“Republicans push back against critical race theory”, says the headline. Another says that “parents push back” against it. And the accompanying photos often show “parents” (or at least putative adults) making raucous asses of themselves at school board meetings.
You’d think they were protesting because their kids were being forced to eat organic vegetables in the cafeteria or something. But instead, what they were protesting was their kids being exposed to the blunt truth that there is a great deal of racism in America’s past. Those making a stink about CRT are either ignorant of what it really means, or just want to whitewash racism. Or both. In other words, while the use of the expression “pushing back” makes it sound as if people are on the defensive against some odious assault, that isn’t the case at all.
It’s an expression you hear quite a bit these days. And the great majority of the time, you will hear it applied in a disingenuous manner. The 45th W.H.O. and his sycophants were said to “push back” against “fake news” and a dishonest media. In reality, they were peddling fake news and lies, and attacking honest and decent journalists just trying to do their jobs. Republicans supposedly have been “pushing back” against election fraud. But in reality, they’re falling flat on their faces, because they’re pushing against nothing.
The metaphor of “pushing back” seems to have originated from the scenario of a bully pushing someone on the schoolyard. But more often than not, you’ll probably find that those who are reported to be pushing “back” are just pushing — it is they who are the bullies. And the media are helping them to portray themselves as victims.
Even the progressive Maddow Blog took the bait, speaking of a Republican “pushback against door-to-door vaccine outreach”. What they meant to say, of course, is that Republicans are launching a full-throttle batshit campaign of disinformation and hysteria about the Biden administration’s vaccine policies.
It was once, no doubt, a perfectly useful phrase; but as with so many other perfectly useful phrases, the right-wing propagandists co-opted it and distorted it to mean just the opposite of what it originally did — and the media were quite complicit in the deception. Think about the long list of terms that already have fallen victim to this Orwellian massacre. “Politically Correct”. “Social justice”. “Woke”. “Fake news”. “Election integrity”. “Radical”. And, lest we forget, “liberal”. Among others.
Whenever you hear the media use “pushing back” in the manner that right-wingers demand, you’d be doing society a service if you took a notion to let them know that it’s not an appropriate or accurate application. At the rate we’re going, it’s only a matter of time before the English language runs out of expressions that are still being used properly.