An exchange about Wokeism featuring Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Well, there’s only one letter in the “exchange” so far: from Sarah Haider (co-founder and development director of Ex-Muslims of North America) to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The exchange will appear bit by bit at the Letter site (click on screenshot below, and you may want to subscribe):


The exchange will not be about Islam, as you might expect (both Haider and Hirsi Ali are vocal ex-Muslims, critical of the faith), but about “wokeism”, which intersected—pardon the word—with Haider’s criticisms of Islam to inspire the coming dialogue.  We all know that although Islam is, in general, an oppressive religion, seeing gays as immoral and women as inferior (this of course is not true of all Muslims), it is still defended by the Woke, who regard criticism of the faith’s tenets as “Islamophobia”. The Left’s defense of Islam is based on one reason only: Muslims are seen as “people of color”, and so their oppressive practices become immune from censure. That immunity does not extend to faiths like Catholicism or Protestantism, which are seen as “white” faiths. This is also one of the reasons why the Woke blast Israel at the expense of the much more oppressive Palestinian Territories, for Palestinians are also seen as people of color, although Palestine is really the “apartheid state” that Israel is said to be.

But I digress. Haider’s eyes opened to Wokeism when she couldn’t find people who would join her in criticizing Islam. Excerpts from Haider’s letter:

In fact, it was my activism with religion that first drove me to investigate this issue many years ago. When I first began speaking publicly about Islam, I quickly found (as did you), that those whom I anticipated would be on our side viewed me with suspicion. My criticisms of Islam were based on the very principles that those liberals claimed to champion, and yet I was swiftly rejected by them. This behavior left me stunned and confused, so I set out to understand it.

Very quickly, it became evident that the hesitancy to critique Islam actually had nothing to do with Islam. Educating my fellow liberals would not be enough—as ignorance was not the root of the problem.

Over the previous few decades, a new ideology had taken hold throughout liberal and progressive circles: writer and cultural critic Wesley Yang called it “the successor ideology,” but now it’s more usually called wokeism. At its core, this ideology is a delegitimization project—and it targets the very foundations of humanist, Enlightenment values. Wokeism is not the only movement to exploit the same programming that makes us vulnerable to religion. But it has achieved astounding success because it has also managed to neutralize liberals, who might otherwise stand against religious impulses, by hijacking our caring instinct, and by ruthlessly exploiting social dynamics to crush dissent.

It’s curious that the aspect of Wokeism that leads to the hesitancy to criticize Islam—the movement’s embrace of Critical Race Theory, so that Muslims are seen as oppressed people of color—isn’t mentioned by Haider, and I’m not sure why.  That is in fact the dominant impetus of Wokeism, and can’t be neglected. Yes, Wokeism denigrates some Enlightenment values, like freedom of speech, but it also embraces (to an extreme and unwarranted extent) an Enlightenment value: concern for the underdog. It’s not a battle against all Enlightenment values, but a dog’s breakfast of extreme Enlightenment values (the holiness of the oppressed) and anti-Enlightenment values.

At any rate, Haider thinks the Woke have won—for the time being. She’s right, for they’ve hijacked the universities and the media, as well as other organizations, including scientific societies. They’ve won because nobody wants to be seen as a racist, and so people have, as John McWhorter said, gone along to get along.


I believe that what we are witnessing is not the dawn of open war, but its conclusion. The woke have won, and decisively. But all is never truly lost, and this is not a prelude to submission. My approach is one of pragmatic optimism: In order to fight this—and we must fight it—we need to understand what lies ahead of us.

. . .Wokeism has won because it has captured our cultural and sense-making institutions.

Nearly all our educational, media, and non-profit institutions (including major grant-making organizations) are advancing in one direction. Meanwhile, the hearts and minds of the global elite are almost uniformly supportive of this new secular faith.

. . .it is no anomaly that the New York Times can hire and stand by an employee who speaks of white people as “dogs pissing on fire hydrants,” but cannot publish an op-ed by a sitting US congressman without a major staff insurrection. The conditions required for the extremists to thrive already exist. The door is open; they only need to walk through.

One may object, however, and point out that the majority of Americans are not woke. I believe that this is true. I also believe that it doesn’t matter. When so many of our fundamental institutions are in cult-like consensus, when the richest and most powerful among us routinely display public allegiance to one faith [Haider mentions that Jeff Bezos has pledged nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars to “social justice causes”], the preferences of the average American are largely irrelevant.

We must adjust our approach accordingly. To put it rather dramatically: we are not meeting the barbarians at the gate; we are rebelling against the empire.

So what does Haider think we must do? Well, she argues that to fight Wokeism we must first understand it, and you can do that by reading Pluckrose and Linday’s book, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody.  They provide a scholarly but lucid account of the roots of Wokeism.  Yet once you see Wokeism as a religion—the topic of McWhorter’s next book—you might agree with him that “battling it out” directly isn’t the way to fight. That’s no more efficacious than trying to engage the faithful to make them give up their religion. As with “militant” atheism, I’m with McWhorter in thinking that no, we shouldn’t engage the Woke directly. They will not be moved, and will simply call you names and try to ruin your life.  The way to fight them is the way atheists have been successful in eroding religion: mocking your opponents, refusing to buy what they’re selling, and writing books taking Wokeism apart.

I am not buying the stuff any more, and will mock it despite the possibility of being called a racist. And so should we all, for we need, as did atheists, to appeal to those on the fence—the uncommitted and open-minded. As for writing those books, well, Pluckrose and Lindsay have a good one, and McWhorter’s will, I suspect, be a powerful salvo against Wokeism.

In the meantime, keep your eye on the Haider/Hirsi Ali exchange.


h/t: Luana


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink


  2. eric
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Is the Bezos donation really an example of conceding to wokeism? I’m asking for real; I don’t know enough about his donation or what he plans on doing with the money to say one way or the other. In principle, however, I’d think that ‘social justice’ and funding measures to improve equality does not require one to accept woke notions (such as ‘any criticism of Islam is racist’).

    Personally, I view wokeism as a generational movement. The hippies had their few years, but their kids didn’t want to be what their parents were (because kids rarely do). The yuppies had theirs, but same thing. Grunge had it’s moment, then faded as the new generation decided they wanted to be different from their parents. The wokies will have their few years too. But their kids won’t want to be like them, and it’ll fade. Of course, none of this means we should just sit back. It’s worth opposing woke excesses wherever they hurt people, for no other reason than those people are worth defending regardless of whether the movement would eventually fade without our opposition or not. And opposing it may help end the most extreme excesses of the movement quicker, which is also a good thing.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      This is different. It is a movement that has grown from an academic base. Having taken over as the humanities departments at universities everywhere, it turns out countless graduates indoctrinated in the ideology. Grunge/hippies/yuppies were all much more products of youth culture than Wokism.

      • Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Bullseye. It has clearly taken over most if not all of academia.

        It has also thoroughly infected media, including what was my go-to news source, NPR (and my local M(Minnesota)PR). They seem unable (is this a policy now, seems so) to report any story without the inequality/race angle.

        • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          I’ve seen that too with NPR. They still have good programming and information, but in there is lots of dialogue where what is sold as right or wrong depends on a person’s race. Up front and center.
          Some years ago NPR had reduced that ideology, I thought, in response to pressure from conservative politicians since they get funding from public money. But they have now edged back to the very far left.

      • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Agreed. This is different. It isn’t kids rebelling against our institutions. This time, it has BECOME our institutions. As Haider says, the wokes have “won” the cultural war in a way that those previous generations had not, and therein lies all the difference.

      • eric
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        That doesn’t make it any different from postmodernism, to which it is intellectually related. And pomo goes in and out of fashion with generations too.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          It is applied postmodernism.

          • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink


          • eric
            Posted September 29, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, it is applied postmodernism. But that undermines your point, since postmodernism isn’t qualitatively different from other generational trends – it, too, goes in and out of fashion.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

              You keep saying that but I don’t think it is true. It came into existence in the 1960’s in France. It was later picked up and spread to UK and US universities and evolved into the applied form we now see every day. I don’t see any generational fashion-cycling at all, just the morphing of a bunch of really bad ideas over time in academia and now into general society.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I don’t know much about the Bezos donation; I know only that Sarah mentioned it as an example of the strength of wokeism.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      I also have my doubts about how Woke Bezos is. I suspect that he wants to be seen as a philanthropist and does care about social justice in small caps. It is also likely that some of the organizations that have taken his money are Woke but that doesn’t mean that he’s on board with wokeness.

      • EdwardM
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Bezos is doing exactly what Ms Haider is suggesting – he is paying his tithe to the church.

        • eric
          Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          I’m not sure we can draw that conclusion. Imagine a parallel in which wokeism wasn’t a thing but the BLM movement still is. I can easily imagine Bezos giving money for social justice issues in such a world. As I said before, it’s entirely possible to care about social injustice, civil rights, race-based inequality in our society, and issues like that, without buying into the excesses of wokesim. Thus, a rich guy donating money to help improve social justice, civil rights, equality, etc. isn’t necessarily donating because he supports wokeism. Of course, these guys are smart too; if they see a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ opportunity, I’d guess they have no problem donating money to a cause they actually support while also appreciating the PR “protection” it gives them against the suspicions of the far left tribe.

          • EdwardM
            Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:27 am | Permalink

            That’s one of the problems with Wokeism – it is insane and dangerous but some of the goals are laudable. Besos is looking to find a way to dump some of his money in a futile attempt to silence (or at least mollify) his eat-the-rich critics who have been hounding him for some time now. He is no fool and he doesn’t need a Weatherman; the Church Of The Woke is where you dump you resources now, whether you are obscenely rich like Besos or you are a corporation trying to stay in good graces with the faithful.

            • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

              I think part of Bezos’ problem is an unfair comparison with much older billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Bezos is still making his mark in the business world rather than mapping his exit strategy. Presumably he’s got plenty of time left to move into a more philanthropic phase.

              • EdwardM
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                It did take Billy G many years to find the philanthropist in himself. Besos may yet as well get to where Mr G is.

      • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        I also would have to see the details of where the money goes. Social Justice in the proper noun sense is tainted to the bone, but social justice in the common noun sense is still something I think we can all value.

        • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          Agreed! That’s why Pluckrose and Lindsay use “social justice” (no caps) to refer to good liberal things we want, and “Social Justice” in caps to refer to the Woke agenda.

  3. GBJames
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I’m in the midst of Pluckrose and Lindsay’s book Cynical Theories now. It is helping me understand how this all came to be. I look forward to the Haider/Ali exchange.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      It’s on my table next to my reading chair. A physical copy even!

    • Keith
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I’m about halfway through as well. The book is well-researched and written, and I’m learning quite a bit about some of the academic roots of Critical Theory. My first introduction to post modernism was in college, decades ago. My take-away lesson then was that post modern writers were good at obfuscation.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        I’m guessing you’re a bit younger than I am. I left the academic world in 1981 and PoMo hadn’t taken root yet in my discipline (Anthropology). In the late 80’s and 90’s I would catch wind of it from time to time and found myself asking “What the hell happened to my old discipline?”

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Ditto. Very good book so far, and even though it’s extremely thorough and deep, it’s also very nicely written and eminently readable.

      • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Very glad to hear the last portion of your statement!

        • GBJames
          Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          It is only incomprehensible when they quote original PoMo texts.

          • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

            It’s funny, but the authors prepared me so well ahead of some of these otherwise unintelligible quotes that I actually followed the quotes quite well. Not that the ideas were coherent, but I could at least know what they were claiming to be saying. Now that’s good research and explanation. Maybe we should ask them to explain Sophisticated Theology.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      GB, did you get your vote in?

      My wife and I got ours in (dropped in a special drop box for ballots at our local city hall) last week. 🙂

      Out son is not old enough to vote; but my nephew voted for the first time.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes. We dropped our ballots off on Thursday.

        • Posted September 30, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

          Well done, good on you! I am hoping for a result in WI similar to (or better than) 2018.

          I think we are OK in MN. I sure hope so.

  4. Mack
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    The Woke also have something else on their side besides simply calling their detractors racists and trying to ruin their lives. If you’re a liberal but not with the Woke program, you’re likely to only find common cause far to your ideological right. This is the wedge the Woke have as their tool to suppress dissent from fellow liberals. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

    • Posted September 30, 2020 at 5:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t agree – there are plenty of regular liberals, and plenty of conservatives who don’t view Trump as an ideal leader. McWhorter is wrong – the woke intolerance can be fought head-on. Academics need to organize, then stick their necks out in an “*I* am Spartucus” moment. I.e., use good old liberal tactics: too many people at once for the woke police to “put in jail”. And don’t invite any neo-Nazis to the party, or the public won’t stand with you.

  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The danger will be if the woke manage to take over the democratic party similar to what the Trump cult has done to the republican party. The fight against them will then be the same as the battle going on right now between democrats and the Trump cult. In this example it is the leader of the cult that must be taken down. The rest of the cult will either go away or change into something else. But one way or the other it either has to be destroyed or we will will.

    • A C Harper
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a slightly different argument… Trump was elected as a counter to the increasing Wokeism of the Democratic party, just as people in the UK voted (only just) to leave the increasing Wokeism of the EU, and voted in subsequent General Elections for Brexit supporting parties.

      If so the fightback has already begun – and you may find yourself with surprising comrades in the ‘battle’ against Wokeism.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Cor, it’s a bit of a stretch to identify the EU with rampant wokeism and to tar Remainers with the same brush. The missus and I, and all our family, and most of our friends, voted Remain in the referendum but still regard the woke movement with loathing and contempt.

        • A C Harper
          Posted October 1, 2020 at 2:58 am | Permalink

          I offer a comment from an article on Unherd

          the intellectual children of the French theorists, are now the wizened enforcers of the liberal capitalist order, wielding critical theory as the new establishment’s most powerful weapon.

          …and this is the bureaucratic/technocratic government style of the EU, even if they proclaim a dedication to democracy.

  6. KD
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Its a conspiracy theory, and there is probably zero evidence for it, but sometimes I suspect that the Woke invented Donald Trump. What could be better than an inept narcissistic showman as a foil?

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      They obviously invent him, but I don’t think he’d be president without them. They both feed off one another’s bad behaviour, like mutual parasites.

      Which is not to draw any kind of equivalence between the two in terms of awfulness or imminent threat. Obviously Trumpism(and right-wing populism in general) is a lot more dangerous than obnoxious finger-wagging on social media and the slow suicide of the humanities. But you get what I mean – they need each other to function.

      Which is why anyone who is sincere should be opposed to both phenomena, not just one of them.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        *That should’ve been “They obviously didn’t invent him”

      • KD
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        For that matter, Orban is a lot more dangerous than Trump because he is not a fool who spends all day looking at himself in the mirror while he tweets. Its not the grand battle of ideas between corporate-sponsored national populism and corporate HR Bolshevism, its one set of fools versus another, each which funny colored hair.

        • phoffman56
          Posted October 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

          Orban hasn’t got a thermonuclear arsenal at his command.
          Nor is Hungary likely to have more than about 3% of the effect of the US on global warming.

          Trump is infinitely more dangerous.

  7. aburstein
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I highly recommend people watch this video of Sarah Haider from 2015, where she eloquently lays out some of the issues that she refers to in this letter/essay.

    • Keith
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for posting this. Well worth listening to Haider’s impassioned words.

  8. rickflick
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    “Muslims are seen as “people of color”, and so their oppressive practices become immune…”
    Has anyone pointed out to the woke that this is explicitly racist?

    • GBJames
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      You Islamophobe! Only white people can be racist. And all white people are, even if they aren’t.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        You woke me to an obvious truth! I shoulda knowd better.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Indeed. How did we get from: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.)

      To: Under the religion of wokeism: One’s race or ethnicity is the most important thing about a person, perhaps even the only important thing to know about a person. It controls whether one’s opinion is worth listening to or even whether one is allowed to speak at all.

      (And all this while denying that race is important or real or driven by biology: They claim it’s a “social construct”. Gibberish is standard for post modernism.)

      • EdwardM
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        Woke is, like many religions, quite literally insane.

        what a Brave New World.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Yes, it’s been called “the bigotry of low expectations.”

      • rickflick
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        That’s a perfect fit.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I am sure its happened. But now it can be dangerous if you do.

  9. C.
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The main battles must come from those who can afford to take the hit, such McWhorter, Haider, Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, PCC… the rest of us must fight smaller skirmishes with friends and family. For me to do so at work would be financial suicide. I am surrounded by the true believers at work and have no protection against being dismissed if I am labeled a racist. This is a scary time for those of us with contrary, heterodox beliefs who have seen our own side, so to speak, ready to turn on us, like a social media-based Stasi for any minor infraction. I have no savings and gainful employment is scarce where I am but what really worries me is that without a solid and fearless resistance I may be at risk not just for what I might say, but what I might NOT say and all based upon my skin tone and gender. All I feel I can do at present is keep my head down, mouth shut, vote, and await our I Am Spartacus moment.

  10. Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I get the analogy of Wokeness with religion but the former has a much stronger connection with seeking truth about the real world and, therefore, can be countered directly. After all, racism and police brutality are real world issues that the Woke actually claim to want to solve. We can’t attack religion as easily because it involves so many imaginary things that the believers claim to see but unbelievers cannot. The Woke’s angle on racism can be, and should be, challenged directly on its lack of efficacy against the problems it claims to fight. They will claim that their failure is due to the intransigence of white power but I predict that will wear thin. Much of liberal America is still fighting racism the old way and it will be more successful, though perhaps we’re at a local minimum right now.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      “…the former has a much stronger connection with seeking truth about the real world…”

      One of the things I’ve learned from Pluckrose and Lindsay is that this is not true. It is central to postmodern Theory that pretty much everything is a social construct and that reason and evidence are themselves simply tools of Western oppression. You can’t win an argument with Wokism because they don’t accept reason as a legitimate way to interact.

      • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        I didn’t say the Woke’s method of seeking truth is a valid one, just that they claim to be seeking truth. As you mention, they consider “everything is a social construct and that reason and evidence are themselves simply tools of Western oppression.” Such things can be evaluated and measured and, therefore, their success/failure be judged. The fact that they shun debate is a tacit admission that their efforts can be judged.

        Religion, on the other hand, is much more slippery. Its intersection with reality is much smaller. When the religious attack social problems, they usually have no problem using normal rational methods. They just insert “God” and “faith” here and there. For example, a 12-step program is largely rational but add a little religion to go with it. AFAIK, non-religious are welcome and find benefit. The irrationality of their religion can easily be ignored.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          I disagree again. They don’t claim to seek truth. They claim to have truth, in the form of Critical Theory, the process of “deconstructing”, and finding problematics everywhere they look. They are not amenable to reason. This is not my take on them, it is central to their project.

          • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

            How can they claim to have truth but not be seeking truth, at least in their minds? Nowhere did I say they were EFFECTIVELY or SUCCESSFULLY seeking truth.

            My point is that others will judge them based on whether their methods are effective in reducing racism. That’s their philosophy meeting the real world. I can’t imagine it is going to be successful. Eventually it will be dumped simply because it can’t deliver on its promise.

            Religion, on the other hand, faces no such challenge. A few predict the apocalypse to arrive on a certain day but, by and large, religion offers very few testable hypotheses, as readers of this website know.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

              What’s the point is seeking something you already have?

              They aren’t trying to end racism. They think racism is structural and permanently inherent in whiteness.

              They are NOT different from religion when it comes to being impervious to reason.

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                “They aren’t trying to end racism. They think racism is structural and permanently inherent in whiteness.”

                Nonsense. Then why are they asking white people to sit and listen to people of color tell their stories if not to change their behavior? I’m not at all saying they will be successful, just that their efforts will be measured by others and found lacking.

                Let me try another angle. As you say, they think racism is structural. Don’t they suggest that the structure needs to be overthrown? Again, they won’t be successful at doing this and others will (eventually) note their complete failure and move on.

              • EdwardM
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

                Then why are they asking white people to sit and listen to people of color tell their stories if not to change their behavior?

                They are testifying, Paul. Seriously, that’s what they’re doing. They aren’t trying to “educate” they are sermonizing and they will not accept it if we draw any different conclusions from their precepts. They DON’T care what we think. They are instructing us in a doctrine which we must accept. How is THAT educating?

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

                Again, you are talking about failure of their methods and I’m talking about intent. Sure they are sermonizing but their sermons are about tackling racism and their success/failure will be measured on that basis.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

                Pick up a copy of Cynical Theories. You’re not understanding what applied post modernism is all about. Maybe if you explore it from outside this thread you will grasp the issue better. I’m out now.

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                I have had my own copy for weeks. What part of it do you think disagrees with my point? Since you haven’t actually addressed the point I’m making but a different one, I suspect you are just parroting the book’s positions rather than actually engaging. It’s nice to read books but you actually should use them as the basis for your own thought.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

                Just start at the beginning. It won’t take you too many chapters.

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

                You aren’t discussing in good faith. Try the high road next time.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps I should just ignore that little bit of disrespect. But I’ll say that when discussing a subject that is informed by a book that many comments in this page relate to, it might help to be informed by the book instead of just leaving it over on the shelf.

      • A C Harper
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Quite so. The Woke have a ‘Truth’ and it doesn’t need proof and cannot be disproved because (like religion) it is a ‘Revealed Truth’. It is an axiom on which everything else is built and which is immune to any challenge by reason.

    • KD
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      After all, racism and police brutality are real world issues that the Woke actually claim to want to solve.

      As compared to whether you should build a Hindu shrine on the site of the Mosque that was burned down by a mob? Or whether the West Bank belongs to Israel based on the Biblical grant to the ancient Israelites? Or whether Afghanistan should be governed by Shariah law?

      No one is actually trying to “solve” the ascension of Mary or the physics of Muhammad’s magical buraq ride around Jerusalem. They are fighting over power and territory.

  11. Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    There have been a few psychological and economic studies that show “costly punishment” is one of the more effective social engineering tools humans have for enforcing adherence to norms. That is, people are most effective at policing other people’s behavior when it costs them something to do so. Call-out culture transparently carries zero costs for the woke, which makes it a poor (read: useless) tactic for meaningfully altering behavior. People will dance to the called tune because they are afraid. But they won’t actually internalize and adopt the new norms the woke espouse.

    That doesn’t necessarily damn the whole enterprise. But it is telling. If your purported goal is to make the world better, you’d do well to adopt effective tactics. The woke don’t, because the motivational roots of wokeism have little to do with actually improving the plights of marginalized people.

    In his book the Meritocracy Trap, Daniel Markovits argues that wokeism is, to use the language of the woke, a *performative* celebration of meritocratic values. Most of the most ardent woke come from relatively privileged backgrounds and enjoy above average economic success. According to Markovits, they embrace wokeism because it reinforces the meritocratic success narrative. They have *earned* the privilege they enjoy. They deserve it. If other people aren’t enjoying similar desserts, it must be because they are inferior talents (an ugly conclusion) or some structural barrier stands in the way of success (a little more palatable). Bemoaning negative outcomes for minority groups is a low-cost way to advertise commitment to a fundamentally flawed ethos—that people get what they “deserve” in life unless something or someone prevents them from doing so.

    The full causes of wokeism are likely multifaceted. But it’s at least plausible that part of it comes from coddled elites looking at how good they’ve got it-—the bountiful fruits they’ve earned—-and telling themselves that the only reason it’s not thus for everyone is always and only because nepharious actors have their boots on the necks of minority groups. Calling out petty infractions of whatever floppy version of inter-ethnic decorum happens to be in vogue doesn’t make the world a better place. It does, however, make folks feel better about their place in it.

    Point being, the actual motivations for wokeism probably aren’t rooted in “critical race theory.” Markovits probably doesn’t have the whole story, but I do think it’s right to presume wokeism comes from blindly self-serving psychological impulses. From there, woke cultists can then draw on an extant architecture—-critical studies–to justify a position they arrived at for purely emotional reasons.

    • revelator60
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Excellent comment. Wokism is indeed in part a self-protection mechanism of the cultural elite.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    In a sharp article in Tablet, Nicholas Clairmont analyses Wokese as a new language required for entry into the “information economy” elite, much as knowledge of Latin was required in Medieval times. See: .

    The article provides practical tips for those who wish to improve their career prospects by learning Wokese. Some examples:

    “You talk about platforms, and spaces, and bodies with your nouns. With your verbs, well, you just use more nouns, plus suffixes that don’t fit. For some reason, this year, you put “settler” before you write “colonialism.” The letter X is very in, as you may have noticed when Elizabeth Warren’s campaign did an event with a group called Black Womxn For. Or maybe you have by now read about the now-infamous wokese imposition of “Latinx” (pronounced Latin-ex) to name a group of people first designated by a Nixon administration-era census as an ethnicity, and whose members either haven’t heard or don’t want to be termed by that label…

    …In wokese, if you say some sort of discrimination exists, you have to say it is “systemic.” It’s just a moral demand that if you talk about one thing, you also have to gesture toward another—but it pretends to be grammar. You do not actually have to explain how the system functions as a system in a way that removes the agency of the actors within it, and indeed you would be messing up the syntax if you did. This is sort of like the previously popular wokese term “problematic,” which unlike its English equivalent does not mean that the person using it intends to expound on what the problem is.”

  13. Curtis
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    The normal way to resist an idea is to vote against the party that espouses it. For most people, this mean voting for either Trump or Wokeness. Ugh. I personally will choose Buzz Lightyear.

    • Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Classic false comparison. Trump promotes Trump but Biden and the Dems are at worst only Woke-tolerant. I, and I suspect many others who comment here, will vote for Biden but shun Wokeness.

      • Curtis
        Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        According to you, my choice is Trump or Woke-tolerant. I still choose Buzz Lightyear (Jo Jorgensen).

        Considering the state of the Democratic party, do you think Biden would appoint some people who espouse wokeness? He has never been a principled leader and will bend to do what is politically expedient. He will need to appease the woke wing with some appointments.

        In any case, Biden seemed pretty woke on the “Dear Colleague” letter.

        • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          Once elected, I don’t think Biden will see much need to appease the woke wing. That’s just a GOP talking point. He’s a centrist. As to his principles, I don’t find him particularly unprincipled. He has way more principles than Trump who has only one: Trump.

          • Curtis
            Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

            Biden has been draconian on crime, a drug warrior, against gay marriage, for the Patriot Act, pro Irag war, etc. because they were politically expedient.
            “Joe Biden is a political weather vane covered in rust. He’ll creak in the direction of the prevailing winds eventually, apologetically if need be, but don’t expect the man to point toward some bold new future. It’s both his main selling point and greatest weakness.

            Think of every time American public opinion over the past half-century swung toward a public-policy hysteria many would eventually regret, and you’ll see Joe there, Zelig-like, flashing his choppers.”


            • Posted September 29, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

              A lot of politicians and regular folk have changed their opinions over the last 40 years on things like drugs, policing, gay marriage, etc. If Biden is a weather vane, he’s a very slow moving one that mirrors the experience of the general population. I will grant you that he doesn’t point to some bold new future but I think he will put younger, more dynamic people in his administration and he won’t stand in their way. Trump, on the other hand, espouses ideas he hasn’t changed since the 1970s and listens to no one.

              • Curtis
                Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

                I think you and I are actually pretty close to agreement in our assessment of the presidential candidates (Trump awful, Biden mediocre) but disagree on the parties.

                I live in the very woke state of Oregon and the Democrats scare me. Both parties have some awful candidates and some decent ones. My favorite senator is a Democrat (Ron Wyden) but I tend to vote Republican because I do not like one party states. I would vote Democratic if I live in a Red state.

              • Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                “I think he will put younger, more dynamic people in his administration and he won’t stand in their way”


                The Dems want to fall in love for some reason. I just want the Orange Abscess excised from the US government.

                As David Frum has said well, “Joe Biden, he’ll do.”

  14. Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Here’s a good example of what I mean about Bezos’ philanthropy:

    Jeff Bezos Gives $100 Million to Feeding America’s Covid-19 Response Fund

    While the people that run the Feeding America for the Covid-19 Response Fund might be Woke, and wokeness might impact their activities, I’m guessing Bezos doesn’t know or care.

    This article lists some of the recipients of Bezos money and it doesn’t sound particularly Woke:

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Paul. That does clarify things. Besos is not (or is at best, accidentally) Woke. Climate change is not a topic of sermons you hear much from the Woke but Besos has committed to 10 billion* dollars to fight it.

      *for you limeys that’s with 9 zeros

    • jezgrove
      Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how much he’d have given as taxes rather than philanthropy if he paid the same tax rate as mere mortals?

  15. Posted September 29, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t share Sarah Haider’s analysis. Wokeism did not win, and it did not capture our cultural and sense-making institutions. It has an outsized influence on social media. Offline, it overlaps with dozens of other trends, but it does not mean it’s the same thing. Take diversity. Both wokerati and corporations say they want diversity, by which they mean people who aren’t white dudes.

    The woke mindset is clearly a succesor to 1990s multicultural postmodernism that was anti-western but not Soviet, esoteric-spiritual and xenophile towards especially arabic or indian cultures, and loaded with a post-structural academical gibberish taken from literary critique-adjacent “studies” subjects. This was a particular subculture which then infected the social media pioneers on Tumblr fandom, where it mixed with LGTBx subcultures and went online early on the social media wide web. In my pet theory, this “tribe” of internet users then clashed with the dominant other tribe, the heteronormal sceptical white dudebro edgelord who then became avatar of the neocon-neoliberal West. I’m totally simplifying it. Each of these nerd tribes then became engaged in an update of the science wars, now a science civil war as one of many aspects. But it’s really a collection of different things, none of which make it even culture war proper (in the States usually meaning the right, Republicans vs the left, Democrats).

    Though, there is no shortage of Culture Warriors who see it as a culture war. But early on, the Woke mostly went against other people who shared 98% of the views. The right wing discovered the topic as late adopters of social media in circa 2014, and then moved in with their big money, Breitbart and Yiannopolous bling. This was a boon for the Woke, who anyway smeared everyone not agreeing with their particular ideology as right wing (a rhetoric inherited from the postmodernists).

    Meanwhile, corporations have exhausted the talent pool of the computer savvy nerd. Technology moved on. A whole generation grew up to join the workforce. Corporations are no longer looking for the geek who could assemble a LAN party in 1995. They weren’t as much interested in the white guy who possessed the talents required in the dot-com era. In addition, the markets were more interconnected and global. Disney did not discover their love for social justice when they hired various chinese actors for their Star Wars films. It’s all about markets and reflecting the target audiences. Some of this change led to the same kind of replacement angst among white dudes, that apparently animates Trump voters, but it was never a real issue outside the feverish minds of woke people.

    Of course corporations might sell it as “diversity” and woke people, generally not the most perceptive, might genuinely believe they bring about change, but this is all overwrought nonsense.

    I would say that Culture Warriors of any side, including Sarah Haider, won this. I don’t know many people who share my views that this is overstated and veering into conspiratory theories of a “postmodern neo-marxist” takeover.

  16. Kevin
    Posted September 29, 2020 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Some interesting and well-expressed related comments from “Mr Bean”:

    • TJR
      Posted September 30, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Blackadder going forth, indeed.

      Watch the Constable Savage sketch on youtube if you’ve not already seen it – a classic.

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