For a cultural impulse that supposedly doesn’t really exist, Nandini Jammi seems eager to claim her credit for it. The putative co-founder of Sleeping Giants brags about all of the successes her group has had into pressuring advertisers to abandon websites they dislike, which is as good a demonstration of cancel culture as one could cite. For instance, Jammi brags about forcing sponsors away from Breitbart and “put[ting] Bill O’Reilly out of a job”:
Sleeping Giants quickly became popular because we brought good news everyday. Each day, advertisers would drop Breitbart or some other horror show. Best of all, anyone could participate.
Together, we built a community of 400,000+ followers, who helped us lose Breitbart 90% of its ad revenues, put Bill O’Reilly out of a job and deplatform hate figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Behind that magical flow of daily wins? I was working behind the scenes to identify which advertisers needed an extra push. I was creating actions for our Facebook community: first testing email addresses privately, then writing email templates for our followers to send. This became a core tactic that helped us move fast.
To be clear, there’s nothing illegal or even nefarious about commercial boycotts over politics. (Conservatives have often attempted to use the same tactic.) Social media tends to make boycott campaigns more successful than others in the past, mainly because advertisers wildly overestimate the impact of small social-media trends on the vast majority of Americans who couldn’t care less what people are saying on Twitter or Facebook. The biggest problem with them, and especially in these cases, is that while the demands might be targeted, the impact isn’t. Those boycott campaigns convinced some advertisers to get out of the political market altogether, a trend that impacted platforms across the political spectrum for a while.
However, no one has industrialized cancel culture like Sleeping Giants has, and as “deplatforming” and firings are key parts of cancel culture, it’s clear it exists — and Jammi wants credit for making it toxic. She didn’t write this essay just to brag, though. Jammi wants her partner in Sleeping Giants canceled for essentially canceling her as a partner, accusing “my white, male co-founder” Matt Rivitz of sexism and gaslighting:
When Matt and I came out in July 2018 on the front page of the business section of the New York Times, I believed it was as equal partners. It was through Matt’s subsequent media appearances I realized he considered me an optional part of the story.
In the weeks after we went public, he positioned himself as Founder of Sleeping Giants and went on to take interviews with Pod Save America, Kara Swisher and AdWeek. In AdWeek, I ended up portrayed as “one of the individuals who helps him run the accounts.”
Without my knowledge, my story was being defined by someone else — a white man who could use his platform to exclude me, diminish me, or disappear me entirely. He never once invited me to join him. I never had any idea he was doing any of these interviews until it was too late.
The final straw came in June of last year, when Rivitz accepted an advertising award and didn’t mention it to her until later:
In June, I saw Matt posting from France on Instagram. “Are you in…Europe?” I asked. He said yes, I’m speaking at Cannes. Days later, he sent me a DM of him accepting a Cannes Gold Lion, the ad industry’s biggest award[.]
I went into a downward spiral when I realized what a big deal this was: What have I been spending every single day working on? Did anyone know I existed? That I was working on this too? Why didn’t he ever mention this to me?
I felt humiliated. I spent the week unable to eat, sleep, or function — I had put on my personal website that I’m “founding organizer” of Sleeping Giants. Would people think I was lying about my involvement?
Quite the drama, eh? Jammi continues in this vein to unroll unpleasant interactions between herself and Rivitz, complete with screen grabs. These mainly confirm that both of the people involved are every bit as unpleasant as the work they do. At the end, Jammi announces that she is starting a separate effort to continue that work, which seems to be the point of airing out all this dirty laundry and canceling Rivitz … competition.
Rivitz paints a different picture of the relationship for The Daily Beast:
“Hey guys, I co-run @slpng_giants with Matt. Sadly I could not join him at #CannesLions last week to pick up our award,” she wrote. “WoC are rarely seen or heard in tech and marketing, but we deserve a seat at the table too.”
Jammi also commented sarcastically on Rivitz’s Instagram page, “Incredible how much you’ve achieved all by yourself!”
After the posts, Rivitz called her to reprimand her for airing their private grievances in public, Jammi said. She said Rivitz accused her of wanting to hog the spotlight and being involved in Sleeping Giants for the wrong reasons. …
Jammi said she asked for access to the inbox repeatedly over months. Rivitz said that in one instance he refused to give her the password after a thread she tweeted on Dec. 8, 2019, in which she wrote, “I let myself be gaslighted by a progressive male activist who made me question my worth and the value I bring to our movement.”
Rivitz thought it was obvious who she meant.
“It became clear that we had an expanding gulf of trust after Nandini’s public attacks on me on social media,” Rivitz said. “Right or wrong, this resulted in my reluctance to share the email account password.”
Yikes. Even the Beatles were more discreet about their break-up than these two.
So where exactly is the sexism and racism implied in Jammi’s citation of Rivitz being her “white male co-founder”? Apparently her identity as neither is evidence enough that the “gaslighting” is motivated by racism and sexism. That logic sounds very familiar, as it is the same used by many others who use cancel-culture tactics to shut down people who disagree with them or rebut their arguments. It’s not at all surprising — and in fact all too predictable — that their campaigns based on “feelings” over facts would eventually eat itself in spectacular ways.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this? Maybe just that modern-day Robespierres will eventually suffer Robespierre’s fate, at least in a character-assassination sense. And perhaps another: if you partner with awful people on awful projects, don’t come crying to us when the outcome turns out to be awful to yourself.