A Top 10 List for Those Who Hate Top Ten Lists
By Cindy Sheehan
Top Ten Ways to be an Establishment Shill
If you’re involved in politics or social justice movements, you’ve probably heard the term “establishment shill” thrown around. It’s a derogatory term that refers to someone who’s seen as being in the pockets of powerful elites or corporations, working against the grassroots movements they ought to support. Becoming an establishment shill might be the exact opposite of what you want to do if you’re involved in activism, but it can be helpful to know how it’s done so you can take countermeasures. In this post, I’m going to explore the top ten ways to be an establishment shill.
Feel free to add more numbers in the comment section:
- Ignore grassroots movements and focus on corporate agendas: This is the easiest way to become an establishment shill. All you have to do is ignore the concerns, issues, and demands of grassroots movements, and shift your focus onto the agendas of corporations and other powerful elites. This can include taking large donations from corporations or endorsing their interests, i.e.; shilling for the ineffective activity of “carbon credits.”
What this means is: “You eat bugs while I pay other rich people to be able to fly hundreds of thousands of miles a year on my private jet.”
- Align yourself with establishment politicians: It doesn’t matter if the politicians you align yourself with are DemonRats or Republicants. As long as they are establishment politicians, they will definitely have connections to corporations and elites that can benefit you in the long run.
This is my main PET PEEVES of Establishment Shills: they focus so much time and energy on developing “access” to the Garbage People politicians, that they always lose sight of their original aims.
This is particularly prevalent in the so-called Peace movement where we’re admonished to “sign a petition” to a politician, or VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO, or how big of a warmonger that person is.
When I was running against Pelosi, many antiwar activists refused to endorse me (their organizations could not). My team approached one such prominent activist to ask her why she didn’t endorse me, and she said, “I can’t, we’re a non-profit.” The follow-up question was, “then how can you endorse Obama,” and her answer was, “Do you want McCain?” Sigh…such shills support the War Party over true peace, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t have peace.
- Speak in vague, meaningless language: Avoid making any clear statements or taking firm positions on issues. Instead, speak in vague, meaningless language that leaves room for interpretation. This allows you to avoid alienating any potential corporate donors or establishment politicians while appearing to appease grass roots activists.
Such as: “Defund the police.” It’s just a slogan that is not backed by any relevant strategies that would help make our most vulnerable people feel safe in their communities. Or: “Occupy Wall Street.” Another slogan that doesn’t tell us why, how, or what positive benefits could come from meaningful reform of the blighted financial system.
Movements that were good and becoming effective, like the gay rights movement, and Susan G. Komen (too many to list), have become so corporatized, their origins have become meaningless, now. Buy your Gay Pride gear at Target, and people who pump oil can use Pink pipeline connectors to show their support for a disease that they are partially responsible for causing.
- Become a media darling: Establish yourself as a public figure, appearing regularly on media outlets and being seen as a respected voice of (controlled) opposition. Choose your words carefully and always walk the establishment line. That will help you become an establishment darling while still appearing to be on the side of the people.
As someone who was a media darling for a brief bit, you’ll notice that when I refused to “choose” my words “carefully,” or “always walk the establishment line,” I became a media pariah. I like pariah, best.
- Attack grassroots activists: This is a well-established tactic – attack the grass roots activists who are fighting for change. Do anything you can to discredit them. Label them as radicals and troublemakers, thus securing your political capital with those who hold power.
What I tried to do after I’d gained more experience, was to reach out to nascent movements that were burgeoning with some attention to say: make your movement relevant by backing clear demands with strategies and logical, easily understood supporting evidence for your demands. And the #1 piece of advice I’d give, was do NOT let the DemonRat party, or noted DemonRat party shills like MoveOn.org near your movement. When that happens, the movements become Get Out the Vote for DemonRats. I fell for that, once. #NeverAgain
- Use doublespeak: Whenever you get the chance, talk around the issues using phrases that mean nothing, since this allows you to avoid being pinned down to specifics. Work hard to sound intelligent, even if what you’re saying is empty.
Kind of what my Guru, Kamala, does every time she opens her mouth and vomits her word salads.
- Use buzzwords: Use trendy buzzwords like “equality,” “equity” “inclusivity,” and “social justice,” but don’t bother following through with them. Use these phrases to gloss over real issues, but ensure that the actual message is non-existent.
Every establishment shill organization is very good at “buzzword” activism. The last time I was at an event before lockdown, a lot of the attendees put their pronouns on their name tags. The contradiction I have noticed the most, is that if groups crow “equity” they mean that they will include, or support the needs of one group, over the needs, or safety, of another group. For example: they support trans “rights” over and above the safety and needs of women and girls.
- Use red-baiting: Throw around words like “socialism” and “communism” to discredit any grass roots activists. You can always use the Cold War era to make these topics taboo. This helps reinforce the power structure while protecting your own interests.
I never liked Bernie Sanders but when, in a campaign email, he wrote that my hero Hugo Chavez was a “dead, communist, dictator,” that was it for me with BernedOut Panders.
- Be a hypocrite: Preach one thing while doing the opposite behind closed doors. You can do this on social media. Speaking of environmental issues, for example, while flying on private jets. It shows that you’re on the right side of things while being able to indulge yourself.
Or saying things like “Black Lives Matter” and using the money raised to support families of black persons killed by cops to buy multi-million dollar mansions in Bev Hills.
- Always put your own interests first: Make it explicitly clear that you will work on behalf of those who are willing to help you the most. Never forget that you are the one who stands to gain the most if you’re able to shill for the establishment.
There have been so many good journalists that, for money, and access have become establishment shills. I am not going to name, names, but I invite my readers to do so in the comment section.
There have been so many good activists who talk a good game, but sell their souls to the DemonRat Party. Their activism becomes null and void when they support people who do the exact opposite of what they purport to want to stop.
I know this goes on in the Republican Party, as well, but I came from the blue part of war and Wall Street, so I feel most betrayed by them.
Being an establishment shill might not seem like the most attractive thing to do when you’re involved in activism. But if you know how it’s done, it can be easier to spot the people who are using these tactics and counter their influence. Next time you hear someone advocating for issues that contradict their actions – keep in mind the top ten ways to be an establishment shill. We hope this article has been informative and encouraging in terms of true activism. Don’t compromise your morals and always call out those who do.
These people can be more dangerous than shills, as well, they are more than likely paid to infiltrate, undermine, and destroy any movement that may actually work.
To NOT be a shill, we need to examine our motives and hearts every day.
Was I motivated by hate for Bush, or by love for Casey, and the innocent victims trapped in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places in the crosshairs of US Imperialism?
Right now, my question to myself is, “am I motivated because I want to prove I am/was correct,” or, “am I motivated by seeking out, and sharing facts, and truths?”
It’s a balancing act, my friend.
Cindy Lee Sheehan is an American anti-war activist, whose son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War. She attracted national and international media attention in August 2005 for her extended antiwar protest at a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch—a stand that drew both passionate support and criticism. Sheehan ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008. She was a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Her memoir, Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey Through Heartache to Activism, was published in 2006. In an interview with The Daily Beast in 2017, Sheehan continued to hold her critical views towards George W. Bush, while also criticizing the militarism of Donald Trump.
Ms.Sheehan was the 2012 vice-presidential nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party, and received 1.2% of the statewide vote in the 2014 California gubernatorial election.
The author graciously has granted this website permission to reprint selected essays.
The views and/or opinions expressed by the author are her own & do not necessarily reflect those of APS Radio News or of its affiliate, APS Radio.