A writer, speaker, and video host who spent 20 years as a “social justice warrior” is speaking out about her experience.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Keri Smith said she began to realize something was not right during the 2016 presidential election.
She was shocked to see “inconsistencies in the narrative” as friends and peers supported the advocacy of what she considered to be censorship, gaslighting, aggressive behavior, and even violence toward former President Donald Trump’s supporters.
The behavior, she told the news source, left her wondering if she fully understood her own belief system, which had started as liberalism but eventually transformed into “wokeism” ideology.
At that time, she began to examine that system and the influences that had drawn her into what she refers to as a cult.
“Looking back on it now, I realize what was happening was that this was a belief system that I was getting pulled into,” she told the Times. “But at the time, it didn’t seem like a belief system; it seemed like progressivism. I thought I was learning how the world works and learning how to end oppression.”
Her journey led her to create a YouTube channel, “Deprogrammed with Keri Smith,” where she invites guests to discuss the “social justice” sphere.
Sometimes speaking with those who support it as well as those who have left it, she tries to determine where what the movement claims to be may diverge from what it actually is. Her guests include comedians, authors, artists, and academics.
“I want to understand the belief system better for myself, to untangle all of it,” she told the Times. “What did I believe about it that was true? What did I believe about it that was false?”
In addition to the YouTube channel, Smith co-created the Unsafe Space Book Club, a virtual place to discuss written works that focus on the current cultural climate.
She also started the Civility Dinner, which provides opportunities for people with varying backgrounds and belief systems to gather in Austin, Texas, to better understand their differences.
Smith said that once she started to dissect the influences of her “cult” — which she began to participate in as far back as the 1990s when she was in college — she realized what a key role the control of language had become.
Phrases like “white privilege,” “toxic masculinity,” and “white fragility” began to become part of that language, she said.
By the time Smith graduated college, she had wrapped her worldview around what she called a twisted form of Marxism.
She would go on to work in the entertainment industry, managing comedians, many of whom shared her same “wokeist” views. But in 2016, she saw footage of Trump supporters being attacked. One of the videos “was jarring to [her],” she told the Times.
Smith also said it was at this time that she was shocked by insensitive comments from those in her “social justice” echo chamber after five police officers were killed in Dallas following a protest of the deaths of two black men.
Following those events, Smith said she started questioning how Trump won the 2016 election and wanted to gain a better understanding by giving attention to those on the right. Her inquisitiveness garnered adverse reactions, she said. Other “woke” people told her that her “white privilege was coming through.”
She slowly decided to distance herself from the “cult.”
“It wasn’t a fast process,” she said in the article. “It was just as slow as it was getting into a cult. That’s how slow it is getting out of a cult.”
She credits clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson for helping her overcome the fear of speaking out against the idea of social justice. Peterson, a best-selling Canadian author and public speaker, advocates personal responsibility and self-empowerment through self-searching.
Smith said she had reached a point of being more afraid of being silent about what was happening around her than she was to speak out about it.
In 2017, Smith’s changing views came to light in an essay she wrote and shared publicly.
“I have been wondering why more people on the left are not speaking up against violence, in favor of free exchange of ideas and dialogue, in favor of compassion. But I know why. I was in the cult,” she wrote in the essay.
She again faced criticism from those she referred to in the piece. This time, however, she concluded that their actions must be coming from a place of fear. Nonetheless, she felt she was on a journey to conquer hers.
“I believe taking on the task of honestly assessing and trying to improve my character and speaking up for principles of equality, justice, free speech, liberty, peace, and love in a way that supports those principles rather than increasing resentment, hatred, and murderous rage, is the way to change the world,” she wrote. “If that makes me a moron, a naive peacenik, a privileged bigot — a heretic — in your ideology, so be it.”