OPINION: Don’t be a useful idiot
| April 12, 2023 1:00 AM
When any political supporters blindly follow the lead of the authoritarians in charge, and don’t question or understand the reasons, yet still carry out their orders, they could be called “useful idiots.” The term sounds like a mean slur, but is actually a longtime political concept rooted in communist history and has been powerfully applied by leaders from Carl Marx to Saul Alinsky.
In order to effect major policy or cultural change, large numbers of people must push for that change. Most of those people do not understand the details and consequences of the requested change, but are told just enough to engage and often enrage them. In political strategy, these are the people called “useful idiots.”
We often see this play out on national or world news, where throngs of people are marching in the streets, fully outraged about some policy or change. They may be chanting slogans and carrying signs but, when asked, cannot explain the details and reasons to others.
This also applies to our own state and some of our own political actions. The term can be used on both sides of the political spectrum. Here are two examples:
When the TV and print news media recently reported on an Idaho bill often called the “abortion trafficking bill,” most reports left out some key information. The bill, H242, applies criminal penalties to anyone taking a pregnant minor child out of state for an abortion without the consent of a parent or guardian. That last part, “without the consent of the parent or guardian” is of critical importance but was not included in most news reports. Out on social media angry pro-choice warriors were indignantly trashing the bill. It’s highly likely they had no idea what the bill actually says and were just given a one-line slogan to spread around. Useful idiots.
On the other side of the political divide, useful idiots can be important fundraising tools as well. A recent example is the current hot topic of protecting women’s sports for biological women. As many of you know, Rep. Barbara Ehardt and I were the sponsors of Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act back in 2020, which was the first law in the nation to protect women’s sports based on biology. We worked incredibly hard to get the bill passed with bipartisan support and signed into law. It was a battle, even in conservative Idaho. Our major supporters were the legal team at Alliance Defending Freedom, the international Save Women’s Sports organization and, surprisingly, Women’s Liberation Front which describes itself as a “radical feminist” group.
What’s even more interesting is that Idaho Freedom Foundation was totally absent when others were doing the hard work of getting the bill through the entire process and signed into law. They did not even analyze the bill, let alone publicly support it.
Now fast forward to today, when the topic of biological men in women’s sports is in the national spotlight, and the IFF-allied organizations are all over it. I think they smell a fundraising opportunity! On social media recently, one of the IFF-relatives was decrying the terrible attacks on swimmer Riley Gaines when she was speaking at University of San Francisco last week. I agree the attack was horrific and indicates a serious problem on many levels.
This is why I want you to know the full information about these groups. They didn’t step up to help protect Idaho women in 2020, but are now posturing like they care and will undoubtedly ask you for money so they can fight this injustice which has already been taken care of in Idaho. If you want to donate to protect women’s sports, please send it to the groups that helped get our Idaho bill through, not those who stood by and did nothing.
I don’t want anyone to be a “useful idiot.” So before you take a stand on a bill or policy, or donate to any organization, please do your research, ask questions, then make your own decisions. You have the power.
• • •
Mary Souza, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, represented District 4 in the Idaho Senate for eight years from 2014 to 2022.
Facebook: @MarySouza-Uncanceled and Unfiltered