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Few social conservatives in Texas can equal Ken Mercer, District 5’s elected representative on the State Board of Education, when it comes to embracing disinformation and fake news as fact.
Mercer is a former Republican state representative elected in 2006 to the SBOE to represent a district that includes the northern and eastern portions of Bexar County. Even when he learns he is spreading lies, he stops short of undoing the damage. That was most recently evident in a Jan. 20 commentary titled “First the Christmas Tree, then the Cenotaph, and now a Statue to Santa Anna” that Mercer published on the right-wing Education Views website.
Mercer, contacted last week by the Rivard Report‘s Brendan Gibbons, who has contributed to our coverage of the Alamo Plaza redevelopment project, acknowledged in a phone interview that he had no evidence to support his writings or social media postings claiming that officials intend to erect a statue of Santa Anna at Alamo Plaza to commemorate the Mexican dictator.
It’s a ridiculous falsehood promoted by the wackier elements of nativist, open carry Texans who have gathered in San Antonio to protest the removal of the Confederate soldier monument in Travis Park and, more recently, redevelopment plans for the Alamo Plaza, which include moving the Cenotaph.
In publishing his false commentary, Mercer apparently ignored a well-publicized Dec. 11 statement by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush who said reports that he intended to erect the Santa Anna statue were an “outright lie” and “flat-out racist.”
Mercer’s latest nonsense mirrors his continuing false claims that the decision by local officials to move the H-E-B Christmas Tree from Alamo Plaza to Travis Park was an “immoral” and “unpatriotic” act. What, in fact, was done for logistical reasons in anticipation of plaza construction was twisted by Mercer into a conspiracy to remove the “Alamo Christmas Tree” from its rightful place as an important symbol of Texas history.
Do not expect Mercer to take any action now to correct the false rumors he has spread and promoted on his own Facebook page and that have been shared hundreds of times by followers of fringe groups like This is Texas Freedom Force.
Better to hope the former state representative’s recently announced plans to retire after a long tenure on the SBOE are true. He and others on the state’s school board have consistently stood more for promoting their extreme political views than elevating the quality of public education in Texas.
To consider all of this a liberal versus conservative debate is another falsehood. This is about fact versus rumor, truth versus falsehood.
Mercer’s claims in pursuit of supporters and campaign donations know no bounds. His service on the SBOE, he informs readers, has enabled him to “successfully defeat those far left radicals who wanted to REMOVE from our United States History curriculum: 1) every military battle, leader and Medal of Honor recipient, 2) the Holocaust and Hitler, 3) our Founding Fathers, 4) free market and free enterprise, 5) the forces behind 9-11, and 6) the study of the Constitution, purpose of the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and major constitutional Supreme Court decisions.”
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Huh? Any fact check of that paragraph would conclude that all six claims are so patently false they fall into the category of propaganda. Mercer must know it, too, but correcting his own record is not a Mercer trait.
The tragedy here is that SBOE social conservatives have long spent more time and energy promoting their own fringe views than working to improve public education outcomes for the state’s 5.5 million students, more than half of whom are Hispanic.
The SBOE has made national news for all the wrong reasons by treating evolution as a point of view rather than empirical science, cherry-picking historical figures to marginalize in the state’s social studies curriculum, and otherwise constantly attempting to manipulate history in textbooks.
By his own words and deeds Mercer has shown that truth doesn’t matter in the political arena, that falsehoods and disinformation in defense of incumbency and one’s own agenda are legitimate communication strategies to influence public opinion. Even when proven wrong, there is no longer any obligation to correct the record.