This piece from The Intercept is long, but take your time reading it. It's nourishment. As Ramesh Ponnuru quipped, "I'm not going to read [the story] all at once. Some things have to be savored." Indeed. We cover the 'woke excess' beat on a regular basis, both in this space and on the radio, because it matters. A relatively small, loud group of activists wields disproportionate control over our culture and free expression right now -- and every scalp claimed, every unjust or undeserved 'cancellation' achieved, makes us all a little bit less free. This was our concern when Mary Katharine Ham and I wrote End of Discussion in 2015, and things have only devolved further in the ensuing years.
One of the interesting real-world lessons of wokeism is that some of the people most at risk of being pulled under by its insatiable practitioners are committed leftists themselves. They operate and marinate in this milieu. They legitimize its capricious whims through participation, indulgence and appeasement. In quite a few cases, those who are voluntarily or even enthusiastically steeped in this toxic stew are the ones who ultimately succumb to it. And what recourse do they have? They've effectively consented to the lunacy by being leftists and going along with the madness. Which is the jumping off point for the aforementioned story, in which 'progressive' activists complain about the stultifying and paralyzing influence of their own side's rules vis-a-vis the work they're attempting to accomplish. The opening anecdote comes from an abortion rights organization in the wake of George Floyd's murder:
[The manager] talked about the role systemic racism plays in society and the ways that Guttmacher’s work could counter it. Staff suggestions, though, turned inward, Prism reported, “including loosening deadlines and implementing more proactive and explicit policies for leave without penalty.” Staffers suggested additional racial equity trainings, noting that a previous facilitator had said that the last round had not included sufficient time “to cover everything.” With no Black staff in the D.C. unit, it was suggested that “Guttmacher do something tangible for Black employees in other divisions.” ... In the eyes of group leaders dealing with similar moments, staff were ignoring the mission and focusing only on themselves, using a moment of public awakening to smuggle through standard grievances cloaked in the language of social justice. Often, as was the case at Guttmacher, they played into the very dynamics they were fighting against, directing their complaints at leaders of color. Guttmacher was run at the time, and still is today, by an Afro Latina woman, Dr. Herminia Palacio. “The most zealous ones at my organization when it comes to race are white,” said one Black executive director at a different organization, asking for anonymity so as not to provoke a response from that staff.
It goes on to describe how this pro-abortion group has been 'ripped apart' (interesting phrasing, given the 'care' they exist to support and defend) by internal grievances and divisions, often centered on identity and race. "The six months since then have only seen a ratcheting up of the tension, with more internal disputes spilling into public and amplified by a well-funded, anonymous operation called ReproJobs, whose Twitter and Instagram feeds have pounded away at the organization’s management," the story explains. "'If your reproductive justice organization isn’t Black and brown it’s white supremacy in heels co-opting a WOC movement,' blared a typical missive from one of its Instagram stories. The news, in May 2022, that Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be overturned did nothing to temper the raging battle." Amazing. They've been consumed by the poison of wokeness, to the point that it's detracting from their actual mission, arguably at the most significant moment the abortion movement has faced in decades. And it's not just organizations in this one area, either; it's a contagion spreading across the professional Left writ large:
That the institute has spent the course of the Biden administration paralyzed makes it typical of not just the abortion rights community — Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and other reproductive health organizations had similarly been locked in knock-down, drag-out fights between competing factions of their organizations, most often breaking down along staff-versus-management lines. It’s also true of the progressive advocacy space across the board, which has, more or less, effectively ceased to function. The Sierra Club, Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, the Movement for Black Lives, Human Rights Campaign, Time’s Up, the Sunrise Movement, and many other organizations have seen wrenching and debilitating turmoil in the past couple years. In fact, it’s hard to find a Washington-based progressive organization that hasn’t been in tumult, or isn’t currently in tumult...Twitter, as the saying goes, may not be real life, but in a world of remote work, Slack very much is. And Twitter, Slack, Zoom, and the office space, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former executive directors of advocacy organizations, are now mixing in a way that is no longer able to be ignored by a progressive movement that wants organizations to be able to function. The executive directors largely spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear of angering staff or donors.
Lots of anonymity granted to sources who fear incurring further wrath. Backlash around every corner. Very healthy, positive stuff. For folks who want to ban guns, they're awfully adept at circular firing squads. One leader compared the environment to familial abuse. The author of the story writes that Official Leftism fritters away its time and energy "locked in virtual retreats, Slack wars, and healing sessions, grappling with tensions over hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender, and power," acknowledging that this reads like a cartoon version of left-wingers who "spend more time in meetings and fighting with each other than changing the world." Some of these quotes are remarkable. Simultaneously damning and sheepishly apologetic. These people and their institutions seem broken:
“Most people thought that their worst critics were their competitors, and they’re finding out that their worst critics are on their own payroll,” said Loretta Ross, an author and activist who has been prominent in the movement for decades, having founded the reproductive justice collective SisterSong. “We’re dealing with a workforce that’s becoming younger, more female, more people of color, more politically woke — I hate to use that term in a way it shouldn’t be used — and less loyal in the traditional way to a job, because the whole economic rationale for keeping a job or having a job has changed.” That lack of loyalty is not the fault of employees, Ross said.
This certainly is not their fault, said this person -- who allowed herself to be quoted by name -- discussing her young wokes. Please don't come for me next. These leftists are deathly afraid of each other, but also afraid of even talking about the problem, lest they adopt 'right-wing' framing. This pervasive bitterness and fear is preventing them from solving or even discussing the issues tearing the progressive movement asunder. And they've made this dysfunctional bed, with their own neuroses and ridiculous rules:
The silence stems partly, one senior leader in an organization said, from a fear of feeding right-wing trolls who are working to undermine the left. Adopting their language and framing feels like surrendering to malign forces, but ignoring it has only allowed the issues to fester. “The right has labeled it ‘cancel culture’ or ‘callout culture,’” he said, “so when we talk about our own movement, it’s hard because we’re using the frame of the right. It’s very hard because there’s all these associations and analysis that we disagree with, when we’re using their frame. So it’s like, ‘How do we talk about it?’” For years, recruiting young people into the movement felt like a win-win, he said: new energy for the movement and the chance to give a person a lease on a newly liberated life, dedicated to the pursuit of justice. But that’s no longer the case. “I got to a point like three years ago where I had a crisis of faith, like, I don’t even know, most of these spaces on the left are just not — they’re not healthy. Like all these people are just not — they’re not doing well,” he said.
“The dynamic, the toxic dynamic of whatever you want to call it — callout culture, cancel culture, whatever — is creating this really intense thing, and no one is able to acknowledge it, no one’s able to talk about it, no one’s able to say how bad it is.” The environment has pushed expectations far beyond what workplaces previously offered to employees. “A lot of staff that work for me, they expect the organization to be all the things: a movement, OK, get out the vote, OK, healing, OK, take care of you when you’re sick, OK. It’s all the things,” said one executive director. “Can you get your love and healing at home, please? But I can’t say that, they would crucify me.”...Executive directors across the space said they too have tried to organize their hiring process to filter out the most disruptive potential staff. “I’m now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, ‘How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?’” said one, echoing a refrain heard repeatedly during interviews for this story.
It sounds like the bosses at the Washington Post and New York Times might want to adopt a similar approach, given the real-time hostile takeover of their newsrooms by left-wing activists masquerading as journalists. The schadenfreude-inducing deliciousness goes on and on, spanning tens of thousands of words. I can't possibly excerpt all of the relevant or entertaining bits, but I'll close with a few last examples. First, a common theme is that what broke these people was the election of Donald Trump:
Sooner or later, each interview for this story landed on the election of Trump in 2016 as a catalyst. Whatever internal tension had been pulling at the seams of organizations in the years prior, Trump’s shock victory sharpened the focus of activists and regular people alike...Things get very ugly, she noted, and the overlapping crises of Trump, Covid, and looming climate collapse have produced extreme anxiety. Under siege, many leaders cling more tightly to their hold on power, she said, “taking shelter in professional nonprofit spaces because they think clinging to a sinking ship and hanging on as long and strongly as possible is the best bet they can make for their own personal survival.” ... Progressive organizations convened meetings to work through their response, and, like at Guttmacher, many of them left staff extremely unsatisfied. A looming sense of powerlessness on the left nudged the focus away from structural or wide-reaching change, which felt out of reach, and replaced it with an internal target that was more achievable. “Maybe I can’t end racism by myself, but I can get my manager fired, or I can get so and so removed, or I can hold somebody accountable,” one former executive director said. “People found power where they could, and often that’s where you work, sometimes where you live, or where you study, but someplace close to home.”
And finally, resentment and conspiratorial thinking:
Another leader said the strife has become so destructive that it feels like an op. “I’m not saying it’s a right-wing plot, because we are incredibly good at doing ourselves in, but — if you tried — you couldn’t conceive of a better right-wing plot to paralyze progressive leaders by catalyzing the existing culture where internal turmoil and micro-campaigns are mistaken for strategic advancement of social impact for the millions of people depending on these organizations to stave off the crushing injustices coming our way,” said another longtime organization head. “Progressive leaders cannot do anything but fight inside the orgs, thereby rendering the orgs completely toothless for the external battles in play. … Everyone is scared, and fear creates the inaction that the right wing needs to succeed in cementing a deeply unpopular agenda.”
These people are deathly frightened of each other, and the Democratic Party is frightened of them. Hence the Biden's administration's endless pandering to the Hyper-Online Left, at the expense of the mandate Biden himself articulated in his November 2020 victory speech. Healing, cooperation, and moderation were shelved, in favor of 'progressive' posturing. The results have been disastrous for both the country and the ruling party. But it does not appear as though a course correction is in the offing. Voters will have to impose one upon Democrats in November, and perhaps beyond. I'll leave you with an angry Biden, rumors swirling about deposing him ahead of 2024, shouting about how he doesn't want to hear any of us ingrates talking about how his failed, inflationary policies are failing and fueling record inflation:
Biden, visibly angry: "I don't want to hear anymore of these lies about reckless spending. We're changing people's lives!" pic.twitter.com/0I3OgmIJGD— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) June 14, 2022
Oh, they're changing people's lives, alright.