The Economist‘s article on the origins and effects of Wokeism, which we discussed yesterday, has been supplemented by a short new piece on the “movement” seen as a religion that has various ways to bend people to its will. The piece lists six ways of keeping believers in the fold, all of which were used by Catholicism and other faiths; and gives an example of each as adopted by the Woke. This isn’t a new idea, as John McWhorter has especially emphasized Wokeism as a religion, calling adherents “The Elect”. (That was the title of his forthcoming book, but he wisely changed the name.) And, of course, many ideological movements, like Russian or Maoist Communism, share the same characteristics.
Part II of Everything You Need to Know about Wokeism can be read for free by clicking on the screenshot below.
The article begins by noting that one of the great accomplishments of The Enlightenment was to dismantle “the confessional state”—the power of the Church—that had ruled Europe for centuries. People like Milton, Spinoza, and Mill, followed by Jefferson in America, pried apart church and state, though more successfully in Europe than the U.S. Nevertheless, as religion wanes in the West, The Economist avers that it’s simply being replaced with Wokeism:
Yet something extraordinary is happening in the West: a new generation of progressives is reviving methods that uncannily resemble those of the confessional state, with modern versions of loyalty oaths and blasphemy laws. And this effort is being spearheaded in the heartland of Anglo-Saxon liberalism—often by people who call themselves liberals. Here is how the old tactics are being revived.
By the way, you needn’t comment that the Right is more of a danger to our Republican than is Wokeism. I already know that! But I don’t want to spend my time bashing Republicans, because that’s what everybody else does. I bash them enough for you to know where I stand.
Here are the methods that, says the article, are paralleled by Wokeism and religion. I’ll give a quote from each section (indented when it’s a quote).
1.) Imposing orthodoxy.
The progressive left is even more dominant among students. There’s nothing new about left-wing student revolts, but the protests of the 1960s were against the remnants of the confessional state: radicals at Berkeley in California turned Sproul Plaza into a free-speech zone, where anything could be said, and People’s Park into a free-for-all zone, where anything could be done. Today’s radicals demand the enforcement of codes of behaviour and speech. A poll of more than 4,000 four-year college students for the Knight Foundation in 2019 found that 68% felt that students cannot say what they think because their classmates might find it offensive.
I’ve put two sentences in bold because I think they’re right on the nose:
Progressives replace the liberal emphasis on tolerance and choice with a focus on compulsion and power. As in many religions, righteous folk have a duty to challenge immorality wherever they find it. They find a lot of it, believing that white people can be guilty of racism even if they don’t consciously discriminate against others on the basis of race, because they are beneficiaries of a system of exploitation. Classical liberals conceded that your freedom to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Today’s progressives argue that your freedom to express your opinions stops where my feelings begin.
3.) Expelling heretics. There are too many stories to tell here, although The Economist gives only one. You can think of many more. This is what’s known as “cancellation”.
4.) Book banning. Attempts to do this with people like J. K. Rowling and Abigail Shrier haven’t worked, and it’s a stupid tactic because, according to the Streisand Effect, a book that’s banned simply attracts more interest. But here’s one example I may have written about before:
Alexandra Duncan, a white American, even cancelled her own book, “Ember Days”, after writing from the point of view of a black woman, something that is now dismissed as “cultural appropriation”.
You can read a bit more about this at Kirkus. I needn’t list all the books written by people who aren’t of the group they’re writing about. It’s ridiculous to call this “cultural appropriation.” It’s ART!
5.) Creeds. To the author of this article, the creeds are “diversity statements”, though they could also be the recitations by white people that they are racists, even if they don’t know it.
My emphasis below.
Churches demanded that people sign a statement of religious beliefs, like the Anglican church’s 39 Articles, before they could hold civil office. The University of California (uc) is doing something similar. Applicants for faculty posts have to complete statements about how they will advance diversity and inclusion.
These are worthy goals. But Abigail Thompson, until recently chair of maths at uc Davis and a lifelong liberal, points out that uc’s scoring system rewards a woke view of how to realise them. In 2019 the life-sciences department at uc Berkeley rejected 76% of applicants on the basis of their diversity statements without looking at their research records.
Again, this is ridiculous. If they’re looking for contributions to society by prospective faculty beyond academic endeavors, there are many ways beyond “promoting diversity.” Any form of public outreach, for example, is a good thing by faculty. Why is only striving for racial equity valuable—in fact, so valuable that it can efface everything else you’ve done in science? What about simply working at a food bank or, as I used to do, in a soup kitchen?
6.) Blasphemy. We all know of statements that simply cannot be said to the Woke, even if they’re true. One is that inequities in representation may represent something more than existing bigotry, like preferences. There are many others. But this one is recent, and I simply cannot believe it’s true (but it is!):
Scotland, a cradle of the Enlightenment, abolished the crime of blasphemy in March. At the same time, however, it reintroduced it by creating new offences such as “stirring up hatred” and “abusive speech”—punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Scotland’s just replaced one form of blasphemy with another. Has anybody been arrrested for breaking this law yet? (I think it applies only to “minoritized groups”, though not to women.)