Varich: Internet-era logic on full display in Spotlight’s school board story
An empty classroom with chairs up on the desks. Image courtesy of Wikicommons.

    Spotlight commenters have gleefully called out the many over-the-top accusations its article tossed at local Republicans, which was charmingly entitled “Conservatives infiltrate Silicon Valley school board races.”

    As one of those “infiltrators,” I’m also struck by how the article uses a number of flawed rhetorical devices. Sadly, many of these conventions have become more common in the Internet era, contributing to the debased nature of our political debate.

    Here are the top five logical missteps the article makes:

    No. 1: The article turns nonpartisan, widely accepted concepts into heresy. Andre Macias is running for SJUSD school board because he is disappointed in the district’s academic performance. Zoila Rollins wants some level of parental oversight over textbooks, especially if materials don’t align with personal values. These are concepts and concerns held by parents all across the political spectrum, and certainly not the exclusive concern of the “far right” nor conservatives.

    No. 2: The article takes statements out of context to create inaccurate claims. For example, the article turns a candidate’s comment supporting parents’ prerogative to review school curriculum into a false assertion that the candidate is anti-LGBTQ. Additionally, it turns concerns over the extravagances of critical race theory into a sign of inveterate racism.

    No. 3: The article conflates ideas that are not the same to create a false atmosphere of terror. Check out the Orwellian tricks: “recruiting” candidates becomes “grooming.” Extremist critical race theory ideas simply becomes anodyne ethnic studies.

    No. 4: The article repeats unverified claims from a hyper-partisan group—the Santa Clara County Democrats—at face value. Claims are not fact-checked, and are based upon unverified, undated and clearly manipulated online imagery. Much of the article is simply the outlandish claims found on the SCC Dems website and Twitter account.

    No. 5: The article conflates a person’s retweets and shares with endorsements of every position ever taken by the originator of the shared post. This is an overreach of monumental proportions, and the sort of ham-fisted logic that would tar just about anybody who ever shared a link to anything on Facebook or Twitter. This is elevating the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon into a forensic tool.

    Look, I know politics ain’t bean bag, and Spotlight has every right to pen as partisan a piece as it wants. I’m not complaining. Just reminding everyone that, as we move forward into what media critics call a Post Persuasion era, we should all watch out for these tricks and techniques.

    Keep your antennas tuned, because soon enough, we will all be infiltrators.

    Robert Varich is a Campbell Union High School District trustee and is running for reelection.

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