In Part 1 - Accentuating the negative, we pointed out that our experience has been that Amy Siskind, far from encouraging a grassroots organization, is running The New Agenda in a hierarchical and elitist “top-down” manner. Rather than appealing to the intelligence of American women, she expects people to accept her agenda without doing any thinking for themselves. We also introduced a NOW 50 state membership drive for March.
In Part 2 – Lack of focus, we note The New Agenda seems to get some CNN interviews and quotes in local papers, but question the actual national membership and get-out-the-vote ability. We also pointed out inconsistency regarding sexism and misogyny which may not be attributed to partisan favoritism but to the same media pressure which Amy Siskind enjoys the light of so long as she obeys their rules.
In Part 3- Failure to make the most of members’ expertise and capabilities, we noted that the New Agenda’s failure to educate its members about issues on which it asks them to take action leaves TNA’s eligibility for a 501(c)(3) foundation — which must be educational (http://www.nowfoundation.org/) and non-political — in question. We also pointed out the lack of disclosure extends to a shortage of information about The New Agenda’s goals.
In Part 4- Lack of diversity in the faces and voices representing The New Agenda, a pattern of dictatorial elitism emerges. Without divulging the names of the innocent, we have uncovered the scope of Amy Siskind’s true agenda, which, like the Wizard of OZ, is drastically smaller than the thundering illusion of a grassroots feminist movement that she purports to want. Instead, her goal appears to be to rule and reign over a few. Betty Jean also has demonstrated firsthand knowledge of Siskind’s willingness to attack and defame anyone who dares to disagree with her.
5) Loosen the reins.
This relates to the last two points, but is worth discussing in itself because it seems to be a cause of those symptoms. While every online forum has to fend off spam and trolls, Siskind seems to be using her powers of moderation on The New Agenda’s blog to ban commenters who are simply critical. This fear of criticism and debate is very self-destructive and echoes the same problems the Democratic Party had last year when it misconstrued women’s complaints about the treatment of Secretary of State Clinton as an effort to hurt the Party. An organization, whether the Democratic Party or The New Agenda, that cannot withstanding informed, reasoned critiques is an organization too weak to stand the test of time.
In particular, to return to Point #1, Ms. Siskind’s response to questions about TNA’s anti-endorsement of Gandy is very telling: “[W]e very purposely chose to not list line items as to why we do not endorse Gandy. But suffice it to say that it was unanimous (less one) amongst our Founders group who are prominent women from around the country and perhaps, through our connections, we know more information than you know. Could that be?” This lack of transparency, accountability and access for all members (no matter how non-prominent or unconnected!) is the theme that runs through all of these concerns.
Concerns about Ms. Siskind’s undisclosed motives and secretive tactics may derail The New Agenda — something that couldn’t happen over a problem with a single person if leadership were diversified. Questions are beginning to pop up all over the internet.
According to this site (http://www.rumproast.com/index.php/site/comments/why_is_the_new_agenda_smearing_nows_kim_gandy/), Siskind sent the following email on the down-low to select “feminist bloggers” in order to sandbag Gandy:
From: Amy Siskind
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL – Kim Gandy seeks powerful position in DC in Obama Admin
Fellow Feminist Bloggers:
We learned yesterday that Kim Gandy has made public her intention to ask for one of the most powerful positions in federal gov’t for women – Director of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor.
TNA has watched Gandy shift positions again and again to stand up for Obama and sell out women – for example, on Larry Summers …
Our view is that she has sold out the women of this country for some back room deal – well now we know what the back room deal is!!!
We are asking all feminist bloggers to post a story on their blogs on Sunday, February 8th at NOON EST in protest of Kim Gandy. Feel free to use whatever rationale you see fit – I know that we each have our own gripes.
But letting this woman be in a position of power, as reward for selling out her constituents (women) would be a crime.
Please forward this to all the feminist bloggers you know that are like-minded – with one caveat: WHEN YOU FORWARD IT – IT DID NOT COME FROM ME OR TNA – AND TAKE OUT THE FIRST FEW PARAGRAPHS HERE AND JUST PUT IN INTO YOUR OWN WORDS!!!
Remember, post your story on Sunday, Feb 8th at Noon.
The Rumproast blogger questioned Siskind regarding her attack on Gandy.
“When confronted with copious evidence that her statements about Gandy were flat-out false on Monday, Siskind promised a more complete accounting of the case against Gandy Tuesday. She said she knew Gandy actually opposed Clinton during the primary (despite video evidence to the contrary) and would include an account of that in her clarification. This is what she delivered — a completely fact-free and pathetic “parable.” (http://thenewagenda.net/2009/02/10/a-parable/)
When people expressed puzzlement over what the “parable” was supposed to tell them about Kim Gandy, Siskind didn’t try to explain. Again, typical of her preference for putting others down instead of trying to persuade them to join her, she said,
“You seem an intelligent woman, but you seem to have totally missed the gist of the parable,” and added “This ain’t rocket science – read it again!”
Again, from the same article (http://www.rumproast.com/index.php/site/comments/why_is_the_new_agenda_smearing_nows_kim_gandy/), more evidence that Siskind censors anyone who dares to question her claims:
“And to stave off dissent, she’s censoring or deleting comments from polite though persistent questioners like this woman and me, and she scrubbed her own comment promising a more substantive critique. In other words, Siskind has got nothing, and she doesn’t want anyone pointing it out.
“… Siskind purports to speak for women via The New Agenda and from her status as a go-to “feminist” for our stupid media. Therefore, the standard of proof is higher. I say they either produce evidence of the offenses they’ve accused Gandy of or retract the scurrilous attacks which they’ve thus far failed to substantiate.”
This is turning into an unfortunately personal kind of battle, which it need not have been. Had The New Agenda presented its preferred slate of candidates without mentioning Gandy; had the New Agenda, in recommending against Gandy, given evidence of her unfitness for the office instead of unsourced rumors based on Siskind’s “connections”; had Siskind just shown the basic honesty not to push a blog campaign against Gandy while telling people that they didn’t hear it from Siskind — we wouldn’t be seeing The New Agenda disparaged by connection.
Again, the actions of only one person won’t smear an organization if the organization is truly grassroots, broadly-based and democratic. Unfortunately, The New Agenda hasn’t reached that status, and it’s hard to tell how it can under its current leadership. An organization that is transparent and accountable is what women need. Does it really make sense for women who are disenchanted with the Democratic Party to sign up for another organization that works in secret and won’t explain its decisions?
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