Phony Activistism

Recently I was a social gathering of trendy young people. A disagreement over a particular issue came up. It was about a proposed private restaurant in Union Square Park in Manhattan.

It seems that a private “donor” has “donated” seven million dollars to the Park’s restoration fund on the condition that the private restaurant be included in the project.

I suggested to some of these activists that it would be a good idea to focus on the name of the public official who accepted this “donation” on behalf of the park’s restoration fund.

I suggested that it was probably illegal for this public official to put their name on the transaction in acceptance of the funds on behalf of the public. The reason is that this is not a donation at all, but an investment. The seven million dollars has strings attached which stipulate that there must be a private restaurant developed in Union Square Park.

That’s when the disagreements began…  

One guy started to argue that focusing on individuals who are responsible for one problem or another is pointless because the problem is systemic. He said if you take down one corrupt official, another one will take their place.

So I asked him, what do you suggest we do about this “systemic” problem? How could he offer a solution to such a nebulous problem? He didn’t have an answer, of course. I also noticed that his style of argument was meant to wear me down with distraction and attrition.

I would characterize this fellow as a phony activist. He’s really not trying to stop the private restaurant development in Union Square Park, but he wanted me to believe that he was trying to stop it.

I see this kind of fraudulent political activists all around. Those of you who are sincere and honest about your activist agenda – Look around you for the phonies and frauds. They walk among us and they are here to subvert our efforts.

You will know them by their ineffective ideas which they will attempt to draw attention to at the expense of more direct and confrontational strategies. You will know them by the way they always argue as the devil’s advocate on behalf of your opposition to wear down your energy. Also, you will know them by their pretentious styles and vocabularies.

To those of you who participating in activist circles with secret motives to subvert our goals and negate our efforts – you know who you are and you know what you’re doing. Too bad so many of the sincere but mushy-headed, aspiring activists are so sentimental about you, and so naive that they can’t comprehend people so insincere as yourselves.

Just for the record, I’m directing this at activists in general, both off line and online, here, there and in every online activist community.

They walk among us so please don’t be so sentimental, undiscriminating, and naive about your online friends and activist friends. You’re probably better off making friends off-line and outside of activist circles anyway.


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    • kj on May 25, 2008 at 16:42

    and a hearty thanks for these words.

    • kj on May 25, 2008 at 16:57

    the emotion i muster for these faux sentimental, fraudulent, mushy-headed, naive, pretentiously self-styled “activists” fluctuates between irritated and benign disgust. also, on a purely personal note, i would add those so-called “activists” who look to make serious coin on their efforts to educate and/or enlighten the great unwashed masses.

    show me your scar, i’ll show you mine, let’s have a drink (water, wine, absinthe, tea- your choice), then let’s get on with it, eh, comprades?  

    this is a god-damn democracy.  be the change you want to see, whatever it is.

  1. Activist groups tend to attract cult-of-personality characters who are adept at manipulating people.  That’s what your little friend sounds like.  A big talker.

    I’m not sure if these fake activists are actually looking to subvert directly or if they’re just lazy and want to say the right things for the attention.   But yeah, people like that are tiresome.  Can’t swing a cat by the tail in Manhattan without hitting some big-talking fake liberal wanker dead in the face.

    So did you find out who the public official is or who the investor is?  I’m not surprised about the continuing privatization of public space in Manhattan.  They’re turning it into a big gated community.  I’ve lived in Brooklyn for years now, and any spark of creative life left in these five boroughs is only happening in four.  There’s more creativity on Staten Island than there is in Manhattan.

    • Alma on May 25, 2008 at 19:26

    There was fellow here that wanted to stop a dump from being put in and then later, expanded.  He ran for city council, and I felt so good that I had someone I was sure of to vote for.

    This is a big boating community, but most of the residents aren’t well off.  Well this guy is a boater, and the Dem that got voted in as Mayor is a boater too (The one for Mayor didn’t fool me).  We lost a good chief of police because he refused to not ticket the boaters (read Mayors friends) for violations like parking their boats on trailers by the street where it blocks peoples views for turning.

    The fellow I had been impressed with came up with an idea, with the Mayors support, where he wanted to expand a canal through one of our streets, tear down the apartment housing where a bunch of our less fortunate live and put in snazzy restaurants and stuff.

    No care for the people in the apartments at all.  Luckily it wasn’t feasible, but boy did they spend a bunch of money to find that out.

  2. for the macroscale of this concept read Superclass by David Rothkopf.  Global elite and government merge and are in fact one and the same entity.

  3. is that we should never suspend our critical thinking, no matter whether we are talking to friend or foe. And I think that is an important lesson to learn. Being on the same side doesn’t always mean agreeing.

  4. not phony, they really do see the world differently. A lot of my friends who think they are liberal or activists have a limited view. They say things to me like your naive, this is the way of the world always has been. I think this very difference is what is going on within the Democratic party. As long as I have been at dkos there has been this rift, The activists who do not believe that things can be better and that it’s better to go along and call this pragmatic. The other side is seen as idealists, who have no concept of the real. Politics to them is greasing the wheels already in place, getting what you can by playing the game at hand.

    I do think it’s a good idea to have ties to an activist community thats not online. I have lately partly through working for the Obama campaign discovered that even locally there is a large difference between activists. If you get involved in your community it’s easier to spot and eliminate the frauds, who pose as progressives. This election cycle I really investigated those running from city council to primary candidates for the US senate. Our new major is a real weasel who as our city counsel  member tried to impose his brand of progress on our neighborhood. By his brand I mean big box stores parking garages and shady ‘development’.Yet he was supported by most ‘activists’ I know.      

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