Propaganda 101 : The Art of Creative Lying

by W.D. Ehrhart

Recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a news report saying law students at Georgetown University were so upset by a professor criticizing President Biden’s determination to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court that they demanded “an office they can go to . . . if they want to cry, if they need to break down.”  They are demanding a Crying Room.


I dutifully wrote up an irate essay excoriating the “Snowflake” sensibilities of many of my Left Progressive fellow travelers, whose sometimes frivolous and inane demands make it so easy for the Radical Reactionary Right to make the entire Progressive Left appear to be unhinged.

I sent the essay to the alleged editor of the New Hampshire Gazette, who is not so alleged as he often self-deprecatingly calls himself.

Steve Fowles’ response was: “Yes, a bunch of students at Georgetown Law whimpering ‘where’s my crying room’ is ridiculous.  So ridiculous that it smelled to me like a set-up, another one of those ginned-up right wing finger pointing exercises. ‘Look at these left-wing idiots.  Aren’t they ridiculous?  By extension, aren’t all their positions ridiculous?’  The Ur-story seems to have been in the Washington Examiner.  If there’s one thing you can count on from the Examiner, it’s a Tucker Carlsonesque bias.”

I had picked the story up from the website of a local ABC News affiliate, and hadn’t questioned it because I figured, “Well, ABC News.”  But when Fowle raised questions, I started digging deeper.  Aside from two local ABC affiliates and an online Newsweek article written by a member of the American Enterprise Institute, every reference to the Georgetown Crying Room appeared on websites run by Fox News or clearly arch-conservative organizations like Breitbart, Conservative News Daily, Trending Politics, and others of that stripe.

When I queried Dr. Harry Haines, Professor of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, he replied, “I usually watch ABC network news, and I have not seen a national story about the Georgetown conflict.  Sounds like the ABC story remained local.  The story may not have risen to the level of worthiness, aside from the right-wing sources fascinated by the crying room angle.  I found a lengthy article in the Hoya [Georgetown University’s campus newspaper] about the conflict [over Prof. Ilya Shapiro], but it did not mention a crying room.”

John Baky, Director Emeritus of Library Services at La Salle University, added, “In the end it is hearsay circumstance.  The question was probably asked in a meeting by a student and has simply been ‘decorated’ by accretion via the Loudmouth Right.  One tell-tale sign is that the Chronicle of Higher Education has been silent on the story.” Baky suspects that the absence of clear coverage in sources such as the Washington Post indicates the insignificance of whatever “truth” there might have been in the original story.

So, after some diligent searching by Fowle, Haines, and Baky, augmented by my own belated efforts, it seems very clear that the story of Black student demands for a Crying Room at Georgetown University Law School are at best highly embellished hearsay; at worst a deliberately fabricated lie.

I can hardly express my thanks to Fowle who, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, smelled a rat, and let me know it before I made a fool of myself in print.  The really embarrassing part of all this is that I was so ready to believe the story.  Why?

Well, the truth is that I have indeed gotten very frustrated and impatient with the “Snowflake Wing” of the Progressive Left with their demands for “Safe Spaces” on college campuses where no one is allowed to say anything that might hurt someone else’s feelings, and “Defunding the Police” (the poorest choice of terminology since “Collateral Damage” and “Enhanced Interrogation”).

But that is no excuse for failing to check my facts adequately before accepting any story at face value, especially a tale that plays so readily into the hands of the Radical Reactionary Right.  As Edgar Allan Poe writes in “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”: “Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see.”

I’m not quite so willing to be as skeptical as Poe suggests, but I’ve been forcefully reminded that one should never believe without question everything one hears or reads.  It’s hard enough these days to separate fact from fiction, truth from lies.  For my own part, I hope I never again find myself the unwitting and gullible dupe of people who have no use for truth, honesty, or integrity.  I wish the same for each of you.

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant who holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Wales at Swansea, and taught for many years at the Haverford School for Boys.

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