This article shows the differences between twitter/online organizing and actual organizing very well. Here’s some elements that I’ve been picking up on in this ongoing conversation that shows how Ms. Johnstone has no idea what face to face organizing actually entails or how its performed —
One thing I’ve noticed is the absolute inability to be reflexive in these articles and accompanying twitter conversations. The phrase “I know I’m right” came up more than once in Ms. Johnstone’s tweets. Imagine an experienced organizer attempting to collaborate with others with such an obstinate phrase. This is not how you organize people. Even if you bought into the idea that alt rightists like Cernovich should be welcomed into the tent on certain issues (they shouldn’t) the way she frames her arguments show a wholly different reason why that collaboration would fail.
Another item is how these suggestions have absolutely no value when put into practice. It is remarkably ironic that Johnstone will lament the “imaginary ideal” when her suggestion is quite possibly the most Pollyannaish idea of how the hard work of coalition building occurs. Rather than approach people close to our ideological stances, Johnstone says to attempt to garner goodwill from people out to restrict the basic human rights of many on the Left. People who chant about helicopter rides is the demographic she is going after. Her suggestion is so far out of the realm of real-world organizing that it seems the criticism of an “imaginary ideal” is projection.
It’s been a while since I was organizing in an official capacity, but every training focused on the need to listen more than speak. 80% listening, 20% speaking. Forming trusting worthwhile relationships is key to organizing people in strong ways. Now, who does Johnstone want to form relationships with based on her words? It seems those she supposedly is most ideologically allied with, she saves the harshest criticism for. Her hopes to organize alt right advocates are doomed to failure if she cannot treat those she ordinarily associates with the respect deserved. There is a pretty big difference between saying “we disagree” and “I know I’m right.” Say all you want about tone policing, how we present ourselves makes a pretty big impact in how effective an organizer we are. Lots of people have ‘been right’ on an issue and garnered zero traction because we just didnt’ like them. Ms. Johnstone is doing no favors for herself on the likability scale. She would likely say she doesn’t care if she’s liked in which case it isn’t the left that has a hard time collaborating, it is her.
I would much rather read Johnstone writing about some on-the-ground work she is doing in Australia to help with indigenous poverty. Or about how she brought 5 friends to protest the Adani coal mine. That is better than 10 Medium posts. The organizers are out there doing that work, going to the DSA convention, supporting arrested school teachers for protesting (something I’m miffed about myself..), protesting a lack of clean water, stopping corrupt politicians who let foreclosures continue in the nation’s poorest cities. Those organizers typically aren’t reading this type of thing, because they’re doing work. Johnstone looks to the Left and begs them to do work in her last lines. It reveals exactly how much she is not willing to do herself.