Halloween is still a few weeks away, but in New Jersey, the witch trial started early. It began on social media, our latter-day Salem: Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad took to Facebook to inform her followers that evil was afoot in the town of Maplewood.
“Yesterday,” wrote Muhammad, a hijab-wearing Muslim and a figure so revered by our cultural commissars that she was immortalized in a Barbie doll of her own, “Tamar Herman, a teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary in Maplewood, NJ, forcibly removed the hijab of a second-grade student. The young student resisted, by trying to hold onto her hijab, but the teacher pulled the hijab off, exposing her hair to the class. Herman told the student that her hair was beautiful, and she did not have to wear hijab to school anymore.” The child, Muhammad said, had suffered “trauma” and “abuse.”
Only, that likely isn’t at all what had happened: In a statement, Herman gave a perfectly plausible explanation. She had observed the student wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she said, and, in accordance with school policy, asked her to pull down the hood, as it was blocking her eyes. After seeing that the student was wearing the hood “in place of, rather than on top of, her usual hijab,” Herman “immediately rescinded that request.”
In a functioning society run by adults, such a dispute would have been resolved swiftly and calmly. But because this is Woke America, a nation that runs on empty outrage broadcast online, and so it didn’t take long for Herman to be found guilty by a jury of her virtual peers.
The local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — an organization named by the FBI as an unindicted coconspirator in a terror-finance case and found by a federal court to have substantial ties to Islamist terrorist organizations, including Hamas — demanded Herman’s immediate termination.
Some online took care to note that Herman was Jewish, painting her alleged actions as a religiously motivated hate crime. Even New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, joined the fray, sharing the accusation with his 145,000 followers on Twitter.
The episode brought into focus just how profoundly malicious the progressive platoons wishing to strip America of anything resembling decency and civility have become. While speaking the language of civil rights, these alleged defenders of liberty are committed to little but the destruction of political enemies, real or perceived.
Take a step away from Facebook and visit the actual town of Maplewood, and you will find a vibrant and diverse community, the sort of place where the sidewalks are painted in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride and where schools are stacked with students and teachers reflecting an array of different ethnicities and religious beliefs.
To portray it, as Muhammad did in her breathless post, as yet another example of America’s essential systemic racism is an affront not only to this great nation, but to observable reality itself — a nasty piece of performance theater that says everything about the performer and nothing about anything else.
And if that weren’t heartbreaking enough, Herman’s lawyer also revealed the following detail: Her client actually knows Muhammad “in real life,” as the kids say, and has contacted her and asked her to take the post down, receiving no response.
Real people with real values and real concerns talk to each other, reason, argue, try to change minds and hearts. It takes a special sort of narcissist — and a special sort of solipsistic, sensationalist culture — to encourage communication in 240 characters or fewer, all sound and fury and no empathy or passion for truth.
If this is how the famous folks we celebrate behave, we have very good reasons to be very, very afraid.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large at Tablet.