Someone please provide a neutral name for this hugely influential political project
“Woke” is perfect. It’s murky and ambiguous, just like the movement to which it refers. And it’s come to connote the disdain and ugliness that the movement deserves. If the woke are offended, good.
This is futile in my opinion. As deBoer points out, they reject every name that develops - and I think it's by design. It's harder to criticize something that doesn't have an exact definition. The movement itself and its goals aren't clearly defined so people within it don't necessarily think they are defending the same thing. Wokeness originally meant being awake to injustices - which sounds good - and many of its defenders still believe that this is the case. They support CRT and gender curriculum in schools, claiming they teach children to accept those who are different then them. When you tell them about Ibrahim X. Kendi's position - that past discrimination can only be cured through present discrimination - they claim that this is not what CRT is about. Same with gender ideology - when you tell them kindergartners are being told that there is no such thing as a boy or a girl and are asked to pick a gender from a spectrum (see gender unicorn), they say this isn't actually being taught. Many don't believe in academic or hiring quotas but they also don't believe it's happening. So I think the movement is made up of a very small but powerful group of activists who are pushing these extremes - but also regular liberals who happen to be casual consumers of (mainstream) news and don't know what goes on under the surface.
I should also point out that, while this isn't a liberal or leftist movement, in the traditional sense of these words, it is the left that has embraced it and put their political power behind it. Without it, it would have never gotten this far. And notice that this is the case in Canada, USA, UK, and across the globe. Those of us who've always been on the left and do not agree with it, need to admit to ourselves that our side has gone too far and stop supporting them politically.
Difficult to find a non-pejorative, dignified title for a group who seems to exist on casting derogatory and pejorative comments on all non-members of the group.
"Culture Marxism" I think covers it. Also, "fake scholarship toxic mind virus." Lastly, "leftist postmodernist neoracism". John McWhorter calls it "Woke Racism". Everything we can label it will be a pejorative because it is a nasty and immoral project that should not be sugar-coated.
Reading the buried writing of its leading practitioners, it is clear that the basis is the pursuit of political power by societal deconstruction. The postmodernists, lead by the 3rd wave feminist movement, has done quite an impressive amount of deep thinking and leveraging of these "Critical Theory" ideas from 1970s European malcontents over the fall of communism and injected them in the education system to create armies that would spread the virus.
It is only hugely influential because of the armies launched over decades of campus programming the clones that believe the junk. And also old liberals adopting it because they see it benefiting their political opportunities.
It is going to take a lot of heaving lifting in a conservative led western government to right these wrongs. Civil rights reformation that either eliminates hate crime laws, or enhances them to include everything racial. Greater protections for First, Second and Fourth Amendment rights. Education reforms including cutting off federal funding for states and schools with injected woke text and instruction. Section 230 changes or exception elimination for big tech.
We are going to have a bubble of mostly educated females and weak men that are going to be a problem until they age and either reform, or just fade away. But we better start now to focus on the new generations to get this stuff out of their education.
The very fact that these people don't appreciate being called what they are is precisely the root of the problem. Part of their raison d'être seems to be to purposely attempt to change the very language we use to communicate ideas. Change the language, shift the ideas. It's why in the woke mind, most "racism" is not actual racism, and "violence" is not always real violence.
It makes perfect sense that if they've given their own movement such a bad name, they would now demand that you stop using it.
These are my thoughts on that:
"At its heart, wokeness is divisive and hateful. It gives mean people a shield to be mean and cruel, armored in false virtue."
One thing this movement strives for is the control of language. They instinctively know that in any discourse it is hard if not impossible to attack something you cannot even name. I would therefore stick with Woke and if the language puritans don’t like that, so much the better. The only other alternative, since they cannot be named, would be Voldemortism.
It's partly a generational thing; I remember the days when 4Chan's "rules of the internet" were widely acknowledged as true (e.g. "Rule 14: Do not argue with trolls — it means they win.")
Rule #18 of the internet - Everything that can be labelled can be hated.
Wokescolds don't want their movement to have a label; they want what Freddie De Boer describes as "politics on easy mode". Well too bad.
Any term "they" will choose will become pejorative soon enough because the beliefs espoused are anathema to so many. I will stick with "woke" for now in most cases, though I might use the phrase social justice" when being more formal.
I think we all know woke when he hear it. In a nutshell, the woke have righteous, illiberal views about race and gender that inflexibly labels all people by group identity. The woke deny the importance of individual or universal rights so long as even one person does not have exactly the same quality of life as everyone else.
How about "anti-intellectualism"? Feverish promotion of static narratives, adherence to ideology and one's unwillingness to engage in unemotional, evidence-based, nuanced, contextual, open-minded, logical dialogue without resorting to ad hominem attacks appears in all respects to be the complete opposite of intellectualism. In a political environment in which proponents of "wokeism" (or whatever you want to call it) are also usually also described favourably as "elites" or "Progressives" and all others are disparagingly characterized as things like "anti-vaxxers", "climate change deniers", "ignorant", "bigoted" and so on, I'm not sure why anyone should be so concerned by this movement being described in unflattering terms. Others can play the dismissive sound-bite game too. How about: Identity McCarthyism? Moral supremacists? Truth and fact deniers? Perhaps we need some more hard-hitting terminology to shake this movement from its current position of complacency.
Ever since Freddie de Boer's piece I've realised the power inherent in being a diffuse nameless cultural force. You can't push back on a wraith. There are several usefully non-snide labels for it - 'Successor Ideology', your 'Identitarian Moralism' (amusingly close to my privately coined Identity Moralism), Cultural Progressivism, but none of them trip off the tongue and land meaningfully with anyone who isn't immersed in understanding this culture.
Practitioners are not going to name it because that diffuse 'all things to all people' quality gives it similar power to 'fairness' as an ill-defined term that enjoys very positive emotional valence. The moment it has a name - like socialism or fascism or protestantism or libertarianism - it's vulnerable to critique that doesn't instantly render you a bigoted transphobic racist. You don't have to be a fascist to critique socialism, or a libertarian to object to dictatorship. What's brilliant about it is this quality of auto-problematising any pushback. No, they don't need to name it because that would expose them to the inconvenience of defending against the kind of problematic inevitabilities highlighted by Adolph Reed.
That leaves detractors to keep naming it and (as looking at many of the comments here seems to demonstrate) that will lead to just more unhelpful snide. Even if I am privately fond of thinking of it as 'Western Jihadism'.
In my own writing I call it Leftishism (and activists the Leftish) tipping a nod to some of its roots while showing disdain (as a lifelong left-leaner) for its uninterest in class and material improvements - but that's never going to catch on.
To add to our challenges there's the problem of the identitarians proudly appropriating the W word for themselves as black people brilliantly did with the N word. So that it can be positioned as a choice between being nice or being a f**king tw*t, as a popular British comedienne recently expressed it.
Wishing I had more positive thoughts but I've found this question to be crazymaking and seemingly insoluble for at least two years and if I were a participant in The Great Awokening I would be very happy with the situation exactly as it stands, so there will be no help from them.
The woke don't want to have a name for their movement. Because then there could be discussion and rational criticism of it. They are above this because they know they are right and everyone else are bigoted idiots.
To misquote George Orwell in Animal Farm "All animals are woke, some animals are more woke than others."
‘Woke’ is just bigotry worse than what these ‘woke’ adherents foam at the mouth over. The ‘mean girls’ in high school, with worse weapons. And that’s being complimentary about their maturity level.
“How can we debate that which we cannot name?”
This seems to me the point. It’s deliberately a moving target, with anyone who tries to hit it attacked for allegedly unfairly characterizing it.
I agree with Freddie de Boer, “Name yourself or you will be named.”
In addition, while I think it’s certainly useful to all involved to explain what we mean by the terms we use, I also think that, we should stop wringing our hands trying to please — or avoid alleged slurring of — people that refuse to engage in an intellectually honest way when someone tries to characterize and interrogate their world view. No one is omniscient, so no one’s ideas and beliefs should be beyond question.
I’m willing to assume noble intent and sincerity on the part of anyone sharing their perspective, and to discuss the merits or lack thereof of the beliefs and ideas under discussion in any given case. I think it’s fair to expect the same consideration and, absent that, to ignore anyone who engages in an ad hominem manner.
Thanks for this thoughtful post! I really appreciate your work, your heterodox approach to grappling with important questions of the day, and your respectful and measured tone.
Thanks so much for this, Tara. You highlight something really important about how power works in a society, particularly in an implicit sense. Namely, that when a group, or cohort can announce/implement ideas into a culture without having to name who they are, you know that they have a tremendous amount of power. To not have to "out" or "define" oneself can give the impression that their ideas are merely "common sense" and a seamless part of a certain social imaginary. And then when people disagree with them, they can simply label them with epithets of various kinds, automatically delegitimizing them. And this when "wokeism's" opponents - who must seemingly be racist or phobic of some kind - even argue for issues from the left.
This is all to say that the very fact that there is no (accepted) name for this ideology (or whatever you want to call it) gives "wokeism" a kind of cultural power to both assume the "goodness" of its tenets and implement them with little opposition.
As regards to what to call "it" - i have sometimes used "hyper-progressivism." Political philosopher Nancy Fraser's "neoliberal progressivism" is something i have also found helpful. But as you and the other people you highlight here mention, they don't seem really adequate.
Thanks again for voicing this.
They are first and foremost grifters (hence, the label “race hustlers.”) Think of the Elmer Gantry character in the Sinclair Lewis novel as the archetype. Like all grifters, they use the vices or personality weaknesses of their targeted victims as the means to carry out their con. For the woke hucksters, they prey on the general philosophical ignorance and spiritual immaturity of modern western citizens and their susceptibility to accepting false notions of morality and justice—“equity”, for example.