New A&E Series Uses "Nazi-like" Rhetoric to Dehumanize Plural Families and Children

February 6, 2024

Grant Samms referred to otherism as “the single most dangerous idea in the world”.  He defined it as: the exclusion of a person based on their perceived diversions from an acceptable norm.[1]

Ralph Waldo Emerson used it to describe the process by which an individual is depersonalized or alienated due to their place in society.[2] This alienation can be embodied as prejudice against the other.[3]

WW2 Propaganda Poster

Otherism is Us vs Them

There are many examples of the mentality of otherisms having disastrous consequences. During World War II, Nazi's labeled Jews as 'rats or vermin' in an attempt to paint them as subhuman. American culture demonized the Japanese to justify the mistreatment of American citizens of Japanese descent. This included physically rounding up citizens and putting them into internment camps for fear of espionage. To use the word demonize is no exaggeration when government funded caricatures portrayed Japanese people as fanged, sometimes red-eyed and un-human.

Most human atrocities in history started with ideas meant to dehumanize some minority group whether social, racial, ethnic or religious.

Dangerous otherisms exist today right here in Utah

Today it’s considered socially acceptable to illegally discriminate, demonize and dehumanize plural families and their children here in Utah.

As was previously reported, Matt Browning and his wife Tawni have reunited with RIVR Media and many of the old crew from Escaping Polygamy to create A&E’s new docu-drama, Secrets of Polygamy.

The latest episode in the new series creates fictional narratives where known anti-polygamy activists claim parents who are DCCS members see their children as "cattle," and that hard-working plural parents "have no value for [their children's] life." These absurd and hurtful depictions have been described by victim advocates on both sides of the polygamy issue as “exploitative and damaging” to the victims involved.[4]

Michelle Mueller, a researcher from Santa Clara University in California, called RIVR Media's Escaping Polygamy “sensationalized TV” and cites its use of “atrocity tales” to reinforce stereotypes and demonize what most would consider regular everyday actions when occurring in plural families.[5]

Secrets of Polygamy presents several dangerous and outlandish caricatures of intrigue, abuse, and fraud, many of which are loosely based on hearsay, four decades of random news clippings and oft-debunked urban legends. The series uses a handful of loose terms as vague scapegoats for plural families which activists have used in the absence of any specific action to target. These activists want the audience to turn off their cognitive facilities and stop asking questions. “Trust us, it’s just bad.”

These dangerous caricatures are not meant to advocate for victims, but are merely the efforts of a rival religious group meant to isolate people in plural traditions.

In Utah, plural families have traditionally been under-served in public education, access to medical care, access to banking, access to victims services

Secrets of Polygamy continues a long campaign to dehumanize plural families which affects access to education, to banking and lending, to protection from law enforcement and other victims' services.

Because of dangerous stereotypes and otherisms, plural families are left more vulnerable to predators, whether in or out of their own ranks. When activists, predators or con-men, abuse or defraud plural families, law abiding people from these traditions are victimized twice. First by the actual abuse, and a second time by the public as it rushes to re-enforce the stereotype and project the bad acts onto every individual from the same tradition.

Many, including RIVR Media, use false advocacy to justify singling out or broadly mistreating plural families, most of which have not been implicated in any crime. However, the data simply does not support their narrative. Criminal incidents are less prevalent in plural families than for mainstream monogamists.

Another popular narrative to excuse discrimination and bigotry, is the claim that children are being mistreated, married under-age or “brainwashed." They claim without evidence that the wellbeing of children born into plural families is compromised, even though most are educated, happy, healthy and thriving in the context of broader society. In cases where children do require protection, most plural families support going to the proper public and social services where necessary. Plural marriages for individuals under 18 have been prohibited by most plural communities, including the DCCS.

This begs the question, if singling out plural families is not about preventing abuse, and it is not about protecting children, what is it about?  At its core, it is deeply rooted personal or religious prejudice against a group that defies social norms.

It is time to start judging individuals, or families of consenting adults by their merits regardless of their personal lifestyle choices.


[1] Samms, G 2015, ‘Otherism:  The Single Most Dangerous Idea In the World’,

[2] William E. Bridges in Edwin Harrison Cady, Louis J. Budd, On Emerson, Duke University Press, 1988, p141. ISBN 0822308614

[3] Dennis McCort, Going Beyond the Pairs: The Coincidence of Opposites in German Romanticism, Zen amd Deconstruction, SUNY Press, 2001, p101. ISBN 0791450015

[4] SB102; Bigamy Offense Amendments, Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee, March 2020, Alina Darger, Shirley Draper

[5] Mueller, M. (2019). Escaping the Perils of Sensationalist Television Reduction. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 22(3), 60.

*Portions of this article were adapted from an op-ed from June 2021

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