North Carolina has the dogwood as the state flower, the cardinal as the state bird, the plott hound as the state dog, the Fraser Fir as the state Christmas tree, and the emerald as the state gem.
We also have the channel bass (red drum) as the state fish. But that needs to change. I think it should be the red herring because I have seen many more of those these past few years in the Old North State.
Red herring actually is a smoked herring fish, turned brown/red because of curing by salt and the smoking process. But it also refers to the logical fallacy of using something that really is not an important issue to stop people from noticing or thinking about something really important (merriam-webster.com).
This practice of drawing attention away from these really important issues is something that many current members of the North Carolina General Assembly and governor’s administration have done very well.
Example #1 – The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, otherwise known as HB2.
Rep. Tim Moore, LT. Gov. Dan Forest both spoke of the need to “protect our women and children” from the invasive Charlotte city ordinance that would allow transgender people access to the public bathrooms for the gender they identified with.
A special legislative session was called on March 25th in defense of our loved ones in order to pass sweeping discriminatory laws against the LGBT community. So strong they hoped was the scent of the red herring that they also passed two other vital really important pieces of legislation.
The first is the removal of rights for all citizens to bring to state court any discrimination suits against any employer for termination based on factors such as race, gender, sexual identity, etc.
The second is the restriction placed on cities to make private contractors to pay a wage in line with local economy standards. That allows private businesses to bypass local authorities and underpay labor for a higher profit.
So, the red herring allowed the General Assembly to make us think that there was a scourge from which we had to protect our women and children, but really what happened was a power grab for more control by the GOP in Raleigh over local municipalities and removal of rights for all citizens.
That’s a mighty powerful fish.
Example #2 – Voter ID law
When the voter ID law was passed those who sponsored the bill said that it was to protect the election process from voter fraud.
There’s your red herring – voter fraud. Except there was only one (maybe three) documented case of voter fraud in the state that could be used as evidence. That’s right; it’s practically nonexistent. But when a fish smells, it draws attention.
What really was important is that this voter ID law actually hurts voter turnout for many minority voters, many of whom are in rural areas and are from lower income levels. Those same people tend to vote democratic.
So if I wanted to maintain political power in Raleigh as the GOP does, maybe I could keep people who generally vote for the opposing party from actually being able to cast a vote.
Again, a powerful fish.
Example #3 – Removal of teacher tenure for all new teachers in the state of North Carolina
When the GOP grabbed power in the General Assembly along with the inauguration of Gov. McCrory, an onslaught was started against public education. Red herrings were thrown every which way exclaiming that our public schools were failing and that at the root of this problem were bad teachers. Furthermore, a crusade was waged that said that the only way to get rid of bad teachers was to take away their “tenure”.
Well, tenure is really not what many people think it is. It is not ultimate protection for each and every teacher against being terminated. It means that there are due-process rights that a teacher has to protect him or herself from whimsical dismissal. Remember that part of the HB2 legislation that removed rights to file a discrimination suit in state court? That’s a lot like due-process rights being taken away.
What “tenure” actually means is that teachers have the power to advocate for students and schools in the face of legislators who place personalities before principles. That “tenure” is what allows teachers to fight for the very schools they serve for more resources without fear of instant reprisal.
Ironically, all of these examples will and have been challenged in court for their unconstitutionality. HB2 continues to be a lightning-rod topic across the nation and is already starting to economically hurt NC. The voter ID law is in the middle of litigation and teachers who already had tenure were given those due-process rights back by the courts.
Why? Because the scent of the red herring was not strong enough to keep all people from noticing the really important issues?
Possibly.But it’s really because the most powerful scent from a red herring will never be stronger than the smell of bullshit.