A Lovely Example Of Bullshit School Board Coverage By The Montana Free Press

by Travis Mateer

Once upon a time Alex Sakariassen wrote for the Missoula Independent, but those days are long gone. Now he’s at a dot org that claims to be FREE while also providing context and care.

The piece Sakariassen penned (which got picked up by Gomer’s platform) is an unintentional example of WHY people like Jill Taber and Amy Livesay are getting directly involved in school board politics–to claw some control back for parents like me who saw what these little tyrants were capable of when the fear fog descended.

A very important aspect of tyrant control is controlling the narrative, and that’s where reporters like Alex come in. Here is an excerpt from the article where the reporter frames the reason for the intensity of this year’s school board election:

Public health measures adopted by schools during the pandemic became a flashpoint for parents nationwide, sparking organized opposition to mandatory masking and vaccination requirements. Remote instruction gave families a more intimate look inside their children’s classrooms, and some parents didn’t agree with everything they saw. The past two years have transformed public education into one of the most politically divisive arenas of our time, and school board seats are increasingly seen as an opportunity to either fix a wayward and unresponsive system or reaffirm a commitment to long-standing educational tenets.

While I don’t disagree with this framing, I do think a disconnect that I’ve seen in local reporting is the seeming downplaying of just how disruptive and absurd those “public health measures” were to parents, including the absolute madness of remote instruction.

Where THIS article gets a little politically desperate is in the next paragraph, where the two camps are described thusly:

Despite the nonpartisan nature of school board races, various candidates interviewed by Montana Free Press in Missoula County agree that in 2022, two distinct camps have emerged along partisan lines: One inspired by the same concerns driving Montana’s nascent parental rights movement, and the other voicing a desire to depoliticize education and resist what it perceives as a regressive social agenda.

Yes, that’s right, Alex Sakariassen wants you to think people like Grace Decker are trying to DEPOLITICIZE education. That’s fucking hilarious, Alex. Also, demonstrably untrue.

Alex goes on to reference the infamous Crosspoint Church incident that can ONLY be told in the one-side manner the narrative controllers have succeeded in establishing, excluding the inconvenient fact a State Rep. (Danny Tenenbaum) snuck into the church that evening and secretly recorded the event against the church’s stated wishes.

Nope, that fact is no where in this retelling of what transpired:

Last November, Livesay and Gehl told a gathering of parental rights activists at Missoula’s Crosspoint Community Church that the 2022 school election presents a unique opportunity to reshape public education. Claim six seats on the MCPS board, they said, and they could push back against the forces that had enacted a district-wide mask mandate that fall. It was the same event where Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades quipped that people should “shoot” superintendents they didn’t agree with — a comment he later retracted, and that Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, who was also in attendance, publicly condemned.

Yes, what a lawyer SAID got all the attention, while the ACTION of the State Rep. went totally unreported.

What kind of message do you think this sends members of that congregation? I know what kind of message the FREE press is sending out about this event because here’s more “context” the Montana Free Press is delivering to its readers (with care, of course):

That evening at Crosspoint has become a pivotal moment connecting Livesay, Gehl and elementary district candidate Jill Taber to the broader parental rights movement. Their November discussion at the church, where Livesay and Gehl had previously expounded on the benefits of homeschooling their children, was promoted by the Western Montana Liberty Coalition. The conservative grassroots group advocates for parental rights and lauds Livesay, Gehl and Taber as “the future leaders [of] our government financed school system.” The coalition’s website includes links to several far-right groups that deny the science behind COVID-19 vaccination and perpetuate allegations of voting irregularities in Missoula County’s 2020 election.

Oh shit, do you see that? FAR-RIGHT GROUPS! If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more worrying political considerations for TMFP to tell you about further down in the article.

The strongest nod yet to the camp’s conservative alignment arrived this week when some Missoula voters received text messages encouraging support for Taber’s candidacy. The text campaign was paid for by Leadership in Action, a Helena-based political action committee that, according to its website, “supports conservative candidates up and down the ballot that have the integrity, vision and grit to get Montana and our country back on track.” The PAC lists Attorney General Austin Knudsen as its “honorary chairman.” 

So, this former Indy reporter has successfully ferreted out the conservative leaning of some school board candidates while simultaneously framing the other side as hilariously trying to “depoliticize” the school board.

What a bunch of crap.

I had been meaning to get a candidate for the school board on my podcast, but I’m still tech-challenged at the moment, so that got back-burnered and won’t be happening today.

BUT later today I will have a song posting about the business of saving people. So stay tuned.

And thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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