NY Times blames the collapse of the Women’s March on Russian trolls (not the co-chair’s fondness for Louis Farrakhan)

Source: Hot Air

I’m not sure what the point of this story published yesterday is except maybe to try to rehabilitate Linda Sarsour’s badly damaged image. Reporter Ellen Barry makes a sustained argument that the Women’s March didn’t collapse because its leaders were far left nuts with connections to Louis Farrakhan. Instead, Barry says it fell apart because its leaders and Linda Sarsour in particular were targeted by Russian trolls.

Many people know the story about how the Women’s March movement fractured, leaving lasting scars on the American left.

fragile coalition to begin with, it headed into crisis over its co-chairs’ association with Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, who is widely condemned for his antisemitic statements. When this surfaced, progressive groups distanced themselves from Ms. Sarsour and her fellow march co-chairs, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, and some called for them to step down.

But there is also a story that has not been told, one that only emerged years later in academic research, of how Russia inserted itself into this moment.

As always with these stories of Russian influence, the actual numbers involved seem pretty underwhelming. The best case that this mattered at all seems to come down to one tweet that was picked up by Alex Jones:

One hundred and fifty-two different Russian accounts produced material about her. Public archives of Twitter accounts known to be Russian contain 2,642 tweets about Ms. Sarsour, many of which found large audiences, according to an analysis by Advance Democracy Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public-interest research and investigations…

At 7 p.m. on Jan. 21, an Internet Research Agency account posing as @TEN_GOP, a fictional right-wing American from the South, tweeted that Ms. Sarsour favored imposing Shariah law in the United States, playing into a popular anti-Muslim conspiracy theory that Mr. Trump had helped to popularize on the campaign trail.

This message took hold, racking up 1,686 replies, 8,046 retweets and 6,256 likes. An hour later, @PrisonPlanet, an influential right-wing account, posted a tweet on the same theme. The following day, nearly simultaneously, a small army of 1,157 right-wing accounts picked up the narrative, publishing 1,659 posts on the subject, according to an analysis conducted by the online analytics firm Graphika on behalf of The Times.

Another Russian tweet got about 6,000 retweets after Sarsour used the word “jihad” during a speech. It’s not nothing and maybe it contributed a tiny bit in these two instances to negative stories about her, but it’s a small fraction of the negative attention Sarsour and her fellow co-founders were getting at the time. Eventually, Ellen Barry does get around to discussing the actual issues that led to the downfall of the Women’s March.

Internal disputes about identity and antisemitism had strained the group from its early days, when one of its organizers, Vanessa Wruble, who is Jewish, was pushed out after what she described as tense conversations with Ms. Perez and Ms. Mallory about the role of Jews in structural racism. Ms. Perez and Ms. Mallory have disputed that account…

In 2018, a new internal crisis was triggered by Ms. Mallory’s attendance at Saviours’ Day, an annual gathering of the Nation of Islam led by Mr. Farrakhan.

There was a lot more to the story, none of which makes it into Ellen Barry’s story. The ADL was criticizing the March co-founders for their closeness to Louis Farrakhan back in March 2018. Even under pressure, Tamika Mallory refused to distance herself from Farrakhan. Progressive actress and activist Alyssa Milano later criticized the co-chairs of the group for their proximity to Farrakhan. Not long after that, one of the founders of the Women’s March called on the co-chairs, including Linda Sarsour to step down.

Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs. I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent.

Then there was a piece published by Tablet which discussed in great detail how anti-Semitism had been a part of the organization from the moment it was founded. I wrote about it at the time. The Tablet story described an incident at the very first meeting of the seven women who created the Women’s March:

According to several sources, it was there—in the first hours of the first meeting for what would become the Women’s March—that something happened that was so shameful to many of those who witnessed it, they chose to bury it like a family secret. Almost two years would pass before anyone present would speak about it.

It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade. These are canards popularized by The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—“the bible of the new anti-Semitism,” according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who noted in 1992: “Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.”

According to the same story, there was another ugly incident shortly after the successful march.

At the end of January, according to multiple sources, there was an official debriefing at Mallory’s apartment. In attendance were Mallory, Evvie Harmon, Breanne Butler, Vanessa Wruble, Cassady Fendlay, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour. They should have been basking in the afterglow of their massive success, but—according to Harmon—the air was thick with conflict. “We sat in that room for hours,” Harmon told Tablet recently. “Tamika told us that the problem was that there were five white women in the room and only three women of color, and that she didn’t trust white women. Especially white women from the South. At that point, I kind of tuned out because I was so used to hearing this type of talk from Tamika. But then I noticed the energy in the room changed. I suddenly realized that Tamika and Carmen were facing Vanessa, who was sitting on a couch, and berating—but it wasn’t about her being white. It was about her being Jewish. ‘Your people this, your people that.’ I was raised in the South and the language that was used is language that I’m very used to hearing in rural South Carolina. Just instead of against black people, against Jewish people. They even said to her ‘your people hold all the wealth.’ You could hear a pin drop. It was awful.”

These allegations were then repeated a couple weeks later by the NY Times. By January of 2019 even the DNC was cutting ties with the Women’s March.

The point is that there were a lot of voices critical of the Women’s March co-chairs, many of whom had a lot more clout than some anonymous Russian account. And ultimately, the Women’s March collapsed because the allegations about its co-chairs were true.