Robert Mackey Dishonestly Demonizes Bob Avakian, Erases Revolution, and Trashes the Truth


Sunsara Taylor

Sunsara Taylor   

Sunsara Taylor

The Intercept describes itself as an “award-winning news organization.” Its official policies begin: “At the Intercept, we strive to hold the powerful accountable...”

But, rather than taking aim at “the powerful,” in a July 14 article at the Intercept titled “Abortion Rights Activists Call New Group Leading Protests a Front for a Far-Left Cult,” Robert Mackey does the opposite.

In his piece, Mackey directs his aim at smearing the most implacable foe of this country's powerful rulers and their system: the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian.

Elsewhere, Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (which I am part of together with others from very different political perspectives) thoroughly refutes the unprincipled attacks and libelous lies against it that Mackey elevates and lends credence to.1

In this piece, I want to especially focus on Mackey's utter lack of journalistic integrity in how he takes aim at Bob Avakian and real revolution and make public my demand that the Intercept allow me space to respond to Mackey's piece on their site.

Canceling Bob Avakian to Erase Revolution

Starting in his title and repeatedly in his piece, Mackey elevates the loaded accusation that Bob Avakian, and the Revcoms who follow him, are a “cult.” This is hardly dispassionate journalism. Everyone knows that cults are creepy and unthinking and dangerous. Everyone knows they are predatory.

The clear message being conveyed is that there is no need to engage or consider the tremendous body of very serious, scientific, and ongoing work that Bob Avakian has done and is doing on questions like: Why can't the system we live under be reformed? Why must it be overthrown and how could it be? (Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution) What is a concrete and achievable vision of a new society that is digging up all forms of oppression and exploitation after we make that revolution? (Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America) And more. Not to speak of the roadmap Bob Avakian has laid out for how a revolution could be wrenched out of the current moment of profound crisis, deepening divisions, and the looming possibility of civil war. (Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility Of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed. A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution)

How convenient for the powerful who run the system that rules over us and others who have a vested interest in keeping it going. How out of step with what humanity needs and even what the Intercept claims to be!

A Trumpian Method

The Intercept's policies continue by emphasizing their commitment to “truthful and aggressive reporting.”

Mackey is certainly aggressive, but his piece does not seek the truth. Finding the truth requires sifting and following the evidence wherever it leads.

Mackey doesn't even purport to offer evidence for his smeary and scary accusation of “cult.” Rather, the “best” he comes up with is that “a lot of people are saying it.” In this case, a lot of “woke” opportunists of the so-called “movement” who did absolutely nothing to mobilize people to fight the overturning of abortion rights are saying it. So what!

Mackey's method is Trumpian.

Remember how, when Trump was challenged to back up one of his many dishonest, frequently lunatic and outright dangerous claims, he'd frequently fall back on the phrase, “A lot of people are saying it.” Of course, many times the lunatic fascist conspiracy theories that Trump was pushing were being said... by other fascist lunatics and conspiracy theorists. But—and this was obvious to every critical thinker and serious reporter at the time—that had absolutely no bearing on whether what they were saying was true.

Where is Mackey's journalistic integrity?

Erasing Revolution in the Service of Canceling Bob Avakian

The Intercept policies emphasize: “[W]e insist that [our writers] be accurate in their reporting; rigorous, comprehensive, and ethical in their methods...”

It is obvious to anyone who honestly visits the website, or looks at any of Bob Avakian's books, articles, and speeches over decades right up to now, that we Revcoms and Bob Avakian have an overriding mission: to make a real revolution and emancipate humanity.

We are dedicated to making revolution because we have become convinced, on the basis of deep analysis and evidence which is documented on, that the system of capitalism-imperialism that we live under cannot be reformed and must be overthrown to put an end to the many forms of oppression and exploitation that characterize this society and our world. On this basis, as is also clear on our website, we proudly follow and boldly fight for the leadership and new communism that has been forged by Bob Avakian, because Bob Avakian has made breakthroughs in forging the strategy, the scientific approach, the vision and the leadership necessary for such a revolution that is on the road to real emancipation.

However, Mackey erases this mission of revolution when he dishonestly asserts that the Revcoms are "dedicated to spreading the ideas of the former ’60s radical Bob Avakian."

This is akin to asserting that Anthony Fauci is simply dedicated to holding press conferences, while ignoring and erasing the obvious fact that Fauci has dedicated himself over a lifetime to public health and it is in the service of that mission that he has done a lot of press conferences.

The chance that this is an “honest mistake” on Mackey's part is beyond slim. This distortion made by Mackey of the Revcoms' reasons for promoting Bob Avakian (BA) is the exact same distortion made in the unprincipled attacks on BA that Mackey elevates in his piece. It is also the exact distortion that is substantively refuted in the very section of the Revcoms' official statement that Mackey quotes from in his article.

From the Revcoms' official response to the attacks:

This “coalition” traffics in the ignorant and irresponsible label of cult. In support of this, they write that “RevCom’s own website claims the only effective way to achieve social change is to follow Avakian’s leadership and teachings.” 

No. Revcom’s website makes the claim that Bob Avakian’s leadership, and the new communism he has brought forward is absolutely essential for making revolution and emancipating humanity, for breaking all the chains of this capitalist-imperialist empire and its system, with its horrific division of the globe and its oppressive social relations and antagonistic conflicts. These attackers talk about some vague “social change,” but what we are talking about—and working toward—is an actual revolution

However, when Mackey quotes from this statement he does so selectively. He strips out exactly the contrast between “vague social change” and “an actual revolution.

In this way, Mackey attempts to portray the Revcoms' substantiation of the importance of BA's work as yet more empty and creepily unthinking praise. Or, as he put it, "lavishing praise on Bob Avakian to such an extent that it seems to reinforce the charge" of "cult."

Mackey Didn't Reach Out for Comment

The Intercept policies stress: “We seek to be fair in our coverage, which means allowing people and institutions a reasonable window to respond to reporters’ inquiries before publishing a story that contains significant revelations about them.”

Yet Mackey never reached out to myself or any of the other very public co-initiators of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights for comment,  even though his article centered on dishonest and extremely damaging allegations against Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights.

Nor did Mackey contact the Revcoms for comment, despite accusations, smears, and vicious distortions of the Revcoms, especially the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian, being a major focus of his piece.

Where is the journalistic integrity?

The Intercept Doubles Down on Mackey's Dishonest Process

I pointed out this problem to Mackey and his editors in an email where I made the extremely reasonable request for space on their website to reply substantively to his slanderous piece. In denying my request, Nausicaa Renner, the Intercept's Washington editor, wrote, “Rob did reach out to Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights for comment...”

It occurred to me that Mackey might have been as dishonest with Ms. Renner as he was with Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. Perhaps he only told her that he'd sent Rise Up an email request, but not what it said.

So I promptly explained to Ms. Renner that this is not so. Mackey wrote to Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights once, on June 27, with an extremely narrow and specific request. By name he specified a young activist he was hoping Rise Up would put him in touch with, explaining he was “a reporter at The Intercept writing about the response to viral comments by” that specific young activist.

This is obviously very different than reaching out to the leaders of Rise Up for comment or to at all.

In the course of responding to Mackey's request to be put in touch with the young activist, a Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights organizer named Sam Goldman took the initiative to ask Mackey the subject of the article. Mackey again insisted the article would focus on the viral video and only then mentioned, in that context, that his piece would bring in—among other reactions to the video—the attacks on Rise Up.

As is obvious, Mackey's article most definitely is not focused on the viral comments of the young activist as he claimed. While his article mentioned that video, it was clearly focused on—as indicated in its headline and the bulk of the copy—the unfounded, untrue, and dangerous allegations and accusations leveled against Rise Up and the Revcoms, especially Bob Avakian and myself. Most of the lies and smears he cited preceded the viral video, some of them by years.

So far, Ms. Renner has ignored my follow-up letter which included Mackey's full misleading June 27 email.

Where is the journalistic integrity?


Not only does Mackey's article work against—and train the Intercept's readers in methods that work against—getting at the truth. Mackey's article adds the Intercept's imprimatur of journalistic rigor to dangerous McCarthyite attacks that can only contribute to destroying movements and serious revolutionaries.

This wrecking must be vigorously called out by all who care about the truth and the future, whether or not they agree with the particular groups being maligned.

I have already asked the Intercept to live up to basic standards of journalistic integrity and their own stated policies by giving me space on their site to respond to Mackey's truth-trashing piece.

Now, I ask the many readers of the Intercept who thoughtfully called out the dishonesty, red-baiting and fear-mongering of Mackey's July 14 article and others to spread this response from me far and wide and add your voice to mine in calling on the Intercept to give me space to respond.


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