“This summer, Rufo published a book outlining the worldview behind his crusade. The book, titled America’s Cultural Revolution, argues that America has been quietly taken over by the ideological heirs of 1960s radicals. Ideas formulated by Marxist revolutionaries and Black nationalists, disguised in benign-sounding language like “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI), have completed a “long march” through America’s major institutions — starting from universities and emanating outward to government and corporate life. The book’s subtitle, “How the Radical Left Conquered Everything,” illustrates the sheer scope of the argument.
But the more I examined Rufo’s work, the weaker it started to look. His worldview is built on a foundation of exaggerations and misrepresentations — distortions that make it difficult to trust even his basic factual assertions, let alone his big-picture analysis of American society.
Rufo claims that the American system as we know it has been overthrown, subtly and quietly replaced by “a new ideological regime that is inspired by … critical theories and administered through the capture of the bureaucracy.” Rufo’s “counterrevolution” is aimed at reversing this process; taking America back, starting with Florida’s universities.”
“His documentation of the far left’s follies and violent excesses can be damning.
But many of his assertions, like the claim of secret regime change in America, are far less defensible. When pressed in an interview to defend some of his most extreme positions, Rufo ultimately claimed to be writing in “a kind of artful and kind of narrative manner” that does not always admit of literal interpretation. The retreat was necessary given the glaring lack of real-world policy evidence for what he had written and said.
The seemingly credible evidence Rufo presents of radical influence — the mainstreaming of once-radical concepts like “structural racism,” for example — thus ends up undermining his case. When radical language goes mainstream without accompanying radical shifts in policy, that’s not actually evidence of a radical takeover. If anything, it looks like a win for the liberal mainstream, which seemingly has coopted radical ideas and redirected them toward more moderate ends.”
“It follows, then, that Rufo’s “counterrevolution” is not countering much of anything. His war on American institutions is not a defensive action against an ascendant post-Marxist left; it is instead an act of aggression against the liberal ideals he occasionally claims to be defending.”
“It’s certainly true that once-radical notions, like seeing racism as a core part of American national identity, have become more popular on the left in recent years. But this does not mean American democracy has been quietly overthrown and replaced with rule by DEI departments.
Rufo cites, as evidence of the influence of “critical theory” across America, diversity trainings at Lockheed Martin and Raytheon that used the term “white privilege” and similar concepts in their documents. This, he argues, is proof that “even federal defense contractors have submitted to the new ideology.”
But the notion that American arms manufacturers have been taken over by radicals is ridiculous. Lockheed Martin builds weapons to maintain the American war machine. It is not owned or controlled in any way by sincere believers in the Third Worldist anti-imperialism of the 1960s radicals; it is using the now-popular terms those radicals once embraced to burnish its own image.
Rufo is getting the direction of influence backward. Radicals are not taking over Lockheed Martin; Lockheed Martin is co-opting radicalism.”
“the main pieces of data once used as evidence of the ascent of far-left radicalism — things like cancellations of conservative speeches on college campuses — show a decline from previous highs. These numbers, which were quite low even at their peak, simply do not support the idea that the country’s major institutions are succumbing to Herbert Marcuse thought (even in an attenuated form).
There are counterexamples: Rufo makes much of the “defund the police” movement, as well as 2020-era policy victories by radicals in cities like Seattle and Portland. But Joe Biden, a man who wrote the 1994 Crime Bill and campaigned in the 2022 midterms using “fund the police” as a slogan, is president. The most common criminal justice reforms after George Floyd’s murder weren’t police abolition, but rather chokehold bans and personnel reforms. Even in West Coast cities, mayors and city councilors are backing away from police defunding.
Liberalism, in short, has made “structural racism” safe for Lockheed Martin. Whether you like that depends on your politics. But it is not evidence of a radical regime change in America.”
“n a series of 2021 tweets, for example, Rufo framed his writing about “critical race theory” as a form of political marketing.
“We have successfully frozen their brand — ‘critical race theory’ — into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” he wrote. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”
What he’s describing isn’t a journalistic approach to “critical race theory.” It’s the mindset of a dishonest political attack dog, one that seemed to validate criticisms that he had played fast and loose with evidence. Rufo’s involvement with Trump and DeSantis further suggested he was less of a serious interlocutor than an operative.”
“Exaggerations weren’t just a problem with the book’s big-picture premise. The more I fact-checked what he said, the clearer the pattern of exaggeration and factual missteps became.”
“Rufo has practiced what he preached at the New College of Florida, where he has used his appointment to the board to fire the university president, eliminate the DEI office, and abolish gender studies. Now over one-third of all faculty positions are vacant, decimating the university’s course offerings in the fall semester. While enrollment is up, an investigation by the USA Today Network found that average SAT scores, ACT scores, and GPAs were all down. Some students were told to live at an airport hotel.
When I asked Rufo about the chaos, he compared his approach to remodeling a kitchen: “You do the demo and then you do the build.”
It’s a metaphor that only makes sense if you believe that the existing university is so broken that it can’t be saved in its current form.”
“Both Rufo’s operation in Florida and his broader “counter-revolution” can only be defended if the system is so captured by the radical left that the only solution is to burn the entire thing to the ground and start over. Otherwise, you’re attacking the same American institutions you claim to be defending.
This, ultimately, is why Rufo must exaggerate the influence of the radical left. The only way to reconcile the yawning gap between his restorationist rhetoric and burn-it-all-down activism is to claim that America faces an unprecedented threat — a “cultural revolution” organized by the intellectual heirs of literal Maoists.”