Do NOT read this incisive ‘zine if you need your “I’m a good ally” bubble to feel good about yourself:

The ally industrial complex has been established by activists whose careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.

They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.

Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.

The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Some good examples of “activists whose careers depend on the ‘issues’ they work to address” I’m familiar with include:

I once thought these people were “on the same side” as I was, but when I started doing things that actually threatened the status quo, it quickly became clear these people don’t care about change because they’re invested in making sure change never actually happens. Clarisse Thorn, supposed pro-consent activist, literally told me, to my face, that she won’t mention or support the Predator Alert Tools publicly because she fears for her reputation. So I agree wholeheartedly with this next section of the ‘zine:

At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible. 

There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.

But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

There is no difference between “allies” and “activists” like Clarisse Thorn or Thomas Millar or Kitty Stryker or Cliff Pervocracy and the thousands of people who they ridicule. Both these rule-worshipping clique of social justice holy law adherents and the people they ridicule care about their own personal reputation over the physical safety of others, which, according to their own stated belief system, is ethically wrong and oppressive.

So I really like this ‘zine, which styles itself “to be a guide for identifying points of intervention against the ally industrial complex.” It describes how to identify various anti-liberatory allyship behaviors including:

  • Salvation aka Missionary Work & Self Therapy”
  • “Exploitation & Co-optation”
  • “Self proclaiming/confessional Allies”
  • “Parachuters”
  • “Academics, & Intellectuals”
  • “Gatekeepers”
  • “Navigators & Floaters”

In particular, I think “Gatekeepers” deserves a special mention because with the increasing reliance on technology for communication and telecommunication, there is a special class of Gatekeepers who use technology specifically to further entrench gatekeeping behavior:

Gatekeepers seek power over, not with, others. They are known for the tactics of controlling and/or withholding information, resources, connections, support, etc. Gatekeepers come from the outside and from within. When exposed they are usually rendered ineffective (so long as there are effective accountability/responsibility mechanisms). 

Gatekeeping individuals and organizations, like “savior allies,” also have tendency to create dependency on them and their function as support. They have a tendency to dominate or control.

(Emphasis added.)

I can think of no better example of technological gatekeepers cloaked in the robes of allyship than the people who run Twitter’s The Block Bot. I love its proclaimed intention, but it has a critical flaw deep in its core ideology: it tells you who’s abusive, when it should listen to you tell it that.