The Implosion of Progressive Organizing

At a crucial moment for policymaking, left-wing lobbying groups find themselves looking inward.

Activists participate in a rally to mark Earth Day in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2022.
Activists participate in a rally to mark Earth Day in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2022. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

In the Biden era, progressive groups in Washington have increasingly found themselves paralyzed by internal tumult at the very moment when their efforts are needed to push the more ambitious elements of the president’s agenda through Congress. Behind the scenes, the leaders of these groups express frustration with the organizational culture wrought by their younger employees and fear of becoming embroiled in a “callout” scandal. Ryan Grim talks with The Intercept’s Nausicaa Renner about his new story on the subject.

[Phone rings.]

Loretta J. Ross: Hello?

Ryan Grim: Hey, Professor Ross. This is Ryan Grim calling. How you doing?

LJR: Hi, how you doing? Please call me Loretta.

[Deconstructed theme sting.]

RG: That’s Loretta Ross speaking. She’s an iconic and iconoclastic movement leader for decades; the kind of co-creator of the term reproductive justice and one of the leading activists in the field. I spoke to her for an article that is now out at The Intercept, that she described like this:

LJR: So, I hear you’re writing about the callout culture, and got a lot of people in the nonprofit industrial complex who are being destabilized because of it, but they don’t want to speak on the record.

RG: And I’m gonna be joined today to talk about it by my editor, Nausicaa Renner, who I’m going to mostly turn the microphone over to.

So Nausicaa, welcome to Deconstructed.

Nausicaa Renner: Thank you for having me. And thank you for being here.

RG: [Laughs.] Yes. It’s my pleasure!

NR: So I’m really excited to talk to you about this today. It’s one of those pieces that you work on. And you’re like: This is a theory of everything. This explains what’s happening in the progressive nonprofit world to a tee, but it’s also a story that really hasn’t been told by anyone, I think, because a lot of people don’t want to talk on the record about it. They don’t want to speak out publicly. It’s kind of a taboo subject.

So I wanted to start out by asking you: Do you agree with that assessment? And how did you start to kind of see the pattern and piece this together?

RG: So — yes and no. A lot of people have talked about this kind of general theme. And if you narrow the theme down to say, callout culture or cancel culture, it’s basically been fodder for endless internet debates, disputes, fights, what have you; more serious attempts at probing what’s going on had been done by Loretta Ross herself, in a widely read New York Times article back in 2019, where she said: I’m a Black feminist. And I think we need to call people in rather than call people out.

Adrienne Maree Brown, who is an abolitionist, a former executive director of the radical Ruckus Society, wrote a piece in July 2020. The title was: “unthinkable thoughts: call out culture in the age of covid-19.” It was widely read kind of in the abolition, police abolition, prison abolition spaces, and on the left. So it’s not at all like people haven’t probed this topic. But I think what we’re bringing to the fore for the first time, is the effect that it’s having on progressive institutions in Washington.

And so I think, for so long, this has been an abstract conversation. Like: Is cancel culture a real thing? Is cancel culture not a real thing? If it is a real thing, is it just an excuse for people who want to be racist, and transphobic, and misogynistic, and not be criticized and not be held accountable for it? And you go round and round with these debates. But what this brings out is that while all of that has been going on, organizations have been just utterly and completely imploding. And this may be a good thing; it may be a bad thing. It’s not a value judgment to say that they are collapsing as a result of this cultural conflict that’s going on inside these organizations.

And so we spoke to — or I spoke to — more than a dozen current and former heads of major nonprofit advocacy organizations to get their take on what has been going on over the last couple of years. And many of these people have been leaders in this field for decades, and have been supporters of the kinds of movements that have transformed into the pushes against them, like many of them have fallen victim to the forces that they helped unleash.

NR: We should say that, although I would think that you and I are neutral about it, a lot of the people that you spoke to are very upset.

RG: And I’m not so sure how neutral I am, either. I have to acknowledge my place in this universe. And one reason that I could write this story, in fact, is the fact that I’m now 44 years old, so there’s a generational component to it. I’ve been in Washington for a long time now, which makes you very likely to be white, because the diversifying of the progressive space only really began in earnest, say 10 years ago. Pre-2011, pre-2012 a lot of these institutions and a lot of the media [was] just completely white dominated — to a degree that is striking, if you go back and look at the staff photos or anything like that, and so there has been genuine progress made on that front.

But because I’ve been doing this for so long, I know these people. I know the people who have risen up through the ranks of these organizations. I’ve known them, many of them, since they were in their 20s or so. And so because this is such a forbidden topic, the fact that I have known them for so long, I think enabled them to kind of speak openly and trust that the fact that they spoke openly would not become public, it would not be used against them, either in their current jobs, which are outside of what they used to do, or, in many cases, they’re still running these organizations. And so they just certainly are not just going to talk openly, because it would just invite more turmoil.

NR: I think we should give people a more detailed sense of what we’re talking about. Do you want to describe what happened at the Guttmacher Institute?

RG: Yeah, this is a good case study. And there are a couple of different things that happened at Guttmacher. But we begin the story with a Zoom meeting that was hosted in, what, the first week of June 2020.

NR: June 2020. So two months, three months after lockdown started.

RG: Right. And so this was all reported in an outlet that I actually hadn’t heard of before, which is called Prism, which is focused — it seems like exclusively — on covering social justice organizations or social justice activism. And the story was written based on a ton of sources, from inside Guttmacher, staff inside Schumacher, who shared this with Prism. And essentially what happened across institutions — whether you’re talking about nonprofits or for-profits or educational institutions, you name it — June 2020, was a time of serious reckoning with white supremacy. Nobody who lived through that time period is going to forget that. There were huge and positive developments that emerged from that reckoning.

It began, for many organizations on Zoom, because this was still at the height of the lockdown. And so the D.C. office of Guttmacher huddles together in a Zoom; a woman named Heather Boonstra, who was the vice president of something or other, who was basically lobbying that type of thing for Guttmacher — which is an abortion rights kind of research and advocacy organization, but with a real emphasis on research — she hosts this meeting and she says: I want to ask everybody how they’re “finding equilibrium.” Like, how are people feeling?

And the staff starts very quickly talking about — which is all non-Black, as the article makes clear — internal workplace issues. They say that we ought to be loosening deadlines for workers at Guttmacher; we ought to be giving workers time off with pay without cause — people who need as much time off as they need should be able to take it.

And eventually, the article made clear that Boonstra pushes back and says, “Look” — and maybe you have the quote in front of you — but she says something like: I’m here to talk about George Floyd, and all of the African-American men who are being beaten up by society and basically what can Guttmacher do to be a part of this kind of social reckoning that’s going on right now. You guys are all talking about your workplace problems; you’re being self centered.

Like, she hits them pretty hard.

NR: Looking back, just to pause on the timing of it: The beginning of Covid was so incredible, because it simultaneously eliminated all of our freedom, but it also kind of demonstrated that society can really turn on a dime in a way that I don’t think that I was aware of before — like, everything can change in a week. And so there was that.

And then George Floyd came in, and it was sort of like: Yes, this is the moment of change. But because we were all at home, and because we were all so focused on the ways that our individual lives are changing, it’s not the whole story here for sure. But I feel like I see a lot of that.

RG: And you add into that the many weeks of lockdown. And deeper into the lockdown, people became more accustomed to what locking down meant, and people started also then developing rituals and ways to meet outside — people started breaking the lockdown and socializing again — but for a substantial amount of time, through April and May, there were many, many people in the liberal space, in particular (because we should be clear that like within two weeks, in red areas of the country, the lockdown was more or less over) following those lockdowns, as rigorously as people did, created also a lot of pent-up anxiety. Because there is, at the same time, you have — and particularly in New York, people say they’ll never forget the sound of sirens, just constantly taking people to their deaths, morgues running out of space for bodies — and so you have isolation topped with existential anxiety. Nobody knew where this was headed. Like people understood that the fatality was worse for the elderly, which doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, but there are also lots of stories of people in their 30s and 40s getting intubated and dying. And so you couple all that with this absolutely searing video of this monstrosity, this murder of George Floyd, and you have people asking: Well, what can I do? Like, what can I do about this?

NR: And I remember that the George Floyd protests, those were some of the first times that I went out under lockdown. And it was like, it felt very exhilarating, and also scary to be so close to people in front of the White House, like seeing all of this energy kind of bubbling up. It was pretty incredible.

RG: And this is also the moment where the public health officials lost a lot of the more skeptical people around the country, when they started saying that racism — systemic racism — is more harmful to your health than COVID, so therefore, that’s why these rallies are okay. But the anti-lockdown rallies were not OK. Turns out being outdoors was pretty safe.

NR: Yeah — we didn’t know that!

RG: We knew-ish, but didn’t know as much as we know now, but yes.

NR: So just to get back to Guttmacher, how did the staff then react to what Boonstra was saying?

RG: So the staff leveled a number of complaints, saying that this was basically creating a hostile and toxic work environment. And the HR department, with the support of the board, launched an investigation into this. The investigation eventually concluded that Boonstra was not at fault, that the organization was not at fault here. That this was a difference of opinion. We could read — I’ll read their statement.

And they said: “What we have learned is that there is a group of people” and this was a statement to Prism — “with strong opinions about a particular supervisor, the new leadership and a change in strategic priorities.” The new leadership, by the way, was a Black woman, lifelong activist, Dr. Herminia Palacio.

And so they said: “Those staff have a point of view. Complaints were duly investigated, and nothing raised to the level of abuse or discrimination. Rather, what we saw was distrust, disagreement, and discontent with management decisions they simply did not like,” — which is kind of a perfect framing of the management’s view of a lot of these controversies.

And the Prism reporter was able to reach out to Pamela Merritt, who is another Black woman who’s another leading reproductive justice activist who is on the board of Guttmacher. And they note that this interview happened while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is the case that the five Republicans on the Court are eventually going to use to overturn Roe. And she gave an extraordinarily delicate response to them. And I think in the delicacy, you can sense some of the kind of energy and fear that’s behind a lot of this. I’ll read the whole thing. She says:

“I have been in this movement space long enough to respect how people choose to describe their personal experience and validate that experience, even if I don’t necessarily agree that that’s what they experienced.” And then she adds, “It seems like there’s a conflation between not reaching the conclusion that people want and not doing due diligence on the allegations, which simply is not true.”

It’s just a beautifully parsed and respectful way of saying: You did not suffer the things that you’re saying you suffered. You’re saying there wasn’t an investigation. There was an investigation; it just didn’t find what you wanted to find, and so you’re complaining about that.

NR: And I realize that you’re upset.

RG: And I realize that you’re upset, and that’s valid, and that’s legitimate. But I don’t agree that the things that you say happened to you happened to you.

NR: But it didn’t end there, right? Now we’re into: Roe v. Wade is probably about to be overturned, most likely. And what’s happened since then. Has Guttmacher been organizing around it? Where are they now?

RG: Right and to set the context even further back, so in 2017, Guttmacher was getting some staff complaints about its coalition work with the ACLU which was getting its own complaints from staff because of its defense of the Unite the Right rally’s right to have a march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, which led to at least one woman that was killed, a counter-demonstrator was killed. And they were also objecting to Guttemacher’s association with say Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, which they saw as emblematic of kind of white feminism, and that they wanted to bring more reproductive justice organizations into the fold and give Guttmacher more of a reproductive justice lens to its work. And so they brought in diversity consultants, they conducted interviews with more than 100 employees, they put in place new practices and procedures that predated the blow-up after George Floyd.

All of this comes to a head in December of 2021, when the Prism article finally comes out, all this is kind of cheered on by this organization called ReproJobs, which is interesting in its own right, which has a very widely read Twitter feed and Instagram feed on on the left, and advocates for worker rights within the reproductive justice and abortion rights movement. In December, that story breaks, they begin to start organizing a union. On May 2, they’ve finally announced that they have collected enough cards, enough signatures, and they’re gonna go forward and demand voluntary recognition. That very night is when Politico reports that Roe is being overturned. That didn’t slow things down.

The last month has been a tense fight between Guttmacher staff and Guttmacher management over the terms of unionization. It’s a long story, but the staff has rejected voluntary recognition because management insisted that they pledge not to strike in exchange for recognizing the union. And so here we are.

NR: And there was a point in working on this piece when you were like: Is this a story? Isn’t this just like the caricature of the left, that the left is always navel-gazing, and thinking about itself, and thinking about its own structure and workshopping its own process?

And that is, to some extent true, but I think it seems to be worse now. And the real difference is that there’s a very small window of opportunity in Congress that we have right now, that is going to be — likely, hopefully not, but likely — closing soon.

And a quote that I wanted to pull out, is from a progressive congressional staffer, who said: “I’ve noticed a real erosion of the number of groups who are effective at leveraging progressive power in Congress. Some of that is these groups have these organizational culture things that are affecting them. Because of the organizational culture of some of the real movement groups that have lots of chapters, what they’re lobbying on isn’t relevant to the actual fights in Congress. Some of these groups are in Overton mode when we have a trifecta.”

And then they go on to pull out Sunrise, which is doing a Green New Deal pledge. And the aid says: The climate bill is still on the table. What are you doing? You should be lobbying around that, basically.

RG: Right. So, right, what Overton mode means is you’re making maximalist demands that you know aren’t going to be met by the institutions of power, but they’re going to expand what is possible in the future.

NR: Right. It’s about changing the public’s tolerance for radical policy.

RG: Right. And the aid is saying: That’s all well and good. And they’re saying, like: Look, if there were endless resources, then that would be great. But there is literally a climate bill on the table right now that is being negotiated. And we are months away from losing our majority, perhaps for 10 years or more.

And the aid also mentioned at the height of the negotiations last summer over Build Back Better, that the Sierra Club vanished from the private and public conversation, because they were so caught up in turmoil that the entire institution’s energy was all being directed inward. And this is at a time where the climate movement is saying we have 10 years left to turn this thing around. And we might have just a couple months left on a Democratic trifecta. And they’re all just utterly consumed by these internal debates.

NR: Which is where the anger comes from. And it gets framed as an employees-versus-management, typical sort of battle, but there’s actually a lot more there, I think.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: And I talked with Mark Rudd about this for this story, because I wanted to look back — not to pretend like this is necessarily the first time that this has ever happened.

And a couple of people that I spoke to for this story mentioned that after 1968, after Richard Nixon was elected president, you had this kind of collapse and demobilization of the left. There was still a war to protest. But the demonstrations against the war never reached their peak, which they hit around 1965 or so. You had major organizations like Students for a Democratic Society dissolve themselves and turn themselves into a terrorist organization, the Weather Underground, which Mark Rudd was a part of. Like, he helped to dissolve SDS: He was active in SDS, helped dissolve it, and then joined the Weather Underground as a domestic terrorist. And he was a fugitive for seven years after the townhouse blew up, and ended up serving a short prison sentence himself.

And so these things do go in waves. And so as a movement loses focus, as there’s less leadership, as there’s dissatisfaction, disenchantment, you do see a lot more infighting. And so in ’69, ’70, and through the ’70s you did see a ton of this. Loretta Ross told me that she remembers calling it “trashing.” There’s a famous article from the late 1970s in Ms. Magazine, by Jo Freeman, called “Trashing,” which was the first to really analyze this. Trashing is the ’70s-era version of what we would now call calling out, or canceling, or whatever else.

And so it’s fair to say that there are new things happening because we didn’t have Slack, we didn’t have Twitter, the world is different, we didn’t have the climate apocalypse — looming climate apocalypse — that we have now. But it’s also fair to say that there are some similarities to what has happened before. And one of the things that Mark argues, and this goes to the point that you were just making about these groups being in Overton mode, when there are actual wins on the table to possibly be had, his argument, and I heard this from a lot of people as well, is that there’s something about the left, and its hostility or its skepticism of coercion, that just makes it allergic to power, that it just doesn’t want to be in power. As one person said: If you’re not uncomfortable all of the time, then you’re not in a coalition.

Because being in a coalition means that you are in coalition with people who disagree with you on some things, because if they didn’t disagree with you on some things —

NR: They would be in the same group.

RG: [Laughs.] They would be in your group! Right! And so if you’re never feeling discomfort, you don’t have a coalition. If you don’t have a coalition, you don’t have power. And he says it this way:

Mark Rudd: We’re all engaged in something which is much bigger than any one group. And we’re all — on all sides of it including the privileged and the oppressed — we’re all sort of players in this historical drama. And so the most sophisticated of the oppressed, I think, are the people who recognize the need for solidarity and coalition building for power. My guess is that basically nobody on the left wants power. We’re allergic to it. It’s not in our DNA.

RG: Mhmm.

MR: We don’t like coercion. We don’t like hegemony.

NR: And I think this is part of the problem, too, is that people are looking at their workplaces. And I think one of the organization leaders said something to this effect, but they want their workplace to be everything for them. Like they don’t see that your political hearth, your movement home, as some people say, is not the same as — necessarily — where you get a paycheck from every month, or hopefully, more often than every month. [Laughs.] But I think the quote said something like: They want it to have healing sessions, and they want it to be their therapy, and —

RG: Oh, I found it here. And, yeah, this executive director was saying something that was echoed by a ton of others. And I think plenty of staff would say: Yes, this is right. This isn’t exactly how I would couch it.

But he said: “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,” he said. ANd then he said: “Can you get your love and healing at home, please? But I can’t say that, they would crucify me.”

And he’s saying that he wants people to see this as a workplace, and as a job where people are collectively working together to accomplish the mission of the organization. And that rhymes in an interesting way with an anecdote that I included from the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign. Ahead of the Iowa caucus, in that year, there was a kind of staff uprising there over all sorts of different issues, which I’ve written about before. And the uprising ended up being squashed by other workers. And partly because the workers had a union. The people leading the uprising had to get a majority vote; they didn’t have a majority. The majority of the workers in Iowa said: No, our purpose here is to win the Iowa caucuses. Like, the future of the world depends on this. What are you doing? And, also, by the way, this job ends — we know when this job ends. After the caucus. And so why are you going to throw away the chance to change the future of the world over the next several weeks of working conditions?

And so when Bernie Sanders got wind of this uprising, which was not the first of the uprisings, he relayed to his leadership staff, he said, “Stop hiring activists.”

NR: It’s so funny.

RG: And that’s from Bernie Sanders. And he said: Just hire people that want to do the job. We pay well. We treat people well. It’s a good cause. Get people who want to do the job. Stop hiring activists.

NR: Yeah, I was kind of struck in reading the iterative drafts of this how the solution in the piece — or maybe not the solution, but kind of the ray of hope in the piece — is that workplaces will return to being just workplaces. And that leaders will start stepping in and saying: No. There is no space for this kind of thing.

RG: I don’t think it will be the leaders, though, that can accomplish this, I think it has to be the other workers.

And one person I spoke to used the analogy of a demonstration. So you have a non-violent demonstration, you’ve got thousands of people there, a handful of anarchists show up and they start to pick up rocks, and throw rocks at police, or they throw rocks at cars, whatever they’re up to. And they’re not going to listen to the police telling them to stop throwing rocks. They’re also not going to listen to the lead organizer of the rally. [Rev.] Al Sharpton can come down there and tell them to stop throwing rocks. They’re not going to stop throwing rocks. The way they stop throwing rocks is if the entire crowd turns on them and says —

NR: Like, shames them.

RG: Stop!

NR: Yeah.

RG: This is not why we’re here. This is not your neighborhood. We are here for x goal. This is undermining our goal. Stop. And when that happens, those anarchists or feds, half the time they’re feds, they stop because of the pressure of the crowd.

And so in places where you have had these uprisings or these callouts kind of tamp down, it’s almost always been because the rest of the staff has said no, this is not what we’re here to do. There was an example of this happening at Sunrise in June of 2021, where a high-ranking Black employee was fired, actually, and made lots of public allegations about racism at Sunrise. And the head of Sunrise, Varshini Prakash, kind of pushed back and said: Look, love you. You didn’t show up for work for three months. We tried to get in touch with you. This is not about race.

A public pushback is a part of what works in some of these situations. But by itself, it’s absolutely not sufficient. What ended up happening was that every Black employee of Sunrise decided to sign a statement denouncing those claims that he had made, saying that absolutely there’s work to be done at Sunrise, by no way saying that Sunrise was perfect on all of these questions, but saying that these particular allegations by this particular employee were not with merit. And that basically ended it.

Fox News tried to have fun with it, as Fox News does. The right, New York Post, Fox, others absolutely love to lubricate these crises. But without the crowd, without the staff joining in, they don’t fly.

NR: I think that’s a great point. And actually, not to put everything on the pandemic, but I think that as we start to leave behind the quarantine and lockdown especially, and go back to work, go back to the office, Jonathan Smucker, who wrote “Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals,” a great organizing theorist, told you that in-person organizing is really one way out of this.

RG: Yeah. And another executive director said that one thing that he was thinking of doing is having his staff start participating directly in get-out-the-vote operations, get them out of their houses, out of their apartments, and talking to ordinary people. As he put it, so many had come straight from college into their organization, and that there’s something about face-to-face interactions with colleagues and also face-to-face interactions with ordinary people, on whose behalf your organization exists and is fighting, as a reminder of what you’re in this for?

NR: Right. When you’re speaking on behalf of an organization, when you’re representing the goals of the organization, then the tone completely changes.

RG: Right.

NR: And one thing that might not be clear to people who are looking at this just through the lens of how can we make our organizations internally just in terms of racial equality, something that people might not see is that Black leaders and leaders of color are not necessarily immune from this kind of staff criticism, and Black leaders themselves are very critical of what’s been going on.

RG: Right. Right. And as one put it to me, he’s constantly worried about those types of allegations that he said people will say: OK, yes, it’s true, he’s black. But he’s anti-Black because he just fired x black people in the organization. Or: Yes, it’s true, he’s Black, but he’s propping up structures of white supremacy, because that’s what’s hegemonic in our culture.

And it is absolutely true that people of color can participate in white supremacy and can be people who are furthering those types of inequities. All of this is true, which makes this conversation and resolving all of these controversies so much more difficult.

NR: Well, also, in the example of Guttmacher, the staff, which we don’t totally know the breakdown, but from the Prism article, it sounds like very majority white staff, at least in Washington, were the ones who are criticizing the new leadership of a Black woman.

RG: Yeah. And one Black executive director told me: Yeah, the ones who are the most vocal when it comes to race at my organization are white. That is a throughline. And multiple people talked about how, oftentimes, they’re just smuggling in efforts to protect themselves from performance reviews that they’re nervous about. And that’s when it gets really dicey.

NR: Yeah, very jaded and cynical.

RG: And so Loretta Ross speaks to this a lot. Actually, interestingly, by the way, Loretta has launched a for-profit consulting firm.

NR: Oh, really? She’s a DEI consultant now?

RG: A reverse DEI consultant in a way. She’s a champion now of what she calls “call-in culture.” When you have a controversy, when you have somebody offended, when you have something going on, you call it in, and she has an entire paradigm about how you resolve those without —

NR: Right, without alienating people —

RG: — right, massive callouts and just blowing up your entire organization. And so, a year ago, she saw that this was just getting worse and worse at organizations. And she told me that ever C-suite — well, we can play that right here, actually.

LJR: Well, it’s just not the nonprofit world, though, to be clear.

RG: Right. Mhmm.

LJR: I started a for-profit consulting firm last year with three other partners, because every C-suite that’s trying to be progressive is undergoing the same kind of callout culture.

RG: I also asked her what kind of pushback she’s gotten from people. And this is what she said.

LJR: The number one thing people fear is that I’m giving a pass to white people to continue to be racist. Because most Black people say, ‘I am not ready to call in the racist white boy.’ They think it’s a kindness lesson or a civility lesson, when it’s really an organizing lesson that we’re offering, because if someone knows if someone has made a mistake, and they know they’re going to face a firing squad for having made that mistake, they’re not gonna wanna come to you and be accountable. It is not gonna happen that way. And so the whole callout culture contradicts itself because it thwarts its own goal.

NR: So the bottom line is basically that the energy of these groups is a good energy. Like, people want to make positive change. But the energy is just being directed in the wrong way.

RG: Well, the proof is in the output, the proof is in the product. The progressive movement institutions in Washington have more or less ceased to function. They’re becoming un-leader-able, unmanageable.

And so if you believe that organizations are necessary to obtaining and wielding power, then you have to find a way for organizations to be able to function. If you don’t want power, then you don’t.

And so let’s end, like we started, with Loretta Ross. In our interview, she noted to me that she was a veteran of COINTELPRO, which was, for people who don’t know, that was the FBI scheme, FBI scam, that that would infiltrate left organizations with the explicit purpose of calling out members of those organizations, and then creating enough dissension that they completely became unable to function.

Loretta put it in these terms:

LJR: And there was COINTELPRO back then.

RG: Mhmm.

LJR: It was part of, I mean, we had so many people planted within our movements, to use gossip and the creation of dissent as a way to destabilize us from within. I mean, so we not only have the tendency, but we also were under attack as well. I said as a survivor of COINTELPRO, if you’re more wedded to destabilizing an organization than unifying it, part of me is gonna think you’re naive and the other part of me is gonna think you’re a plant, and neither one of those is going to look good on you.

RG: Well, Nausicaa, thank you so much for being here on Deconstructed.

NR: It was great to talk to you.

RG: And thank you for the terrific edit.

[End credits music.]

RG: That was Nausicaa Renner and Loretta Ross.

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