Every day I find or am sent quite a few examples of wokeness gone mad, and every day I post only one or two of them. But the accumulation of craziness is making me think that the world has gone bonkers, and I’m not sure why. Is it the pandemic? Is it social media? Who knows? If I could figure that out, I’d be a psychologist or sociologist, not a biologist. So I proffer these examples for your amusement, but also to show you that there’s a behavior afoot with the potential to turn America into Orwell’s Oceania.
In his new column in the New York Times, appropriately titled below, Bret Stephens describes a new campaign at Bon Appétit food magazine that truly underlines the humorlessness of the Woke. (A variant of an old joke: A man walks into a Woke bookstore, asks about a book, and is told by a clerk, “Sorry, sir, this is a social-justice bookstore. We don’t have a humor section.”)
Click on the screenshot to read:
The fracas at Bon Appétit is about a Jewish pastry: hamantaschen. They’re triangular cookies, usually filled with prune or apricot preserves, and served at the holiday of Purim (the shape is modeled on the three-corned hat of the Purim bad guy Haman). I happen to love them, particularly the traditional prune-filled version. Here’s an apricot one that I ate in Brookline, Massachusetts in January of last year.
A good hamantasch has a cookie that is soft and not too dry, and they vary in quality. And there’s the rub, for in 2015 food writer Dawn Perry (not a Jew!) wrote the following article (click on screenshot):
The name has been changed, though: it was originally “How to Make Actually Good Hamantaschen”. Why the change? Because of a Pecksniff who apparently took the title as a denigration of Jews via the implication that Hamantaschen aren’t “actually good.” But Perry doesn’t say that; she says this:
Hamantaschen are shaped to resemble Haman’s 3-cornered hat and traditionally stuffed with sweet fillings made of poppy seeds, dried fruits, or fruit preserves (among others). Sounds tasty, right? But achieving the right balance is not always easy to pull off.
So I set out to create a cookie that hit all the right notes: The cookie itself would be a pleasure to eat, whether or not you encountered filling in each bite. And the fillings themselves would be were after baking, but not too sweet.
If you read the article, you’ll see that Perry tweaked traditional hamantasch recipes a bit, suggesting using butter instead of oil or shortening (an improvement!), using jam instead of preserves, putting an egg wash on the cookie, and so on. None of the changes fundamentally altered the pastry. But she does suggest other changes, like a cinnamon-date filling, that, while they may really offend the Pecksniffs, sound fantastic.
Stephens reports on said Pecksniff:
Six years later, a woman named Abigail Koffler found the article while researching hamantaschen fillings. She was not amused.
Perry, Koffler wrote on Twitter, isn’t Jewish. Perry’s husband, Koffler added, had been forced out of his job at Condé Nast last year based on accusations of racial bias. Above all, Koffler objected, “Traditional foods do not automatically need to be updated, especially by someone who does not come from that tradition.”
Most Jews would probably be grateful for an “actually good” hamantasch. Yet within hours of Koffler’s tweets, Bon Appétit responded with an editor’s note atop the article, now renamed “5 Steps to Really Good Hamantaschen.” It’s a note that defies summary, parody and belief.
And here’s that editor’s note: (I am not making this up; click on the screenshot):
Yes, that’s right: the magazine has instituted an “Archive Repair Project” to go back and sanitize any ideologically dubious recipes. So far they’ve sniffed out and bowdlerized over 200 recipes. Shoot me now!
Stephens draws from this incident three conclusions about Wokeness:
Behold in this little story, dear reader, the apotheosis of Woke.
No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media.
No cultural tradition is so innocuous that it needn’t be protected from the slightest criticism, at least if the critic has the wrong ethnic pedigree.
No writer is so innocent that she should be spared from having her spouse’s alleged failings trotted out to suggest discrimination-by-association.
And no charge of cultural insensitivity is so far-fetched that it won’t force a magazine into self-abasing self-expurgation. What Bon Appétit blithely calls its “Archive Repair Project” is, according to HuffPost, an effort to scour “55 years’ worth of recipes from a variety of Condé Nast magazines in search of objectionable titles, ingredient lists and stories told through a white American lens.”
Stephens goes into other examples that are more egregious but never got redacted, like an offensive cover of The New Yorker. He also describes the demonization of Professor Jason Kilborn at the University of Illinois at Chicago Law School, an example we’ve already seen.
Let this serve as one more example, loonier than ever, of the policing of culture. I am a secular Jew, have eaten hamantaschen whenever I can get them, and love them. Am I offended if someone wants to put butter in them, or give them an egg wash? Not on your life—it would probably make them even better!
So what if the person is a shicksa? Can only Jews tweak Jewish food? Not in my view. “Cultural appropriation” of this type is not only a form of flattery, but a way to appreciate other cultures and create “hybrid” foods, like buttery hamantaschen, that might be better than the original. Not every ethnic food is immune to improvement, you know.
Stephens is a conservative, so this wokeness plays into his court. But it offends me as well, and should offend you. These Leisure Fascists are running amok, telling us what we can and cannot do with our culture and those of other people. So long as the “appropriation” isn’t exploitative or denigrating—and this isn’t—I’m all in favor.
Stephens ends his piece this way:
A friend of mine, a lifelong liberal whose patience is running thin with the new ethos of moral bullying, likes to joke, “Woke me when it’s over.” To which I say: Get comfortable.
After publishing this, I wonder how long Stephens has at the New Woke Times.
As for Bon Appétit‘s other redacted recipes, I don’t know from them. But I do know hamantaschen, and I approve of Perry’s article. The calling out of her husband by Pecksniff Koffler is beyond belief.