Carol Swain’s ‘Long, Strange’ Journey From Respected Academic To Culture-War Propagandist


The Weekly Standard gives a new profile of conservative black law professor Carol Swain the title, “Carol Swain’s Long, Strange Academic Trip.” The article by Alice B. Lloyd portrays Swain’s decision to take early retirement after being criticized for comments slamming the Black Lives Matter movement as a sign of the intolerant politically correct atmosphere on college campuses.

The story recounts the controversies into which Swain has waded with inflammatory rhetoric about immigration, Muslims, and other culture war topics. Swain tells the author that President Obama “did everything to start a race war.” But the story doesn’t tell readers just how far Swain’s journey has gone from serious, if controversial, writing about race and the threat of white nationalism into flat-out Christian-nationalist culture-war propaganda.

The article drops a couple of hints, noting that Swain calls her Christian conversion “very dramatic” and says it “has shaped everything I’ve done since then, and it affects how I see the world.” The story notes that Swain is “not as interested as she used to be in being a serious scholar.” Her most recent books, writes Lloyd, “aren’t exactly pitched to her peers in the professorate either.”

Lloyd’s vague description of Swain’s recent books is a bit too polite. You can get a pretty good sense of the target audience for her 2011 book “Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise” by taking a look at the promotional blurbs in the front of the book. Among its endorsers:  Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Tony Perkins, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Robert George, Harry Jackson, and Jesse Lee Peterson. She calls the book a “call to action for We the People to reclaim our nation’s faith and promise.”

In that book she declares, “We are engaged in a battle for the soul of our nation.” She slams the Supreme Court’s rulings on separation of church and state, saying, “The expulsion of God from public schools was a blow to civil religion and a clear repudiation of what Jesus proclaimed to be the greatest commandment.”

This February, Swain spoke at the Family Research Council about her latest book, “Abduction: How Liberalism Steals Our Children’s Hearts and Minds.”  The book, she said, explores “the aggressive secular agenda to indoctrinate children with a worldview that rejects the traditional morality associated with the Judeo-Christian worldview.” Liberal churches, she said, have become “agents of Marxism” that push social justice rather than a “biblical worldview.” Liberals have “hijacked the civil rights movement” to “justify behaviors that are just totally counter to our Judeo-Christian roots.”

At FRC, Swain completely misrepresented a California law that prevents children under 18 from being arrested for prostitution, a strategy recommended by anti-trafficking activists who believe children who are trafficked should be treated as victims of crime rather than criminals. Swain wrongly characterized the law as saying that prostitution is not illegal when you’re under 18.

Swain complained that when she goes out with her single female friends, they wonder whether or not being people think they’re gay. “That is not the way society is supposed to operate,” she said. It’s fine for parents or grandparents to support gay loved ones, she said, but it’s “dangerous” to support them to the point that “you rethink your Christianity” or “find a Christianity that says it’s acceptable.”

In her FRC remarks, Swain quoted Cleon Skousen, the late far-right Mormon writer who church officials distanced themselves from in the late 1970s, but who has been embraced by right-wing activists in the past 10 years, thanks in part to Glenn Beck promoting Skousen’s books. Like Skousen, Swain sees Marxism as the sinister explanation for many of the nation’s ills, including current “resistance to the president,” which she said is “like a playbook out of this Marxist agenda.” She said Communists have control of one U.S. political party and are working on another.

“We are at war,” Swain told the FRC audience, and need to have “wartime strategies” to counter liberals who have learned from the writings of Saul Alinsky.

Speaking of warfare rhetoric and “scholars” turned propagandists, Swain bragged about having been included in Dinesh D’Souza’s film, “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.” At Ralph Reed’s “Road to Majority” conference last year, D’Souza said, “A movie is a weapon” and that he planned to “drop this grenade in the middle of the Democratic convention.”

D’Souza is not the only dubious company Swain keeps. Last year, Swain appeared on several episodes of David Barton’s “Foundation of Freedom” series. Barton is a self-described historian who is much-loved among Religious Right activists and conservative politicians, but is regarded by many actual scholars, including Christian scholars, as intellectually unserious or worse, a serial liar. His book purporting to correct liberal lies about Thomas Jefferson was itself so riddled with inaccuracies that its Christian publisher pulled the book off the shelf. While discussing the Bible and the judiciary with Barton, Swain complained that judges are being “educated at institutions where they come out as secular humanists, and so there’s no fear of God.”

The Weekly Standard accurately characterizes Swain as “a thorny nationalist on the matter of mass immigration.” In 2013, Swain was part of a Heritage Foundation panel featuring conservative evangelicals who were opposed to fellow evangelicals who were promoting comprehensive immigration reform. In one of her books, she suggested that Catholic leaders who support immigration reform are motivated by a desire to boost church membership. And she has urged Congress to “flex its muscles” and legislatively close what she calls a “loophole” of birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment.

During last year’s presidential primary, Swain joined other Religious Right activists as a member of the Ted Cruz campaign’s “Religious Liberty Advisory Council.” (She voted for Mike Huckabee in the 2008 primary.) But she now portrays Trump’s election as a victory over the kind of elitists she rails against.