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 Cookie Monsters, Instagram and Destroying the Human Soul

A first grader was suspended from Stratton Meadows Elementary School in Colorado for pointing his fingers in the shape of a gun. A second-grader was suspended from school for chewing his strawberry-filled pastry into the shape of a gun.

A tenth-grader in Maine was suspended for bringing a water gun to school.

 A five-year-old girl was suspended from Southeast Elementary in Brighton, Colorado for bringing a plastic bubble gun to school.

See generally “7 Kids Who Were Punished By Schools For Using Imaginary Guns,” . The article references third-grade students who were suspended for shooting an Airsoft gun on the private property of one of the students.

Most recently, as described in  NRA-ILA 5-12-2017 article, F Stands for Fail,,  Zachary Bowlin, a seventh-grader at Edgewood Middle School in Trenton, Ohio, was suspended from school for ‘liking’ on Instagram on his home computer a photo of an Airsoft gun.  (How the school learned of this ‘like’ on a private computer has not been made knows, as far as I can tell) The article states: “One, gun control advocates are positively and unshakeable, fixated –not just on taking your guns—but on making the very ideas of a gun a thoughtcrime.” The author is correct. Please read the complete NRA article.

 A reader may be forgiven for concluding, at least initially, that such suspensions are stupid, excessive and or unreasonable. The conclusions would be correct but incomplete. Those conclusions fail to acknowledge the layered malevolence of the schools’ behaviors and their pernicious ideological goals. 

I treat the Instagram suspension case as representative of this suspension group and, therefore, analyze it to make several general observations and conclusions. Defending the suspension of the student, the paradoxically-named Russ Fussnecker, Superintendent of Edgewood City Schools, referenced the school’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

I recently published an article illuminating the gross immorality of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy. See How Could This Happen Here? The Tales of Two Schools, The appeal to public safety—a threat to other students—was the same rationale asserted by the Anne Arundel County school to justify the suspension of the 7-year-old for chewing a piece of pastry into a shape the school deemed to look like a handgun.

Fussnecker admitted that the suspension was based solely on the photo and that Bowlin was suspended before any investigation was conducted. Fussnecker then made three assertions worth noting. One, that ‘liking’ the post of the Airsoft gun on social media “indicated potential school violence.” Two, “When you’re dealing with school districts nowadays and there are pictures of guns, regardless of the kind of gun it is, it’s a gun.” Three, “that any social media threat will be taken serious [sic] including those who ‘like’ the post when it potentially endangers the health and safety of students or adversely affects the educational process.”

 Each of the three assertions is false. ‘Liking’ the Airsoft gun does not indicate potential school violence. Pictures of objects that look like guns do not transform them into guns. Bowlin’s ‘liking’ the post did not potentially endanger the health and safety of students or adversely affect the educational process, whatever that means. 

What does a rational reader make of this situation? First, we note that Fussnecker ruthlessly used the logical fallacy of the strawman argument to justify the suspension. He created a false target, a false narrative—that photos endanger students—and then claimed the suspension increased safety and reduced danger. Anyone with a brain more advanced than a Pet Rock knows Fussnecker’s justifications were nonsense and deceitful. No rational person could accept his assertions as credible. If Fussnecker believed his words, then we have a glaring insight into the moral corruption of his intellect and character. Whether he believed his own words, his justification for the suspension illuminates a reptilian predatory opportunism to hurt a child.   

The NRA article states: “Three, their activities have nothing to do with public safety (or reality, most cases) and instead spring from a pathological impulse to assert their will and ideology over others.” This is the first time I have seen a major pro-gun periodical use the term “pathological” to describe the anti-gun advocates. It’s about time! I have used the word ‘pathological’ in this context in my lectures for over a year. I have also used the term “pathological altruism,” which, to my knowledge, was coined by the brilliant writer and researcher, Barbara Oakley. In her book, Cold-Blooded Kindness, Oakley writes:


But, as polymath science fiction writer David Brin observes, this feeling of certainty can feel so good that it can sometimes become an addiction. We can see this addiction first hand in self-righteous people, who are keen to wallow in the wonderful feeling that they are right and their “opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.



Ideas have consequences. Policies have consequences. Students learn lessons from suspensions based on absurd and dishonest equating of pop tarts or bubble guns or hand gestures with dangerous firearms.

What lessons do the children learn? They learn their teachers and administrators lie and that they possess no moral or intellectual judgment. The meta message is that the educators, the people entrusted to teach them to be useful adults, will use lies to advance an ideology although it hurts children. The children learn, also, that educators that use lies to hurt them regarding guns can use lies to hurt them in other areas: what books to find acceptable; what people to find acceptable; what thoughts to find acceptable and that dissent can be punished.

The administration creates artificial constructs to subvert reality. The administrators and teachers carefully orchestrate an environment that is toxic to education; toxic to reason and toxic to individual liberty. The children learn that truth, logic and reason, indeed, knowledge itself, can be dismembered by these ideological guillotines. The children then adjust their thinking, their opinions and their actions to comply and submit. No decent person treats young children this way. Tyrannical ideologues do.

The parents as well as the children learn another message: that as a practical matter, they are helpless against the juggernaut of the bureaucratic State. Sometimes, should a parent have the backbone to fight back, the bureaucracy retaliates with intimidating visits from social services intimating the removal of the child from the family.


Dennis Prager, the brilliant author and radio host, asserts that the “most fundamental duty of an educated human being is to learn to fight evil. Now the students are taught that fighting is evil.” Rather than learning to stand up to evil, students are now taught to fight carbon emissions, advocate for $15.00-an-hour wages and to enable boys to go into girls’ restrooms.

The implications of this ideology are profoundly destructive. Think through this message from the schools: that even a harmless simulacrum of a gun is so evil, that it so inexorably leads to violence and immorality, that merely holding one’s hands in a certain way or chewing on a pastry or looking at a photo of a gun in the privacy of one’s own home leads to an immediate suspension.

Further, the uncritical generalization that fighting is evil boasts an insidious nihilism. When would fighting be evil? Only when the fight is not for a moral or virtuous purpose. But the schools make no such distinction. All fighting is evil. We have seen that these suspensions are not based on a realistic assessment of safety. They are based on this perverse ideology.

Note the perverse logic here: if all fighting is evil, and if guns represent fighting, then the belief is legitimized that guns can never be used to help fight for any cause because nothing is worth fighting for: not one’s family, not one’s self, not one’s country, not one’s beliefs, not for liberty or against fascism. The overarching message is ‘Give up!’ because your value and the value of your beliefs are insignificant compared to the value of the ideology.

Of course, such a nihilistic ideology is a joyous gift to those who want to kill or subjugate you. This pernicious ideology weakens children—all people, of course—and makes them vulnerable to intimidation and control by every aggressor. When fighting is evil, evil always wins. Failure to understand this message will accelerate our suicide.

But the teachers and administrators know all this. That’s the point: they are not ignorant or naïve. They are not stupid. They know their ideology weakens people and they know weak intimidated people are easier to control. Therefore, I amend the astute comment in the NRA-ILA press release about the administrators by adding that their pathological impulse to assert their will and their ideology over others is just the starting point. More dangerous, they have a pathological impulse to destroy children and undermine their moral fiber and their sense of self. They destroy souls.

All of this is particularly disturbing because it is occurring in a uniquely precarious moment in our culture when organized Orwellian-named ‘antifa’ fascists are, among others, and without resistance, subverting individual liberty and advocating violence against our society. More than in generations, we need fighters to protect civilization. We need to fight evil.

I confess I am plagued by a larger question: How did a society of once free-born Americans come to allow such reprehensible apparatchiks to tyrannize our children?


Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available at