The Streisand estate at the center of the “Streisand effect”
The Streisand estate at the center of the “Streisand effect” (Copyright 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

Hey Repubs – ever hear of the Streisand Effect? You’re about to experience it.

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples

For anyone who doesn’t know:

The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information. It is named after Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the photograph of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently drew greater attention to it in 2003.

The Streisand effect is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, they are significantly more motivated to access and spread that information.

So, how does that apply in Kentucky in 2022? It’s easy: the GOP and CRT.

Here we have multiple bills filed in this year’s General Assembly, designed to limit the discussion of race and racism in the United States. The bills are part of the nation-wide GOP freakout over “critical race theory” or CRT, and preventing any young white minds from being soiled by it.

Actually, for anyone paying attention, many Repubs could care less about CRT. Their stated CRT concern is really about keeping their base riled up over something that doesn’t exist: CRT isn’t taught in public schools anywhere.

What IS taught is slavery, racism, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and all the various facets of race that are part of our nation’s history. And this makes the white supremacists among us, who primarily inhabit the GOP right wing, nervous and upset. So, the GOP legislators who filed those bills want to make sure that “the problem of racism” and our nation’s part in it is just not discussed.

But that is where the Streisand Effect is going to backfire on them. By actually filing legislation limiting the discussion of race and racism in schools, they are calling attention to that discussion. By bringing into question how we teach history and historical facts, they are putting those facts in our faces and out in the open. And by pandering to their white base to both protect feelings and to win votes, they will instead call even more attention to the need to address white supremacy head on.

If Speaker Osborne and President Stivers are smart, they will make sure those bills never make it out of committee – or even better, never get heard in committee. If those bills make it to the floor, the debate will make the GOP in Kentucky look either clueless or Klan-like. Instead of gaining attention for their studied approach to a new budget or to relief for tornado victims, they will be held up as examples of a white supremacist minority to the entire nation. And all of us, across the state, will be talking about race, racism, and Jim Crow – all the things the persons filing those bills wanted to avoid.

Congratulations, Repubs. You will have succeeded where many of us on the left have failed: getting our state to have an open and honest discussion about race. In the end, let us hope the bills fail ... and the discussion succeeds.

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Commentary

Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)


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