Freddie deBoer on Ibram Kendi

This is an especially well-written profile of Ibram Kendi, by Freddie deBoer. Freddie’s prose is among the top 3 or so, followed by Adam Mastroianni of Experimental History.

Here are some passages that stood out that showcase his style:

The thing is… this is kind of how the ideas industry functions in general, these days. Many, many arguments that find their way into the public consciousness have this general two-faced nature, a more incendiary side to generate publicity and a more equivocal side to evade criticism.

. As I’ve written before, the problem with the 1619 Project isn’t that it’s offensive or dangerous. The problem is that the more restrained version of its central claim isn’t notable, and the more extreme version isn’t true.

And I loved this passage for its eloquence and truth:

A lot of people were talking about how nothing would ever be the same, in 2020 and 2021, how “the reckoning” had permanently changed the world, and the donations were flowing fast and furious, and it probably looked like the good times were here to stay. Then the spigot unexpectedly got turned off. You see, when you make supporting a political movement into a matter of public fashion, in short order that movement will fall out of fashion.

I agree; Kendi was in over his head and the well-publicized failure of his “Center for Antiracist Research” was inevitable. And second, the bait and switch technique of leading with an incendiary or grand proclamation for media coverage–and then falling back to a more inoffensive or defensible claim when pressed–is par for the course, but also necessary to get media coverage at all. It’s a situation where in order to raise awareness you must must misconstrue the data or outright lie.

And this typically works when the media are aligned with your interest anyways and desn’t bother to fact-check, as is often the case for topics that confirm such preexisting biases. Sure, when you crunch the data the police does not systemically murder blacks, but this does not stop the media from running with the narrative of widespread systemic racism and abuses, when there is a built-in audience credulous to such propaganda.

It’s interesting though how Freddie is apologetic to the guy who is the literal physical embodiment of wokeness. He handles his embattled subject with kid gloves, compared to the journalists and podcasters like Washington Post columnist Rachel Tashjian, whom he spares no expense or cuts any corner at giving a dress down.

Freddie’s thesis or raison d’etre is that identity politics has hijacked the left and made it unworkable or non-viable as a political project, compared to the left typically promoting more practical matters or appealing to normies on issues like workers’ rights or affordable healthcare. And here we have the guy who is wokeness incarnate, that until only recently his writings–if we charitably call it that-it’s more like the intellectual equivalent of scribblings–were not only taken as literal truth, but also served as a blueprint for society.

Kendi has inflicted far more harm than any journalist or podcaster if his project led to the promotion and hiring of incompetent people through DEI/wokeness, including professions where lives may be at stake, and increased lawlessness from police being compelled to ignore crime for fear of litigation. Bad ideas can have consequences beyond just the confines of the academy or the enclosure of the Ivory tower.

It does not hurt that Kendi is physically attractive and exudes a sort of calm coolness that makes him hard to hate even if his politics are otherwise contemptible. As it turns out, having the spokesperson of your far-left political or intellectual movement not be a morbidly obese feminist or convey ‘creeper vibes’ is a good branding move. Or, exhibit A, witness the implosion of r/antiwork after the lead moderator came out on national TV as embodying every possible unflattering stereotype of the community and movement he had founded. Or, conversely, exhibit B: Obama. This is by design. These people are chosen and promoted to front and center because of branding. How do you think Hollywood works? Thousands of people audition, but the lead roles go to those who have the ‘it’ factor. Being the face or wokeness or defund the police, e.g. ‘St. George’, is just another audition process