To see the whole picture, find the frame. To get the whole story, remember the beginning and the end. A look at accusation, the next bully tactic of supremacists and other abusers.
Note: This article is cross-posted on Substack from The Reframe.
If you want to see the whole picture, you’d better make sure you can see the frame, and if you want to see the entire story, it’s probably best to make sure you include the beginning and the end.
I’ll show you what I mean, but I’m afraid this involves making some of you, who currently reside in blissful ignorance, aware of who Chris Rufo is. I’m sorry.
Chris Rufo is a far-right supremacist agitator who uses bad-faith techniques to opportunistically exploit weaknesses inherent in our institutions. He does this in order to defend and reinforce our dominant ways of structuring belief and power, which just so happen to be supremacist (and this—because supremacy is based on unsustainable lies—just so happens to be why those institutions have inherent weaknesses to exploit in the first place).
The way I know that this is what Chris Rufo is and that this is what he does is quite simple. I know it because he says so, out loud, and writes it publicly—sometimes on social media, sometimes in national newspapers.
He’s very open about his supremacist assumptions—which would be his beginnings.
He’s very open about his eliminationist intentions—which would be his end.
You might even say he’s brazen about it, as if he knows that ignoring the bad assumptions and bad intentions of supremacists is how his whole thing works.
Why am I saying this? I suppose I’m saying it in part because Claudine Gay, who was until recent days President of Harvard, resigned this week, and a lot of people seem to be operating under the assumption that it was over plagiarism, and in the name of academic integrity.
But it was actually because Chris Rufo and his fellow eliminationist supremacists, who don’t care a bit about plagiarism or academic integrity, and who in fact are participants in a decades-long conservative campaign to demolish the academy, wanted to destroy her reputation and that of her work and of the institutions and programs of diversity and equity and inclusion that she represents to them. And they did this because their intentions are supremacist and eliminationist, so they targeted her for elimination from her position, trusting our various media institutions to make the accusations against her the story, rather than the motivations and intentions of those bringing the accusation. And Chris Rufo trusted that our media would do as they expected, just because they, the eliminationist supremacist who were targeting Claudine Gay, said it should be so.1
You’ll never guess: his trust was well-founded. Much of our allegedly left-leaning media did just as he expected, as did the far-right propaganda ecosystem, and soon everyone was dancing to Chris Rufo’s tune, linking Gay and Harvard in the public consciousness to plagiarism just as he had openly bragged they would, in much the same way he had in earlier days bragged that he (a racist), would tie critical race theory in the public consciousness to racism; in much the same way as he bragged that he (a transphobic bigot who has no interest in protecting children or anyone else from predators or anything else), would tie trans people in the public consciousness to danger generally and child predation specifically. And he’s tying diversity, equity, and inclusivity to antisemitism right now, as well. Maybe a supremacist fascist who opposes diversity, equity, and inclusivity cares about curbing antisemitism, as he claims. Me, I’m not optimistic. I think somebody who opposes diversity and equity and inclusivity is probably very happy to see antisemitism spread, and therefore would also be very happy if promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity would be equated in the public consciousness with antisemitism, to further degrade diversity, equity, and inclusivity, and to further degrade vigilance against antisemitism.
Anyway, a lot of people are talking about plagiarism and academic integrity right now, who weren’t talking about it as much or in the same way as they were when for example Neil Gorsuch, who will soon decide if an insurrectionist fascist can appear on presidential ballots, was being considered for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch was appointed by the insurrectionist fascist upon whose behalf he is now being asked to rule, by the way. Yesterday Gorsuch ruled that pregnant people who need abortions to save their lives can’t get them in Idaho, which pleases supremacists, because supremacists believe in controlling women’s bodies for many reasons, not least because they believe in the vile replacement myth that undergirds antisemitism and so are obsessed with birth rates, particularly “white” birth rates. Several other judges who ruled on the matter (and who will soon decide whether an insurrectionist may run for president in clear violation of the Constitution) have been taking bribes from supremacist billionaires for decades, which is another thing we aren’t talking about as much right now as we are talking about plagiarism at Harvard. This might be an indication, if you are the sort of person who looks at the big picture, that what drives our national conversation isn’t actually a concern over corruption or lack of integrity.
Legacy media, it seems, finds it far more important to focus on academic integrity whenever an eliminationist supremacist says they ought to, and less important to focus on it when a supremacist plagiarist is being considered for the Supreme Court. Legacy media, it seems, finds if far more important to focus on a specific person when eliminationist supremacists say they ought to focus on her. That’s part of the whole picture, one edge of the frame: our legacy news media are dancing to the tune eliminationist supremacists call, and they do it so reflexively that an eliminationist supremacist can confidently brag about doing it before he does it. And so are many of us, all dancing to his tune, arguing over plagiarism and academia and the role of elite institutions, dancing in the middle of the floor without seeing what lurks at the edges, hearing only the song’s chorus, leaving out the beginning and the end.
Let’s look at the beginning and the end.
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I should be clear that this problem is much bigger than Chris Rufo. Rufo isn’t the first right-wing media agitator opportunistically destroying societal institutions with bad-faith tactics; he’s just one of the more successful and brazen current examples. There have been a lot of his kind before now, and there are a lot of other ones operating conterminously with him, and there will I suppose be more to come after him. But we can look at how he operates to see how supremacy—which is eliminationist—does what it does.
Chris Rufo begins with a supremacist assumption. The assumption is that any person holding a position of authority or influence who does not in some way represent supremacy’s existing preferred classes to the satisfaction of those classes, holds that position illegitimately. The assumption is that any position so held represents an obvious theft that deserves redress, a presumed wrong that needs to be reversed, and a presumed outrage that deserves retribution, on behalf of the best candidate, who should hold the position instead, and has been improperly kept from their rightful place.
The best candidate is a very big deal with supremacists, I’ve noticed. It’s an appeal to fairness and equality and merit from people who don’t care about fairness or equality or merit, who are in fact diametrically opposed to those principles and are working to demolish them. The supremacist best candidate is a sort of mythical beast, so the attempt to categorize it will be something similar to cryptozoology. Nevertheless, I will make my best effort.
If the person who holds the position is Black, then by “best candidate,” Chris Rufo means somebody white—which is already the preferred class, when it comes to positions of authority and influence. “White” is so preferred, and the ways our supremacist systems select for “white” are so entrenched, that if an institution (like say a college, or say a country), is serious about establishing an equal society, that institution needs to deliberately create programs and set practices in place to consciously and intentionally swim against the structural societal tide that automatically considers “white” to be the best candidate; it needs to deliberately force itself to consider and place candidates who are not deemed “white,” and to measure itself for its performance against those efforts. This is necessary, because without such a program—a diversity, equity, and inclusivity program—the candidate will not be the best available candidate, but will only ever be the best available white candidate.2
But for Chris Rufo, “white” is automatically baked into the definition of “best candidate,” and the absence of “white” is a priori evidence that the “best candidate” has not been selected. And so diversity, equity, and inclusivity are to him a corrupt outrage and a violent crime, and he intends to make it so others see it that way, too.
Yes, and if the person who holds the position is a women, then by best candidate Chris Rufo means a man—which is already the preferred class, when it comes to positions of authority and influence. And if the person who holds the position is the first-generation child of immigrants from a country that is commonly known as “third world” (like for example Haiti), then by best candidate he means somebody who is not a recent immigrant, or at least is an immigrant from a country commonly known as “first world,” which is already the preferred class, when it comes to positions of authority and influence, and which to a supremacist is interchangeable with their conception of white. And if the person is somebody whose work focuses on naming and deconstructing supremacist intentions and institutions, then by best candidate he definitely means somebody else, anybody else.
And if the person who holds the position is all of these things at once, then he means all of these identifiers at once. If somebody is not one of these things, but still agrees to uphold supremacy, that candidate might be permitted by Chris Rufo to be considered the best candidate, but in any case Chris Rufo wants to make it clear that the people who gets to bestow permission about whether or not any candidate is the best candidate are people who Chris Rufo understands to be people who matter, by which he means people like Chris Rufo,3 because the one thing Chris Rufo really does care about is defending and expanding supremacy.
Because this is what he believes, Chris Rufo targets Black people and women and first-generation immigrants from “third world” countries and people whose work involves naming and deconstructing supremacy, and other people who in other ways are not part of the existing preferred classes but who have still committed the aggressive crime against Chris Rufo of holding positions of authority and influence without his permission, and he also targets institutions that elevate such people to positions of authority and influence, and he does this to demolish them and their reputations and their authority and their influence. He does this in part to eliminate an individual whose authority and influence defies his personal individual supremacy, and in part he does it in order to discredit the work and the programs and the institutions that defy supremacy on the larger scale.
Most of all, Chris Rufo’s project involves attacking the guiding spirit that lends people awareness that supremacy exists, which builds a conviction that supremacy is a societal brokenness that ought to be fixed, which fosters the determination to actually fix supremacy by replacing supremacy’s vile unsustainable lies with sustainable and equitable truths. Chris Rufo calls this guiding spirit wokeness, which is a word he and others like him stole from people of awareness and conviction and determination, and turned it into a slur meaning “space has been made here for people I deem lesser, where they can speak and be heard and hold authority and influence, and so that space and those people represent an outrage and a violent crime.”
Chris Rufo—who has no ethics, principles, values, or standards beyond supremacy—does all this while appealing to various principles and values that people who do have principles beyond supremacy care about—things like equality and fairness, or, for as long as it is convenient to him, academic integrity. I stress again that he doesn’t care about these principles or values at all. In fact, he is opposed to them and is working to demolish them, which you can easily tell by looking at what ends he pursues, and which you can even more easily tell by listening to him say so in so many words before he even does it. But he does care about defending and reinforcing supremacy, and he sees these fine ethics and principles and values and standards as useful tools to attack the ethical principled standards and values that are employed to name and dismantle supremacy.
And they are useful tools for him.
They’re useful because so many of us let them be useful.
In recent weeks I’ve been talking about the bully tactics of narcissist abusers, and how American fascists and other supremacists use them to push out the boundaries of acceptable violence against those they intend to target.
I’ve talked about DARVO—an acronym which stands for deny, accuse, reverse victim and offender, used in psychology to describe behavior common to narcissistic abusers.
These bully tactics are Chris Rufo’s tactics.
What he’s using is accusation—something I’d call an accusation vortex.
He uses it because it works.
I’d like to end by looking at why it works.
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You’ll notice that I haven’t spent much time talking about the merits of the accusation against Claudine Gay, or whether or not our elite academic institutions have structural problems needing redress, or whether they are elitist, or whether Claudine Gay was or wasn’t a good president of Harvard, or whether we can improve the use and deployment of diversity, equity, and inclusivity programs, or any other aspect of the overall story that has been the obsessive focus of much of our legacy media in recent weeks.
This isn’t because none of those things are worth considering. I daresay most are worth considering, and some are maybe even vitally important to consider. Maybe all are.
It’s just that I am looking at the full picture. I see the frame and I see who did the framing. I remember the supremacist beginning assumptions and the eliminationist ends, and I realize that to participate in the discussion about these things within the framework that has been presented will in no way participate in any effort to solve any problems at all; it will only participate in a cynical operation to defend and expand eliminationist supremacism.
They are all inappropriate conversations to let Chris Rufo and his fellow fascist participate in. It might be important to talk about dad’s painkiller addiction, but it’s not going to be appropriate to have the conversation with a grifter from the bank who is trying to establish dad’s addiction in order to seize his home and other assets for themselves and throw him out on the street. The only conversation to be had about supremacists is a conversation about who they are and what they are trying to do, and what the rest of us ought to do to stop them. We’ll have the vitally important talk about how to deal with dad’s problem when the bank is gone and only those who actually care about solving the problem are involved.
Chris Rufo and his political and spiritual allies are supremacists, as I’ve mentioned. They’re also open fascists. I’m big on clarity, so I’ll reiterate again my definitions of supremacy and fascism.
By supremacy I mean the spiritual alignment that some people matter, and others do not matter; that those who matter have earned life already, while those who do not matter must earn it by being used by those who do matter; that if those who do not matter cannot earn life, then they should be discarded for their crime of existing; that the existence of people who do not matter should be decided upon and permitted exclusively by those who do matter; that the personal individual moral comfort of people who matter is paramount over the lives and survival of those who do not matter.
And by fascism I mean a particular expression of supremacy: a popular political movement organized around an authoritarian cult of personality and privatization of the public good, mediated through an open and explicit reverence for violence as a redeeming force, and energized by a nationalist myth of purification.
Supremacist fascists are what Chris Rufo and company explicitly are, by these definitions. So I think that the questions of academic integrity, and diversity, and equity, and inclusion, and any other matter of ethics or principle or standards or values, are not appropriate to have around eliminationist supremacists like Chris Rufo, because of the accusation vortex such people create whenever you agree to have those conversation on the terms they set.
Chris Rufo finds ways to reframe institutions and programs and movements which foster diversity and equity and inclusion, and which name and deconstruct supremacy. If he can make these institutions and programs and movements synonymous with annoyance or incompetence, that’s good. If he can make them synonymous with corruption and theft and other crimes, that’s better. If he can make them synonymous with violence, that’s best of all. He connects them however he can to whatever smear he can generate, and any weakness he can discover, trying one after another until he gets people willing to ignore his beginning supremacist assumptions and his ending eliminationist goals and start saying, “you know, he does have a point.”
It’s this moment he’s after. The moment when you say “I don’t usually agree with him, but you do have to hand it to him, he’s right about X”
“X” is some problem to address, or some matter of ethics or standards or principle.
The X doesn’t matter to an eliminationist supremacist. The X is just a tool. If it’s a useful tool, he’ll keep beating the drum of X until X stops working. When X stops working, then he’ll abandon it, and whatever X is, it won’t have improved in the slightest, because improving it was never the goal. In fact, X will now probably be something that is harder to improve, now that it has become degraded in the public consciousness for having been tied to supremacist efforts, even though X might be something important to address in order to have a functional society, which will mean that the degradation of X also helps eliminationist supremacy, which has no ethics or principles or standards, which seeks only to degrade and destroy them.
Chris Rufo knows that there’s an instinct in our country to find common ground with supremacy and supremacists, which isn’t similarly extended to non-supremacists. It’s a reflexive thing, to remove as much of a supremacist’s false frame as is necessary in order to only see the part of the picture that everyone agrees is true. To ignore as much of a story as necessary in order to not notice the supremacist assumptions that begin the story and the eliminationist intentions that come at the end. Rufo knows that there’s an instinct in this country to look at supremacists and find the common ground, no matter what else comes with it.
It’s this instinct that Chris Rufo is counting on, which he is so confident he will trigger that he openly brags that legacy media will be helpless to stop itself from responding.
It’s this moment, when he is treated not as if he’s an opportunistic supremacist with eliminationist intent, but as if he’s just another guy who really cares about academic integrity, which really makes his accusation vortex work, because we’re no longer talking about the fact that an open supremacist is targeting a person for the crime of holding a position of power and influence without first securing supremacist permission, or that they’re targeting her as part of an eliminationist strategy that seeks to defend and expand supremacy.
Now we’re just all talking about plagiarism. And we aren’t really talking about how to deal with plagiarism. We’re just talking about who to punish.
If you try to point out the supremacist beginning and eliminationist end, a supremacist like Chris Rufo can accuse you of being pro plagiarism, knowing all the same people who just granted that he was making a good point about _____ will fall into line and once again agree that he’s made another good point—because after all, who would be pro plagiarism? Who would say plagiarism isn’t a problem?
If you try to point out that yes, plagiarism may be a problem, so in the spirit of academic integrity, it would be better to focus on it generally rather than participate in a deliberate pre-announced targeting, supremacists can use your agreement with their premise—that we are indeed all concerned about academic integrity—not to try to find better methods and firmer rigor around citation in academic works, but to deploy their eliminationist methodologies at scale, to degrade academia in general.
Or if you discover that, say, the wife of a billionaire has committed many acts of flagrant plagiarism, then that billionaire can frame this revelation as a retributive targeting act against him, even though he had himself been openly utilizing the supremacist targeting that started the whole conversation as a pretext to demand the target’s resignation, and to denigrate diversity, equity, and inclusion as inherently antisemitic. The billionaire can even use this revelation as a pretext to engage in his own retributive investigations, to apply what he calls “a plagiarism” at scale to the school that dared point it out, and threatening all schools generally.
And you can spin yourself round and round defending yourself from one accusation or another, trying to deal with what might be an actual problem with people who have no intention of ever dealing with that actual problem, because the problem is helping them achieve their ends, which is elimination of all elements they deem unworthy on whatever pretext is useful to get them the public support they need to do so.
And this actually matters far more than just whether or not a certain person is president of Harvard. We have an openly fascist political party, whose candidate is openly and approvingly quoting Hitler, using eliminationist language, promising to be a dictator, promising to be retribution for a supremacist voting base whose already-privileged sense of grievance he’s whipped into a frenzy, and our institutions have evinced an alarming commitment to not seeing the frame in order to avoid taking in the whole picture; have evinced a reflexive instinct to ignore the supremacist assumptions at the beginning and the eliminationist intents at the end.
These are just the most present and alarming examples. This fascism isn’t creeping anymore; it’s galloping. The fascists aren’t just saying the quiet part loud; they’re bragging about how they’re going to do the loud part before they do it, and then being invited to write in newspapers and appear on TV programs to brag some more about how they did it after its done. There are no ethics, no principles, no standards, only supremacist beginnings and eliminationist ends. The middle—ethics, principles, standards—is all just filler for them. These days, incredible as it may seem, you can see people promoting Nazi ideals in the name of combatting antisemitism.
If you are a fascist or some other supremacist, you can move from one tool to any other in order to get the job done. You can utilize whatever beliefs create the false equivalence that protects you from being seen doing what you are doing, no matter how openly you do it.
Denial creates the 1st false equivalency, which defends a bully’s reputation from damage.
Accusation creates the 2nd false equivalency, which defends a bully’s assumptions and intentions from discovery.
We should stop accusation before it starts.
The way you stop accusation is with accurate framing.
Accurate framing looks at the frame, to risk stating the obvious. It sees the beginning and the end and doesn’t trim away either; it refuses to give people of bad intent a foothold in some false common ground. It never, under any circumstances, “hands it to them.”
It recognizes that all matters of ethics and principle and standards and value are matters for the human family to discuss, and that doesn’t include eliminationist fascists—not because we fail to recognize the humanity of eliminationist fascists, but because they refuse to recognize the humanity of anyone else. We recognize that Chris Rufo is a human, so he can join the human discussion any time he wants to stop operating in a spirit that refuses to recognize humanity. Until then, any conversation we have within his frame will only be an inhuman one.
We have to decline the conversation he wants to have, so all the rest of us, who actually care about the ethics and standards to which he gestures, can have a conversation, all of us together, about his supremacist assumptions and the eliminationist ends he pursues, in order to choose our own frame; first expanding the frame to see his beginnings and his ends, and then moving the frame to remove them from our consideration.
We need to tell eliminationist supremacists that because of the inhumanity they insist upon inhabiting, they are not welcome in discussions among our human family.
We’d love to see them rejoin humanity someday, but for now we must unequivocally decline their offer to lead any of our discussions.
They simply aren’t the best candidates.
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A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and is co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. When he’s a Jet he’s a Jet all the way.
Last month, the Nationalist Supremacist Party in the United States targeted a number of university professors with charges of antisemitism, which is a serious charge because antisemitism is on the rise, and it is on the rise in no small part because of the efforts and actions of the Nationalist Supremacist Party, more commonly referred to as Republicans. The Republican Representative who brought these charges, Elise Stefanik, did so because she claimed that she was concerned about rising antisemitism. Anyway, just a few hours ago she went on television to defend the leader of her party, Donald Trump, for having said that unwanted elements were poisoning the blood of the nation, which is a direct Hitler quote. You can read more here.
Notice that this means that if you are actually interested in the best candidate, you will, generally speaking, be in support of diversity, equity, and inclusivity programs.
And he’ll tell you that he is doing this in an effort to oppose elitism.