On Saturday, progressive advocacy group Seattle Indivisible announced the cancellation of a scheduled appearance with Amy Siskind, #Resistance hero and the creator of The Weekly List (also known as "The List"), a regular compendium of news stories and Trumpian wrongdoings that originated shorty after he was electoral colleged into office. The List started out as viral online content, and since November 2016, has evolved into a website, a podcast, and, as of March, a book, which Siskind would have read from in Seattle.
"The List is a first draft of history and a comprehensive accounting of Donald Trump’s first year," the event page on Facebook read, noting that The List is now being archived by the Library of Congress. "The List chronicles not only the scandals that made headlines, but the myriad of smaller unprecedented acts that fall through the cracks of daily headlines. It is this granular detail that makes The List such a powerful and important book."
That, however, was written before Siskind found herself at the center of a firestorm on Twitter. "Due to a difference in perspective following a series of events airing on social media over the past several days, Seattle Indivisible and Amy Siskind have mutually agreed to cancel this event," Indivisible wrote on the event page on Saturday. "Ticket purchases have been refunded. We apologize for your inconvenience."
The drama started on August 10, two days before the white nationalist Unite the Right Rally in Washington, DC, when Siskind tweeted: "A reminder: we didn't have neo-Nazi rallies until Trump took office—let alone in the light of day in our nation's capital! Their hate used to be unacceptable and hidden until Trump came along and legitimized them."
Many on Twitter did not appreciate this comment, including Rewire journalist Imani Gandy, who pointed out that white supremacy is an old American tradition that didn't begin with the 2016 election. After being called out, Siskind deleted the tweet and later apologized. "A tweet I sent Friday in reaction to the normalization and legitimization of white supremacists has been misconstrued by some," she wrote on August 13. "The Tweet—perhaps inarticulate—was not mean to in [any]way diminish the existence of the racism xenophobia eta before Unite the Right."
This didn't exactly help. Gandy, in particular, was not impressed.
Also she voted for McCain so when exactly did she start fighting for marginalized communities?
Give me a break.
— Imani Gandy o—€ (@AngryBlackLady) August 13, 2018
donald trump didn't come out of nowhere. he's the natural result of decades of GOP policies.
so pardon me if i don't believe a former mccain voter and bannon aficionado who, AFAIK, has never repudiated her shitty politics, is suddenly fighting for my rights.
— Imani Gandy o—€ (@AngryBlackLady) August 13, 2018
Gandy and others on Twitter also posted old tweets and videos of Siskind criticizing Barack Obama, claiming that she's a former Republican and (even worse) a fan of Steve Bannon. Around the same time, Siskind, a former Wall Street executive, shared an article on Facebook about how Russian operatives created fake Black solidarity groups to sow discord on the left. This was taken by some as an accusation, as though Siskind were claiming that Gandy is a tool of Russian operatives. This—surprise—did not help Siskind's cause, nor did blocking her critics on Facebook and Twitter, which she reportedly did as well.
Later, she directly addressed the controversy and the allegations against her in a post on Medium. She was a Clinton volunteer and supporter in 2008, she writes, and when it became clear Clinton was not going to be the Democratic candidate for President, she did a couple of things: One, she founded The New Agenda, an advocacy group for women and girls, and, two, she—gasp—voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin.
As for her alleged affection for Steven Bannon, Siskind writes:
Fast forward to 2011. Steve Bannon had produced a movie about Sarah Palin called “Undefeated.” Media was invited to pre-screenings, and Arianna [Huffington] asked me to go and write about it for HuffPost. Every major media outlet was there — it did not mean we endorsed Steve Bannon — we were covering the movie. I wrote a piece titled, “The Undefeated: The Movie I Wish Hillary Had Made” because I thought he did a great job telling Palin’s story in a personal way. In the months after, Steve had me on his radio show a couple of times as a guest. We lost touch after that.
I need to add in 2011, no one knew what we know now about Bannon. A friend on Facebook commented that he had seen Bannon on Bill Maher’s show in 2011, and he seemed like a pretty regular dude. Obviously if I had an inkling of what we know now, I would have run in the other direction!
Siskind was also called out for old tweets about Black Lives Matter, which, she tweeted in 2016, she no longer supported. Responding to this in her Medium post, Siskind wrote: "The reason I sent the tweet back then was in reaction to the group’s stated backing of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement against Israel. I don’t want to open a whole other can of worms on Israel in this post, but that was the reason I sent the tweet."
Neither Siskind nor Gandy nor Seattle Indivisible immediately returned requests for comment, but in an interview about the controversy, Gandy told the Times of Israel: “When Amy was confronted with her prior positions, rather than saying, ‘You know what, my views have changed,’ she dug in. ... If we’re trying to work out the kinks on the left and figuring out how to move forward, I don’t think [criticizing her] is being divisive. I think it’s holding people accountable. A movement that is going to fight white supremacy cannot be built on the silencing of black women.”
As for the Seattle appearance, Seattle Indivisible wrote in a comment on Facebook that, in the light of the controversy, the group "wanted to alter the event to turn it into a teachable moment that would help in responding to these controversies in the future. We did not reach agreement with Amy Siskind on alternative programming." When a potential audience member wrote that she was disappointed in Indivisible's decision, the group wrote, "We understand your disappointment. Our disagreement was not over Amy Siskind’s prior political positions, but rather the way in which she recently responded to women activists of color." So, without comment and assuming Indivisible isn't full of shit, it looks like they tried to convince Siskind to change the nature of the event, Siskind refused, and they decided to call the whole thing off.
If you were looking forward to seeing and/or heckling Siskind in Seattle, you are, for the moment, out of luck. But you can still catch her on Twitter, where she prolifically tweets, mostly about about Donald J. Trump.