Leah McSweeney and Jacob Siegel have a splendid investigative report at Tablet magazine - “Is the Women’s March Melting Down?” - on the capture of the “Women’s March” by a band of racial go-getters, and the movement’s subsequent and ongoing crackup. Here is an abundance of insights into the pitiless struggle for predominance, celebrity, influence and wealth at the glamorous high end of the American progressive activism industry.
Foxes and Lambs
The Women’s March got its start with an assemblage of mostly upper- and middle-class white female Hilary Clinton supporters - lawyers, corporate executives, business owners, fashion designers, online media operators and such – outraged by the election of Donald Trump and organized around the ‘Pantsuit Nation’ Facebook group.
These well-heeled white liberals made a mistake that was perhaps inevitable but, in the event, also lethal. Slaves to identity politics and the need to tick intersectional checklists, they felt “their nascent women’s movement had to substantively include women of color.” The operative word is “substantively.” It was not enough that millions of women of all skin colors might march against Trump for political reasons. A few of those brown and black faces were also indispensable to help front the operation.
Here the ladies ran into a problem that may be common in this social class: they did not know any suitably eminent females of color.
They “reached out” for help to, well, a white man, one Michael Skolnik.
“The subject of a New York Timesprofile… as an “influencer” at the nexus of social activism and celebrity, Skolnik held a powerful though not easily defined role in the world of high-profile activist politics. “It’s very rare to have one person who everyone respects in entertainment, or in politics, or among the grass roots,” said Van Jones, in a 2015 New York Times piece. “But to have one person who’s respected by all three? There isn’t anyone but Michael Skolnik.””
Here I can’t help recall the scene from Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman tells of her part in a TV pilot called “Fox Force Five,” about a team of deadly female ninjas, each with a special skill:
“There was the blonde one, Somerset O’Neill; she was the leader. The Japanese fox was a Kung Fu master. The black girl was a demolition expert. The French fox’s specialty was sex.”
“What was your specialty?”
“Knives. The character I played, Raven McCoy, her background was she grew up raised by circus performers. According to the show, she was the deadliest woman in the world with a knife.”
And so with the Fox Force from The Gathering for Justice, each adapted perfectly to the mission at hand.
Here was Tamika Mallory – black woman! – Board member at The Gathering for Justice, and previously the youngest ever executive director at that old race hustler Al Sharpton’s “National Action Network.” Here was Carmen Perez – Latinx! – Executive Director of The Gathering, formerly of Barrios Unidos and “something of a Renaissance woman in modern-day activism.” Here was Linda Sarsour – hijab-clad Muslim woman of Palestinian origin! – Arab-American, Islamic, and Black Lives Matter activist.
Let’s review the social forces gathered onstage at this point. Over here are a group of highly educated and accomplished white and Jewish females, successful in business, the professions, and the arts, but mere amateurs politically. Call them the Lambs. And over here are the Foxes, of the desired racial derivation certainly, but with few academic or career accomplishments other than lives spent clambering up the ladder in American race grievance politics: political pros in short.
The Lambs looked on the Foxes and cried “Sisters!” The Foxes looked on the Lambs, and they felt hungry.
The Foxes attack: ‘your people hold all the wealth.’
“It was there—in the first hours of the first meeting for what would become the Women’s March—that something happened that was so shameful to many of those who witnessed it, they chose to bury it like a family secret. Almost two years would pass before anyone present would speak about it.
It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade. These are canards popularized by The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—“the bible of the new anti-Semitism,” according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., who noted in 1992: ‘Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.’ ”
Without going down this diversionary historical rabbit hole with the loathsome Farrakhan, one notes that the African slave trade was a global partnership between the African elites who for centuries hunted, captured and exported tens of millions of their own countrymen, and the Middle Eastern, European and North and South American elites who bought them. The Islamic slave trade accounted for almost half the slaves exported out of Africa between 800 and 1900 CE. It would hardly be a surprise if some Jewish elites profited from the slave trade, alongside so many others. But to accuse Jews of some special historical guilt that was not shared by African kings and warlords, Arab sheikhs and white plantation owners is the very definition of antisemitism. (I review the history of African slavery in my post: “My folks sell me and yo folks buy me: Kanye West, ‘Barracoon’ and some history of African slavery.”)
The ‘black antisemitism’ with which the Foxes went after the Lambs is, seen in context, a weapon, a power move in the factional struggle for predominance and resources within the American progressive movement, to settle who owes what to whom. It was a bludgeon to psychologically and ideologically stupefy, intimidate, disarm and overwhelm the naïve white liberals of the Women’s March. Message: it is past time for Jews to join whites in American progressivism’s big tent of collective racial guilt and shame. You owe us too!
While the Foxes deny they made specifically antisemitic statements at this first meeting, they happily admit to general anti-white prejudice:
“There was a particular conversation around how white women had centered themselves—and also around the dynamics of racial justice and why it was essential that racial justice be a part of the women’s rights conversation.”
Translated: back off white and Jewish ladies! More for Carmen, Tamika and Linda Sarsour!
“‘Carmen and I were very clear at that [first] meeting that we would not take on roles as workers or staff, but that we had to be in a leadership position in order for us to engage in the march,’ Mallory told Tablet, in an interview last week, adding that they had been particularly sensitive to the fact that they had been invited to the meeting by white women, and wanted to be sure they weren’t about to enter into an unfair arrangement.”
That the turnout for the Women’s Marches on January 21-22, 2017 was unexpectedly large – you remember the sea of pink “pussy hats” – was all the more reason for the Foxes to turn up the racialist, antisemitic rhetoric against their competitors:
“They should have been basking in the afterglow of their massive success, but—according to Harmon—the air was thick with conflict...‘Tamika told us that the problem was that there were five white women in the room and only three women of color, and that she didn’t trust white women. Especially white women from the South. At that point, I kind of tuned out because I was so used to hearing this type of talk from Tamika. But then I noticed the energy in the room changed. I suddenly realized that Tamika and Carmen were facing Vanessa [Wruble], who was sitting on a couch, and berating her—but it wasn’t about her being white. It was about her being Jewish. ‘Your people this, your people that.’ I was raised in the South and the language that was used is language that I’m very used to hearing in rural South Carolina. Just instead of against black people, against Jewish people. They even said to her ‘your people hold all the wealth.’ You could hear a pin drop. It was awful.’“
Vanessa Wruble had been the movement’s most important operational leader from the start, and the one who had reached out for help finding the Foxes. But by the end of January 2017 she was out.
Money and Fame: Fox Force Five become The World’s Greatest Leaders
Securing the top jobs, the Foxes moved to secure the finances of the Women’s March. Already at the group’s first meeting,
“Perez suggested that the Justice League’s parent entity, The Gathering for Justice—where she, Mallory, and Skolnik all had roles—set up a “fiscal sponsorship” over the Women’s March to handle its finances. A fiscal sponsorship is a common arrangement in the nonprofit sector that allows more established organizations to finance newer ventures as they get off the ground and find their own funding. In this case, though, the standard logic didn’t apply since the Women’s March would, from its inception, raise vastly more money than its sponsor ever had”
"[By early 2017] The Women’s March was obviously on its way to becoming a valuable brand, receiving millions of dollars in donations and raking in millions more worth of merchandise: T-shirts, pins, bags, mugs, and more. It began coordinating with a merchandising partner, The Outrage, which describes itself as a “female-founded activist apparel company.”… And in March of 2017, Women’s March Inc. filed a federal trademark registration for the Women’s March with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.”
The Foxes brought in the top corporate law firm of Skadden Arps to further nail down control, setting up a new and opaque tax-sheltered non-profit structure. McSweeney and Siegel use much of their article to puzzle over these “complicated financial arrangements, confusing even to experts,” but in the end remain uncertain about how much money flowed into the Women’s March and where it went.
A couple of points stick up out of the fog though. On the one hand, at The Gathering for Justice, the Foxes’ home base, revenues “increased by more than six times between 2016 and 2017, from $167,021 to more than $1.8 million.” On the other, the hundreds of grassroots chapters of the Women’s March around the country appear to have received not one dime from the central organization.
“Mercy Morganfield, a longtime activist and daughter of blues legend Muddy Waters, has been one of the leading voices in calling for accountability from the co-chairs…’They get millions of dollars, and who does all the work? The states,’ said Morganfield, in an interview. ‘D.C. was their biggest chapter. We never received one dollar from them,’ she told Tablet. “They promised us money. Never gave us a red cent. I’ve asked to see their financials at least 15 times. They won’t even answer emails.’”
Well, the Foxes wouldn’t have had the time to answer emails, would they? They were too busy harvesting the other sweet fruit of their activism – celebrity.
“..within no time, the [Women’s] March leaders would be named 2017 Women of the Year by Glamour magazine. There was a glossy book published with Condé Nast, a lucrative merchandise business selling branded Women’s March gear…Fortune magazine named Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Perez, and Bland to its list of the World’s Greatest Leaders…”
"...the ribald combats of demagogues, the exquisitely ingenious operations of master rogues..."
It’s when I read tales like this, of how Fox Force Five became the World’s Greatest Leaders, that I fall to my knees and thank God for these our blessed United States.
I rejoice with H.L. Mencken that
“there is no country on the face of the earth wherein a man roughly constituted as I am—a man of my general weaknesses, vanities, appetites, prejudices, and aversions—can be so happy, or even one-half so happy, as he can be in these free and independent states.”
“[For] here, more than anywhere else that I know of or have heard of, the daily panorama of human existence, of private and communal folly—the unending procession of governmental extortions and chicaneries, of commercial brigandages and throat-slittings, of theological buffooneries, of aesthetic ribaldries, of legal swindles and harlotries, of miscellaneous rogueries, villainies, imbecilities, grotesqueries, and extravagances—is so inordinately gross and preposterous, so perfectly brought up to the highest conceivable amperage, so steadily enriched with an almost fabulous daring and originality, that only the man who was born with a petrified diaphragm can fail to laugh himself to sleep every night, and to awake every morning with all the eager, unflagging expectation of a Sunday-school superintendent touring the Paris peep-shows.”
"[Here] to my eye, is incomparably the greatest show on earth. It is a show which avoids diligently all the kinds of clowning which tire me most quickly—for example, royal ceremonials, the tedious hocus-pocus of haut politique, the taking of politics seriously—and lays chief stress upon the kinds which delight me unceasingly—for example, the ribald combats of demagogues, the exquisitely ingenious operations of master rogues, the pursuit of witches and heretics, the desperate struggles of inferior men to claw their way into Heaven…here is the land of mirth, as Germany is the land of metaphysics and France is the land of fornication. Here the buffoonery never stops.”