“Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.” Henry Kissinger
“Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it.” Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune
Cancel culture is part of our society now.
You can’t just disagree with someone; you must destroy them. A friend and I were canceled from a nonprofit fraternal organization, and I am sharing the process that was used. To battle something, you must first understand it. I’ll then explain what I could have done differently.
Having been removed from the board, we strategized our next step. I felt certain that the leader wouldn’t be satisfied with just removing us from the board. He needed total control of the system to ensure the truth never got out, and that would not occur as long as we were a presence. I was certain that his next play was to remove us from the organization entirely.
And it was!
A few days later we received a letter proposing our removal. It cited a series of “charges” which were different from both the initial charges brought against us and the subsequent charges used to remove us from the board. I suppose when you operate in the shadows the truth is fungible! We had thirty days to reply to the very board members who had just voted us off. Corrupt parliamentary procedure at its finest!
There was a general membership meeting in two weeks, and I thought that was our best chance to get the truth out.
My friend and I spent the next two weeks putting together a detailed rebuttal to the charges brought against us. We also meticulously documented the unethical behavior of several members of the board and included that in a well organized document containing over 40 tabbed exhibits. The documentation completely exonerated us, and the documented behavior of the board should have horrified anyone who cared about the organization.
But we felt we needed more. I put together a series of questions that the board should be required to answer, and we planned on circulating them at the meeting.
We showed up and passed out our questions as people arrived. I also offered to show my evidence to anyone who was interested, and several people flipped quickly through the binder. At the appointed time the leader began the meeting and ran it with ruthless efficiency. He skimmed over any controversial topics (including the budget) and quickly brought the meeting to an end.
When concerned members asked to discuss what was going on with my colleague and me, he gaveled them down and said the meeting was over. The crowd erupted! Many of them could sense that something was wrong and wanted answers. While they pressed hard, in the end it didn’t matter. The meeting was over and no questions were answered.
This is where I made my greatest miscalculation. I had produced overwhelming evidence and circulated it to the membership. I expected that people would rise up and demand justice, and because of that I was much more passive in that meeting than I should have been. I thought the truth would carry the day. It didn't.
Being upset is different than being in open revolt. Most people don't want to take that next large step.
So nothing changes.
Up next was our meeting with the board.
Thanks to all the people who have responded to this series. Many people have commented that our experience is exactly what they see in the news! The playbook is well known, but the experience of living through it is hard to describe. Hopefully you won’t ever be faced with such an experience, but if you do you will understand what you are facing and can be much more aggressive than I was in responding. If you interested in earlier articles, links can be found on this page.