Andrew Sullivan on ideological groupthink and wrongthink

Although we still don’t know whether Andrew Sullivan’s column was pulled from New York Magazine last week (I suspect it was, though I don’t have an inkling of what it said), he’s back today in spades with two pieces, the first one long and eloquent on “wokeness”—the increasing tendency of the Left to be authoritarian, to purge dissent, and to punish those guilty of crimethink or thoughtcrime.  (The other piece is on Trump’s slide in the polls, in which Andrew says he now thinks Trump will lose in November. I’ll win my bets!).

Click on the screenshot to read about the anguish of a journalist—one becoming more and more liberal with the years—when faced with social-media mobs and a culture that demands that everyone truckle to the prevailing ideology or be cast into perdition (viz., #ShutDownSTEM).


  1. DrBrydon
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    It argues, in fact, that all the ideals about individual liberty, religious freedom, limited government, and the equality of all human beings….

    I struggle here, first of all. If these values are wrong, which ones are right? I would like very much to hear what the Wokiees propose as their replacements. They may say “racial equality”, but we’ve seen over and over what the results of revolutionary equality are without individual rights. If the American experiment has been all about perpetuating racial inequality, it has failed badly. The fact is that every step towards racial equality in the US has only been possible because of white votes. How do they think slavery ended, anyhow?

    • Mike Mayer
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Not “racial equality” — equity. And equity will involve Maoist struggle sessions for everyone.

  2. Joe Dickinson
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I think that definition of liberalism is spot on. I wish more people practiced that ideal.

  3. rickflick
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan is indeed an eloquent writer. Comparing him to Hitch is reasonable. I wish I could read the censored article now more than ever.

  4. Mark R.
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Twitter, of course, is the antithesis of all this — and its mercy-free, moblike qualities when combined with a moral panic are, quite frankly, terrifying.

    I know there is no way to know now that Twitter’s Pandora’s box is wide open, but I truly wonder how much better off America (the world?) would be without the invention of Twitter. I guess it would help if Twitter and especially Facebook were more responsible managing their content and users. Trump’s Twitter feed should have had hundreds of disclaimers by now…I think Twitter did it once? And Trump had a fit. Money talks and bullshit walks; that’s a dangerous policy in regards to social media.

    • Posted June 12, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      I also frankly wish that mainstream media would just not take Twitter seriously. I always say, a**holes make a lot of noise, but they’re mostly full of sh*t, and Twitter often acts like just a big public lavatory. Why do people even pay attention to Twitter mobs? Tell them all go go tweet themselves.

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 12, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Tweet themselves! That’s about right.

  5. WilliamBoecklen
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I would like to see the reaction to a new slogan:

    Not Voting = Violence

    I suspect that the Millennials would find it uncomfortable given their poor rate of participation.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      I saw a post about how generations before had a hard time of it. Basically it took someone born in, I believe 1917, and how that person would have gone through the Spanish Flu, various other outbreaks, two world wars, etc. Several millennials complained that the piece, which had nothing to do with them and never mentioned them, was just comparing their pain with COVID-19 to other generations and suggesting their pain was less. One millennial in particular actually said, out loud, that it was far worse to be born in 1980. I remember laughing out loud & repeating server times “1980! In the west!”

    • Filippo
      Posted June 13, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      “I suspect that the Millennials would find it uncomfortable given their poor rate of participation.”

      Maybe they should be offered some kind of material consumerist reward as a carrot to vote. I perceive, however subjectively, that most will much more significantly inconvenience themselves in pursuit of the latest “cool” demigod digital device than in voting.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    It’s a spirit that delights sometimes in being wrong because it offers an opportunity to figure out what’s right. And it’s generous, humorous, and graceful in its love of argument and debate. It gives you space to think and reflect and deliberate.

    Don’t know that the beau idéal for a liberal democracy could be better described.

  7. Historian
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    As a starting point in discussing current race relations in the United States, one must first answer this question: has the country since its inception (you can choose the date – 1619 or 1776 or something else) been one (with rare exceptions) where the white majority has systematically oppressed and discriminated against its black minority? If you answer yes then you cannot have a reasonable discussion with a person who answers no and vice-versa. This is because there is such a fundamental difference in outlook then changing minds is nearly impossible. It is like trying to change the mind of a Trump cultist.

    My answer to the question is yes, so I will address my remarks to those who also answer yes, but are disturbed by these calls to essentially terminate the philosophy of liberal democracy, which in theory if not the practice of which American society is supposedly built upon. I share these concerns, but view Sullivan’s remarks as unwarranted apocalyptic. His fear that Floyd’s death has unleashed a tidal wave of “wokeism” on American society, which was previously just a minor flood, but growing more serious, reflects a lack of understanding of American history, particularly how social change takes place. Americans are a conservative people; they like change to take place incrementally. Indeed, I would argue (and many would disagree with me) that the two great upheavals in American history were conservative. The American Revolution was fought to preserve the power of the colonial elite; the South seceded to preserve slavery and the North resisted to preserve the Union. Most reform in this country (such as the New Deal and the civil rights movement of 1960s) took place with relatively little social upheaval or threat to the social order. My emphasis is on the word relatively, meaning that violence, although present, was not widespread.

    Playing the role of pundit (meaning if I turn out to be wrong, I’ll just keep on opining), I don’t think wokeism represents a threat to liberal democracy. The basic reason is that too many people oppose it. This includes just about all Republicans and probably most Democrats. The vast majority of the latter realize that the real and imminent threat to liberal democratic values are represented by Trump and his minions. Some of the reasonable demands of the Woke, such as police reform, should and probably will be implemented (although not to the radical extent that the Woke demand). The demand that whites should self-shame themselves is nothing but bombast and will quickly fade away. When the dust settles and the protesters go home, at least some white Americans may understand better that the last few weeks were characterized by the expression of frustration by African-Americans over the centuries of slavery then discrimination. And if the country is really lucky, perhaps in a year from now we’ll be on the way to a more just society, a vaccine will be generally available, the economy will be recovering and Trump will be gone. It’s a nice thought, but maybe it’s just a fantasy.

    • mike cracraft
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      The thing that bothers me quite a bit and is probably the basis of much ideological squabbling is the great gap between the haves and the have nots, i.e. the concentration of wealth at the top of society. The ruling class seems to have no enthusiasm see this changed.
      This will be their ruination.

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 12, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        To quote Warren Buffett:

        “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree that Americans are conservative. They still have the $1 bill and the penny. As a Canadian, this doesn’t surprise me because that’s just how Americans are (bless their hearts) 🙂

      • rickflick
        Posted June 12, 2020 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        You just wait ’till generation Z gets it sh** together.😏

  8. dd
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    “The new orthodoxy — what the writer Wesley Yang has described as the “successor ideology” to liberalism — seems to be rooted in what journalist Wesley Lowery calls “moral clarity.”

    In other words, secular religious fundamentalism. And religious fundamentalism is a language which I know to well having been at its receiving end.

    Yet again, however, we see issues of class being totally displaced by issues of race. In fact, class subsumes race.

    Corporations,and Mitt Romney, have been quick to seize this moment knowing that identity is no hindrance to the neoliberal/globalist business model. In fact, it creates new markets and their segmentation.

    Among the most “woke”, probably the most, is tech. Yet that industry, at the top, is largely white or Asian. Given its political leanings, Why do readers think that is so? And saying not enough minority graduates, begs the question of why….

    I have the feeling that industry is going to have to perform, not just sloganeer.

  9. Susan Davies
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    What? some idiots want to destroy the pyramids because “they were built by slaves”?? Where is all this crap going to end? There is NO evidence that slaves built the pyramids. In fact nearly all Egyptologists agree that they were not built by slaves. Zahi Hawass, in only the last couple of days, has confirmed it. There really are some ignoramuses out there.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 7:55 pm | Permalink


      Still we can’t expect these pinheads to keep up with actual research.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted June 12, 2020 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

        I should like simply to say that there is huge difference between pulling down a statue of a slave-trader in Bristol about which there has been controversy for years (and in a country where racism remains strong – read Amelia Gentleman’s ‘The Windrush Betrayal’) and pulling down the pyramids, and it is, in all honesty, ridiculously, indeed frivolously, wrong to pretend that these two things are in any way comparable. I don’t suppose that Susan Davies & Chris Moffat would have any problem with the pulling down of the statue of George III in Manhattan after the announcement of the Declaration of Independence – I certainly don’t, and I am not American, but British. Or do they think it should have been left up?

        I should like to add that I much admired Historian’s temperate and sensible comment above at 7.

        • Susan Davies
          Posted June 12, 2020 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

          At no time did I say the statues and pyramids are in any way the same, I said that wanting the destroy the pyramids through ignorance was stupid. I have no opinion on the statue of George III. I am not American and don’t live there and you should not make ignorant statements about people you don’t know.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted June 12, 2020 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

            Well, I apologise for my misunderstanding, but you did say ‘Where is all this crap going to end?’, which led to that misunderstanding. The trouble is that Conservative MPs in the UK, and, almost certainly, right-wing politicians in the US, have been rehearsing the same sort of tropes with regard to attempts to remove the statues of historical figures, men in the main, who remain, shall we say, controversial.

            • Susan Davies
              Posted June 13, 2020 at 12:16 am | Permalink

              In my opinion, it IS all crap when compared to the scourges of domestic violence, homelessness, violence against women and a myriad of other stuff. Tearing down statues is juvenile. If these people used their time and money to help other people how much better off we would all be. It’s all just virtue signalling to me.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted June 13, 2020 at 1:06 am | Permalink

                In some cases it may no doubt be ‘virtue-signalling’ (another term that – forgive me for saying this – tends, it seems to me, to be, like ‘woke’, a rather too ready resort). In other cases it is not. Regarding that statue in Bristol, there had been controversy about it for years. A group suggested a plaque that mentioned that Edward Colston was more than the simple generous-minded philanthropist that the plaque already there made him out to be, but this was turned down.

                The scourge of racism is also a great and terrible one.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted June 13, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

            “wanting the destroy the pyramids through ignorance was stupid”

            Sounds like if an egyptologist would convince you that the pyramids were in fact built by slaves you would be in favor of their destruction.

            • Susan Davies
              Posted June 13, 2020 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

              Wrong. I am not in favour of the destruction of anything. What I said does not “sound” like what you said.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted June 13, 2020 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      “There is NO evidence that slaves built the pyramids. ”

      If if they were built by slaves? what then?

      • Susan Davies
        Posted June 13, 2020 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        I couldn’t care less who built them. I don’t believe in the wanton destruction of anything. Such efforts should be redirected to helping people who need help, not wasted on stuff that doesn’t matter.

  10. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 12, 2020 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    What concerns Sullivan about the great awokening is a feature that the ideological Left repeats one generation after another: its tropism for one-dimensional discourse. In the heyday of Marxism-Leninism, this was The Class Struggle—and its corollary in the Socialist bloc, the struggle to Build Socialism. Everything—literature, music, painting, and eventually even Biology—had to be focused along this axis.

    Today, the new axis of Leftthink is Race, or to be more specific, White Oppression of the non-White. Every discourse that is not about this paramount subject (e.g., all STEM subjects) must be either filled with it or shut down. In fact, every ordinary, mundane social activity must be subordinated to this focus (e.g., No Justice No Peace). [The intense one-dimensionality of woke language, incidentally, is why it sounds so much like the Daily Workerese of two generations ago.]

    The specific, narrow definition of the Race axis explains some odd features of wokese. All cases of oppression carried out by actors defined as non-White—e.g., the east African slave trade, the persecution of the Copts in Egypt, the occupation of Tibet by China, the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis—are almost completely ignored. Because Jews are defined as White (despite the pigmentation of many Mizrahi and all Ethiopian Jews), antisemitism is generally ignored and sometimes indulged. Finally, the emphasis on race rather than class may explain why wokese has a certain appeal to the affluent of the high-tech world.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted June 12, 2020 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      I think you are exaggerating rather, as is Sullivan, who is intelligent and eloquent but not someone I find it easy to trust as a result of his disgraceful and dishonest support for the Iraq war. Whether or not there is such a thing as ‘Leftthink’, racism is engrained in our societies and that surely should be both recognised and addressed so that a fairer and juster society can be created. It often seems to me that the noise about ‘woke-ness’ is used as a distraction from getting to grips with the fact of racism in our societies. Again, as I said above in another comment, read ‘The Windrush Betrayal’ by Amelia Gentleman (who is the wife, incidentally, of Boris Johnson’s younger brother). It is not a ‘wokist’ tract, but a serious analysis of a great injustice – and one that continues today, since the Conservative government is still dragging its feet about addressing this injustice. The British government is of course led by a man who saw, and sees, nothing wrong about speaking of ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’. And apart from Amelia Gentleman’s book, there are plenty of other serious essays and books that address racism in a responsible way. Why not pay attention to them, instead of getting exercised about ‘wokeness’ in a way that suggests that, for you, at least, it is a more important and dangerous issue than racism?

  11. Posted June 13, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Liberalism has its problems: economic imperialism, exaggerated individualism, etc. But it also contains seeds to improve itself and transcend itself in some respects. In that respect I am a liberal. (Certainly I am one if liberal is the only opposition to conservative.) In that respect also, one should ensure that successor families of principles include these important features and not throw them away. So much baby-bathwater stuff going on though.

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