The road to perdition for the Demonized

January 12, 2022 • 10:15 am

This is something I not only see happening all the time, but also worry about it happening to myself. The phenomenon is this: someone of a liberal bent gets called out, demonized, or canceled on social media by the Woke, and is more or less blindsided because of it.  Then a series of semi-predictable steps occurs, with many stopping before the last step, which corresponds to the lowest circle of Hell.

I won’t give a lot of names, but I’ve given names of people who seem to have stopped at various levels.

1.) Person strikes back either once or not at all at those who have gone after him/her. Remains a liberal. (Example: Nick Cohen)

2.) Person continues to strike back, writing several accounts or emitting several tweets about their cancellation. Person, however, remains liberal. (Examples: J. K. Rowling, Abigail Shrier.)

3.) Person goes into more general critiques of Wokeism, more or less making their living attacking the Woke. Politics begin to move rightward (Example: Bari Weiss.)

4.) Person moves much further towards the right, becoming more or less a conservative (Example: James Lindsay, who voted for Trump, apparently as a reaction to wokeness.) This is akin to having abandoned your ideological principles in the service of revenge, but it never works because the Woke never forgive.

Now of course not everyone goes down this route, but it is a natural pathway, and to me an understandable one: it’s a way of repeatedly striking back at those who, you think, have wronged you. And there are exceptions. Although Andrew Sullivan was center-right, the follies of the Right have moved his politics toward the center. And Sullivan, who’s remarkably open-minded, seems impervious to criticism, and is willing to admit when he missteps.

As for me, I constantly worry about the excesses of the Left moving me towards the Right. (You know the old saying, “A young person who is a conservative has no heart; an old person who is a liberal has no brain.”) And I console myself by saying that I haven’t moved towards the Right; rather, I’ve stayed put while the Democrats have moved leftward. In general I think that’s true, but I always wonder whether, were I to meet my 25-year-old self and exchange political views, the younger Jerry Coyne would be upset at the views of the older one. A tweet by Colin Wright expressing my concerns is mentioned by reader Michael Hart in comment #4 below:

I’ve been a diehard Democrat my whole life, and even voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. My liberal history when I was younger is known to readers here, but whatever political “activism” remains comes out in this website. (Granted, I spend a lot of time bashing the “Progressive Left,” but that’s because I want to save the classical liberal Left.

I may be missing steps, and am loath to give examples lest I insult people. But feel free to weigh in. Just don’t call me “alt-right” or I’ll ban your tuchas.

85 thoughts on “The road to perdition for the Demonized

  1. I totally sympathize, JC. University diversity/equity/inclusion training has done nothing but a) remind me what I thought I already learned in 3rd grade and b) “harden” my position in general against the excesses of the woke movement. Like you, I don’t know if I’ve drifted right a bit, or the whole spectrum here has drifted left. Probably a bit of both. Certainly has made this non-tenured research staff member a lot less likely to speak up/push back, that’s for sure. So, yep, my speech has certainly been chilled….

  2. A slightly different version of the quote: “ ‘If You Are Not a Liberal When You Are Young, You Have No Heart, and If You Are Not a Conservative When Old, You Have No Brain’”.

    1. Which might be better rephrased, for these times, as “‘If You Are Not a Liberal When You Are Young, You Have No Heart, and If You Are Not a Conservative When Old, You Have No Brain, But If You’re Still A Conservative When Old, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention.’”

      1. I tended slightly toward the Conservative end of things, at least economically, when I was younger (though I’ve always been pretty socially liberal) but as I’ve gotten older I’ve veered slightly leftward economically as well…and, I think, for good, sound, logical as well as compassionate reasons. But, then, I’ve always been weird.

  3. How does one combat the woke? Suppose that one is one of many authors on a paper, but doesn’t like the woke “this research was carried out on land stolen from…” in the acknowledgements?

  4. I found Colin Wright’s perspective on this is enlightening. Combines elements of levels 1–4 but without actually moving on any political spectrum. Plus you can get it on a coffee mug.

    1. Perfect illustration. My political leanings these days seem mostly to consist of exasperation with idiots on either end of the spectrum.

      The main difference is that the liberals haven’t allowed their extremists to take over, and I don’t see them ever doing that. With the exception of academia.

      1. “My political leanings these days seem mostly to consist of exasperation with idiots on either end of the spectrum.”

        Me, too.

        I keep wondering why we continually have to choose between incompetence and malice.

  5. As long as you still question your own position on issues, you are intellectually safe, IMHO. Perhaps it is just fear that the younger Jerry Coyne would be Woke. That would be the stuff of nightmares.

  6. I don’t think the Democrats have really moved Left. I think the Left has become authoritarian and irrational and some parts of the Democrats have embraced that. I don’t think that’s left, it’s something else that has changed what it means to be liberal.

    1. I think left/right has lost explanatory power, if it ever really had any. It seems these terms are just used by tribes to describe their opposites.

      1. Yeah I was just thinking similar. A way to demonize others. Same can be said for the right. They let in the lunatics and now they are running the show.

      2. Modify that to “left has lost explanatory power, right has about as much/little as ever” and you get my take on it. So basically what Diana said, except emphasizing that the old (and dare I say real) left is still with us, perhaps in smaller numbers.

    2. I beg to differ (as a Democrat and democrat for 50 years):
      – Aquiescing to the proposition that one’s identity is the most important thing about one (contra MLK Jr.)
      – Calling for “equity” (equal outcomes, as far as I can tell; not equal opportunity)
      – Abolish the police
      – Open borders
      – Endorsing street violence (as long as your politics are “correct”)

      1. But is that the main line of the Democratic Party? It doesn’t seem those are things Biden is willing to do.

          1. Which supports what I say – these are not (yet) policies. There is a vocal minority that, though dangerous because they’ve captured some institutions, aren’t part of mainstream politics though this was the case with the Republicans as well. And I wouldn’t say they have chanced the Left by moving more Left. I think this minority has become authoritarian. And as I say always, the Democratic Left is so far right to other western democracies that they would be a right wing party anywhere else. So they have a lot of moving to do but what this is with wokeism etc. is not left – it’s a diseased authoritarian ideology that has captured some who identify as Democrats.

    3. There is also a generational thing. At least it seems that a larger proportion of the Woke are younger people, while more traditional types of liberals are (unfortunately) an aging population. I know Bernie is an exception, but that seems to go with his being a Socialist.

  7. Like you, Jerry, I feel that I haven’t become more conservative, but the Left and Right can parlor dance each other into opposite positions. I.e., when the Left goes from pro- to anti- free speech, the Right shifts in favor of free speech; when the Left goes from less racialized judgements of people to more racialized judgements, the Right swings to the side of “don’t judge people by their race.” Your views may be stable, but the spectrum is not. Let’s hope the Left-Right dance is a death spiral and the whole spectrum shatters so we can start over without all the old garbage Left and Right has laid on us.

  8. I remember that people thought Hitchens had abandoned his principles when he supported the war against Saddam Hussein. He, of course, felt that it was in line with his principles. With regard to Lindsay, perhaps he felt that Trump would never be able to commit his fascist outrages with the opposition he had, whereas Biden with the support of the Liberal Establishment was likely to be able to commit his non-fascist outrages.

  9. It seems to me that we have always lived in a society that chilled speech in one way or another. I’m sure that anyone past perhaps 40 or more remembers growing up where certain things were not to be talked; that today are totally okay (e.g., sexual orientation). It’s only the taboo subjects that have changed. If I had to trade time periods I’d still go with Pinker and prefer this one. I do agree that we haven’t suddenly become alt-right, but are we now alt-left?

  10. When I get the same answers when I ask myself the same questions as I would have done in, say, 1985, then I don’t think I’ve become more conservative.

  11. That Colin Wright comic doesn’t match my perspective at all. To see the rise of Trumpism, and the right wing’s further and further embrace of authoritarianism, I can’t imagine how anyone can see the right wing of today holding the same position as the right of 2008. Hell, even Texas wouldn’t have passed such a draconian anti-abortion law back in 2008. If we’re simplifying things down to cartoons, this one matches my perspective a lot better:–political-images-political-cartoons.jpg

    I’m not saying the ‘woke’ branch of Democrats aren’t a problem, but at least they’re not threatening our very democracy.

    1. Well, I read your comment, and noticed that several folks here feel that conservatives embrace totalitarianism. That conflicted with my experience, as I am surrounded by conservatives that mostly want the government to leave them alone, and believe it’s authority should be strictly limited.
      That led me to read several articles in left-leaning publications explaining exactly how they define authoritarianism.
      One thing that I noticed immediately is that they started with a survey from Matthew Macwilliams that is designed to define whether people have authoritarian tendencies.
      I don’t like the survey, because it is very short, focuses on how the respondent feels about child rearing, and asks you to choose between things that are not necessarily in opposition to each other. In each of the questions, I think “both” are equally important.
      But the accuracy of the test seems a foregone conclusion, and once that portion of the respondents was defined as authoritarian, their positions on other issues were defined as authoritarian views, and thus, dangerous.
      Some of them seem to take the more radical stance that far left causes are unambiguously correct, as any person opposing them has to be some kind of fascist. That is just a bit beyond the logical fallacy of believing “I am a good person, I believe X, so people who don’t believe X are bad people”.

      Some of the issues cited are ones where reasonable people from differing backgrounds or living in different sorts of communities might reasonably disagree. Not recognizing that seems itself an authoritarian view.

      1. Ok but are Trump and his minions in the GOP really “conservatives”? Certainly not of the harmless kind you describe here. So where are these innocent conservatives in the current US political scene? They are either unrepresented or they are lying about what conservatives truly believe. They are either fools that don’t know the danger of the people they vote for or they do know and are voting for autocratic rule that favors their side.

      2. Just from a big picture point of view, it was Trump supporters who stormed the Capital on January 6th, after Trump got them all riled up at a rally just before it happened. Most reasonable people would see such an attack on the government as a threat to democracy, trying to stop a free and fair election. According to , 55% of Trump voters saw it as defending freedom. When a majority of Trump voters see such insurrection as defending freedom, I can’t help but feel they’re falling for authoritarianism.

        Then see all the comments below in the thread started by Ken Kukec for more details.

        1. While they are voting as if they favor authoritarianism, I doubt they realize it. They are simply voting for their GOP tribe and against liberals. As for the insurrection, many of those that aren’t outraged by it think the election was stolen and, therefore, some violence is to be expected.

      3. I too live in a conservative area, and hear the same claims about wanting less government, but it’s bs. The majority are quick to pass laws against anything they find offensive, and admire autocrats such as Trump and Putin. They are as fragile as the most Woke leftists in their own way.

        1. Conservatives are all for smaller government UNLESS you’re talking about prisons or that unconscionable money pit that is our “defense” budget.

      4. That conflicted with my experience, as I am surrounded by conservatives that mostly want the government to leave them alone, and believe it’s authority should be strictly limited.

        You understand the problem of induction, dontcha Max?

        1. You have a valid point, and I have tried to preface my own observations with phrases like “in my experience” instead of labeling them as universal truths.
          That being given, there is a pretty clear stereotyping of rural folks as authoritarian, racist, antisemitic louts. I have tried to look for real justification for those stereotypes, even to the point of asking friends and relatives about their experiences.
          We divide our time between the Colorado ranch, my Wife’s family ranch in Texas, and our winter place in NC. We drive between those places at least four times each year. That covers a lot of territory. If there was enough truth in those stereotypes to justify them, I am confident that I would have encountered evidence of them regularly, especially as I have been actively looking. That is not to say that there are no people who fit the description as far as racism or whatever, just that they do not seem to occur at a rate higher than in any other population.
          People out here are exposed to the same media as everywhere, and their confusion over those stereotypes does come up.

          On the other hand, I have mentioned previously how there are regular stories in coastal media where the reporter strays beyond the frontier into the hinterland, and always seem surprised to find that they almost always encounter nice, normal people, many of whom are even literate.

          Antifa needs fascists, or at least someone to accuse of fascism, otherwise they are just a bunch of violent people who like breaking windows and hitting people in the head.

          Fundamentalist Christians need to portray normal people as being in league with Satan, as it gives them common cause, group cohesion, and helps to justify the church’s attempts to isolate their flock from worldly experiences. People obey, because they fear for their souls. Normal people don’t spend much time thinking about souls or Satan, if they even believe in such things.

          Perhaps modern progressives have similar needs. Back when they were the counterculture, just sticking it to the man was enough. It was obvious and self evident that they were the “little guy”. But now they seem to have become the Man, but have not lost their self image as the counterculture. It could be that a natural progression in such cases is a need to elevate the other side in power and malevolence.
          At some point, people being cancelled or forced to make land acknowledgements or engage in self censorship slowly begin to realize that they are being bullied.
          In “Boobs in the Woods”(1950), Daffy convinces Porky Pig that he is DiMaggio, and that he needs to steal home. It is not until he slides into the mud puddle that he realizes “What am I sliding for, I’m not Dimaggio. I’m in the mmmmmmud”
          I hear Porky in my head whenever I start to slip into woke word choices or start thinking of issues in the terms that they dictate. But then again, I tend to be a bit eccentric.

  12. I think Mr. Wright’s chart fails to take into account the extent to which the Right has dashed even harder in the opposite direction. Gone are the days of the GOP being the party of limited government and balanced budgets, of free trade and open markets, of a belief in personal rectitude and responsibility, of due regard for American institutions and traditions and norms, of strict constitutional constructionism, of maintenance of strong international alliances, of majority-rule representative democracy.

    This trend predated 2008, but certainly accelerated with the election of Barack Obama, with the rise of Birtherism and the Tea Party (the congressional branch of which has since morphed into the Freedom Caucus), of a resurgence of the paranoid style in American politics. Today, the GOP is the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, of Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar, of Matt Gaetz and Madison Cawthorn, and of other Trump acolytes (and of the establishment Republicans too pusillanimous to take them on). The party’s moderate wing is long gone. By today’s standard the Bushes and Gerry Ford, or even Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, would all count as RINOs.

    1. Yes, as Roy Scheider said to Colin Wright, to depict the other half of that dynamic, “You’re gonna need a bigger coffee mug.”

    2. “Today, the GOP is the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, of Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar, of Matt Gaetz and Madison Cawthorn”

      Good god, this is f’n horrifying. As Fauci would say: “Morons”.

    3. Perhaps the GOP is drifting towards becoming a fascist party. They just haven’t found their true Hitler yet (and it’s not Trump).

      1. Only because Voldemort was to: Self-centered, stupid, and lazy to be their micro-Mussolini.

        He has certainly prepared the ground.

        But the Dems are preparing self-immolation under the banners of Identity Politics, CRT, “Equity” (equality of outcomes), abolish police, and abolish borders.

        1. One big difference is that the bulk of Dem voters do not actually believe in equality of outcome, defunding the police, eliminating meritocracy, letting non-citizens vote (the latest one in NY), etc. On the other hand, the ridiculous themes of a stolen election, Trump is god, anti-vax, etc. are believed by a large contingent of GOP voters. Another difference is that, even if these bad Left ideas got implemented, they would self-correct. This has happened already with defund the police. If the Right’s bad ideas get fully implemented, we lose our democracy and the rule of law.

          1. “One big difference is that the bulk of Dem voters do not actually believe in equality of outcome, defunding the police, eliminating meritocracy”

            This does not align with my experience talking with liberal types since Nov 2020. I’d guess about the same percentage of (at least the liberals I interact with) of the left are down with those as the percentage of those on the right are with Voldemort’s lunacy.

            On the left, people are running scared of being labeled racist, sexist, transphobe. (And everything has to do with race these days, as we know. /sarc)

            On the right, people are running scared of be primaried by the Voldemort cult. Or called a RINO (as I heard Voldemort throwing around liberally [sic] this morning in an NPR interview).

            1. It has been noted that the Dems can only win if they ignore the far left parts of their constituency. Most Dem voters don’t want the police defunded, for example. I’d say that shows that most don’t believe in that stuff. On the other hand, Trump was clearly sending a racist, white supremacist message and most of the GOP voters seem to like it.

              1. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I like to think that many who voted for Drumph did so despite that message, and rather voted for the candidate of their political tribe, warts and all?

              2. Remember, Trump got more votes in 2020 than in 2016. If the voters didn’t get his message in 2016, surely they got it by 2020. Sure, some always vote GOP but if they were deaf to Trump’s messages in 2016, we’d expect some to have realized it in the intervening four years and vote against him the second time. Instead, the net effect was to say, “Yeah! That’s my guy!”

          2. Absolutely, Paul.
            Plus….. as a factual matter in NYC it isn’t illegals or tourists getting to vote, only legit permanent residents and for local elections only. NOT what Faux Noos screams.

      2. Trump is an incompetent. Plus, his only interests are self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. He has no overarching ambition for himself or this nation — nothing to compare to Lebensraum or the establishment of a Thousand Year Reich.

        The real and present danger is that someone will come along with the same autocratic outlook, but more brains and ambition — Josh Hawley or Ron DeSantis appear to be among the leading contenders — to take up the Trump mantle.

        1. I agree. It seems inevitable. Once the GOP is able to stay in power indefinitely, politicians capable of dismantling all that is good will rise. They actually will no longer need the services of Trump or a Trump-like leader. Putin has little need of moving speeches and the bully pulpit. His levers are mostly behind the scenes and baked into their political system. Same for our Putin.

          1. And calling for open borders, abolish the police, CRT, “Equity”, and endorsing “correct” street violence, is preparing the yellow brick road for them.

            1. That’s true but it’s only because the GOP will amplify every wild-ass Left idea as if it was the Dem party platform. They did this with open borders, defund the police, teaching CRT in schools, etc. It is not sufficient for Dem leaders to simply ignore these stupidities coming out of the Far Left but to actively speak out against them.

      3. I read a commentary recently where the writer warned, “I feel like we have just lived through the Beer Hall Putsch and instead of seeing it for the dress rehearsal it was, are now busy congratulating ourselves on the resilience of our system.”

        1. The analogy between Trump’s failed coup in 2020 and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch was expressed in Fareed Zakaria’s recent special on CNN: “The Fight to Save American Democracy”.

          1. You might want to read Barton Gellman’s cover story in the latest Atlantic, “January 6 Was Practice.”

  13. We are in a period in some ways analogous to the 1850s. Then, as now, the traditional party system seemed to be breaking apart. For a few years it appeared that the anti-immigration Know-Nothing Party could become a major player. Then the Whig Party disappeared over the slavery issue, the Democrats split into northern and southern wings, and the Republicans emerged to replace the Whigs. In 1860, there were four candidates that garnered more than minimal support. Ultimately, the party system balanced out to the two party system we know today.

    Today, we may witnessing the breakup of the party system that has existed since 1856. We can only guess what the party system will look like five years from now. It is possible that we may be entering a period of multi-parties: a far right populist-fascist, a moderate center party composed of former middle-of-the-road Democrats and Republicans, and a far left one composed of progressives. People will identify with the party of choice based on cultural, not economic positions. So, most people disenchanted with the current system could find a home under the new one. Whether such a system could sustain itself under the current constitution is debatable. It may transitory, who knows? Of course, whether this new party system will come to pass is pure speculation. The only thing we can say for sure is that the current parties are frustrating and alienating large segments of the electorate. This means something has to give as American democracy is showing severe fractures in its foundation. The next five years will determine if the political system under the Constitution can repairs its fractures or the whole structure comes tumbling down with the likelihood of an authoritarian system emerging from the ruins.

  14. Seems simplistic. E.g., the Tweet cartoon, and the piece, pretty much ignore that the right has had much greater movement than the left. Whereas the left has added or grown its progressive end, the right has gone off its deep end.
    And what’s keeping Dem legislation from moving forward is not the progressives (the current proposed legislation has watered out almost most of the left’s input), it’s those on the right edge (Manchin/Sinema) putting a halt to it.

    1. Sure all cartoons are simplistic. I think the point of this one is that Wright thinks of himself as a liberal and he’s watching his colleagues disappear into the woke distance. He’s looking toward the left, but he’s not unaware of what’s happening behind him on the right. His twitter feed makes this clear.

    2. Obviously, this is all just personal opinions; but I think both ends of the spectrum, left and right, have jumped off the deep end.

      On the left:
      – One’s “identity” is the only thing that matters about them.
      – Closet Marxism. The constant drumbeat of “Equity” (translated to: equal outcomes) shows this.
      – Blessing (or at least giving a pass to) violence in the streets in 2020 and since. (If your politics are “correct”, then political violence is fine. I’ve had several interlocutors on SM (on the left) express this in just such words. The fallacy of special pleading. The 6-Jan2021 riot was “domestic terrorism”; but the many riots and arson in 2020 for BLM were “mostly peaceful protests”.)

      On the right:
      – The right 40% of the USA have been deranged by Trumpism. Truly deranged. Voldemort has done more to destroy the institutions that sustained our democratic system (executive government, foreign policy, press, judiciary (with lots of help from Ol’ 666 Moscow Mitch McConnell).
      – Aside from the Voldemort derangement, the GOP has become the party of power at any cost (including democracy and the constitution). Exhibits: WI redistricting in 2010, Merrick Garland 2016, Amy Barrett 2020.
      – The open exhibition of racism, authoritarianism, etc., validated publicly by Voldemort.

      Voldemort is the logical conclusion of the movement within the GOP since Gingrich (gaaaak, pardon the vomiting noises) in 1994.

      The middle elected Biden in 2020. I am very uncertain whether this coalition can hold in the future.

      I fully expect another Voldemort run in 2024. Who is going to stop him?

      1. You note that the left is characterized by the need for “identity.” I think this is true, but to understand the political landscape today, one has to acknowledge that this same phenomenon characterizes the far right. This has been confirmed by Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. He runs a fairly massive operation at the school dedicated to understanding the far right. He recently published research that has gotten a fair amount of play in the press. He has studied the composition of the insurrectionists arrested for the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot. He gave an interview to Slate and made the following points (quoted below):

        • What we’ve found now in multiple surveys, our summer survey and our fall survey, is that 21 million American adults agree with two radical beliefs: one, that the use of force to restore Donald Trump to the presidency is justified, and two, that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election and is an illegitimate president. That is, 21 million don’t hold just one of those beliefs—they hold both of those beliefs. It’s 8 percent of the body politic, but that’s really significant. That really can’t easily be characterized as just the “fringe.” We normally would think the “fringe” would be 1 percent or less.
        • When you ask questions about their belief in “the great replacement,” you see that that is head and shoulders the No. 1 belief that’s driving the difference between being in the 21 million versus being in the rest of the body politic. Yes, there are other beliefs: Many in the insurrectionist movement believe in the QAnon cult idea, that there is a satanic cult of pedophiles running the U.S. government. Many also fear loss of a job in the next 12 months. Many also believe that the second coming of Christ is happening within their lifetime. Many also think government is an enemy. But those are secondary factors. Head and shoulders, the leading factor is the belief in “the great replacement.” Underneath that, the No. 1 factor that’s predicting whether someone believes in “the great replacement” versus not is racial resentment—that is, specifically resentment of minorities who get what they see as special privileges. These fringe beliefs like “the great replacement” are now no longer confined to the fringe. This is overall a mainstream political movement.

        The entire interview is well worth reading. Pape has identified with meticulous care the core belief of the Trump cult – racism. The cult condones violence. If only one percent of the 21 million actually engage in violence in the future, the damage that they will create could destroy the nation. So, while left identity politics manifests itself in talk and writing, right identity politics condones violence that may very well happen.

        1. Yes, and it’s not a matter of could, but will. They will without doubt engage in violence in 2024 and possibly this year as well if they don’t get their way.

  15. Before I get into the larger issues let me just note that this post is not anonymous, as Citizen Rat is the name of my blog and my identity is clearly stated on my blog.

    I think there is an interesting and very imperfect analogy in the way in which some significant figures in the 50’s and 60’s started on the left and moved right in response to Stalinism. I don’t think “wokeism” is anywhere near at the level of the atrocities of Stalin, which is why I say this is a very imperfect analogy. But to push this analogy, many of those who did ignored the multiple critiques of Stalinism from the left, or failed to see that rejecting Stalinism did not necessarily mean had to reject the welfare state or beat the drums in advocacy of bombing Vietnam. If you move “right” because you come to believe that the “right” (however that’s defined) is right, and the left is wrong, then so be it. I see a similar issue here. Firstly, not all of the left is “woke” and secondly, there are ways in which I would argue that the “woke” are not really left. Some aspects of “wokeism” fit very well with the centrist wing of the Democratic Party and neo-liberalism. Having said all that, I would hasten to point out that the right has its own version of wokeism and vicious attacks on people who depart from their line. I think the difference is that if you are left, you generally don’t care about the attacks from the right, and if you are right, you don’t care about the attacks from the left. You have to be a member of the Church to be a heretic or apostate. Critical Race Theory, Post-modernism, etc. are actually specific trends or strains within the left. Some very prominent left wing periodicals such as Catalyst or Jacobin routinely criticize these strains.

  16. I’m with you, Jerry, quite literally.

    I am probably just a wee bit to the right of you; but when we did the political spectrum thing, a while back, I was very closely aligned with your location.

    I would call myself middle of the road, left-leaning. I could list the things I support and oppose; but I think you and your readers have a pretty good idea of that already.

  17. Labels are tough. My wife and I agree on about 90% of the issues, yet when we both took a test of where you are on the political spectrum, she came out to be a progressive and I came out to be a borderline conservative.

  18. I think an analogy by Scott Aaronson in his latest blog post is apt:

    Of course, I also read about the wokeists, who correctly see the swing of civilization getting pushed terrifyingly far out of equilibrium to the right, so their solution is to push the swing terrifyingly far out of equilibrium to the left, and then they act shocked when their own action, having added all this potential energy to the swing, causes it to swing back even further to the right, as swings tend to do.

    Wright misdiagnosed the problem. I think the Left made some missteps at first, which made the Right react by going off the deep end, which gave the Left a lot more leeway for insanity. The Right didn’t stay where it was. It’s even further off to the right than the Left is to the left. If Wright thinks he’s become a Rightist, it’s because he has moved to the right.

    Or, of course, he could just be misdiagnosing the problem again and he isn’t actually on the Right. I remember seeing a tweet that said Twitter is a place where 99th-percentile Leftists scream at 95th-percentile Leftists for being irredeemable Rightist bigots. Given the time Wright spends on Twitter, I would not be surprised if this is what’s actually going on.

    1. Been following Wright on Twitter and it does appear he has moved right. I think that cartoon is disingenuous. Wright said recently he generally votes/supports Republicans these days because they’re opposed to CRT and gender extremism. He thinks this makes the left far more dangerous than the right. If it weren’t for these two issues, if I remember correctly, he said he would vote Democrat.

      It’s interesting to note how he rarely, if ever, criticizes the right or Trump and his supporters.

  19. A lot of people start out very progressive, move towards the center as they get older, then settle on conservative as a mature adult. We know this has always been the case for many people.
    The difference now, is that a person can go from progressive to conservative in a very short time, and most importantly, without changing any of their views, or even when having their views actually shift slightly to the left.

    1. Things must be moving faster than the speed of light, then, to give us both time contraction and spatial dilation from the rapid reference-frame shift.

  20. At the very least there are two completely different “lefts” in the US, one as represented by so-called “wokeness” and another as represented by Sanders/Occupy Wall St, which predated his movement. Wokeness strongly opposed Sanders/Occupy and the old style class-concerned left lost decisively. Again, of course. Wokeness won out, because it’s cheap virtue signalling and politics that align anyway with neo-liberal corporate interests. They remain the bipartisan core of US politics with the Democrats at the centre. The dangerhair theatre styled as “the left” is nothing more than a culture war distraction, and welcomed by the paranoid Right. It’s very effective. Material concerns are now completely invisible, while a culture war can be fought about transwomen in bath rooms and suchlike.

    I don’t know how anyone could arrive at the impression the US Right was staying in a firm place. I chalk this off as a prime example of the availability heuristic. It’s certainly an eccentric view.

    1. You are correct that the Old Left (once called New Left) of the Bernie Sanders variety is frustrated by the culture wars because they are a distraction from the issues that they consider important – economic and social class. Some on the Old Left have at least partially thrown themselves into an uneasy alliance with the Woke. Others, such as socialists, will not brook this and it is why they have condemned the 1619 Project. The Old Left is correct that wokeness is a distraction from the really important issues and plays into the hands of neo-liberal capitalism. However, distractions such as these are nothing new to American history. Indeed, it is a major theme running through it from the 1790s to the present. The ruling class has been eminently successful in dividing the working class on issues such as immigration, religion, slavery, and race. The ruling class has a winning formula that it has no reason to give up. The woke are their unwitting allies. So, the Old Left remains thwarted once again, but even after more than a century of utter failure, they haven’t given up. Let’s give them credit for that.

    2. This is by far the most cogent and accurate analysis I have read, and is substantiated by the choice of social justice groups and movements to avoid economic and class issues and the dominance of corporate global capitalism and its role in destroying workers, communities and the environment. There is no real left in this country apart from Identity Politics that limits its concerns to race and gender rather than wealth, power and democracy. The lethal focus on race only enhances the void in consciousness by dividing movements in order to prevent the formation of a real left. Economic inequality, the destruction of small business, barriers to community self sufficiency, protection of the environment…all of these concerns were abandoned long ago by the Democrats. There was never a social democracy movement in this country nor does the Democratic Socialists of America have any ideas or principles that would address and rectify these. It is a joke when Republicans call the Democrats “socialist”. Eugene Debs was probably the last socialist, or maybe Henry Wallace.

  21. James Lindsay represents a sad example of Woke Derangement Syndrome,
    provoked by the behaviors of the narcissists and crybullies in academia, now characterized as the “woke” Left. However, the intellectual decay of the Left began as far back as the 1990s, as Nick Cohen points out in “What’s Left”. He contends that the decay represented a deranged response to the collapse of Communism.

    In retrospect, it could be argued that irrational responses to the pretentions of Lenin & Co. have undermined the Left for over a century. These range from the conventional placement on the Left of the dictatorship that Benito
    Mussolini so admired, to the disorientation following its disintegration in Europe and its adoption in Asia of crony capitalism. Maybe the conventional diagram of a one-dimensional Left-Right axis, as in Colin Wright’s cartoon, is no longer very helpful.

    In contrast to the cartoon axis, look at one of Tony Judt’s last books: “Ill Fares the Land”. It is a stirring and affecting defense of the pragmatic, reformist mind-set underlying the European Social Democratic movement, and a call for its revival or renewal.

  22. I have the most respect for Jerry’s category 2 of the demonized – those who fire back repeatedly but stay put in their liberalism, and don’t forget to talk about more important things than offense-mongering pecksniffs. I think that response is the most effective for hastening the inevitable (though painfully delayed) burnout of performative wokeness.

  23. Colin Wright has his chart very wrong. The right has moved 426 miles further to the right. The extreme right is now past Mussolini.

  24. The Left/ Right divide isn’t going anywhere. It is rooted in two very different world views. One which says the country should be run by (originally landholding/wealthy white christian guys) those successful enough to own big parts of it. The other that it should be one-man-one-vote.

    The first being very sure that wealth/power are demonstrations of God’s grace and favor, and/or genetic superiority over the commoners. Never mind the fact of their class and connections made it all so much easier. ie:Trump claims to be a self-made man. The constant bailouts and inheritance from his father, and favorable Russian loan guarantees, notwithstanding.

    Even those producing things simply fail to acknowledge that it is always the government they despise and denigrate that set the ball in front of the goal, using taxpayers money, for them to score. Oil, aviation, radio, electronics, computers, the internet, WiFi, and pharmaceuticals only became major industries because taxpayers paid for the basic research and early development. Most of it through research at universities and/or national laboratories, and a huge chunk of it under DoD funding. Some synergies came about in unexpected ways. The ski and ski resort, and related industries barely existed before the 10th Mountain Division came home at the end of WW2. Before that skiing was a tiny up-state New-York and Vermont thing associated with Ivy League schools.

    Economic conservatives tend to be confused because 1) The lies and mythology about all good things flowing from free-market capitalism and business are ubiquitous, and largely uncontradicted in the MSM. 2) The working assumption is that poverty, ignorance, lack of services, homelessness, most other consequences of market failure are free. Instead of the reality that they are prohibitively expensive. As with most things you have to spend money to save money.

    There is also the matter of how rich and poor are assumed to be best handled. Wealthy people get incentives, the poor punishment. When fact is the other way usually works better.

    1. Not all rich people and/or people producing things feel the way you say. In fact, I would expect that very few would agree. The reason we don’t solve the problems you mention is often because of the voters. We just had four years of Trump. Corporate America didn’t elect him.

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