Skip to main content


How “self-indulgent ninnies” ruined their own cause

Protesters in Brooklyn demonstrate against police violence towards black women. Erik McGregor/LightRocket/Getty

If you find progressive hypocrisy “entertainingly irritating”, says James Marriott in The Times, you’ll enjoy Frederik deBoer’s new book, How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement. He writes about Race2Dinner, an American organisation that charges rich white women upwards of $5,000 to sit through a dinner party being hectored for “failing to interrogate their white privilege”. He is enjoyably irritated by the ceaseless updating of progressive jargon: “ethnic minority” became “people of colour”, which became “Bipoc”, which became “people of the global majority”, and so on. He notes that the phrase “I see what you mean” is now considered ableist “because some people can’t see”, and that a department at the University of Southern California banned the word “field” in case it offends the descendants of slaves (who worked in fields).

As deBoer concludes, this kind of “activism” is more about educated people wanting to feel good about themselves than it is about changing the world. So it’s hard to know “quite how annoyed to be” about this stuff. Hypocrisy and smugness are “ancient features of human nature”, not inventions of the past two decades, and complaining about progressive nonsense always risks sounding like you’re writing a letter to the Telegraph “over your fifth sherry”. But that’s why deBoer is so satisfying to read – he’s a Marxist, so his attacks have the moral urgency of a man who fears that the “righteous aims of his movement are being derailed by self-indulgent ninnies”. As, indeed, they are.

How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement by Fredrik deBoer is available to buy here.