West Point for Democratic operatives hired director who called terrorism the ‘dream of politics

The “West Point for Democratic operatives,” which credits itself for aiding President Biden’s victory, hired a digital director, who previously shared that “terrorism is the dream of politics.” 

Johannah King-Slutzky landed the digital director gig at the Democratic-aligned The Arena during the Fall in 2019, a few years after she had made a post discussing “terrorism” on her personal blog. 

“Terrorism is the dream of politics — ultimate togetherness, ultimate realness — in a way that neuters criticism,” the post on JKS’s personal blog said prior to her hire.

“The point is this: Terrorism (and American anti-terrorism) are compelling because they assert themselves as real (unlike iconoclastic art). And that realism is compelling (1) because it halts criticism, and (2) my point- it fulfills the dream of the political.” 

King-Slutzky describes herself as a “full-service digital comms expert for progressive and leftist causes” on her LinkedIn.

She recently made headlines for her leadership at the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University, telling members of the media that protesters who took over a building were at risk of dying or becoming severely ill if authorities did not allow “humanitarian aid” to flow.  

“At Arena, she is spearheading member growth through digital ads, email, and social media, which have already contributed to over 5,000 new members of our community,” Arena co-founder and former Obama staffer, Ravi Gupta, announced in a press release about her hiring. 

King-Slutzky was involved with The Arena’s operations for at least a year and a half. The last point of her public involvement was in April 2021, when she posted information on tips for hosting virtual trainings on The Arena’s website.

On her professional website, which has since been deleted, King-Slutzky bragged about purportedly training thousands of Democrats during the time period of the 2020 elections.

This claim is currently unsubstantiated, as is whether it had any affiliation to her work at The Arena and its operations. King-Slutzky did not respond to a request for comment and documentation for her claims. 

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is listed as one of The Arena’s partners. Arena has, in the past, hosted a training session at the 2020 DNC Convention in Wisconsin in conjunction with Team Biden. 

The Arena and the DNC similarly did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Arena’s influence in the Democratic Party is quite expansive, according to the organization. The Arena credits itself for landing President Biden his victory in 2020. An ad on its YouTube channel described itself as “the West Point for Democratic operatives.” 

Hillary Clinton has similarly praised The Arena for its influence in changing the power game for Democrats. Onward Together, a political organization Clinton founded, has funded Arena from 2018-present

“The work that the Arena has done is exactly what I hoped would come… And as I watched what The Arena has done… I’m even more encouraged and optimistic,” Clinton said at an Arena event in August 2019. “[The Arena’s] focus on down-ballot races is exactly what we have to do.” 

The Arena is focused on training “women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community” as part of its mission to bring DEI to the Democratic Party’s operations on the national and local levels. 

“Every cycle, Arena-trained staff hold thousands of roles in campaigns and movement organizations,” The Arena said about its impact. “Arena has helped build the campaign teams that won Democratic majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives… and the White House in 2020.” 

In addition to calling terrorism “the dream of politics,” King-Slutzky’s post on terrorism shared an academic article which argued that terrorists are the ultimate modern artists because their videos of torture and murder are staged and get replayed in the media. 

“By pushing the button that let a bomb to explode a contemporary warrior or terrorist pushes a button that starts the media machine,” the article by Boris Groys titled, “The Fate of Art in the Age of Terror” said. 

The Groys article shared by King-Slutzky went on to call radical Islamic terrorist Osama Bin-Laden a “video artist.”

“Especially video art became the medium of choice for the contemporary warriors. Bin Laden is communicating with the outer world primarily by the means of this medium: We all know him as a video artist in the first place.

The same can be said about the videos representing beheadings, confessions of the terrorists etc. In all these cases we have to do with the consciously and artistically staged events that have their own easily recognizable aesthetics,” the Groys article said. 

Her blog also said that it was her dream to tell a White man off for purported sexist behavior. The particular offense triggering the outrage was that she was given “un-asked for advice.” 

“My dream has finally happened: I called an upper middle class straight White man out on his ~sexist behavior…

This particular man happens to be into giving un-asked for advice. I told him that typically repressed groups can be sensitive to receiving advice because the basic assumption is that we can’t assess the terrain or problem solve on our own,” she wrote. 

Another post by King-Slutzky claimed that the diaries of people suffering from anorexia, discussing their drastic and dangerous steps to reduce their food intake through tracking everything they consume, was “literature” and “could definitely be Art.”

“There is definitely an argument to be made that any portrayal of anorexia will inspire more anorexics, just as the number of suicides rises when newspapers publish data about suicides. Tabling our morals, anorexia-literature could definitely be Art,” she said. 

In addition to its Clinton connection, from the start, Arena has been filled to the brim with former President Obama’s staffers. Two out of three of its co-founders are alumni of Obama’s orbit, as are numerous board members and its most senior administrative staff.

Arena’s co-founder Kate Catherall is an alum of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, “and credits this experience as formative to her approach today.” 

Another co-founder, Ravi Gupta, held a number of roles in Obama’s first campaign and first term, including as assistant to David Axelrod and Susan Rice.

Three of Arena’s most senior administrators are also Obama alumni. 

The most senior administrator, Managing Partner Lauren Baer, “served for six years as an official in the Obama administration, acting as a senior advisor to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.”

At the next level of seniority, Santiago Martinez, worked on “President Obama’s re-election campaign.” 

Another partner at Arena, Debra Cohen, worked on Obama’s campaign as well as his non-profit, Organizing for Action.

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