Pull yourselves back from the brink
Groupthink can be a drug and as bad a habit to kick as heroin. It certainly has led to its fair share of bad outcomes. Groupthink tends to center itself around ideals, not ideas. Many corporations and other large institutions have learned that groupthink is often a core reason why massively expensive projects fail. It develops when no one is around to question a belief or an ideal, or participants are afraid to. The subtraction of critical thought–the absence of will to test ideas and instead litmus test beliefs can become toxic.
And so it goes with several of the headline grabbing movements of today. The one I’ll focus on is the Women’s March, led by Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour.
Before I begin: because I am man… just me talking about this movement brands me as a misogynist. Because I am white that then makes me a racist. Because I am gay that makes me a ‘self-loathing homophobe’, and whatever other labels detractors want to apply to me to attack the writer based on my identity alone. Those people with their Dyno™ labeling machine–go eat a bag of dicks. Now, let’s continue.
What the Women’s March Is Not
Women’s March has a catchy, clever name. It feels inclusive. It has its own branding. Its use of Drone Ranger echos to the past; of lunch counter sit-ins and the ERA movement. To the neophyte it feels like a post 2nd-wave feminist movement: broad-based and making arguments for general women’s issues. Any random woman anywhere who inspects the Women’s March beyond the brand Sarsour created and the blinkered messaging discovers a jumble of far-left causes, some of them quite divisive. And no, I’m not talking about abortion.
Linda Sarsour is the figurehead and the vocal direction of Women’s March. She has called for jihad on President Trump which then sent a stampede of milquetoast liberal supporters down a rathole trying to select which meaning from the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the religious term she was referring to, this on the heels of the Trump bloodhead affair. In terms of cultivating progressive supporters and signaling to them, she’s a pro.
However her own intersectionality is deeply flawed on two points. When Sarsour is quizzed about her own views on LGBT people and whether they should have basic human rights like the right to marry one’s partner, she demurs. When she’s cornered on the issue she either genuflects to Christianity’s historical treatment of homosexuals, as if that excuses present day religious bigotry of LGBT people within Islamic faith, or any faith. But she is smart enough to know that she cannot win a larger progressive audience if she speaks scripture’s providence for gays and lesbians; so she mostly stayed silently supportive in 2015 when the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell opened the door to marriage equality in America.
Sarsour’s other main weakness is her undying passion for the BDS Movement. BDS is the boycott, divestiture and sanctions movement which seeks to eliminate Israel off the face of the Earth. Of course it’s no surprise she supports it given her Palestinian descent; but she lets it bleed over into her own activism and messaging. Sarsour feels free to jumble all of her other political views directly into her activism, often carrying some supremely divisive positions and by extension allows that to fall back on to Women’s March.
I’m a Victim. Of Everything.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) July 16, 2017
The weirdest thing to me right now is this celebratory post from Women’s March of Assata Skakur, a/k/a Joanna Chesimard. She’s a former paramilitary in the Black Liberation Army, a crime organization that existed in the 1970s and early 1980s that was infamous from Philly to NYC for its propensity to hold bank robberies and take pot shots at police officers on duty. Unlike the Black Panthers which was centered around vocal activism and provocative protesting, the BLA openly believed that violent responses ala the Irish Republican Army was the path to create change. That belief manifested in a rash of crazy crime sprees and Shakur was part of it.
Regardless of whatever you might think of Shakur’s paramilitary involvement in the BLA and what her criminal status was through her series of trials while she was involved in BLA, at the end of the day Shakur participated with several BLA members to free herself from a prison in New Jersey. It involved prison guards being held at gunpoint–itself a load of many different felonies. That is on top of being convicted in a jury trial for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper which landed her in prison to begin with.
Shakur currently lives in Cuba–not so much as an exile but as a fugitive on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Cuba granted her asylum there and she lives openly.
This is what Women’s March holds up as a scion of its virtues? Is that the kind of resistance Sarsour is fighting for? An armed jihad?
Thou Shalt Not Question Me
Beyond this, CNN’s Jake Tapper, one of the few centrists the network still has… finally decided to ask Sarsour about the Women’s March virtues.
This is the ugly sentiment Jake Tapper was referencing:
And because Jake Tapper has 1.2 million Twitter followers and is on TV constantly, this put Sarsour into immediate panic mode, as normally she will not respond to criticism unless it comes from celebrities or name-brand media outlets:
The Failures of Late 1970s Activism Being Repeated All Over Again
This, my progressive friends, is but a vignette of what hamstrings your own activism. Late 20th century activist movements, the base with which we compare all activism today had two distinct periods. There’s the much-historified 1960s and early 1970s anti-war and civil rights protests–the broad-based/class conquering variety, and then there’s the militancy of the mid to late 1970s as the Vietnam War ended abruptly and gave space for other causes to fill the void such as ERA, the sexual revolution, Black Panthers, GreenPeace, and nuclear freeze. Most social activism today follows the late 1970s pattern.
So many causes that bootstrapped quickly in the late 1970s were mostly dead by the early 1980s. Their demise had little to do with the Reagan presidency or the Moral Majority. Some of these movements, like the Panthers and BLA died of boredom. Specifically, they perished from their own self-reinforcing and diminutive groupthink without realizing that their own groupthink was killing their longevity and costing it resources. Internally at organization meetings the focus shifted concentration on each member’s genuineness and less on the goals the organization was trying to obtain.
Much of the intrigue around militancy began in the early 1970s with the hugely-publicized case of Patty Hearst, heiress to a major newspaper magnate and the ultra-left Symbionese Liberation Army that abducted her.
As there was no Internet or cell phones, broad-based activism was much harder to accomplish and involved a lot of writing to far flung chapters within each activist group. The expense of maintaining this over the cheap thrill of headline-grabbing militancy was difficult to resist, and the major international intrigue surrounding the Hearst case led other activists by example. Getting your group and some of its positions known was far easier with militancy than it was trying to put together a large number of marches over long periods of time. In the 1970s even into the 1980s there were “eco-terrorists”, and there was a “People’s Liberation” front for just about everything you can think of with no shortage of AK-47 rifles and raised fists being drawn into logo forms.
At the time, the proliferation of liberation army militancy was welcomed as a disruptive mass; a growing disquiet that would surely break an oppressive establishment. In the end, the militancy itself became fodder for newspaper publishers as a cheap form of entertainment, a sort of “what will those crazy kids do next?” appeal. For each new militant group there was a high profile crime and a profile dossier printed in the press. To get more press, commit more high profile crimes.
By 1983 the “Social activist or crime syndicate?” articles had run their course and the public became bored. Militant activists of the 1970s misconstrued public intrigue with public interest. Many of the movements of that era that zeroed in on building coalitions of broad-based support survived; some even achieved all their goals they sought. Those that spent most of their time playing pretend-soldier, wasting their precious time on paramilitarization fantasies and testing the loyalties of their supporters, died.
The Women’s March embracing a troubled paramilitary figure of yore from a bygone era of activism that failed is quite telling about where the Women’s March is headed, if it has any future left.