Zack Beauchamp at Vox had no intention of reviewing hard-right impresario Christopher Rufo’s new book, the operatically titled “America’s Cultural Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything.” Familiar with Rufo’s work and public persona, Beauchamp had correctly concluded Rufo is a dishonest political hack.
But when Rufo reached out to offer an advance copy of the book and on-the-record interview, Beauchamp agreed. Rufo seems to want to be taken seriously as an intellectual and to gain wider exposure for his polemics, which is probably why he engages with people on the left sometimes. But he can’t resist overt political stunts.
For example, Rufo strutted alongside Ron DeSantis in smug conqueror mode as they triumphantly marched into tiny New College of Florida. The school, which was previously known as an affordable and welcoming place where students — including free-thinkers and queer people — could achieve academic excellence. It is now rapidly devolving into a second-rate, edu-grift dump for evangelical jocks and anti-education political operatives turned highly-paid administrators.
Unsurprisingly, Beauchamp found that Rufo’s latest book is riddled with falsehoods and unsupported assertions and that Rufo is a dishonest hack in person too. A few excerpts from Beauchamp’s piece:
(Rufo claims) government “no longer exists to secure natural rights, but to achieve ‘social justice.’” Even business “no longer exists to maximize profit, but to manage ‘diversity and inclusion.’”
This last line, in particular, struck me as absurd — even he couldn’t possibly think corporations cared more about their DEI departments than profits. When I pressed him, Rufo said the passage was intended to describe the ultimate objectives of (philosopher Herbert) Marcuse and his ideological heirs, not to depict reality.
“This is the movement toward which they’re fighting. They’re seeking to change the telos [purpose] of the institution,” he told me.
But in his book, just before his line about corporations putting diversity over profits, Rufo asserted that “the victory of the critical theories has displaced the original ends, or telos, of America’s institutions” — a statement about what he thinks the critical theorists have already accomplished.
“Telos” — good gourd. You know what’s worse than a bald-faced liar? A bald-faced liar who is also a pretentious jackass. A hypocrite as well, Rufo frequently decries “elitism” while simultaneously lying about having a master’s degree from Harvard.
In his review, Beauchamp recounts how Rufo casually lies in conversation too:
Rufo’s slipperiness in our conversation didn’t just extend to his book or underlying source material. When I suggested that racial affinity groups for minority students weren’t always bad, he asked me if I thought sometimes segregation could be good. I told him those groups were not the same as segregation, and he responded, “I think it is.” When I elaborated — that giving Black students a private space to discuss racism was nothing like a systematically unequal division of resources along racial lines — he said, “I didn’t say it’s akin to Jim Crow segregation” and that the groups were “segregating.”
When his hyperbolic claim was no longer defensible, he denied less than a minute later that he ever made it in the first place.
These distortions appear endemic to Rufo’s work.
Acadia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, whom Beauchamp cites as an expert on campus free speech issues, said, “Rufo is not a skilled rhetorician. He’s good at deception. He is not a deep intellectual. He’s a deep fake.”
That’s exactly right. Fortunately, Rufo’s project seems to be a flop outside of Florida. I fervently hope that continues to be the case and that Rufo is eventually obligated to return to the Pacific Northwestern socialist utopia in which he resides due to lack of interest in his bullshit elsewhere. Let him superintend his own children’s schooling rather than monetizing ignorance and hate in other states.