In school board meetings from the battleground county of Loudoun in Virginia to Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and other states the far-right is targeting public education in furtherance of a Nazification of school curricula. We have also seen the first moves to traditional de-legitimize institutions of higher learning in favor of universities and colleges, some only recently formed, that teach only far-right propaganda.
One such far-right university that was recently formed, the unaccredited University of Austin in Texas, strives to become a safe haven for extreme right members of academia, who find their far-out historical revisionism and beliefs in pseudo-science have no place in legitimate academic institutions. The pseudo-academic university has drawn as its president, Pano Kanelos, the former president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, as well as such turncoats to the neo-fascist cause as former Harvard University president and Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen. The usual suspects among the fascist Right have also joined to support the new university, which proclaims itself to be an “anti-woke” institution. They include deep data mining firm Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, the Hoover Institution’s counter-factual far-right historian Niall Ferguson, neo-conservative playwright David Mamet, and former Wall Street Journal and New York Times extreme Zionist reporter Bari Weiss. The University of Austin has been accused by its critics of monetizing the fall of democracy in Texas and the rest of the United States. That would certainly explain Summers’s involvement with what can be best described as “Grift University.”
After Adolf Hitler took over as German chancellor in January 1933, among his first targets for Nazification was Germany’s highly-acclaimed public education system. Jewish teachers were fired and the remaining public school teachers were forced to join the Nazi Teachers League (Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund, NSLB) or be sacked. Students were expected to join the Hitler Youth. Hitler then placed the Nazi stamp on German colleges and universities, which he saw as hotbeds for Bolshevism and Jewish intellectualism.
In Loudoun County, a group of far-right activists, which includes parents and those having no children enrolled in the county’s public schools, are seeking to purge, in a systematic Nazi fashion, elected non-partisan members of the Loudoun School Board. Far-right podcaster Matt Walsh, a Daily Wire cohort of fascist polemicist Ben Shapiro, rented an apartment in Loudoun County just so he could spew forth his propaganda at school board meetings. The group, Fight for Schools, is being bankrolled by the same dark money sources of the far-right that have mounted Republican primary challenges against GOP officeholders who refuse to fall in lockstep with the American version of Hitler, Donald Trump.
Fight for Schools is led by Ian Prior, a former communications director for the Karl Rove-inspired Super PAC American Crossroads. Prior’s support for Trump resulted in his being appointed in 2017 as deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department, serving under Attorney General Jeff Sessions until 2018. In a systematic purge, Prior and two other far-right groups supported by dark money, Citizens of the Leesburg District and Parents Against Critical Theory (PACT), have waged an incessant recall and propaganda campaign against all those who stand in their way of taking complete control of the Loudoun County school system.
Prior does not seem all that concerned about school-age children. If he did, he might not have thrown his campaign support behind Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell, a Trump loyalist who has been accused by his ex-wife, Laurie Snell, of choking her and physically abusing their three children, leaving a visible welt on the back of one youngster. Prior has also provided campaign assistance to the criminally-tainted Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton.
In a manner similar to the far-right’s abuse of California’s gubernatorial recall law to push their Nazi agenda, Virginia’s far-right has flagrantly misused Virginia’s recall law to target school board members and others who refuse to walk in lockstep with the Trump loyalists.
It is clear that Prior and his group were working in concert with the campaign of Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who disingenuously made the teaching of “critical race theory” in Virginia a linchpin of his race-baiting campaign. The theory, which is confined to special graduate level courses in colleges and universities, has never been taught in Virginia public schools. What is at issue in Virginia is an effort to honestly teach the history of the United States with regard to slavery, Jim Crow era segregation, and the falsity of the Old Confederacy’s legitimacy.
Prior and his allies in the John Birch Society; VDARE, an anti-immigration hate group; and Turning Point USA, the proto-Nazi group headed by Trump Stormtrooper Charlie Kirk, did what Nazis do best in constructing a list of their enemies, all of whom were to be brought down either by recall or political intimidation. First, they successfully gathered enough recall signatures against Loudoun School Board member Beth Barts, a former librarian and Girl Scout troop leader who holds a teaching degree from Shepherd University. Barts was due to have the recall case against her presided over by Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj, a Democrat.
After Biberaj came under attack by Birchers and VDARE for being what they described as an “immigrant Muslim Albanian” from Montenegro, the case against Barts was transferred by a Loudoun County judge to Eric Olsen, the Republican Commonwealth Attorney from Stafford County. Prior to the first “kangaroo court” hearings against Barts commencing, she announced her resignation from the board effective November 2. She and Biberaj have been subjected to incessant threats against them and their families. Neither the Virginia State Police nor the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, both thoroughly infiltrated by far-right Trump supporters, have made progress in identifying the parties who have threatened Barts, Biberaj, and other school board members.
Having succeeded in getting rid of Barts and neutralizing Biberaj, the Loudoun County far-right turned their attention to Loudoun School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan, who has served on the board since 2011, worked as a substitute teacher, and represents Sterling, and Scott Ziegler, the Loudoun school superintendent. After the far-right gathered enough signatures to recall Sheridan, she stated, “My election was a mandate from those who came to the polls — three times — to choose me as their representative. Tuesday’s filing is the result of a fraction of those citizens signing a petition, whether they voted or not.” The far-right also called on Ziegler to resign.
After Barts’s resignation, Prior, in typical Nazi-like intimidating language, used her decision to warn other board members being targeted by his group, saying, “Her [Barts's] former colleagues should take notice.” The other school board members targeted by Prior and his confederates are Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser, representing Algonkian and elected in 2019; Ian Serotkin, representing Blue Ridge and elected in 2019; At-Large member Denise Corbo, elected in 2019; and Leslee King, who had represented Broad Run since 2020 and died on August 31 of this year at the age of 74 after undergoing heart surgery. No one has even considered whether or not it was the death threats that led to Ms. King’s heart problems.
King was replaced by 25-year old Andrew Hoyler, who lost to King in 2019 by 3000 votes. Hoyler’s appointment to fill King’s seat did not stop Trump and Youngkin loyalists from calling for his resignation, along along with the other members targeted for recall. In seeking to overturn the elections of four members of the Loudoun School Board — with the exception of King. who died in office — the dominant Trump wing of the Republican Party is attempting to show that elections do not matter, only the will of a far-right minority of bigots, fascists, and those who threaten violence against their opponents, in other words, the Nazi way.
Across the country, the far-right has drawn up similar lists of their enemies for targeting by whatever means possible. They include school board and town and county council members, public health and election officials, and state and federal legislators.
Under the Youngkin administration, the neo-confederate nostalgists of the Old South hope to restore Virginia as the traditional home of the Confederacy, statues to Robert E, Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis included. The first battles of this new “civil war” between democracy and fascism/Nazism are being fought in the Loudoun County suburbs of Washington, DC. Unlike the nearby sites of the Confederate victories of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the initial 21st century skirmish between democracy and fascism must end in a victory for democracy and the Constitution over the forces of far-right intimidation and violence against public education. If the Nazis want Virginia to be the first battlefield in their new civil war, give them what they want and ensure that like their pathetic Confederate predecessors, they stew in their own defeat and subsequent misery.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).