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Anatomy of a Lie: Anti-union group launches attack on Oregon teachers based on embarrassing math mistake
Freedom Foundation claims OEA lost 20% of its membership since 2019, but that's not how math works. Oregon Moms Union ran with it anyway!
Yes, this is an article about a group committed to dismantling public education making a stupid, stupid math mistake. Oregon Moms Union. It’s, like, the 4th big L for them in a month. Which is hilarious.
But, more seriously, it’s also the origin story of a sloppily-constructed set of contorted mistruths meant to confuse the public into thinking teacher’s unions in Oregon are failing.
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It starts with a group called Freedom Foundation. And we’re going to reverse engineer how they built this false narrative so we can better understand:
how to spot their bullshit
how to tell their bullshit is, in fact, bullshit
the motivations behind the person or people from which this bullshit sprung
Math Mistake? Or deliberate numbers games?
In April 2022, the largest teacher’s union in Oregon - Oregon Education Association - held its annual Representative Assembly (RA) in Portland. They elect leadership. Review policies in various committee meetings. Meeting stuff, y’know?
And they produced this document, the 2022 RA Handbook - a master agenda and information packet for members attending the event.
From that 239 page tome, folks from Freedom Foundation took once excerpt from page 105; mischaracterized a simple data set; and went on a publicity campaign built on sloppy math & loose wording.
Here’s the excerpt:
If this were a test, and you had to summarize the above excerpt, it might go something like this:
Union membership has declined by about 3 percent since the 2020 school year. Some of that seems localized & likely due to lack of in-person networking due to pandemic conditions. Overall, about 1 in 5 eligible educators are not union members, but still benefit from union representation.
Sounds pretty reasonable, right? The summary matches the data in primary source document. So exciting is this information, OEA featured it on the bottom of page 105, halfway through a giant handbook.
Here’s what Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Jason Dudash created from the same excerpt:
Of course, OEA hadn’t “lost” 20% of its membership based on the data provided. They saw a 3% decline through an unprecedentedly challenging time in education (and life, in general) because of the public health crisis.
But that’s not sexy. And it definitely doesn’t help advance the mission of Freedom Foundation - to dismantle worker’s unions and the protections fought and won over the years.
But that didn’t stop Dudash from teaming up with Fox News to further distort the nominal dip in OEA membership. With co-author Corey DeAngelis, the two breathlessly fantasized that this decline was a signal that people were finally fed up with unions.
After all, very wealthy people dump a lot of money into Freedom Foundation - they have to at least pretend they are effective.
And the braintrust at Oregon Moms Union ran with it
Here’s Oregon Moms Union leader Mackensey Pulliam completely mangling the actual data and what it means. My favorite part is that it really seems like the NewsMax host realizes halfway through that the “losing 20% of members since 2019” claim has no connection with the numbers being shown. Pulliam seems none the wiser. It’s hard to say if she’s being deliberately deceptive with this false narrative, or if she just really doesn’t understand math.
This is how disinformation campaigns are launched and perpetuated.
In her NewsMax piece, Pulliam seemed to have escalated the deception of Freedom Foundation into a blatant lie. And that lie will certainly percolate to her hapless followers - the same audience she and her parent’s rights group are attempting to mobilize against public education.
That’s what Jason Dudash is paid to do. He and his well-funded, multi-state operation is singularly focused on dismantling workers unions so the wealthy can increase profits on the backs of workers they are determined to keep those profits from.
And because Freedom Foundation and their friends in the Republican Party get so thoroughly shellacked in Oregon every election, they have to fabricate wins where they can. And they need to sell these manufactured wins to a shrinking and aging voter base so they become increasingly desperate and pathetic.
Like, say, inventing a statistic they know their audience is too lazy to confirm.
And then you find a friendly face at FoxNews. And an accomplice to spread the lie downstream to the “grassroots.” And you’ve got yourself a handy-dandy narrative.
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