Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Pop Will Eat Itself

A couple years of doing business via Slack chats and Zoom meetings has apparently accelerated an already-existing culture of purity spiraling and infighting at progressive lobbying orgs. 

This article at The Intercept is a worthwhile...and slightly
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 microcampaigns 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.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, as entry-level staffers for Sanders repeatedly agitated over internal dynamics, despite having already formed a staff union, the senator issued a directive to his campaign leadership: “Stop hiring activists.” Instead, Sanders implored, according to multiple campaign sources, the campaign should focus on bringing on people interested first and foremost in doing the job they’re hired to do.

There are obvious difficulties for the leadership of progressive organizations when it comes to pushing back against staff insurrections. The insurrections are done in the name of justice, and there are very real injustices at these organizations that need to be grappled with. Failing to give voice to that reality can leave the impression that group leaders are only interested in papering over internal problems and trying to hide their own failings behind the mission of the organization. And in an atmosphere of distrust, the worst intentions are assumed. Critics of this article will claim that its intention is to tell workers to sit down and shut up and suck up whatever indignities are doled out in the name of progress.

The reckoning has coincided with an awakened and belated appreciation for diversity in the upper ranks of progressive organizations. The mid-2010s saw an influx of women into top roles for the first time, many of them white, followed more recently by a slew of Black and brown leaders at most major organizations. One compared the collision of the belated respect for Black leaders and the upswell of turmoil inside institutions with the “hollow prize” thesis. The most common example of the hollow prize is the victory in the 1970s and ’80s of Black mayors across the country, just as cities were being hollowed out and disempowered. Or, for instance, salaries in the medical field collapsed just as women began graduating into the field.

“I just got the keys and y’all are gonna come after me on this shit?” one executive director who said he felt like a version of those ’70s-era mayors told The Intercept. “‘It’s white supremacy culture! It’s urgent!’ No motherfucker, it’s Election Day. We can’t move that day. Just do your job or go somewhere else.”