What’s the ‘critical race theory’ uproar really about? The right-wing need to fabricate enemies
The modern American right is preoccupied with being viewed as heroic, in particular with its self-conception as savior of the republic. Heroes, of course, require enemies. So throughout postwar history, right-wing ideologues have specialized in concocting them, supposedly dire existential threats to the nation spun into whole cloth out of tidbits of half-fact: Communists, Satanic occultists, New World Order overlords, cultural Marxists, antifa, Black radicals, adrenochrome-harvesting pedophilia rings—all have had their turns as right-wing bogeymen.
The latest is critical race theory (CRT), which seems to have appeared out of nowhere as the latest great threat to America. (On Fox News, as Matt Grossman notes, the issue was mentioned zero times in 2018; four times in 2019; 77 times in 2020; and so far in 2021, 626 times.) Despite the issue having received zero attention until this year, Republican-controlled state legislatures in places like Idaho, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma have passed laws outlawing its use in their public classrooms, while school boards around the country have been besieged by right-wing ideologues demanding it be excised from their curricula.
The whole campaign against CRT, in fact, appears to be primarily the work of a handful of astroturfing “dark money” right-wing organizations. And its central figure is named Christopher Rufo, a longtime right-wing think tank activist with a history of promoting various kinds of spurious enemy concoctions