April 22, 2022

PRETTY MUCH: The End of Progressive Intellectual Life: How the foundation-NGO complex quashed innovative thinking and open debate, first on the American right and now on the center left. “If you are an intelligent and thoughtful young American, you cannot be a progressive public intellectual today, any more than you can be a cavalry officer or a silent movie star. That’s because, in the third decade of the 21st century, intellectual life on the American center left is dead. Debate has been replaced by compulsory assent and ideas have been replaced by slogans that can be recited but not questioned: Black Lives Matter, Green Transition, Trans Women Are Women, 1619, Defund the Police. The space to the left-of-center that was once filled with magazines and organizations devoted to what Diana Trilling called the ‘life of significant contention’ is now filled by the ritualized gobbledygook of foundation-funded, single-issue nonprofits like a pond choked by weeds. Having crowded out dissent and debate, the nonprofit industrial complex—Progressivism Inc.—taints the Democratic Party by association with its bizarre obsessions and contributes to Democratic electoral defeats, like the one that appears to be imminent this fall.”

Plus: “Chain-ganging (a term I have borrowed from international relations theory) in this context means implicitly or explicitly banning any grantee from publicly criticizing the positions of any other grantee. At a conference sponsored by the Ford Foundation that I attended more than a decade ago, an African American community activist complained to me privately: ‘Immigration is hurting the people in the neighborhoods we work in. The employers prefer illegal immigrants to young Black workers. But if we say anything about it, Ford will cut off our money.'”

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