Covid is not the only virus sweeping the West, obsessively woke politics is running rampant with the most virulent variants emerging in newsrooms and colleges. As an acquaintance of mine slowly succumbed, here’s what I observed.
There are certain traits that appear to be extremely common among people who are ‘woke’. Woke being now a common term for those among us who become righteously incensed with progressive social justice issues (typical of mainstream Western media imbibers or recent university graduates). Often, we can see this obsession manifesting in the form of aggressive protest activism – not just as a hobby, but at every social, private, and professional level of their lives. That is a ‘woke’ personality.
While there are well-known physical markers indicating a woke person (blue or purple hair, obesity, androgyny, wispy beards in men, annoying spectacles) I have for some time been a curious student of their habits and psychological mannerisms, which I have also noted, along with the physical traits, to have universal qualities.
I had until recently assumed that these universal personality traits were evidence of a condition existing in the person first (i.e smug over-confidence) which left them susceptible to ‘woke ideas’. But more and more anecdotal experience is teaching me that becoming woke, or contracting the ‘woke virus’, creates its own type of human psyche in the unsuspecting host, which is recognizable across many observable cases. It is my opinion that this psyche is the result of the mind-virus, and not necessarily a pre-existing quality. Thus, if true, this means wokeness itself reshapes the mind.
Many mainstream outlets recently ran a fake news story about hospitals in rural Oklahoma being overrun by people overdosing on Ivermectin. The hospitals were indeed crowded, but there was no evidence, beyond the twisted testimony of one doctor, suggesting it was because of ignorant bumpkins ingesting horse dewormer.
Commenting on this story in The Federalist, Rachel Bovard points out how these journalistic mistakes consistently fall in one direction — against conservatives —and how the correction so many days or weeks later is buried behind other headlines. Also, as Bovard notes, it is clear that corporate media are “using their platform[s] as an advocacy tool for their ideological goals.” Even if the instance in question isn’t factually true, it is “morally right,” as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez notoriously said.
So what’s the narrative in this case? That conservatives are dumb and oppose science. They would rather take a drug intended for horses or cleaning aquariums than the vaccines developed by America’s greatest pharmaceutical experts.
But why perpetuate this narrative? What’s the goal? Even if it might be true (it isn’t), how does it benefit anyone to call half the country a bunch of morons? Will this really change their ways and help them become more progressive (as it’s satirically depicted in the show “South Park,” where the residents are shamed into building a Whole Foods in their small town), or will it simply push so many Americans away from public discourse? Do the people who push these narratives even care one way or the other how people respond?
Obviously, there’s tribalism at work in which one group vilifies and ridicules the rival to dominate them. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in “owning” or “dunking on” the other side. It makes for good entertainment and it creates a sense of belonging. Life may be bad, but it could be worse: you could be one of the idiots in Oklahoma overdosing on Ivermectin.
However, underneath this tribalism, there seems to be some genuine insecurity. In most cases, bullies resort to this kind of name-calling, scapegoating, and false narratives to make up for something lacking in themselves. After all, if they were confident in their ideas and in their ability to carry out those ideas, they would simply speak the truth and not feel the need to mock their rivals.
A professor at Syracuse University has drawn strong reactions for a tweet calling the attacks on September 11, 2001 a strike against ‘heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems’.
Jenn M. Jackson, an assistant professor of political science, made the remarks in a series of tweets on Friday, a day before the 20th anniversary of the attacks that killed 2,977 people.
‘We have to be more honest about what 9/11 was and what it wasn’t. It was an attack on the heteropatriarchal capitalistic systems that America relies upon to wrangle other countries into passivity,’ wrote Jackson, who uses they/them pronouns.
‘It was an attack on the systems many white Americans fight to protect,’ they added.
“I never once believed—nor do I now—that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion,” Boghossian, a philosophy professor, wrote in the letter. “Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.”
But over time, he argued, Portland State University—a publicly-funded college—made “intellectual exploration impossible” and has transformed itself into a “social justice factory” with a primary focus on race, victimhood, and gender.
“Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues,” said the letter, which was published on Bari Weiss’s Substack page. Weiss herself previously worked for the New York Times until 2020 when she resigned, accusing her Times colleagues of bullying, and argued that the paper capitulated to Twitter-based pressure campaigns.
Ever keen to be seen doing more about online abuse among its users, Twitter has decided to nobble free speech with a novelty ‘Safety Mode’ button, which might reduce offence. Exactly what ‘offence’ means is up to the tech giant.
Something about Twitter has long irritated me, not so much the platform itself but the smug self-righteousness of a bunch of tech nerds adopting the moral high ground over the inalienable right to free speech.
I’m not just talking about Jack Dorsey and his Silicon Valley sidekicks who blocked Donald Trump’s social media account, but about their woke-fevered, sanctimonious, purse-lipped wowserish approach in imposing their own values in judging what should and shouldn’t be allowed to be said within their software apps.
Now, using the pretext of “Safety” –I mean, gimme a break– Twitter has announced a new “Safety Mode” which will automatically block, for seven days, “accounts that add unwanted replies, Quote Tweets and mentions to your convos.” Seven days. Smiley face with tears emoji.
Firstly, if unwanted replies or mentions on Twitter are the sort of thing that spoil your day, then might I suggest, my little snowflake friend, that social media is not the place for you. And if you believe that your life will be enhanced because you chose to switch on “Safety Mode,” then more fool you for signing up to the latest tech that implicitly denies the right to free speech.
Because Twitter has turned taking offence into a maths problem. No one is actually reading your tweets or replies to figure out if offence was caused – intentionally or otherwise – no, as a senior product manager explained, “When the feature is turned on in your Settings, our systems will assess the likelihood of a negative engagement by considering both the Tweet’s content and the relationship between the Tweet author and replier.”
Our systems, hey? What sort of systems are they? And what sort of data will they be trawling through, analysing, keeping and using in the future? Just one click on a little green button on your phone can forever change your relationship with Twitter and the way they target you with their insidious promotions. Think about that.
That fatal click could also blow a real human-to-human relationship out of the water. Twitter’s bot decides you’ve been slighted and the offender it identifies is sin-binned for seven days. While you can unblock, it’s too late, the damage is done. They were deemed ‘abusive’ before Twitter came to the rescue and they were silenced. Now you have to pick up the pieces.
It sounds petty, but it’s the prim, disapproving nanny looking over your shoulder that gets my goat. No one voted for anyone at Twitter to monitor the public discourse on social justice and that’s exactly where you know they’ll be targeting their bots. Discussions on race, gender and even climate change will most likely be judged on Twitter’s terms, the conversation manipulated by an algorithm so that those voices taking the most offence prevail in the debate and those that dissent are simply labelled ‘abusive’ and silenced.