BY LEE KESSLER
You can call it Diversity, Equity, Inclusion. You can call it ESG. You can call it Reparations. No matter how you dress this verbal conflagration that is racing across the world, infecting the logic and common sense of otherwise good, stable nations and people, extortion is still extortion.
There are legal definitions for extortion of course. But, even figuratively, Dictionary.com defines extortion as the act of “using violence, threats, intimidation, or pressure from one’s authority to force someone to hand over money (or something of value) or do something they don’t want to do.”.
The news is full daily of people who are victims of the definition above, especially of being made to do something they don’t want to do, or prevented from doing something they do want to do. For example, having watched the Oversight Committee hearing with the FBI Whistleblowers who were extorted not to blow the whistle, it was obvious they went ahead on their own convictions, and suffered mightily as the FBI withdrew money, support, livelihood, and their good names.
Another news agency reported last week that the environment in the FBI is now toxic, and that FBI employees are terrified. Of what, you ask? Of losing their jobs, and other retaliations obviously. They fear loss of homes, income, respect, titles–symbols of success. I would argue though that character matters more. One might not have a legacy income to leave his children, but the legacy of honor and courage is a far more important example for them to have witnessed. Money comes and goes. There are all kinds of ways of making money. But character is lasting.
Last week also a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, Anthony Bass, was sheepishly apologizing for having posted something that some “god” somewhere deemed unacceptable and who extorted him by the new means of silencing people and getting them to violate–if not even abrogate–their own First Amendment rights. It was clear he was in fear of being sent back to the Minors, after having worked his whole life to get to be a Major League pitcher.
Dozens of corporations across this country are spitting on their loyal customers of decades as they race to embrace DEI, and outdo each other in the Wokism flavor of the month. Why? Again, what “god” are they satisfying? Who is threatening them so much that they risk, and are experiencing, massive drops in sales revenue, stock prices, customer loyalty and more? Who is threatening them with being labeled racist, or a bigot, intimidating them to the degree that all rational thinking has left the boardrooms?
The examples are too many and too frequent to catalog, but it seems clear that the message to the lone individual or corporation that tries to stand on its original principles and morals is this: “Do as we demand OR we will hurt you!” And that, I submit, is extortion—and a diabolical one at that. Demanding money at gunpoint in order to provide “protection” has long been deemed illegal. Mob syndicates when caught experience criminal prosecution.
But those who would implant and enforce DEI and ESG know that they are skirting the law here, since they hide behind the guise of “merely representing the will of fair-minded people.” I do not know whether or not the United States has in fact devolved to the point that bullying people into submission is the new modus operandi, embraced and agreed to by our fellow countrymen. I pray we have not sunk to that barbarism in human interactions.
I myself was raised with the old adage of “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Adherence to that one truth alone would stop almost all this nonsense. No matter how wronged you or I feel we have been, that does not justify our embracing the techniques of our wrongdoer and deploying them ourselves. That can only lead to an ever-expanding sphere of one wrong being met with another wrong which is met with yet another wrong. The society spirals down, and brutality rises. Two wrongs make two wrongs, period!
Further, any of us who have been bullied somehow understand to either stop the bully, or get away from him. To become a bully ourselves is to assume the identity of the enemy. I would like to suggest that if you have been bullied, the wrong thing to do is to become a bully. Put simply, at that point, the bully wins.
When I was young I was bullied because my father was the strict school principal, and the way people felt they could hurt him—since they were too cowardly to face him straight up—was to bully his little girl. Running to my mom in tears, she taught me to understand why I was being attacked, and to decide those people were not worthy of my attention, let alone my friendship. Bolstered by that sense of reality—that people have to qualify for one’s friendship—I chose to walk away, or challenge directly, but without using any of their degrading tactics.
That in turn served me well in my adult years in Hollywood. I want you to understand that the person writing this commentary has factually been discriminated against and “extorted” because of my gender, my race, my age, my religion, and my politics. I have personally paid a price financially and career-wise for my refusal to yield to someone’s demands that I do something I felt was wrong, or harm someone else, or abandon my beliefs and values or they would see that “I never worked again.” The words of my mother have never left me. Those people who would do that to another are not worthy of me. And they are not worthy of you!
And very specifically I remember always something my father taught me. He said one day when he was under attack by townspeople and being pressured to back off a project he knew would be vital to the education and safety of his students, and indeed the town, “Lee, you don’t live this life to be liked. You live it to be effective.”
I never forgot. My message to all who are torn now between doing the right thing even though there will be repercussions, or just cowing in the face of the extortion demands of those in authority over you—you may feel the only option you have in order to survive is to yield, to submit. I doubt it. And that is my parting gift to you: that doubt.