Can Wokeness Survive a Recession?

Can Wokeness Survive a Recession? By Daniel Greenfield.

It’s no coincidence that the backlash against political correctness coincided with a recession in the early 90s. Or that cancel culture is starting to take a beating during an economic crisis.

In political ecology, elite leftist cultural gatekeeping movements take off during times of relative prosperity and economic security. Political correctness in its various contemporary forms is a response to an overproduction of elites with too many kids headed for the same elite institutions and then into careers with a limited pathway of upper tiers. Catch a few of them in an unguarded viral video moment at a park or in a chat screenshot, and watch the leftist political terror spread.

Wokeness is a war against meritocracy, by the less able:

Enforcing conformity rewards mediocrity. Beyond the usual leftist agendas, political correctness and cancel culture are the ideal weapons of elites who feel threatened by the social mobility of others. Unable to compete on merit, they embrace leftist politics, recruit BLM patsies, and demand that the system become less academically rigorous and objectively competitive.

Recessions interrupt these shenanigans by disrupting the intellectual supply chains. Obsessing over microaggressions is fine in a rising economy. People who don’t have real problems have to invent them. And the invention of artificial problems and moral panics becomes a spectator sport. In a prosperous time, audiences will tune in to see which member of the elite was canceled this week, accused of #MeToo crimes or charged with speaking ineptly about an issue.

But when belts are tightening, the public loses patience with imaginary problems. …

What’s up next:

Going forward, that means fewer suburban lunches and book clubs with BLM activists or Ibram X. Kendi tracts. … The elites are once again reconsolidating and the backlash against wokeness is starting to go mainstream. There’s a lot less room for woke cultural diversions at Netflix when its stock craters. Virtue signaling stops when the party does and then the scramble for survival takes over.

Companies that recently scolded and threatened states over everything from transgender bathroom laws to voting regulations have suddenly decided to shut up about Roe v. Wade. Gov. DeSantis drawing blood from Disney helped, but boardrooms are also getting less woke and more serious as they face the instability of the economy and the fragility of their positions.

Much as is the seventies, frivolous wokeness is likely to make way for real violence. … Political correctness, under various names and forms, thrives in a prosperous society, while class warfare and outright terrorism make a comeback in periods of real economic pain. If wokeness goes down with the economy, what replaces it, Marxist revolutionaries, terrorists, and cult leaders, will be even worse. What follows depends on the economy and the nation. …

The left will switch back to its violent mode:

The woke era split the American Left between the so-called neo-liberals, cultural lefties who used identity politics and environmentalism to rebrand capitalism as progressive, and hard lefties who championed class warfare and a socialist revolution. …

The two faces of the Left are both ugly and they both specialize in political terror. They co-exist, but they are rarely both in ascendance at the same time. The rise of one usually foreshadows the fall of the other. The scale of the Black Lives Matter race riots foreshadowed a sea change. …

The people who were once satisfied to tweet things are angry and embittered over the lack of results. And they are becoming more willing to explore possibilities that may have once been unthinkable. …

The crybullying of cancel culture, a mean girls bloodsport fed by hashtags and victimhood videos, is unlikely to feed that appetite. … Spreading awareness is an unsatisfying strategy. …

The Internet might change:

The chaos of Web3 will upend both platform dominance and elite control over discourse. … A new medium is about to become the cultural message.

Web 2.0 has become a stale Eastern European Soviet bloc nation where Big Brother is watching, nothing really works under the hood and everything looks the same. Big Tech companies all have their utopian visions, much as the Communists did, but all they really have to offer is a broken internet defined by algorithmic conformity and the illusion of dissent.

Wokeness was the perfect cultural complement to social technological totalitarianism. It crowdsourced the policing of narratives in a fashion perfectly aligned with the technocratic mission of the massive platforms that both lived off and suppressed user generated content. The dominance of the big platforms, like Facebook, fueled by cash-rich optimistic investors, is likely to go down as the economy takes down the decadent technocracy that they spawned. …

The economy is about to undergo upheaval as the money system buckles under all that debt. That will change everything.

If the economy suffers, both politics and culture will run downstream of economics.