Veritas could do everyone grappling with this a big favor and release the unedited footage, at least to investigators. But I doubt they will. We, as in normal people outside the conspiracy theory universe, are not their audience, after all, and they don’t care what we think. They’re not trying for actual credibility, they just want to throw their bombs, watch them go off, and then move on to the next thing.
I’m looking forward to answers about Boland and the hiring practices of the Greenwich Public Schools. It’s important. I just hope that we can accept, act on, and learn from those answers, whatever they may be.