Chris Rufo’s dangerous fictions

“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.”

The far right’s war on “woke” has real-world consequences for the military

“Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has held up the confirmation of more than 260 generals for new command posts — including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Marine Corps — over his objections to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
Tuberville, a former football coach who is closely allied with former President Donald Trump, has refused to go forward with the routine confirmations and is essentially using defense policy as leverage to promote his cultural ideology. But the Department of Defense has repeatedly warned that holding up the confirmations is damaging the military’s chain of command at the highest levels, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff — especially concerning amid a time of increasing tension between the US and China, and as the US supports Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

“These are our nominees who have incredibly important jobs all around the world, who are working with our partners and allies,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in an interview with Fox News Thursday. “And it sends a message to our adversaries.”

Any senator can hold up these confirmations, even if the other 99 wish to move forward with them, because of the Senate concept of unanimous consent, which is not a formal Senate rule but allows the body to make changes to regular order to expedite legislating such as allowing batch confirmations. Unanimous consent can apply to all different parts of the Senate’s legislative process — everything from limiting debates and amendments to scheduling votes — and essentially means that the body has decided to dispense with the Senate’s usual procedures in the interests of moving business forward. It’s not always part of the legislative process, but it’s used so often that there are rules and precedents surrounding it.

The Senate has long relied on unanimous consent to promote military personnel through batch confirmations, but with Tuberville’s hold, the only way to move the confirmations forward would be to vote on them one by one, through regular order. Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press that doing so would take up to 84 days with the chamber working regular, eight-hour days, or 27 days if they worked “around the clock.”

Tuberville’s hold, which could affect 650 military promotions by the year’s end, is based on a misrepresentation of how the Pentagon’s abortion policy works. And he isn’t the only Republican using legislation related to the military to force right-wing policies into defense policy. House Freedom Caucus members scored a victory this week when the House passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that included amendments limiting abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity, equality, and inclusion programs. “This bill has been transformed into an extremist manifesto,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark told CNN after the bill passed.

In a macro sense, right-wing Republicans’ push to undo progress in the DoD both echoes and foreshadows their intent to halt the business of governing to try to codify policies that many Americans don’t support. And on a more specific scale, it affects the overall functioning of the military — everything from funding, to the chain of command, down to military families trying to plan moves to new bases. Tuberville and House Freedom Caucus members are also breaking with decades of Republican tradition by failing to support the military and military policy.”

Florida has launched an “unparalleled” assault on higher education

“The bill also limits tenure protections for faculty members. Tenure is a lifetime academic appointment granted to professors who meet designated requirements and can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances. Under the law, there must be a post-tenure review of state university faculty every five years to assess accomplishments and productivity, teaching duties, student evaluations, compensation, and potential improvement plans. Faculty members do not have the right to appeal grievances beyond the university president.
University presidents are now responsible for hiring, disciplining, and firing the school provost, deans, and full-time faculty. The law specifically instructs presidents to not be bound by the recommendations or opinions of faculty members when making hiring decisions. As part of their expanded role, presidents must also present yearly performance evaluations and salaries of any personnel earning more than $200,000 to the board of trustees.

Together, the law strengthens the powers of university leaders and weakens the autonomy of faculty members. The bill threatens academic freedom, according to AAUP, since it limits the teaching of certain topics in the general education curriculum and halts funding for DEI measures, among other limitations. Faculty told the AAUP that the laws are “Orwellian” and that Florida is a “canary in a coal mine.””

Don’t Take Financial Advice From Ron DeSantis

“It’s been more than 30 years since the ethical investment pioneers Amy Domini and Peter Kinder showed that ESG considerations bring higher returns over longer periods of time. But the issue is much older than that.
The idea that moral concerns have value — and that money should be invested according to them — goes back to the origins of capitalism. It’s also an approach steeped in American history.”

” ESG is just another name for moral considerations in capitalism. The left may think that’s an oxymoron and the right may see a woke conspiracy, but it’s a notion that has existed since the rise of capitalism in medieval Italy and which has been central to America since its founding.”

The next target of the right’s campaign against woke companies: Fox News?

“On air, Fox News personalities have been endlessly attacking so-called “woke corporations.” But now, Fox News finds itself in the right’s cultural crosshairs — with conservatives accusing it of promoting “trans ideology” in its own workplace.
The inciting incident is a Monday morning story in the Daily Signal, the media arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. In the story, reporter Mary Margaret Olohan writes that Fox’s employee handbook allows employees to use “bathrooms that align with their gender identity, rather than their biological sex,” permits them to “dress in alignment with their preferred gender,” and requires that their coworkers use “their preferred name and pronouns in the workplace.”

Many of Fox’s rules in this area appear to be in line with state law: The company’s headquarters are in New York, where state law explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity (something Olohan notes in passing but doesn’t dwell on). Fox told me in a written statement, “FOX News Media is compliant with all Human Rights laws mandated by the cities and states in which we operate, including New York and California.”

That there’s less to the Daily Signal’s exclusive than meets the eye didn’t stop many on the culture war right from blasting Fox as a sellout.”

Have all the beers gone woke? An investigation.

“First, Bud Light sent a few beers to a transgender influencer in early April. Then, Miller Lite ran an ad celebrating female brewers and offering up a lighthearted mea culpa over all the beer ads over the years featuring women in bikinis. Actually, the Miller Lite thing happened before the Bud Light thing, back in March for Women’s History Month, but most people didn’t see the Miller Lite thing before now. So now some on the right are mad about both of these major beer brands over what they see as selling out and taking progressive positions in supporting trans people and women.
It’s not like beers are totally progressive now though, either. The customers these campaigns were aimed at might be upset to notice that Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev hasn’t exactly stuck to its guns on Dylan Mulvaney, the trans influencer in question, and neither company’s political donations are super aligned with left-leaning causes.”

“In April, Bud Light sent trans influencer and activist Mulvaney some cans of beer and Mulvaney posted about it on social media, presumably as part of a pretty run-of-the-mill paid sponsorship deal. It sparked outrage on the right as part of the ongoing backlash toward trans rights and visibility, with some conservative beer-drinkers feeling like it represented a betrayal and calling for a boycott. Kid Rock shot some beers, Travis Tritt said he was axing the brand from his tour. Indeed, Bud Light sales have declined in the wake of the backlash, though as with any boycott, it’s hard to know how long the impact will last. (Vox has a full explainer on the Bud Light situation here.)

In May, apparently in search of another target, conservatives decided that Miller Lite was bad, too, and overly woke. People dug up an ad from March and are now mad about that. In said ad, actress and comedian Ilana Glazer talks about an initiative at the company — titled “Bad $#!T to Good $#!T” — to create fertilizer from old, sexist beer advertising (read: featuring scantily clad women). The fertilizer was supposed to be used to grow hops for female brewers.”

“This is emblematic of the broader controversy — a lot of people have lost the plot on what exactly happened with Bud Light, to the extent they ever knew it. Some consumers incorrectly believe the company undertook a broad-based marketing campaign with Mulvaney, that beer cans featuring her image are for sale to the public, or that AB InBev is marketing cans with pronouns on them in the US. None of those things are true. Anheuser-Busch CEO Michel Doukeris got at the issue in the company’s most recent earnings call, pointing out that “misinformation and confusion” still exists around what even happened. “We will need to continue to clarify the fact that this was one can, one influencer, one post, and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time,” he said.”

“Bud Light didn’t send beer to Mulvaney because it wants to become a champion of trans rights, it did so because the brand is struggling and it thought LGBTQ consumers were a potential avenue for expansion. Miller Lite’s leaders aren’t lying in bed at night sick over all of those sexist ads over the years. They know women have money to spend, and they would like them to spend it on their beers.”

Federal Appeals Court Stops the ‘Stop WOKE Act’

“Signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in April 2022, the law prohibits private employers and university professors from endorsing certain concepts related to race and other categories of identity. The statute drew lawsuits almost immediately. A number of employers and a diversity consultant challenged a provision that says private employers may not require employees to attend a training or activity that promotes any of eight listed concepts.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker, writing for the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division, then issued an injunction against enforcing that provision. “Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely,” Walker wrote. “But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

In November, Walker issued another injunction, this one blocking a similar section of the law that applies to university professors. He accused the state of essentially arguing that “professors enjoy ‘academic freedom’ so long as they express only those viewpoints of which the State approves,” a position Walker described as “positively dystopian.”

“The First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark,” he concluded.

It is this November injunction the 11th Circuit just left in place.

“Conservatives who cheer on the Florida law should consider what liberal states—or, for that matter, a Democratic-controlled Congress—could do if allowed to engage in similar regulation,” Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, warns at The Volokh Conspiracy. “The same powers that Florida uses to target ‘woke’ employer speech can just as easily be used against conservative employers.””

To Increase ‘Equity,’ This California High School Is Eliminating Honors Courses

“One California high school has eliminated honors classes for ninth- and 10th-grade students. While school officials claim that the change was necessary to increase “equity,” the move has angered students and parents alike.
“We really feel equity means offering opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds, not taking away opportunities for advanced education and study,” one parent who opposed the change told The Wall Street Journal.

Starting this school year, Culver City High School, a public school in a middle-class suburb of Los Angles, eliminated its honors English classes for ninth- and 10th-graders. Instead, students are only able to enroll in one course called “College Prep” English. The decision, according to school administrators, came after teachers noticed that only a small number of black and Hispanic students were enrolling in Advanced Placement (A.P.) courses.

“It was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP enrollment and realized Black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something,” said Quoc Tran, the district’s superintendent. According to an article by The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Randazzo, data presented at a school board meeting last year showed that Latino students made up 13 percent of 12th-grade A.P. English students, despite comprising 37 percent of the student body, while black students made up 14 percent of A.P. English students while comprising 15 percent of the student body.

“School officials say the goal is to teach everyone with an equal level of rigor, one that encourages them to enroll in advanced classes in their final years of high school,” Randazzo notes.

However, parents—and students—disagree. “There are some people who slow down the pace because they don’t really do anything and aren’t looking to try harder,” Emma Frigola, a ninth-grader at the school, said. “I don’t think you can force that into people.” She added that the curriculum has been made easier to accommodate less advanced students.”

“When schools eliminate educational opportunities for gifted students, those who are most hurt by the change are disadvantaged, academically talented students. While wealthier families can move to a new school district or enroll their children in private school, low-income parents—and their kids—are stuck. While getting rid of honors courses was supposedly designed to help black and Latino students, it will deprive opportunities of many of the same kids it was intended to help.”