'Exaggerations': DeSantis-appointed college board member’s new book full of 'factual missteps'
In a Sunday, September 10 report by Vox senior correspondent Zack Beauchamp, he warns of the "dangerous" narratives pushed by far-right activist Christopher Rufo.
Earlier this year, Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis "hand-picked" Rufo to sit on the board of the the New College of Florida. The right-wing activist "professed that the school 'will no longer be a jobs program for middling, left-wing intellectuals.'"
Now, Beauchamp writes that "in recent essays," and in his new book America's Cultural Revolution — with the subtitle "How the Radical Left Conquered Everything," Rufo "has argued for conservatives to treat authoritarian Hungary and Richard Nixon as models for a 'counterrevolution' against the left."
In the book he "argues that America has been quietly taken over by the ideological heirs of 1960s radicals. Ideas formulated by Marxist revolutionaries and Black nationalists, disguised in benign-sounding language like “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI), have completed a 'long march' through America's major institutions — starting from universities and emanating outward to government and corporate life."
In June, before America's Cultural Revolution hit the shelves, Rufo reached out to me over email, offering a review copy of his forthcoming book and an on-the-record interview.
As a general rule, I think it's good to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially if their politics differ radically from your own. Rufo is an important person on the political right; it was worth taking the call to see for myself if he was acting in good faith.
However, Beauchamp notes "the more I examined Rufo's work, the weaker it started to look. His worldview is built on a foundation of exaggerations and misrepresentations — distortions that make it difficult to trust even his basic factual assertions, let alone his big-picture analysis of American society."
The senior correspondent writes:
Further pressing yielded the claim that his book couldn't be read 'literally' — that his 'artful and kind of narrative manner' requires the reader to question whether 'there was a kind of literary device at play' while reading.
But what he wrote didn't seem like any recognizable literary device. It just seemed like an obvious exaggeration, meant to make his readers think the problem is much graver than his documentation suggests.
Exaggerations weren't just a problem with the book's big-picture premise. The more I fact-checked what he said, the clearer the pattern of exaggeration and factual missteps became.
When I argued that university faculties weren't nearly as radical as he made them out to be, he pointed to his reporting on DEI departments in Florida and Texas — where, he warned, DEI departments were 'training students how to participate in violent protests.'
I traced this claim back to a piece Rufo had published in City Journal on Florida International University, focusing on a DEI pamphlet titled 'Grassroots Activism and Protest Safety.' The training contained advice like 'bring a bandana to cover nose and mouth” and “download a messaging app that has end to end encryption.' Technically, if you squint, providing such safety tips is 'training students how to participate in violent protests.' But his phrasing suggests the university is instructing students on how to engage in violence. What he said wasn't literally false, but it's profoundly misleading.
Zack Beauchamp's full report is available at this link.
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