We are now more than two years downstream from the fiery Year Zero of the Revolution, 2020, when, amid the most widespread and destructive riots in the nation’s history, nearly every public and private institution in American life (and then beyond, across nearly the whole of the broader Western world) simultaneously pledged allegiance to the same transformational illiberal ideology that had inspired the violence.
The results were immediate, shocking in scope, and lasting in consequence:
- The primacy of racial consciousness and grievance was forcefully reintroduced into society in the name of racial “diversity” and “equity”.
- Police departments were defunded and criminal behavior effectively decriminalized in the name of “social justice,” resulting in a deadly ongoing crime wave.
- Elite medical and educational institutions, along with the American government, began not only to mainstream extremist concepts like the mutilating surgical “affirmation” of children’s alleged transgender identity (among other innovations) in the name of “inclusion,” but to actively seek to criminalize any opposition to these and other practices.
- In a coordinated effort with the state, the world’s largest technology and media giants imposed a great wave of censorship in an effort to entrench and defend the ideological hegemony of the Revolution and its values.
- Mobbed by zealots, dissenters to the new ideological regime were summarily ousted from their positions and livelihoods.
- Families and friendships were torn apart as the window of acceptable opinion shifted with lightning speed…
Waiting for the backlash? Didn’t happen.
But now we know that all of this barely moved the needle in America’s tribal politics. There was either no coherent backlash to the Woke revolution at the ballot box, or its adherents proved just as numerous and motivated as its opponents.
Those few tentative suggestions about how progressive policies and messaging might have gone too far, which had begun to sporadically appear as anxiety proliferated on the left ahead of the elections, will now all be swiftly forgotten. With no costs imposed for their behavior, and so no incentive to change course, the revolutionaries’ already self-confident zeal will only redouble.
They got the institutions:
Which, make no mistake, means that the Woke are now winning decisively. The reason for this is straightforward: of the key institutional high ground — from educational institutions to the media and Hollywood and the publishing houses, to the tech giants (with the recent singular exception of Elon Musk’s Twitter), to the law schools and the legal associations, to the healthcare system and medical schools, to the powerful foundations, big banks, corporate consulting giants, and stock exchanges, to even the churches, not to mention the federal government — essentially all of it is already Woke. This means that a 50-50 stalemate in the arena of democratic politics is no stalemate at all, but the continuation of a totally lopsided war of civilizational attrition. …
The root cause, leveraged by the left for the last six decades by law:
The conviction that any disparity between identity groups is sufficient evidence of discrimination that must be eliminated (“disparate impact”); the necessity of racial discrimination in hiring decisions (“affirmative action”); the requirement that employers relentlessly police private speech lest it in any way be interpreted as offensive to any “protected class,” so as to prevent a “hostile work environment” — all of these are among the many legal requirements mandated by the vast scope of federal antidiscrimination statutes that grew out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Wokeism is built on the lie of denying this reality. No fact is more suppressed, because it explains disparate outcomes as genetic. This is still too hot to handle by most who oppose woke, but if you don’t grasp it then you lose — because you have to concede that disparate outcomes are due to your evilness.
Most corporate employers do not force their employees to comply with the use of radical new gender pronouns just because they’ve had some moral awakening; they do it because not doing so places them in real danger of being investigated and held liable for violation of Title IX and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by permitting discrimination on the basis of sex. They do not force their employees into lectures about their “unconscious” racial bias because they are necessarily converts to Critical Race Theory; likely they are primarily trying to protect themselves from being sued for failing to take sufficient action to prevent racial discrimination.
Or as Christopher Caldwell has painstakingly explained, the unintended legacy of the original “emergency measures” of 1964 was to create an entire permanent apparatus of “surveillance by volunteers, litigation by lawyers, and enforcement by bureaucrats.”
Then “the fear of litigation privatized the suppression of disagreement, or even of speculation,” and so the phenomenon of “political correctness” emerged as simply “the cultural effect of the basic enforcement powers of civil rights law.” Wokeness is simply the most recent cultural evolution of the totalizing ideology incentivized by this progressive legal framework.
And this legal-cultural pressure doesn’t stay contained to the shores of the United States. In a globalized world, multinational companies conform to their most important markets, meaning they often bend to the long arm of US law globally. …
They got the kids:
Nor, frankly, is there much time left to spare if anti-Woke forces hope to turn back the Revolution with a democratic frontal assault. The generational divide in fundamental values is exceptionally stark.
Survey research indicates that while a solid majority of Americans over forty still hold broadly classical liberal beliefs, opposing Woke values like the desirability of surveillance and censorship, a growing majority of younger Americans hold nearly opposite views. And the younger they are the more extreme their convictions.
Of the 67 million-strong cohort of “Gen Z” Americans (those born after 1996), 51 per cent report that America is “inextricably linked to white supremacy,” 52 per cent support racial reparations, 60 per cent believe systemic racism is “widespread” in general society, and 64 per cent say “rioting and looting is justified to some degree” by the need to address systemic racism “by whatever means necessary.” 51 per cent believe the “gender binary” is “outdated,” and up to as many as 40 per cent self-identify as LGBTQ+ in some way. Some 41 per cent support censorship of “hate speech,” 66 per cent support shouting down speakers they consider offensive, and 23 per cent support using violence to silence such speakers. 61 per cent have positive views of socialism, and 70 per cent think “government should do more to solve problems.” Notably, survey results of youth in Britain are nearly identical, providing further evidence this ideology is going global regardless of national conditions. …
The critics of woke are still too few:
The reality is that what (tepid) societal resistance there has been to the advance of the Revolution so far has come largely from a generation of older people who hold key senior positions of power within our institutions (think judges, for example), but who are now quickly passing retirement age. In just a decade many of them will be dead, and the Wokest generations will almost completely occupy controlling positions of power across the institutional landscape.
The point is this: those who hope to see an end to the Woke revolution need to come to terms with the fact that their strategic approach is failing.
The widespread assumption that Wokeness and its many contradictions would collapse as soon as it collided with reality (whether in the workplace or the White House) – and that therefore only some opportunistic political rhetoric and internet mockery were necessary as a response – has proven to be horribly wrongheaded.
As should have been amply evident from history, self-reinforcing totalitarian ideologies almost wholly divorced from reality can and have triumphed and sustained themselves for many decades before approaching any sort of collapse — while producing generations of human suffering along the way.
While they certainly should not give up on the political fight, at this point those who oppose Wokeness had best begin also looking for lessons in the experience of those who have confronted such totalitarian ideologies in the past and survived, such as those in Central and Eastern Europe who prevailed against Communism.
Oppose woke now, while we are still relatively free. It could get a lot worse, like in the Soviet Union. Wait, and you could be too late.