“One of the hallmarks of the Trump era is the alacrity with which intelligent people embrace stupidity.”― Stuart Stevens, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump
Over the past few years – and certainly during the 2020 Presidential election process – Facebook and Twitter users have noticed a flood of right-wing memes and shitposts that make outrageous and patently false claims.
Because 2020 saw the unhappy and toxic confluence of the global COVID-19 pandemic and another U.S. election cycle in the Donald Trump era, most of these memes either made false, dangerous, and reckless claims about the novel coronavirus, or they were bogus claims about the integrity of our country’s election system. Taking their cue from the then-President Trump, right-wingers and trolls worked overtime to come up with memes rife with myths, distortions, and outright lies about how the “evil left” hates America and wants to destroy everything that represents American culture, society, and values.
One particular meme that has been making the rounds since at least the fall of 2020 claims that the Pledge of Allegiance – which is “an expression of allegiance to the flag of the United States and the Republic of the United States of America,” according to Wikipedia – is no longer recited at the start of each school day by teachers and students in American public schools.
While it is true that four states out of 50 – California, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wyoming – do not have mandatory recitations of the Pledge in public schools, the truth is that in the other 46 states, including the very Republican-run Florida, students still hear the “Call to Colors” bugle call, recite the Pledge of Allegiance that was adopted by Congress on June 22, 1942, six months after the entry of the United States in World War II.
There have been several versions of the Pledge since Francis Bellamy, a socialist Christian minister from Rome, New York, wrote the first Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, the year of the World’s Columbian Exposition that commemorated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. As part of a movement to place an American flag in every schoolhouse in the country, Bellamy wrote this:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
In 1942, Congress adopted a revised version of the Pledge:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Nearly 12 years later, at the height of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, conservatives in Congress and elsewhere decided it was necessary to make a contrast between a “Christian” America and the atheist Soviet Union, which was then in a Cold War with the U.S. and the West. On Flag Day (June 14) of 1954, the U.S. Flag Code was amended, and the Pledge was given its final version, which is still in use today:
Per the U.S. Flag Code:
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove any non-religious headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
This was the Pledge that I recited, sometimes with enthusiasm and conviction, and sometimes bleary-eyed, sleepy, and by rote, every school day from the start of the 1972-73 school year (when I began third grade at Coral Park Elementary School) to the end of the 1982-83 school year (when I graduated from South Miami Senior High School).
“The truth is messy. It’s raw and uncomfortable. You can’t blame people for preferring lies.”― Holly Black, Red Glove
While it is true that politics is not exactly a human endeavor known for its commitment to honesty, good-faith behavior, or candor, it is fair to say that what passes for conservatism in the United States (indeed, in most of the Anglophone world) is an exercise in deceit, exaggeration, and deliberate intent to spread disinformation and get the “base” riled up.
And because conservatives here, there, and everywhere hold certain beliefs that are normally positive and admirable, such as love of country, loyalty, and affection for national symbols, the one surefire way to get conservatives angry is to accuse the opposition – which is always described in such pejorative terms as the “evil left,” “Communists,” or “hateful liberals” – of doing everything it can to “destroy our Nation and its freedoms.”
“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”― Joseph Heller, Catch-22
This morning, I came across a meme, created by what I politely call a “Republican-leaning” group on Facebook, suggesting (without explicitly saying it outright) that the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer said in American public schools.
The meme (which features an old-timey 1950s-era photo like the one below) doesn’t outright say, “The evil leftists that hate America took the Pledge of Allegiance out of our schools!”
No. The way the meme is worded is more insidious, especially if you are (like me) someone who uses words for a living and knows how propaganda is created.
Rather than claim outright that liberals (a group that includes ME) have eradicated the Pledge of Allegiance from public schools, the clever propagandists wrote something like “Remember when we used to do this in schools every day?” (I should have copied the text, but there are many variants of it floating online. See illustration below for a typical right-wing “Pledge lie.)
The unspoken – but clearly understood – subtext in these memes is:
“OMG, they took the Pledge of Allegiance out of the public schools!”
Below that meme, two Cuban-American men, who vote GOP, wrote:
“They need to bring it back.”
“They don’t say the Pledge anymore.”
Mind you. These comments were written by two men in their late 50s who more than likely have not seen the inside of a public-school classroom since they graduated from high school in the early 1980s. If they are like many of my friends with young adult children, they do not know every detail about their kids’ daily routine when they were in high school, either.
Many conservatives – especially those who are 50 or older – tend to believe what right-wing media tells them. And one of the most insidious lies that the right is pushing (among so many of them) is that the “left” has eradicated the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.
So. Not. True.
5 thoughts on “On Trump-Era Politics: Flags, Pledges, Memes, and Damnable Conservative Lies”
I’ve seen so many false claims on Facebook and elsewhere and even fallen for some of them. The scary thing is that some people refuse to give them up even if you provide evidence (snopes or similar) that it is false and despite the fact that they cannot provide any evidence for its veracity themselves and don’t even know, and don’t want to know, where it is coming from. A friend of mine posted a false meme and I responded that it was fake. I provided all the evidence for it that you possibly need. He deleted my comment. I tried again and once again he deleted my comment. All other comments indicated everyone believed it unquestionably. I asked him please don’t post something we both know is fake that is lying to people. Poff — I was blocked. Later he came sending me a friend request. Apparently he wanted to start over. I soon discovered that nothing had changed. Lying to people with false pro-Trump memes was still his game. This time I blocked him. I know him personally but I’m sick and tired of liars for Trump even if they are friends or should I say previous friends.
I am reading a book “the Revenge of Power” by Moises Maim, which ties into this but on a global scale. Democracy, open societies, and what we call the liberal world order was very successful after World War II and even more so since the end of the cold war. However, over the last decade or two it has been challenged by a crop of authoritarians that uses populism, polarization and post truth (3P Power) to seek power and weaken democracy from within democratic societies; Hugo Chavez, Viktor Orban, Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte and Trump, and Vladimir Putin of course even though his starting point wasn’t really a real democracy.
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The thing about the Russians’ project to undermine the West – including Sweden – is not that they want to transform our societies into carbon copies of theirs, but that they want to get rid of ours altogether, without having to wage a war that would lead to mutually-assured destruction.
That’s the end game here for Putin. And so far, it’s working out great for him because his country and its intelligence services have studied us since the 1917 Revolution. The Russians know what our strengths and weaknesses are, the fracture points in our societies, where to press and where not to, and what grievances each segment in our varied populations has against the others.
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Yes, I believe you are right. According to this book, the would-be authoritarians in democratic regimes want power and they want their way on the highway but the cost of its division that it requires plays into the hands of unfriendly regimes, but if they can make an ally even better. Look at Le Pen. She wants NATO out, a dream for Russia.
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For people who call others “snowflakes” it is very apparent they have no ability to admit they are wrong. To them, their opinions are valid, even if it’s all built on lies. And to them, those opinions are facts. If Trump and Fox tell them the sky is now red, I think they would honestly believe that is the truth.
I’m just tired of it all. The minute I see someone like that commenting, they are blocked. I don’t care what their opinion is on anything because they obviously have no grounding in reality. I’ve lost all of my biological family over it except for one cousin. The family I was raised with is pretty much in line with how I think, so adoption ended up being a good thing there. Right now, I’m suspended from commenting in what is supposed to be a fun Gen-X meme group because some people post the worst memes that aren’t overtly “political” but they are digs at current generations and liberals. My infraction was someone posted a meme about everyone being too sensitive and being triggered all the time and I responded with “that’s an awful way to talk about our Veterans.” That wasn’t what got me banned, but one idiot responding to my comment brought politics into it and I remarked that he was the one who voted for the guy that called them losers and that’s what got me.
Like I said, I’m just tired of it all. Hillary was right – they are deplorable.
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What gets me about the person on whose page the subtly-done Pledge claim was is that she is, according to her Facebook “About Me” section, a senior exec in the Miami office of a big pharmaceutical company and is well-educated, intelligent, and a nice person.
However, from her Facebook page’s content, she’s also an evangelical Christian who wears her faith on her sleeve. She rarely posts anything overtly political, but when she does, it’s always conservative propaganda. Not necessarily pro-Trump, mind you, but definitely conservative memes and posts that reflect the majority view of Miami’s Cuban-American population, i.e., freedom for Cuba and support for Republicanism.
It’s ironic that folks like this woman and many other of my Cuban-American acquaintances support a party that clings to political power just for the sake of holding on to political power, and that the same country that helped the Castro brothers hold their parents’ homeland under Communist rule – Russia – has hoodwinked them into being collaborators with its project to destroy this country’s fragile democratic institutions.
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