We're not saying these CBSD school board candidates are QAnon supporters, but we're not saying they're not
First rule of QAnon: deny you're QAnon
Last week we talked about how Dr. David Damsker’s connection to far-right groups potentially influenced his guidance on Covid policies in Bucks County schools. We told you then that Damsker was only the tip of the iceberg.
This week, we’re going to look even further into the belly of the beast. But before we get into what’s happening in Bucks County, it’s important to build some context. Because what’s happening here is happening in lots of places.
Teachers’ union sounds the alarm
Right-wing extremists, QAnon-affiliated groups, and well-funded anti-science activists are coordinating to take over school boards.
Does that sound paranoid? Do you kind of feel like blowing that off?
The nation’s largest teacher’s union, the National Educators’ Association (NEA), published an urgent plea about this last June.
The NEA says:
Conspiracy theorists and proponents of fake news are winning local elections. And their new positions give them a powerful voice in everything from local law enforcement to libraries, trash pickup to textbook purchases.
If you take a look around the NEA website, you’ll see that the post above is completely out of character for that organization. Also, keep in mind that the NEA is both the largest labor union and the largest white-collar representative organization in the United States.
This is a poorly kept secret
Here’s the thing: QAnon folks know that non-QAnon folks may not quite be on-board with their whole ideology. They recognize that going full-Q may not be a great campaign strategy. So they’ve adapted.
Check out this July article from NBC News.
Check out that subhead: “spread the gospel of Q, but don’t call it QAnon.”
The article states:
A leading online QAnon forum that calls itself the “public face of Q," has featured an abridged quote attributed to [Michael] Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser and a hero to QAnon followers, who has sworn an oath to the community in the past.
“Local action = national impact. Take responsibility for your school committees or boards. Get involved in the education of our children. Run for local, state and/or federal office,” it reads. “No more excuses.”
What is their motivation?
This next bit is going to sound so bizarre that you might be tempted to think we made it up. We’ll link to sources so you can fact-check us.
According to a January article in the BBC:
QAnon is a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media.
QAnon believers have speculated that this fight will lead to a day of reckoning where prominent people such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be arrested and executed.
Did you know that mask usage leads to child trafficking? (At least, according to QAnon, it does)
Yeah. So, these Q folks believe that they are waging a war against a child pedophile ring.
And, it turns out, they believe that putting masks on children is a way to escalate human trafficking. Because, they reason, if kids are all wearing masks, it’s harder to identify missing and abducted children.
From USA Today:
The latest false claim is that wearing masks to prevent COVID-19 makes children more susceptible to abduction, which leads to trafficking.
“Did you know that more than 2,000 missing-child reports are filed each day, and that many of them can be easily found when parents provide specific details about their physical appearance and a photo of THEIR FACE?” a post shared over 1,000 times reads. “Did you KNOW that a child in AMERICA is over 66,000 x more likely to be human trafficked than to get COVID-19?”
Could this be why some of the most vocal anti-maskers in our community claim that making children wear masks is child abuse? Just wondering.
In any case, the same article in USA Today debunks the idea that masking puts children at increased risk of sex trafficking:
Experts are confident that child sex trafficking is not made more likely by mask-wearing … Cases of child abduction from nonfamiliar adults is an already extremely rare form of trafficking.
“One of the biggest misconceptions with human and child sex trafficking is that a common luring tactic is kidnapping when in reality most victims are trafficked by someone who the victim already knows,” [said Megan Cutter, acting director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline].
How is this playing out in Bucks?
How does this impact us in Bucks County, and in Central Bucks School District, in particular?
There are a number of right-wing activist and online groups that have sprung up over the last year and a half. While many of them rally around an anti-mask stance, their larger goals are to steer the school curriculum to align with their right-wing worldviews. Masks are just the beginning.
Disclaimer: There is no direct evidence that the people and groups below adhere to QAnon beliefs. (As we stated above, Q followers may not always advertise their affiliation.) And, sure, it’s entirely possible that none of the folks we’re about to mention have anything to do with Q. We’re just saying that there are some similar interests at play.
Two of these groups include:
This group is worth noting because of its sheer financial power. It was founded by local tech investor Paul Martino. As explained in this CNN article, Martino pledged to contribute $10,000 to up to 50 individual school board candidates in Pennsylvania, as long as they vowed to keep schools open during Covid. The group claims to be non-partisan, but sure.
It’s worth noting that Martino is a noted contributor to The Federalist Society. According to this report from NPR from June 2018: The Federalist Society is a hugely powerful, nationwide organization of conservative lawyers which will be instrumental in helping President Trump pick the next Supreme Court nominee.
Bloomberg Law notes that most of Donald Trump’s judicial appointees were members of The Federalist Society.
Martino also appears to have close ties to current CBSD School Board Member, Leigh Vlasblom, the board member who initiated the surprise ouster of the school board president earlier this year. (There is so much more to say about Vlasblom. We’ll get to her in a future issue.)
Keeping Kids in School currently endorses the following CBSD school board candidates:
Proud American Patriots Network (PAPN)
This group is, by far, the most concerning of any of the recently formed activist groups.
As an article in the Sept. 16 Patch explains:
A Bucks County-based group that caused a stir in August over its plans for an anti-mask protest in Doylestown is once again being linked to a national anti-government militia movement.
The Proud American Patriots Network canceled its protest last month and denied claims it was tied to the Three Percenter movement and other right-wing militia organizations.
However, a report recently published by the Digital Forensic Research Lab calls into question those denials and examines the group's connections to the Three Percenters, which been linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and is considered a terrorist entity by Canada.
PAPN currently endorses the following CBSD school board candidates:
We’re not done yet
There’s much more to say about all of this. Subscribe to get next week’s newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.
If you have tips, comments, or corrections (we’re only human), please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy Marc Nozell, from Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons