Does anybody remember the name of Andrea Dworkin? Or the National Organization for Women? No? Well, it's not surprising. They were both targets of a brilliant provocateering campaign in the 1970s, and the downfall of both should serve as a grim warning to all grassroots reform movements today.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966, primarily by feminist writer Betty Friedan, and grew to become the largest and most powerful women's rights reform group in the country. At the height of its power, in 1972, it managed to get the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution passed by Congress -- but not ratified by three-fourths of the states. There was a deadline to collect those ratifications: March 1979, later extended to June 30, 1982.
Andrea Dworkin, on the other hand, was a hysterical, deliberately ugly, man-hating feminist writer who changed her stories about her past to suit her audience. She bummed around the campus radical community until graduation, then bummed around Europe writing for assorted "art and literature" magazines which didn't pay her enough to live on. In 1971, broke and fleeing from her (she claimed) abusive ex-husband, she met a man who asked her to smuggle a briefcase full of heroin into the US, in exchange for $1000 and a plane ticket. When the deal fell through, the mysterious man paid for her ticket home anyway.
Once back in the US she wrote extensively on the theme that all heterosexual sex is rape, pornography is rape, "men must give up their precious erections", and women should create a homeland of their own. She began getting paid for her writings -- usually by newly-created counter-cultural magazines, and then for her public speeches -- usually to feminist groups. Mainstream news publications widely advertised her as a feminist celebrity -- associated with NOW.
The association did not do NOW, or the ERA, any good. Opposition to the ERA grew faster than support, and had more backers than just the shrill reactionary Phyllis Schlafly -- Dworkin's right-wing mirror image, likewise well funded. Over the next seven years, states which originally ratified the ERA voted to withdraw their ratifications, thus causing a nice Constitutional argument over whether a state could withdraw its vote or not. Support for the Amendment, and for NOW, in the labor movement soon fractured. Despite Congress voting to extend the ratification deadline to 1982, no other states voted for the amendment, and eventually it stalled to immobility, where it stays to this day. NOW had to concentrate its efforts on protecting abortion rights, and its membership dwindled as various local lawsuits ensured women's economic and workplace rights, thus removing much of its reason to exist. By 1983 the organization was no longer a major player in American politics.
Curiously, or perhaps not, around 1983 most of those magazines, publishers, and feminist organizations which had paid for Dworkin's work went out of business or lost funding -- and since she had no other career except as a feminist author and speaker, her income dwindled likewise. So did her public influence. She spent her last years in poor health -- largely due to her overweight problems -- making unsubstantiated rape accusations, trying to get her writings published, and wondering where all her support had gone. The real question is where that paying support came from in the first place.
Looking back, it becomes clear that Dworkin was deliberately chosen and cultivated by Persons Unknown -- though we can make guesses -- to be a spoiler for the ERA, NOW, and the whole unified Women's Movement. Once the ERA was effectively dead and NOW thoroughly de-fanged, Dworkin had served her purpose -- and her shadow backers cut off the money and left her to sink. It's also clear that Dworkin herself never had a clue that she was being manipulated.
The parallels today are more complicated. On the "left" side, Black Lives Matter and Antifa have been coddled and nourished publicly by Democrat politicians and the mainstream media -- and privately by wealthy corporate philanthropists. Meanwhile the long-dying "far right", which had been kept on life-support by FBI undercover agents, has been inflated over the past four years by the same politicians and media -- but different philanthropists -- to look like "an existential threat to democracy". The obvious purpose of both them was to get rid of President Trump: the AtifaBLM wing by threat of riots, and the "right" wing by playing Dworkin to Trump's supporters, making them look bad by association.
Now that Trump is out of office and Biden is in, both gangs of spoilers have outlived their usefulness -- and can expect to be dumped as Dworkin was. Already the mainstream media are happily reporting that the DC police and the FBI have shifted blame for the January 6th Capitol break-in on "a small fringe-group of extremists" -- further narrowed down, just this past week, to QAnon in general and some 200 individual members (including the iconic Buffalo Shaman) who have been arrested and charged. Given what QAnon is, we can expect to see the whole membership (minus the FBI undercover agents, who will quietly disappear) thrown under the bus. Given the media attention now being sprayed on the hapless Proud Boys, they'll probably be next. The Boogaloo Bois will probably just fade out of all media mention, at least until the FBI needs a spoiler again.
What's more troubling is the government's -- and the media's -- continued attention to the Oathkeepers. Originally a group of military and police veterans of a medium-Conservative bent, with a fierce devotion to the Constitution, they should have posed no reasonable threat to the government. The report in the media that members of the Oathkeepers "were seen" inside the Capitol during the breach should be taken with a grain of salt; the story hasn't been confirmed, and even if it's true, the known Oathkeepers could have been among the 200 or so protesters who were let in by the police and led peaceably through the building. Precisely why should the DC police and FBI consider the Oathkeepers suspect?
Possibly it's because the Oathkeepers also have a firm policy of refusing to obey or enforce any "unconstitutional order". Several of Biden's numerous Executive Orders push hard on the borders of constitutionality. Also, the group has a history of voting overwhelmingly Republican, and the new administration has displayed a downright paranoid attitude toward former Trump voters.
Even more disturbing is Biden's directive to the military to "examine" its personnel for "tendencies toward White Supremacism". This goes beyond suspicion of Republican voters and hints of a Stalinoid purge. I can't imagine the military taking kindly to such treatment.
That still leaves the left-wing spoilers, Antifa and BLM. The fact that BLM activist John Sullivan was videotaped leading the attack on the inner doors of the Capitol would seem to give the Democrats all the ammunition they need to withdraw their previous support. BLM's open letter, saying effectively "You owe us, Whitey" to Biden, would certainly have provided motive. So far we've seen no response, but I don't doubt that the abandonment is coming. The citizens are annoyed at Big Tech's overreach by censorship, there's a growing pushback against the Left's touted Critical Race Theory, assorted powerful Democrats are beginning to fight among themselves, and more riots would only prove disastrous. Antifa and BLM have outlived their usefulness, and history has shown that government bureaucracies are not famous for gratitude.
To anyone currently a member of Antifa or BLM, I'd strongly advise you to save and invest any money you've been given so far. Go back to school and gain skills in subjects more sellable than race, gender, and oppression studies. Prepare your lifeboats now, because you definitely will be cast loose.