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Acton Institute constructs a video to paint those protesting their annual event as “uncivil”

November 21, 2017

On October 18, an estimated 25 people confronted Acton Institute supporters as they entered the DeVos Convention Center on their way to the organization’s annual event. 

The purpose of the action was to challenge the Acton Institute’s keynote speaker, Betsy DeVos, and to make those attending the event feel uncomfortable. Some of the people attending the Acton Institute Gala are part of the Grand Rapids power structure, since many of them are business people who also push the same kinds of neoliberal policies, like privatization and attacks on the public sector, that the Acton Institute so aggressively promotes.

We recently posted a critique of the October 18 talk given by Acton co-founder, Rev. Robert Sirico. Besides mocking those who protested the event, Sirico made the claim that his organization doesn’t believe in class struggle, they believe in “class encounter.”

Last week, the Acton Institute posted a video that seeks to continue to mock those who confronted the people who paid $175 a plate to attend their event and to construct an image that their members support civility.

Here is the text that accompanies the video that Acton posted:

On October 18 2017, United States Secretary of Education and former member of the Acton Institute board of directors Betsy DeVos addressed an audience of nearly 1,000 people at Acton’s 27th Anniversary Celebration at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. DeVos has been one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial appointees to his cabinet, and her appearance in Grand Rapids attracted protests similar to those she has encountered at other speaking engagements across the country. In conjunction with the Acton Institute, AnneMarie Scheiber Dykstra of Free to Speak Pictures spent some time examining the claims of the protestors about DeVos’ agenda, contrasted it with the Secretary’s actual words, and looked at the potential real world impact of expanded educational choice.

Virtually nothing that is included in this text was accomplished in the video. It is a weak and simplistic depiction of what happened that night and what DeVos and Rev. Sirico both had to say.

What is even more offensive is that the video features the commentary from the superintendent of Potter’s House Christian School, John Booy. Booy has a long history of supporting the kinds of educational policies that Betsy DeVos has advocated over the past several decades. Potter;s House Christian School has also been the recipient of significant funding from the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation

What Booy had to say in the video is particularly offensive because he wants to claim that those protesting the Acton Institute event are not civil and that somehow civility is a virtue. In addition to referring to the protest as a circus, he said, “what we are trying to teach out students is to have peaceful, intelligent discourse.” Of course those who are part of the power structure who have a tremendous amount of privilege will always want to portray people who are fighting for justice as uncivil. It is my contention that there is no point in having civil discourse with people who impose policies that negatively impact people who are the most marginalized in our society. I don’t want to appeal to the morality of those who support the Acton Institute. They have made it clear that their morality is far superior than the rest of us. Therefore, our intent was to make those who attended the Acton Institute event uncomfortable for forcing their morality on the rest of us.

Here is the constructed video that the Acton Institute recently posted, so you can draw your own conclusions about what it is they were trying to communicate. Ironically, the video is entitled, Finding Virtue in a Noisy World.

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