Education, Features, Politics, Religion, Top Stories

The Preachers of the Great Awokening

“Yea, on the contrary, Justice calls aloud for an infinite Punishment of their Sins.”
Jonathan Edwards

From the sun-blanched beaches of California to the snow-covered cities of New England, a religious fervor is sweeping the United States. PhD-toting preachers spread the faith with righteous zeal, denouncing those who violate its sacred principles. Sinners are threatened not by an angry god, but by a righteous mob. The impenitent among them are condemned to be outcasts, while the contrite, if they properly mortify themselves and pledge everlasting fealty to the faith, can secure enough lost status to rejoin society, perhaps forever marked by a scarlet epithet. Racist. Sexist. Ableist. This is the religion of Wokeness, and this is the era of the Great Awokening.

In the following article, we will explore this quasi-religion, Wokeness, as a status system that functions predominantly to distinguish white elites from the white masses (whom we will call hoi polloi). It does this by offering a rich signalling vocabulary for traits and possessions such as education, intelligence, openness, leisure, wealth, and cosmopolitanism, all of which educated elites value (for a similar analysis, see Rehain Salam’s August essay in the Atlantic, discussed by David French in the National Review article linked above). From this perspective, the preachers of the Great Awokening—those who most ardently and eloquently articulate the principles of Wokeness—obtain status because they (a) signal the possession of desired traits and (b) promulgate a powerful narrative that legitimizes the status disparity between white elites and hoi polloi. The elites, according to these preachers, are morally righteous and therefore deserve status, whereas hoi polloi are morally backward and deserve obloquy and derision.

It’s important to note before we begin that this perspective does not contend that all the actors in this status system are cynical charlatans. In fact, it insists that many legitimately believe their assertions about pervasive racism, sexism, transphobia, et cetera, and feel compelled to preach their doctrine so as to make society more just. Sincere belief and status motives often conspire. For example, the famous preachers of the Great Awakening (from whom we derived our title) almost certainly believed the urgency of their message and the elaborate metaphysics of their faith, but also obtained status from their books and sermons.


Before analyzing Wokeness as a status system, we must understand it as a quasi-religious doctrine. Unlike scientific theories or other empirical claims, the basic tenets of Wokeness are held with sacred fervor. Those who challenge them are not debated; rather, their motives are denounced, and they are cast out of polite society like heretics. To take just one example, when someone objects to the Woke principle that “diversity is a strength,” committed believers rarely greet the objection as an opportunity for argument. Instead, they attack the apostate for his sacrilege, and accuse him of unspeakable moral treachery (see table below for other examples).

The chief dogmas of Wokeness are that:

  1. All demographic groups are roughly biologically the same (which we have termed cosmic egalitarianism elsewhere).
  2. Bigotry is pervasive.
  3. Almost all disparities among demographic groups are caused by bigotry.
  4. If we all work really hard, we can create a more just, multicultural society.
  5. Diversity is almost always a good thing.

These dogmas have far-reaching consequences. For example, dogma 2 compels Woke believers to view almost every human action as tainted, and possibly determined, by some kind of racial or sexual bias. When Serena Williams, for example, severely scolded an umpire and was docked a game, Woke pundits and preachers rose as one to announce that her punishment proved that sexism and racism still plague tennis. That her punishment might be the impartial response of the tennis umpire was hardly considered; and those who did consider it were met with derision and invective.

All groups are basically the same. “If you study sex differences, then you are sexist.”
Racism, sexism, and other bigotries are ubiquitous. “If you deny the prevalence of bigotry, then you are a bigot.”
Disparities in outcomes among groups are almost always caused by bigotry. “If you search for another cause of social disparities, then you are part of the problem.”
Diversity of race, sex, sexuality is always and everywhere a good thing. “If you think diversity can be bad, it’s because you are a bigot.”

More broadly, Woke dogmas lead to a sacred narrative about the nobility of perceived victims’ groups (e.g., blacks, women, Muslims, gays, transexuals, et cetera). Members of these groups are to be considered the innocent victims of an oppressive and iniquitous patriarchy. Whites, on the other hand, are born burdened with the original sin of privilege, and are therefore presumptively complicit in the system unless they declare fidelity to Wokeness. This creates a Manichean moral doctrine that purports to reverse the current power hierarchy. Victims’ groups are revered, and the powerful are despised. However, as we will argue, this hierarchy is not so simple because it actually elevates a healthy proportion of the powerful, namely the white educated elites who profess unquestioning devotion to Wokeness. So, in the end, it is not really a status reversal so much as a way to distinguish one group of whites from the rest.

Wokeness As a Status System

Because it allows a person priority access to crucial and coveted resources such as money and mates, the desire for status is probably a fundamental human motivation. And because that desire is primitive and powerful, many social practices and activities function at least partially to delineate status relationships. These can be analyzed as status systems and operate in predictable ways because, whatever its diverse manifestations, status has some invariant features. Most importantly, it is inexpansible. That is to say, its supply does not grow. Unlike the economic pie, the status pie remains roughly the same across time. Therefore, players in the status game inevitably inhabit a zero-sum world. If one person’s status goes up, then another’s must go down, which explains why people are exquisitely sensitive not only to gains in their own status, but also to gains in other people’s status. Another’s triumph inevitably rearranges the distribution of a finite and precious resource.

Among other things, Wokeness appears to operate as just such a status system. This doesn’t mean that its only function is to adjudicate status competitions; but it does mean that one of its crucial functions is to do so. And it does this primarily by offering a signaling vocabulary which can distinguish educated elites from hoi polloi. The elites who thus benefit offer status to those who defend and legitimize the Woke narrative (the preachers); and they strip status from those who dissent.

This perspective illuminates many otherwise inexplicable aspects of Woke culture, such as:

  • Why do Woke norms change quickly and why are they so complicated (thus alienating many potential allies)?
  • Why do Woke preachers often denigrate those who fail Woke purity tests (thus alienating many potential allies)?
  • Why do people in Woke culture expend so much effort sending signals to each other and so little quietly working to improve people’s lives?
  • Why don’t more Woke preachers strive to make as many friends and partners among hoi polloi as possible, since such partnerships would help them to achieve their stated goals?

To begin, we’ll examine the nature of the Woke signaling vocabulary. Signals that are effective must be reliably connected to what they signal. Sometimes such reliability is achieved because the communicator and receiver share interests. If Mary tells her teammate that she is going to cut left on the next play, then her teammate has little reason to doubt the signal (i.e., the sentence) because they share interests (namely, they both want to win the game). But often reasonable reliability can only be achieved by using costly signals, signals that honest communicators can afford but that dishonest communicators cannot.

It is trivially easy (not costly) to assert that one is educated or sophisticated or committed to a doctrine; therefore, very few people pay attention to such pronouncements (except as they might indicate narcissism). On the other hand, it is not easy (is costly) to speak a jargon that is taught only in universities and that requires many hours of dedication to master. Therefore, people pay attention and often defer to those who command a rich, complicated jargon.

Wokeness provides this kind of sophisticated argot for signalers. Those who preach its gospel often use bizarre concepts imported from postmodern theorists, infamous for their impenetrable prose. Terms such as “hegemonic,” “intersectional,” “phallocentric,” and “queerphobe” are regularly deployed, intimidating the uninitiated and impressing those who wish, in the future, to signal their erudition to fawning fans. Even Woke language for popular consumption is complicated by a quickly changing list of taboo epithets. Is it wrong to say homosexual relationship? Is it all right to say African-American? Will I be berated if I say Mexican-American?  These changing prohibitions function well to distinguish elites from hoi polloi because they require devotion, erudition, and the right social acquaintances to understand.

Using arcane language and adhering to constantly changing norms about acceptable epithets are not particularly effective for attracting people from the broader population to one’s cause. In fact, they almost certainly alienate many average, and otherwise sympathetic, Americans, who understandably disdain indecipherable prose and elite superciliousness. Therefore, this signaling function of the Woke faith is actually antithetical to the stated goals of Wokeness (i.e., creating a more just social world—which requires a broad coalition of different classes of people).

Also antithetical to the stated goals of Wokeness is the tendency of its most popular preachers to castigate sinners instead of calmly attempting to persuade them of the justness of the Woke doctrine. Antithetical, but perfectly comprehensible from a signaling perspective. Those who are Woke don’t really want to inhabit an entirely Woke world without the bigoted masses; instead, they want to occupy a world of good and evil, of the just and the wicked, of the high status and the low status, of the elite and hoi polloi. The Woke faithful almost certainly do believe that the world is unjust, even wicked, and they almost certainly do sincerely want to ameliorate the suffering of its victims. However, they also want to signal their membership to an elite and morally righteous club, and therefore they need an out-group, a foil, a morally wicked other for contrast. And, they can’t let just any kind-hearted person into their club, because then it would lose its exclusivity. So they must develop a strenuous vetting system, one that is vigilant and suspicious and quick to detect sin.

Furthermore, accusing others of violating the faith of the Woke can serve as a signal of one’s commitment to righteousness; and, perhaps perversely, the more ridiculous the accusation, the better the signal. How, after all, can somebody who accuses the entire tennis world of racism and sexism, be racist or sexist? This can lead to a kind of concept creep, in which those vying for status among the Woke compete to call out vanishingly trivial offenses and imagined slights as intolerable manifestations of racism, sexism, and patriarchal oppression. Meanwhile, many otherwise sane people, with no interest in the excesses of The Great Awokening, nevertheless feel compelled to agree with such fantastical claims for fear that otherwise they too will be accused of bigotry.

This may also explain the utility of outlandish beliefs. Anybody can believe something that is true. It takes no effort, no talent, and no real commitment. But to believe something that is transparently ridiculous, such as that men and women are biologically the same, and to assert such a belief with force and conviction requires singular devotion to a coalition and to its sacred narrative. Therefore, those competing for status in the world of Wokeness may strenuously profess a belief in risible propositions (e.g., all demographic groups are the same) to signal commitment to the cause. Furthermore, attempted correctives—such as offering heaps of contradictory data—may be counterproductive, simply serving to highlight the dedication of the besieged believer.

Of course, the signaling perspective also explains why so many disciples of Wokeness expend effort writing inscrutable articles about the patriarchy or denouncing sinners on Twitter rather than going out into the world to help the victims’ groups they claim to admire: their primary motivation, whatever their conscious beliefs, is to procure status. There are, of course, many courageous and devoted people who do work quietly to make the world better for minority groups; and those people deserve our admiration. But, many of the most conspicuous activists spend more time promising punishment to heretics on Twitter than they do helping their local communities. These Twitter displays are often called virtue signals, but they are probably better understood as commitment signals, because they don’t really signal a person’s underlying moral character, but they do signal his or her allegiance to the faith of Wokeness.

The Preachers of the Great Awokening

Atop the hierarchy of this status system sit the preachers of the Great Awokening, the media mavens and academics who write, defend, and theorize Wokeness, who guard its doctrines from dissent, who praise the faithful, and who call for the righteous punishment of heretics and sinners. They have the power of salvation and of damnation. Their approval can make a career, and their opprobrium can ruin one. Some are men; some are women. Most are white. And most have distinguished themselves from their other, their antipode, the men and women of hoi polloi. But, perhaps more importantly, they have provided a narrative that justifies such a distinction in the first place.

Status disparities cause resentment. And they often also cause guilt. Those on the bottom of the hierarchy become bitter, disdaining those on the top. And this resentment is a constant source of rancor and instability. Those on the top, of course, are generally happier; however, they often experience discord as well, especially perhaps if they are liberal: Why do I deserve this blessed life? Am I really better than those below me? Both problems—the bitterness of those on the bottom and the guilt of those on the top—can be ameliorated by a powerful legitimizing narrative, a narrative that explains why those on the top deserve their status while those on the bottom deserve their rather less charmed lives and, in fact, should be pleased simply to defer to their superiors. Those who provide such a narrative offer a valuable service; therefore, they are recompensed with approval and applause.

This is precisely what the preachers of the Great Awokening provide. According to their teachings, those on the top of the hierarchy, the educated, the cosmopolitan, the elite, are there not because they are smarter or more ambitious than hoi polloi (traits about which these elites claim to be skeptical), but rather because they are more righteous. The elite deserve status because they are Woke; they are altruistic, noble, and selfless defenders of the downtrodden. Hoi polloi, on the other hand, are morally backward: they are confused and unenlightened defenders of a racist, sexist, and bigoted America. They fail to understand intersectionality; they deny their own white privilege; they can’t or won’t see the bigotry that pervades society. They, then, are sinners. And why shouldn’t sinners be punished, especially if they are without contrition? And this is why Wokeness has become a quasi-religion; it has to divide the world into the righteous and the fallen, the deserving and undeserving.

The great news, the gospel, is that Wokeness is a meritocracy. At least, that is the message these preachers deliver. Yes, sinners are punished, and the unenlightened suffer derision and ridicule, but they can obtain status by achieving moral purity, by repenting their sins, castigating their former beliefs, and renouncing their own interests. And then they too, like today’s moral elite, will enjoy the voluptuous fruits of the good life. What could be more just?


Before concluding, it is important to re-emphasize that many of the people in the Woke status system sincerely believe in social justice. And many of their moral concerns are entirely legitimate. The preceding analysis, although it may deflate some of the pretensions of the most extreme preachers of the Woke faith, does nothing to impugn its accuracy or urgency. We are skeptical of many of the claims of Woke culture, but our skepticism is irrelevant to our analysis. Even if its claims were entirely true, one could still fruitfully approach it from a status systems’ perspective.

We have argued that this perspective offers insights into the behavior of those who inhabit the culture and spread the norms of Wokeness. Chiefly, it contends that (a) many Whites use the vocabulary of social justice to signal their erudition, cosmopolitanism, and commitment to the cause so as to distinguish themselves from hoi polloi. And that (b) the preachers of the Great Awokening serve the crucial function of legitimizing the resulting status disparity. Their teachings assuage the guilt of the elite and blunt the bitterness of hoi polloi. And, therefore, those preachers are recompensed with status.

The danger is that the status desires of these preachers will eclipse their moral concerns. (Some, of course, would claim that this has already happened.) And then the preachers will become moral peacocks, showcasing eloquent and fantastical sermons to a dwindling but increasingly fanatical base. And this will ultimately lead to a situation in which social justice activists pay more attention to the pronouns on a box of cereal than to the sufferings of the less fortunate.


Bo Winegard is an essayist and an assistant professor at Marietta College. You can follow him on Twitter @EPoe187

Ben Winegard is an essayist and an assistant professor at Hillsdale College. You can follow him on Twitter @BenWinegard



  1. You are wrong. The ‘sincere belief in social justice’ is a status claim, a claim of social and moral superiority to others, and usually a naked claim to convert or co-opt others’ property, lives and freedom of thought for tokens in the status competition of these vile little humans.
    Them as can, do; them as want will then steal the doers’ self-respect and economic surpluses they create.

    • They should better understand “to each his own” or “let it be.” Liberty works wonders, and our best lives are the direct result of it over others who pretend we’re not individuals, but only a part of an identity that demands others submit.

  2. Dennis says

    You are making the same mistake as the Woke priests: dividing up the world in black and white, good and evil. But it just isn’t that simple.

    For example: no community in the history of mankind, be it family, tribe, nation, etc, survived without demanding a contribution in the form of either money, time, or other resources from its members.

    And absent any other obvious principle, it would always be those with the most resources that contribute the most. How else could it be? You can call that “stealing” if you want, but I’d say it’s concept creep if you do.

    • If you are woke enough what you do is set yourself up to be the collector of the ‘shared’ goods and resources and get rich.

      See Venezuela.

      I don’t believe for a moment that you or any of these people discussed in the article have good motives. Whenever someone blathers on about the ‘common good’ I immediately assume that they are looking at what other people have and want it for themselves. Sometimes I’m wrong, but not very often.

    • It is stealing when the money is taken from one class and given to another because a third party forces it. Yes, the wealthier already pay the most, as it should likely be for practical reasons (they have the money). But the takings and givings should be per “equal protection under the law,” the clearly good principle that the government refuses to believe is what made America great, and why it’s declining and why so many now shoot each other in schools and workplaces.

      • Redliana says

        It cannot be considered stealing if the gains were ill-gotten through a corrupt and unjust system. The terrible irony is that the poor of every color, creed, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. bear the brunt of the prison of corruption – it is not felt solely by people considered “minorities”. The moment the United States actually offers true equality of opportunity will we have achieved the necessary framework for a functional democracy that does not need or rely on identity politics.

    • Cincinnatus says

      Sure Dennis but, real quick, #1 “no community in the history of mankind, be it family, tribe, nation, etc, survived…demanding [too high] a contribution… from its members.”

      FYI, those you are demanding the contribution from get to decide what is “too high”.

      #2 “And absent any other obvious principle, it would always be those with the most resources that contribute the most.”

      Which is why THOSE people usually got to be the boss. But you don’t want them to have any say either.

      You want to run the government? Keep your nose out of business.
      You want to control business? Keep your nose out of government.
      You want both? You’ll have a bloody revolt.

    • Yes, but you are missing a crucial distinction. I live in a social democracy, and I happily pay my taxes knowing that they will help the poor, the sick and the vulnerable in my community. I do so out of fellowship for my fellow countrymen, with whom I share a common culture and values, and also in the assurance that if I am hit by a bus, then those same guarantees will be there for me.

      The identity politicians are quite different from this. They do not emphasize commonality, they emphasize difference. Their notion of “alliance” is very one-sided – the white people are obliged to help people of colour and never the other way around. In fact, if I expect anything in return, that just proves that I was never an ally in the first place. What the idpol advocates require is a very pure form of altruism, one without any expectation of reward. If you are a working class person who has no stake in upper middle class status jockeying, then there is really nothing here for you.

  3. AC Harper says

    Most Teddy Boys merely adopted the persona of Teddy Boy, then grew out of it. Most of the general population didn’t even bother.
    Most Hippies merely adopted the persona of Hippy, then grew out of it. Most of the general population didn’t even bother.
    Most Punks merely adopted the persona of Punk, then grew out of it. Most of the general population didn’t even bother.
    Most Environmental Activists merely adopted the persona of Environemntal Activists, then grew out of it. Most of the general population didn’t even bother.
    Most Woke…

    I suspect that although these ‘crazes’ Sweep The Nation! Shock! Horror! they are mostly a response to novelty. Some of the ideas, good and bad, sneak into ordinary daily life, particularly if they are seen as worthy, but ordinary daily life has a titanic amount of inertia to overcome.

    • AC Harper
      This is true in America as far as it goes but let us not forget the atrocities of the 20th century, Bolsheviks (then Stalin, Gulags et. al., Pol Pot, Chairmen Mao, Castro, Venezuela’s 21st Century Socialism…. to name a few off the top of my head). I can appreciate the religious zealotry that sweeps periodically through America’s puritanical DNA but I’m also aware of the thrust of the left’s dark fascination with tyrants and dictators (see any work by Paul Hollander for an in depth look).

      So, in the vain of Nicolas Taleb’s “The Black Swan” I’m not assuming anything! I’m instituting the Precautionary Principal when dealing with these zealots.

      • AC Harper says

        Quite so. I agree that caution is desirable. I think that one of the factors to look out for is a strong leader (king, guru, rebel boss) who takes a craze and makes it into a movement.

        King punk, king hippy, king teddy boy, king environmental activist make no sense – they didn’t exist. Communist leader, cult guru, king kleptocrat do, and I suspect that a leader enforces a focus on the followers that keeps the craziness going.

        Well, that’s my speculation… is there a King Woke? I don’t think so, yet.

        • Dagger says

          By definition, there can be no King Woke, otherwise the patriarchy has subverted the cause. This leads me to believe they will elevate the most oppressed status holder to the throne.

  4. The key point is near the start, that competition for status is pretty much by definition a zero-sum game, and much of what’s happening flows from that.

    Woke/PC looks a lot like upper class etiquette, a noble (literally) attempt to get people to play nicely, which ends up more as a way of detecting and excluding undesirables.

    • There is no noble motive. It is protecting your turf. The easiest way to elevate yourself is to tear others down. The easiest way to prevent your argument from being examined and turfed out is to prevent the discussion in the first place.

      Every single instance I have seen or listened to was a determined and purposeful strategy to remain ignorant, to prevent even the hearing of ideas that are different from the orthodoxy.

      There is no good motive here. The description of the endeavor, ‘social justice’ is lipstick on a pig.

      Surely we can look at the actions and results of this way of thinking and doing and come to a conclusion about their motives. It is working as designed.

      The only question is whether they are ignorant or evil.

      • Per “Suicide of the West,” they are neither ignorant nor evil, but romantic. The idea that a utopia (def. “an impractical scheme for social improvement”) is possible and that authority knows how to achieve it.

      • John Mason says

        You misunderstand his “noble (literally)” term. He’s referring to “noble” as an historical social class which imposes rules of lineage, privilege, appearance and comportment on its members, which may or may not be “noble” in the sense you use it.

    • Conan the Agrarian says

      “The key point is near the start, that competition for status is pretty much by definition a zero-sum game…”

      There’s a book called “Cool” by an economist here at CalTech that argues people make up alternative hierarchies to overcome the status scarcity, that countercultures are a means to create new status opportunities for those shut out of the traditional ones.

      That is, if you can’t get status by being a preppie because your family isn’t wealthy and you can’t afford polo shirts and sailboats, become a punk rocker and get status with your group by wearing cheap and outrageous clothes, mohawking your hair, listening to recordings of garbage trucks malfunctioning.

      Does that mean the zero-sum argument is wrong? Not certain. But it raises some interesting questions.

      • Farris says

        I agree that the zero sum analysis is somewhat inadequate. The hierarchy is more akin to a caste system. The higher up one group places in the caste the more immune they become from criticism and confrontation. “People of color” is the highest caste with various ethnicities jockeying for the top of the victimhood pyramid. Sexual orientation and gender are lesser in the system because whites can be members. The lowest members of the caste attempt to raise their status by allying with higher groups.
        What is most interesting to observe is when lower caste members come into conflict with higher caste members or when members in the same group ranking come into conflict.
        What contribution Affirmative Action has contributed to the creation of these hierarchies would be an interesting topic to explore.

        • Since 1942, the US Supreme Court has been systematically destroying the foundations of the US brand of constitutional democratic republicanism in furtherance of goals of the American imperialists.

          We all know a republic cannot be an empire and the Supreme Court has long since cast it’s lot with “empire.”

      • augustine says

        “There’s a book called “Cool” by an economist here at CalTech that argues people make up alternative hierarchies to overcome the status scarcity, that countercultures are a means to create new status opportunities for those shut out of the traditional ones.”

        Yes, there are many hierarchies of status, all operating in some relation to others. But they are not necessarily counter-cultural.

        One person may belong to multiple hierarchies (circles) such as a professional group and a sporting group. Even families can have levels of status. I think the vast majority are self-regulating and do not represent enough wealth and power to entertain ideas of social transformation, nor do they have such aspirations. If they do get to that level they may become dependent on, and encouraged by, the attraction and manipulation of others to develop their ideas further. The latter stages may be more accidental than strategic.

      • Yes, I didn’t quite follow the idea that status is a zero-sum game. It might be so in a very static and closed society, but in any (socially, economically, culturally, politically) changing and at least somewhat open society the forms of status can keep evolving and developing, with some falling behind and some becoming a new attraction, with all the conflicts – rival status hierarchies – and sometimes compromises that brings.

        One interesting aspect I have noticed in the UK, is that what one might call “woke” – i.e. a quite repressive and in some was religiose orthodoxy of anti-racism, anti-sexism and so on, is very very characteristic of people employed in the public sector and especially the “caring professions” but much less characteristic of the private sector despite a clear drive in the private sector to subscribe to “wokeness” e.g. in marketing. I say that because a good friend of mine who has always been centrist in her politics changed career in mid-life…from a buyer in the food retail bizz to a therapist, and reported that while her relatively right-wing colleagues in retail had teased her about being “lefty” and “feminist” (in fact they made a joke of this but were never unpleasant about it), in her new “caring profession” she felt she actually had to hide what her new colleagues and peers would regard as absolutely socially as well as politically unacceptable attitudes (had to be hidden: that she had never voted Labour, that she was from an army-officer family and engaged in charity for army veterans, that she was worried by some aspects of Islam and that she was pro-Israel).

        So, modern Western societies are rather more complicated on this score than the author of this piece allows. But I still buy the general line of argument.

  5. An interesting theory, I don’t think it actually makes the case. For example, the claim that the preachers are mostly white, where is the evidence that that is the case?

    I liked Salman’s article on White Bashing. White Bashing is really only one part of Woke ideology, which I think varies a lot. For example, I have heard a lot of people claim that “White Male Supremacy” will never end.

    As far as status signalling, that has existed in all societies, and plays an important role in more main stream left liberal culture. It also plays a role among the conservative elite too, they just justify their elevated social economic position in a more straightforward way. In many way this is beneficial to society, as the ruling class thinks about the little people, and does some things for them.

    Really, I think that there are no powerful preachers of wokeness, the movement behaving like a mob. There are a few prominent voices, but they have no control of it. Coates, for example has criticized some activists as illiberal, but was mostly ignored.

    I think more important than status, is the human need to feel like a good person. This explains why white men can plead guilty to being bigots, because they claim that all white men are bigots. No one admits to be a racist, without at least implying everyone is.

    • That depends on what your instructor has told you. This article is not coming from a peer-reviewed academic journal, so keep that in mind. But can you cite it? Again, I can’t really say without knowing the requirements of your assignment. You know, you are allowed to talk to your instructors and ask them questions. I don’t get to say it that bluntly when I’m at work. (Off-duty librarian.)

    • ga gamba says

      You can earn a PhD for an autoethnography, so it appears it’s anything goes.

    • Snarky says

      If you haven’t already then my assumption is no you cannot.

  6. Martin28 says

    There is a lot to this theory, but the author is “virtue signaling” himself by giving these groups far too much credit for the moral foundation of their beliefs. They deserve no such credit, and their status can only be taken down by challenging the underlying belief system and questioning their morality. When this comes widely into question, we will see the masses abandoning this ship.

    • bo winegard says

      I think it is useful to be charitable. Furthermore, I really don’t doubt that many of the people in “Woke” culture are sincere. Whether they are right is an entirely separate question, and, as we noted, we are skeptical of many of the claims of the Woke faith.

      • There is no “perfect human” or “correct behavior.” These have changed over time and will continue to change over time. Hence, the beauty of western culture’s ideas of liberty and equal protection under the law, rather than authority and power to the state/mob to inflict its current views (often romantically based, certainly never evidence based).

      • Bo, I think you’re exactly right. Thanks for a great article. I find it disheartening that so many commenters cynically dismiss the idea that SJWs may have sincere motivations. This kind of reaction is all too common, and is nicely described in recent article by Victor Bruzzone and Matt McManus:

        The partisan temptation … leads us to look inward and shut certain ideas out, if they problematize the worldview we find ourselves increasingly attached to. This partisan temptation is noticeable even among those allegedly committed to open discussion and debate, especially those now fighting back against the excesses of political correctness and left-wing identity politics. Something we have both noticed on comment sections is a kind of over-correction against the problem of left-wing identity politics. There’s been a tendency to fall into a reductive us-versus-them mentality fueled by a moral panic that sees the identity politics left as an enemy to be opposed at all cost. Any suggestion that some ideas from the identity politics left have merit is often met with intense hostility.

        • It was an excellent article…with very interesting comments I have read thus far…….and although some SJW “may have” their hearts in the right place….they somehow fail to see that their selfrighteous condemnations are far more divisive and detrimental to society as a whole than it is to “righting things” in our world.
          I think the authors are spot on with their analysis of how ‘the system’ works for these “Woke Folks”….

          However, even though I am certainly not highly educated, it appears to me that there is far more behind this so-called Woke movement than meets the un-observant eye…… a good rule of thumb is to “follow the money”…..and ask “cui bono?”… getto the bottom of things.

          Because this ‘movement’ has been SO divisive…..just Whom is this benefitting? Ha! The PTB power brokers behind the scene…..the oldest trick on the book of Divide and Conquer. Those behind the scenes are adding Chaos to that mix…to ultimately establish even more control and strictures over EVERY social/cultural/economic group…..and eventually to thin the herd.

        • augustine says

          @ KAD

          Would wealth redistribution and “inclusiveness” be examples of ideas that “problematize the worldview we find ourselves increasingly attached to”? Would this in turn be an example of the party pointing out the problem being regarded as the problem?

          The portion of this article you cite (a link would be helpful) signals the modern virtue of detached and disinterested oversight, as if partiality, or defense of certain ideas over others, obviates productive discussion and is somehow wrong. Impartiality may help in gaining perspective, but ultimately we still must reconcile “legitimate” groups upholding very real philosophical differences. People sometimes visit the fence line or the top of the wall, but they do not live there.

          Sincerity of motivations? The sincere belief that one’s own beliefs should actually replace the beliefs of others, or that enemies should be liquidated outright, is morally defective. People who hold sincere yet horrible ideas are commonplace. If you are suggesting that the motives of SJWs may be based partly in heartfelt compassion, a true caring for everyone, then say that instead. As it is I see little evidence that this is the case.

      • Samedi says

        You are probably right about their sincerity, however, I question whether it counts as a good thing. People throughout history have sincerely believed in [insert whatever system of beliefs you find deeply offensive]. To sincerely believe in something may, in fact, be the chief cause of the phenomenon you so well described.

  7. D Bruce says

    The woke need to woke up to Georgism. Then they could drop the racism and sexism and go for the actual source of unearned privilege.

    • Dagger says

      Property taxes are already in strong correlation with ‘economic rent’ land values. Seems Georgist by other name. Plus, private property concepts are literally in the American DNA, t’would be a tough sell. But thanks for pointing it out, hadn’t heard of that one.

  8. The real problem with the essay is this section:

    Before concluding, it is important to re-emphasize that many of the people in the Woke status system sincerely believe in social justice. And many of their moral concerns are entirely legitimate. The preceding analysis, although it may deflate some of the pretensions of the most extreme preachers of the Woke faith, does nothing to impugn its accuracy or urgency.

    1.) I don’t know how you can “believe in social justice” when all you are doing is supporting an oppressive class-based hierarchy. If you believed in “social justice”, you would conclude that “wokeness” is a dangerous form of false consciousness used to keep a fascist system of oppression in place. If you don’t believe in “social justice”, why would you care about being “woke”?

    2.) What moral concerns? I suspect conservative “sexist white supremacists” believe that rape is wrong, but what they don’t do is gin up false statistics about its prevalence and put in place Communist-style show trials to stamp it out. Most the so-called moral concerns are shared by all, “wokeness” consists of the perversion of existing moral concerns (using lies and propaganda, intimidation, shunning of heretics, etc.), which would render it immoral. Moral concerns are just hostages, in the sense that if you oppose a hostage taker, they will kill the hostage. Likewise, if you oppose fraudulent rape statistics, you support rape.

    3.) The accuracy or urgency of “wokeness”? Are you kidding me? If what you are selling is actually accurate or urgent, you don’t need to shut down your opponents or ignore empirical data, because you can make a convincing argument for your side.

    If you can’t win a contest of wits, you have to use violence. If you can’t win a battle of ideas, you have to use censorship.

    SJW tactics are proof that SJW have nothing more to tell us than those who believe in the literal words of Genesis–who incidentally use the same kinds of tactics when they can (banning textbooks, shunning heretics, etc.)–but Christian fundamentalists lack the same power and patronage of our privileged SJW’s.

    • I would think that the proper design of a sewer system is urgent, and should be accurate, because of the risk posed by cholera and other diseases. Yet despite the accuracy and urgency of sewer systems, we don’t need to “de-platform” people with rival sewer designs or shut down discussions because those advocating a different approach to sewers “want black babies to die from cholera”.

      That is because proper sewer design is urgent and accurate, and “woke” concerns mostly consist of what good sewer designs are intended to eliminate. The problem with the modern university is the lack of a good sewage processing system. Certainly, grade inflation and departments of “Navel-Gazing Studies” hasn’t helped.

    • This kind of religious fanaticism is not limited to 17th C. Presbyterians and Quakers. Archbishop Laud introduced his own brand of fanaticism to the Anglican Church, the Vatican vigorously supported the Roman, Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions and recently Sunni and Shia Muslims have been quite active in this area.

      Fanatics do what fanatics do. It’s our job to draw the line before things get out of hand.

      • Circuses and Bread says


        I’d argue that in order to “draw the line” we have to build a cultural aversion or skepticism to tyrants and fanatics. Sort of an societal auto-immune response. Personally I approach it by advocating Antipolitics. But that’s not necessarily the best or only approach.

      • Mike van Lammeren says

        I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition to get a mention!

        • tarstarkas says

          No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Even we don’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

        • “NO-body expects the Spanish Inquisition!”
          -Monty Python

          But we expect the Woke Inquisition.

    • furrcats says

      When was the last time you saw Christians rioting in the streets over Genesis? I’ll help you with that, never!

      • Significant iconoclastic riots took place in Basel (in 1529), Zurich (1523), Copenhagen (1530), Münster (1534), Geneva (1535), Augsburg (1537), Scotland (1559), Rouen (1560) and Saintes and La Rochelle (1562).[17][18] Calvinist iconoclasm in Europe “provoked reactive riots by Lutheran mobs” in Germany and “antagonized the neighbouring Eastern Orthodox” in the Baltic region.[19]

        Plenty of Christian riots over the use of icons in liturgy.

    • Social justice is fine if those who subscribe to the notion do it themselves rather than prefer to force others to do it for them. You can be any faith so long as you don’t coerce others to also be.

  9. Robin Whittle says

    Thanks, for this analysis. Here are some further ways of thinking about the Great Awokening:

    The PC/Woke etc. movement is not just driven by status seeking individuals who are not part of an oppressed minority, and so, who – if not for their Wokefulness – would be part of the oppressor class. It is also pushed along by some members of the minorities identified in Wokeness as being in need of protection from oppression. I think there are some non-white, LGBTIQ… and/or disabled people writing or tweeting prominently in ways which seem intended to elevate the status of those who are Woke and to make everyone else feel guilty for being unWoke.

    Their actions might be explained to some degree as mentioned above, but they are typically not on top of any hierarchy, economically or in terms of conventional social status. Their actions may give them the status of being seen to be part of the Woke solution to the purported oppression, rather than succumbing to it – they are not, by definition, part of the oppression due to their membership of an oppressed group. More likely they simply want greater general social acceptance for the one or more groups they are a member of, and likewise would like more money, political power etc. to be given to that group. So their actions are relatively easy to explain in more practical terms than status or trying to rid themselves of their own guilt.

    The prominent Wokespersons this article focuses on are not members of one or more of the purportedly oppressed groups. They are, I think, generally White Anglo-Saxon middle class and so economically more secure than many other folks. They may be globally prominent, or prominent within a social circle – where this now primarily means some set of individuals linked by social media.

    While the desire for status is surely part of the motivation for their Wokespeaking, as Ryan wrote, “the human need to feel like a good person” is, I think, a large part of the motivation driving participants in the Woke movement. Striving for status at other people’s expense is at best a zero sum game and is arguably anti-social – though most of us need a consistent supply of status to survive, so it can’t be regarded as entirely pathological.

    Wanting to feel like a good person is pretty indistinguishable from wanting to be a good person. While there’s debate about what constitutes “good”, such a desire is pro-social and the antithesis of pathology. Yet I think that people motivated in this way will frequently behave in many ways which are indistinguishable from a Wokespreader who was driven entirely by desire for status (despite their own belief in their own goodness and obliviousness to said status seeking).

    I suspect that many such people are sucked into the Woke movement initially as unwilling participants in the Guilt Economy. AA and BB write, speak, tweet etc. about how people who are economically and in other respects doing quite well are only in this position due to systematic oppression of less fortunate minorities. CC, initially not Woke, reads this and finds the arguments persuasive and troubling. AA and BB et al. have convinced non-Woke CC that he or she is part of the Global Oppression problem and that they are guilty of benefiting from the oppression [1] without doing their utmost to fight it. CC doesn’t want to be like this – and so irrespective of the status considerations – wants to fight the oppression.

    CC could give all his or her money to charities which support one or more of the “oppressed” groups and leave it at that. This would be a direct practical effort to reduce oppression, but unless this action was made known to other people, it wouldn’t affect CC’s status. This direct action is exceedingly expensive if continued for a lifetime, as it must be, since the donations will not fix the problem.

    It is far more likely that CC will speak privately to other people, and especially to multiple other people via social media, about their own guilt at being part of the privileged group, and will make repeated such statements as a form of action which has the effect of somewhat assuaging their own guilt: statements which are intended to cause other people to fight the oppression, in large part by making them feel guilty if they don’t actively do their utmost to stop, or in some way compensate for, this Multidimensional Global System of Oppression.

    AA, BB have successfully enlisted CC into the Guilt Economy. Talk, tweets etc. are much less expensive than giving all your money to good causes. Talk is cheap and unconvincing, unless perhaps the speaker, tweeter or whatever simultaneously expresses profound guilt about their own privilege by way of passionate self-flagellating me-culpas. Assuming CC does this (the self-flagellation is socially painful, and commands attention and often respect), which many good hearted people would in CC’s position, then CC’s actions are now indistinguishable from those of AA and BB.

    So Wokeness is a social contagion, one of many in history.

    While post-modernism had some lasting benefits in helping people take a meta-perspective on their own thoughts, position or paradigm, what might be called the “excesses of postmodernism” was a decades-long social contagion in which participants tried to establish their own moral and intellectual superiority by more and more extreme efforts along at least two lines.

    Firstly, by denying that the certainties of all other fields are social constructs, and therefore arbitrary, meaningless, without value and so not at all “certain”.

    Secondly by the use of progressively more and more abstruse terminology. This became vastly amusing to onlookers (“A Higher Superstition”) when it became apparent that the highest flights of such discourse were in fact incoherent and devoid of meaning. (I suspect that some of these people were thrilled that they were writing stuff they couldn’t understand. This is a step up from the “If I can’t understand it, it must be profound” crowd. I think that these people were thrilled that their own utterances, *because* of their borderine-incomprehensible nature, were perhaps ipso facto New Profundities, which they had quasi-consciously given birth to, in the liminal space between what was previously possible and what might yet be . . .)

    The po-mos also habitually cast (forcibly changed or at least misrepresenting the nature of) every aspect of the universe into a human experience, and then crunching that down to a text – a string of characters. This is because the only thing the po-mos were adept at was playing with strings of characters. So they wanted to reduce every other aspect of reality to such strings, which were the only things they felt could be safely brought into their playpen.

    The elite where those who could use the lingo with aplomb, with a few effortlessly delivered words and perhaps the backward sweep of their hand, proving that vast swathes of human endeavor – such as the totality of Western science – were social constructs and therefore devoid of all the concreteness and meaning which gave them any value at all. (Never mind that the po-mos couldn’t have communicated without printing presses, computers, software, etc. – things that none of them could have produced on their own.)

    From the 1960s to the 1990s the po-mo social contagion spread through books, printed academic journals, printed popular press articles and academic conferences.

    The excesses of post modernism, along with the excesses of feminism (that which was beyond what was necessary to alleviate oppression of females), together with the thought-police of the Left have all lead to Wokefulness.

    However, Wokefulness would be a shadow of its current self it had been propagated through the same physical mechanisms as just mentioned for 20th century post-modernism.

    Wokefulness has flourished to be a far more widespread social contagion than postmodernism (though postmodernism seems to have infected most university humanities departments and administrations), probably affecting a large subset of all members of society. Social media, specifically, and Internet communications in general, are obviously the additional enabling technologies for this unprecedented global propagation, which spans languages, cultures, countries and professions. Wokefulness has spread to the highest levels of leadership in politics, and so affected the course of history on a massive scale. For instance the way European countries, especially Germany, have allowed large scale immigration of people who do not speak the country’s language – many of whom are are culturally at odds with the defining principles of the country’s own civilisation.

    In the spirit of self-superintendence, one observes that blowing the whistle on Wokemongers can reasonably be considered as playing the same game: portraying those who are passively and actively Woke as the hoi polloi and so the Whistle Blowers as a morally and intellectually superior elite.

    Maybe so, but I still think that Wokefullness is a profound social evil and that the Whistle Blowers are doing Good Work.

    That doesn’t mean that such Whistle Blowing and cheering for this from the bleachers can’t have some of the fun the po-mos had, with potentially contorted words and neologisms masquerading as erudition to keep the readers a little off-balance and so, perhaps, in some (unjustified) awe of the writer.

    [1] I write this using a beautiful curved 40″ 4k monitor made in China by a company 1/3 owned by a company wholly owned by the Chinese Government. (TPV/AOC licensing the Philips brand.) The people who designed and made this extraordinary device are much harder working than I am. A few may be wealthier but most of them are not. They all live in a dictatorship without labor unions. The monitor would surely cost more if made in a country with Western-style democracy and protections for workers.

    • “The elite where those who could use the lingo with aplomb, with a few effortlessly delivered words and perhaps the backward sweep of their hand…”

      Brilliant! One niggle. Not to be a Wokemonger but we prefer you to to say “pomos” (or preferably, “pomo peoplekind”) to “po-mos”.

    • Greg says

      My vocabulary has widened adding the term “wokemonger” alongside “crybully” and “social contagion” alongside “mind virus”

  10. The essence of Wokeness, only briefly mentioned in the article, is the belief that everyone is the same under their skin, i.e. that biology doesn’t matter. A Woke society is one in which everyone has been liberated from their bodies and individual selves, and live together as one as in the John Lennon song. That’s the Utopian vision of the Woke.

    The original sin according to Woke theory is selfishness, or more precisely identification with the body. According to Woke doctrine, biology doesn’t matter. We’re all the same underneath. And yet in our society a group has achieved power by dividing people into arbitrary groups, and conditioning them (through culture) to feel and act inferior before the dominant group. (The doctrine of cultural determinism.)

    It is this group which ultimately ensures that we continue to identify with our bodies, instead of embracing the liberating truth, i.e. that we are all one and separation and individuality is an illusion.

    Political Correctness and the efforts of the Woke can be seen in this light to constitute a massive organized campaign to “raise the consciousness” of those who, however unwittingly, perpetuate the lie of separation.

    The first task of the Woke activist is to identify those who are responsible for perpetuating the culture of separation. This is fairly simple if you remember that original sin is egohood or identification with the body. You just have to divide society into as many groups based on biological differences as possible. Then you see which groups are more dominant than other groups. The groups that are more dominant are the ones that benefit from the divisions; so they must be the ones chiefly responsible for perpetuating the cultural conditioning that ensures such divisions persist. Using this method of analysis (intersectionality), it becomes clear that whites, males, heterosexuals, the skinny, the “able-bodied”, and so forth, are in “power” in our society.

    What happens next? A “consciousness raising” campaign, the purpose of which is to get people of the dominant groups to admit that they have “privilege” due to superficial bodily characteristics—in effect, to admit that the doctrine of biological anti-essentialism, that we are not our bodies, is correct. That’s why so much activism is devoted simply to getting people to admit that they benefit from a system of arbitrary biological groupings (or that they are disadvantaged by same). The activists are trying to change the consciousness of people—to get them to see that biology doesn’t matter. Once you recognize that we are all the same underneath, and yet some of us benefit due to superficial biological characteristics, you are well on your way to accepting that we are all one, that behind everything is a single consciousness, and that our task is to help create a society based on this revelation—a society of “love” and “inclusion” rather than “hate” and “exclusion”.

    • Dagger says

      Breathnumber and Robin Whittle: I’m loving these breakdowns. Thank you and thanks to Quillette and the Winegards for tying this all together. It’s like I see the last stretch of a labryinth. Keep it up pls!

      • Yes, I agree Dagger. These two should co-author an epistle. Then some English Lit PhD candidate could do a critical theory deconstructionist thesis on it which we could them all read on @RealPeerReview

    • Martin28 says

      This is a very interesting comment and perhaps the topic perhaps deserves a post of its own. Central to the church of wokeness is a denial of human nature (“the body or biology”). Human nature cannot be erased, but it can be erased from our collective consciousness by restrictions on speech and scholarship. Hence the recent academic suppression of research (Ted Hill, Brown University) that challenges the narrative that breathnumber describes. This society of “love” and “inclusion” is one where human nature is denied, memory of its existence is erased, and disagreements are not allowed. If your human nature does not conform to the new collective philosophy, your job is to hide that, agree, and pretend to be happy. And problems that do not “officially” exist do not exist at all. Welcome to utopia.

    • But this side of the grave we are not nor will we ever will be “all one.”

      We’d all go crazy if everyone should think alike, dress alike and be alike.

  11. It is revealing that the tone or this article uses the very same sneering scorn that mid-20th century writers used to criticize traditional etiquette and cultural norms.

    Elmer Gantry, Babbitt, the Playboy aesthetic, the hippies and the Sexual Revolution…these were all criticisms of, and reactions to, the traditional norms which the critics saw as being corrupt and gamed by insincere frauds, or sincere but self righteous prigs.

    All the criticisms here are almost verbatim what might have been written by a Vonnegut, Mailer, or Lewis decades ago.
    And like then, some of the criticism is justified!
    Because any system of norms and etiquette can be gamed and exploited for malicious ends.

    But isn’t there something valuable in etiquette itself, something worth preserving?

    Etiquette has been defined as making others feel comfortable in our presence. Isn’t a common link between traditional etiquette and modern wokeness, the desire to make others feel welcomed and comfortable?

    • ga gamba says

      Isn’t a common link between traditional etiquette and modern wokeness, the desire to make others feel welcomed and comfortable?

      Motte and bailey right here.

      • James Lee says

        Motte and Bailey is certainly one of the most common deceptive tactics/logical fallacies used by the Woke.

        False Consciousness is a close second.

        They also like “poisoning the well”, and playing “6 degrees from Hitler” (aka you talked to someone who talked to someone who is a bad person therefore you have acquired his contagion.)

        Woke dogma is perhaps most striking for its blatant use of double standards. The Sarah Jeong fiasco really drove home the depths of its fundamentalism and immunity to reasoned argument.

    • Indeed! Here is an interview on Firing Line, 1971. William F Buckley is interviewing a member of the SDS of the new left along side a trade union leader of the old left. It’s extremly revealing, the new left guy basically lays out the entire strategy of subversion that they were employing and that the objective was the division and polarization of America! Not kidding, you need to watch this!!!

      • Thanks, KDM.

        Only 20 minutes in and it is perfectly clear that those who shared Rader’s viewpoint are the mainstay of today’s elder Leftist elites. Their views are unchanged, and have been successfully transmitted to Millennials. I know some of the former and they are bitter indeed that the 1960s tumult failed to transform the United States to their satisfaction.

      • Wow, KDM, thanks! That is a fantastic conversations! I love Arnold Beichman. He is all over the new left kid and is constantly trying to get him to commit to his views and be specific. Everytime – Who would you be shooting at? What revolutions have you liked? – Dotson gets uncomfortable and laughs it off, but Beichman is not joking.

        Most mind-blowing quote is: “A good portion of the Left’s function is the advancement of despair.”

    • ccscientist says

      Making others feel welcomed and comfortable? Seriously? People of all races have been progressively getting along better and intermarrying in the US but now Wokeness is trying to divide and stir up resentment. It makes demands that cannot be met, casting guilt on those not guilty. It wants to blame whites for the civil war 160 years ago, even if they came here after that (or just came here yesterday).

    • augustine says

      Traditional etiquette is not an ideology with ideological motives.

    • Doctor Locketopus says

      > Isn’t a common link between traditional etiquette and modern wokeness, the desire to make others feel welcomed and comfortable?

      One doesn’t make “others feel welcomed and comfortable” by calling them bitter clingy Nazi White Supremacist deplorable toxically-masculine misogynist doodoo heads because they happen to disagree with Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer on some issue (any issue at all — it doesn’t matter), nor because they note that Marxism has racked up a pile of ~100 million dead bodies within living memory, so perhaps it might not be the best idea to give it another try, nor even by concocting bizarre academic theories that purport to demonstrate that (e.g.) square dancing is somehow “racist”.

      That is, quite simply, bullying. It is not “welcoming” or “making people feel comfortable” by any reasonable definition of those terms.

  12. eddy wobegon says

    Congratulations on writing a very readable and minimally harsh assessment of this new religion.

  13. I disagree that they actually believe in real social justice. They simply believe they do. But my ex husband, a narcissist, likewise believed he was a good person. There was zero to indicate this was true; he literally never did a single generous act in his life. But he genuinely believed he was good. This is how they are.

    I speak as someone who does believe in a form of social justice- through my actions. I drive an hour every day to work as a special needs middle school teacher in an inner city. I devote most of my life to helping these kids, many of whom suffer trauma and PTSD, have poor or dangerous home environments, and no concept of working toward even a simple goal.

    Several upper class towns are nearby. Yet I have yet to meet a single upper class white person even step into the city much less care about it. We have great food, many small businesses locally owned. But the elites avoid the city because they believe but would never say – that black inner city people are dangerous and violent and they wouldn’t risk their lives here. Another example–it is extremely common for elite whites to send their kids to elite privates and to avoid the subways, where the great masses live and work. They will do anything to avoid public transportation; I actually think one of the reasons for Uber’s success is the unspoken, “This way I dont’ have to sit with the masses on the subway or drive with an unwashed immigrant in a cab.” They have more contempt for the lower classes than I think the aristocrats did in Victorian times. I mean at least they were open about it. They only like poor people if they can a) make them vote the way they want them to vote and b) make them into symbols for a. Otherwise, they loathe them.

    There stance on any number of their causes is not only hypocritical; it is counter to their claims. So they say they are feminist. Yet they call Conway ‘ugly,’ Sanders ‘fat’ and a ‘soccer mom,’ Sarah Palin “stupid.” They will be the first person to say the most vile sexist thing — IF the victim dares to go against their orthodoxy.

    Thus their actual devotion is to their Wokeness and using that, like the corrupt Catholic chruch of old, to stay in power. That’s it. Even the people who truly believe in their goodness actually do not care one iota for literally any of the causes they ‘champion,’ from feminism to racism (Clarence Thomas is a black rapist, Kanye West is crazy/stupid, etc), to rape (we believe the accuser but only if she’s accusing someone we don’t like or who is powerless; but if they’re strong in the Cause, eg the Pope or Clinton, then we don’t believe the accuser). I could go on and on.

    My point is that the authors, while raising great points, fail to see the depth of the vileness of the Church of Woke. Think cynical papists from pre French Revolution. They literally do not care about causes; these are mere tools; they care only about preserving corrupt power for themselves, and use the ‘peasants’ as their weapon for votes, unless the peasants revolt, in which case they need to be slaughtered. It’s pretty vicious.

    • What is your definition of “good person”?
      The leftist definition of good person is someone who actively helps the poor.
      The right wing definition of good person is someone who does not harm innocents. Innocent is someone who does not harm other innocents, aka not committing crimes as defined in the Ten Commandments from the Bible. You can be a good person without being committed to charity and altruism. On the other hand being committed to charity and altruism to the poor does not say anything about whether you are a good person or not.
      Protect the innocents vs feeding the poor, 2 different world views, but only one is correct.

      Also, why would you think “social justice” is a moral “good”? Like promoting equality (socialism), bashing the rich and promoting wealth redistribution are sins according to the Ten Commandments. People who work towards social justice cannot be good people therefore.

      • @B, I don’t think you read my post carefully. I honestly have no idea what it is you’re objecting to as I’ve asserted none of the things you evidently think I’m asserting.I used “good person” as a shorthand to describe self-described “good people” who think they’re good despite having no evidence of doing good.Merely believing you’re a good person does not in any way make you a good person. Believing you’re a watermelon doesn’t make you one; believing you’re talented doesn’t make you talented. And so on.This has been the biggest fault of the SJW crowd; they believe they’re Good because they press the right button on election night and post the Right Tweets. They can beat their wives and dogs, kick their kids, and belittle their coworkers, but if they put a button on saying “BLM” that magically makes them Good. No.

        Despite your own assertions, no, there is not a Left and Right definition of a ‘good person.’ You have just made that up. You may argue it but you’d need support. I find your argument simplistic and, worse, not true (there are not two definitions of good, and only one is true.) Your biblical source is not true either–‘not harming innocents’ is not the aim of the Ten Commandments. The aim of the Ten Commandments is far more complex than that.

        • Even if someone actually helps the poor, I do not consider it a huge virtue. It just enables parasitic or lazy behavior. Even if you gave away half your own money, I will not applaud you for it. Yawn… But if you help an honest innocent person to be saved from injustice/aggression/violence, I would applaud you for that. There IS a left vs right definition: The left considers the material needs of the poor, the right considers the non-material needs of the innocents. This obsession with helping the poor 24/7 turns my stomach. While I was growing up, we were one of the poorest in town, sometimes had nothing to eat, so I am not a spoiled brat. For example keep feeding Africans with free food and medicine, creates a population boom, and instead of thousands, now hundreds of millions will be dying by hunger: your “generosity” created astronomical suffering. The only poor who can be helped, will help themselves, and rise up, the rest of them dont deserve any handouts.
          There are several issues in the “good person” story: Some people take credit when they have done nothing. Some people do the wrong thing while they believe they are doing some good thing. Some people want to force others to be charitable on their behalf so they can save their own money.

      • Joe Lammers says

        More accurately the leftist definition of a good person is someone who expects the state to help the poor. The right.wing definition of a good person is someone who not only doesn’t hurt innocents but takes personal actions to help the poor.

        • Help the poor or help the innocents?
          You are right, taking personal actions can make someone a good person, but not any action: saving innocents, not helping the poor.
          Help the poor by giving them money, or help the innocents by saving them from physical harm?
          “poor” is an economic term, actually almost always self inflicted. Therefore trying to change it should not have anything to do with justice or “goodness”.
          Basically this is either about making others happy (with money) or making them whole (saved from aggressors and criminals). Some people can only be un-poor by a constant inflow of money, that is a constant outflow of money from someone else. This flow is not morally justifiable, therefore not related to being a good person (promoting it).

          Leftists don’t just want the state to help the poor, often they want their community to do the helping involuntarily, directly without a state. For example open borders. That has 2 elements: our money to be redistributed to the migrants through the welfare state, and many neighborhoods are forced to start absorbing crime and antisocial behavior by the new “residents”.

    • James Lee says


      The blatant double standards within the cult of Wokeness are what is most striking to me. Sure, all ideologies possess some degree of double standards, but I’m hard pressed to think of an ideology with so many, and which are so ardently defended. I guess that when your dogma is so far removed from lived reality, you need to assert obvious falsehoods ever more strongly in order to maintain your dogma.

      The Sarah Jeong affair and the strong political defense of the Vatican hierarchy by the NYT (among others) are almost unbelievable to a person who isn’t a member of the cult.

      When an accusation is made of a non cult member, it must be accepted without evidence, otherwise you are “part of the problem.”

      When an accusation is made of a cult member (such as the NYU prof Avital Ronnell accused of sexual assault) then we need due process and to respect the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”

    • ccscientist says

      Thomas Sowell documents how such people have no interest in evidence that their preferred policies actually hurt rather than help. For example, evidence that after a boost in the min wage young black men in particular see a big rise in unemployment. Or that after the ADA the employment rate for the disabled went down a lot (since they now because a risk for lawsuits).

  14. thefrankest says

    The first sentence in this essay states blah blah “functions to primarily” blah blah etc. The study of culture and the theoretical basis for the interpretation of culture by linking how things “function” to effect, diminish or reinforce other aspects of culture has been extensively utilized in socio-cultural anthropological theory until about 1990, when the post modernist movement threw the baby out with the bath water.
    Linkages of one aspect of culture, say a system of beliefs– in this case Wokeness–to the effects it has to reinforce other aspects of culture– in this case the delination of social status –used to be a powerful method for the analysis of what was once called a functionalist interpretation of culture. Eventually the functionalist approach evolved into socio-cultural systems modeling, which I see as the high water mark of that theoretical tradition. In systems theory, culture is modeled by noting either positve (adding to ) or negative (diminishment) reinforcement between elements. In this case one might say that ideological tenets of Wokeness, display positive reinforcement for a system of relationships, that divide the group and that this division reinforces status differences between, a racial/ethnic sub-set (the dominant cultural tradition commonly called “white” culture.)
    In any case, it is refreshing to see that these two psychologists have found this methodology useful. However, I would watch out for making inferences about the notion that it “primarily” functions to do such and such. The constellation of ideas, beliefs and actions associated with Wokeness have many different functions or effects on other aspects of the socio-cultural system- none necessarily the “primary” one. Claiming primacy in this case does you no good except to inflate the supposed value of your own deductive thought process Many things are going on, the effects and linkages are numerous. However, exploring the relationships between elements of culture to “make sense of things” is a powerful tool. Thank you for the article I really liked it.

  15. This is a cannibalistic system, the white elite Woke preachers cannibalize members of the hoi polloi for mental food for themselves.
    This is why the white leftist elite must be exterminated in gas chambers! I truly believe that this can be the only solution, as the woke movement is too virulent for any other solution, and of course we cannot let them continue building their tyrannical system. Freedom and Justice over social justice. After thousands of years of history with many wars for freedom, we cannot fall into this.
    Also note that this wokeness system only infects people who are pre-disposed to it: narcissists, the worst part of society. It is an opportunity to get rid of narcissists and sociopaths. Even before wokeness, these narcissists and sociopaths were probably abusing people around them in other individual ways. Wokeness only makes their efforts more coherent, like a laser generator synchronizes photons into a deadly ray. Leftism is simply organized narcissism. If they were not sociopaths, they would have real compassion that would find real deserving subjects to compassion: victims of migrant rape gangs. But since they are mostly sociopaths, they cannot make the correct determination of real victims, therefore they chose wrong “victims” in a cartoonish manner, they side with the poor brown people in every case.

    • chowderhead says

      @B: We should start with the most self-righteous. You, perhaps?

      • Too much radical universalism, perhaps?
        Centrist cucks promote us to protect our own enemies. I mean enemies, not opponents, enemies who want to destroy us and cannot be reasoned with. The 100+ million death toll committed by leftists is the proof of that.

  16. Greg Lorriman says

    In the UK we now have laws against indirect racism. So a school was forced to permit cornrow hairstyles, which were banned because of their association with gangs, due to ‘indirect racism’.

    It opens the floodgates and anything becomes sexism, racism etc.

    A fundamental principle of liberty is being allowed to refuse cooperation with some group or person. But that will then be interpreted as an indirect violation of a law.

    • Freedom of association together with freedom from association. A dichotomy those on the Left will never be able to fathom.

  17. Caligula says

    In this religion there are no safe harbors, as even the communicants in good standing may mis-speak and thus bring upon themselves disgrace and excommunication.

    Is it necessary to point out that heretics and apostates have always been treated far more harshly than heathen? For the heathen may be converted, but, heretics and apostates are beyond redemption.

  18. Farris says

    It’s all about the hunt and the scalps. The hunt is never ending. Even if all the heretical vermin were eliminated, the hunt would continue. This is why the goal posts of political correctness are constantly being moved and the most innocuous, non-malicious statement or act can suddenly be ruled out of bounds. The hunt justifies the existence of SJWs. The collected scalps proves their success.

    • Hit the nail on the head, Farris. All this crap about honest intentions overlooks these basic facts. The goal posts will keep moving, the hunted group will change, but it will continue. Look at the Woody Allen situation, there are no consistent principles guiding this movement. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s pariah, and the actual details and nuances of a particular situation do not matter, it’s all about maintaining the hunt.

  19. Sort of related to this topic is a blog I read on a black activist website. The entry was about Tim Wise’s anti-racist speeches. Evidently he makes loads of money talking to whites about how bad they are and yada yada yada. Well, this blacktisvist was kind of p/o’d and emailed Wise about getting the credit and money off the backs of black oppression (or what not) and asked him to step down and hand the mike over to a POC who was much higher on the rank of intersectionality than Mr. Wise.
    Instead of handing over his profits or speaking engagements (which he probably legitimately should’ve if he believed the crap he spewed) he laid into her, ripping her to shreds over the email.

    You’ll have to google it because I don’t have the link but what really stuck in my head was the responses by the other “activists of color”, one really sticks out, they called Tim Wise a Brother John. I had to look it up and it’s from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I read the book (for the first time, I know I should’ve already) and then went back and listen to Wises lectures and read some articles and it made my skin crawl! The Blacktivist was dead right, Wise is LITERALLY Brother John!

  20. Malcom X nailed this in the early 60’s:

    “The white Liberal differs from the white Conservative only in one way; the Liberal is more deceitful, more hypocritical, than the Conservative. Both want power, but the White Liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor and by winning the friendship and support of the Negro, the White Liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or a weapon in this political football game, that is constantly raging, between the White Liberals and the White Conservatives. The American Negro is nothing, but a political football.”

    – Malcom X (1963)

  21. ccscientist says

    My conservative friends do charity work quietly. In one case, the church members all vacation in the Carribean. While wives and kids play on the beach, the men build churches. Another visits old people who need help. No virtue signalling.

    In contrast to Christianity, there is no recognition of the inherent frailty of humanity, or any idea of forgiveness. It is strictly tribal. You are either a member of the tribe or you are cast out. Even a single mis-spoken phrase can get you cast out and your TV show canceled–just ask Roseanne Barr. The demand for conformity to absurd standards is truly scary.

  22. ccscientist says

    I believe the origins of Wokeness can be traced to the modern Leftist view (a resurgence of Marx) that oppression explains everything. It is neat and simple and appealing to lazy people who don’t want to read Thomas Sowell. Once you have this explanation, everything falls into place and you know where to aim your anger at the imperfections of life: at the oppressors. It doesn’t matter how saintly they are, if they are white they are oppressors. But if you are white, your way out is to become a loud Woke proponent. You are now absolved of the difficulties of figuring out how to actually fix the problems of the world. No amount of Wokeness has done anything to fix the murder rate in Chicago for example, because the problem is in fact quite intractable.

  23. The most annoying thing about these people, the “woke” ones, is that they think they’re original. They’re not. They’re exactly the same as any previous elite group in the history of human existence. But they think they’re new, fresh and original. They honestly believe that what they’re doing hasn’t been done before.

    • Most refuse to realize that the 100+ million people murdered and billion+ enslaved by leftism have nothing to do with them. They are hallucinating that they are the opposite of those, when they are the same. Are the Google execs with their “don’t do evil” hypocrisy…
      I’m sure Stalin, Hitler and PolPot, even Charles Manson all had the same delusion of saving the world as the modern “progressives” do.

  24. Pingback: “This is the religion of Wokeness, and this is the era of the Great Awokening” « Quotulatiousness

  25. Daniel says

    I appreciate this article. Winegard and Winegard do a thorough, articulate job of explaining this problem. They address the chosen level of analysis well, but I’m not convinced it is the best level to conduct this debate at.

    Winegard(2) said, “The preceding analysis, although it may deflate some of the pretensions of the most extreme preachers of the Woke faith, does nothing to impugn its accuracy or urgency”

    That’s the problem: the entire great awokening is inaccurate and irrelevant. We should be focused on how BS each of the tenates are.

    Let’s consider what I think is the Woke’s strongest point, that diversity is always good. Diversity is so often found in healthy, vibrant groups, that it can indeed seem to be an absolute good. But what is pleasing and satisfying to people, what is challenging and causes growth, is earned unity. It is when diverse people work for and achieve a shared experience or a common goal that they can craft a sense of unity together.
    Without diversity, earned unity is impossible. But diversity itself is actually an impediment to earned unity. Imagine five people trying to start a business, and none of them speak the same language: they have their work cut out for them! Furthermore, all their efforts will be directed to establishing enough unity to actually be able to communicate. One thing we can all agree on is this: none of them will be trying to increase the diversity of the group.

  26. E. Olson says

    Due to past inequities and injustices perpetuated by the ruling elite, the lazy, the weak, the unskilled, and the low IQ should inherit the earth. Yet the overthrow of the tyrants will of course require leadership to rally and organize the masses of victims, and the huge responsibilities and burdens of leadership deserve some extra compensation and status…

  27. prince says

    Fantastic piece that help me see the underlying dynamics of woke movement. It explains well the mindset and social interaction that leads to what seems often like mass craziness and a race to show how is more extreme and irrational.

    Thank you!

  28. Circuses and Bread says

    While I guess it would be predictable given my anti-political views, I didn’t particularly like this article. While I appreciate the effort that went into it, I think the authors are engaging in a kind of right wing virtue signaling. Yes, there are silly left-wing zealots who engage in radical and authoritarian behavior. Very similarly to silly right-wing zealots who also engage in radical and authoritarian behavior. So what? How does this help us prevent radical and authoritarian behavior?

    Let me posit a hypothesis that is a little different from the oft quoted adage that “knowledge is power.” Because in the political realm, that’s clearly not true. Knowledge of political viewpoints or opposing strategies doesn’t make the world a better place. Instead all it seems to do is result in a poisonous atmosphere where those who are involved are acting like Capt Renault: perpetually shocked, SHOCKED at the antics of their opposition.

    So try this hypothesis instead: the characteristic that prevents tyranny and radicalism in a society isn’t knowledge or vigilance, but instead a habitual and intentional indifference towards politics and politicians by the population at large.

      • Circuses and Bread says


        Ahh, I’m used to it. ?What’s the saying? Something like: “if you’re one step ahead of the crowd, you’re a genius. If you’re two steps ahead of the crowd, you’re a stark-raving lunatic.”

        Antipolitics has really been a different challenge. I’m used to having to present arguments and defend my unorthodox views. But with antipolitics I seem to need less the skills of logic and argument, and more the skills of a cult deprogrammer.

  29. Kudos to the Winegards! The article is extremely insightful, and the authors take care to avoid the kind of hyberbolic, ideological ax-grinding that they’re analyzing. The commenters … not so much. I find it disheartening that so many commenters cynically dismiss the idea that SJWs may be sincerely motivated. Perhaps another essay could be written about the religion of anti-Wokeness. Just as SJWs caricature and condemn straight, white, heterosexual cis-men, anti-SJWers make sweeping and unsubstantiated generalizations about “the Left.” With notable exceptions, all too many commenters demonize their opponents instead of providing balanced and nuanced arguments. They become the mirror image of the ideologues that they’re criticizing, fueling a flame war which generates far more heat than light.

    Bruzzone and McManus put it well in a recent article: “[The] partisan temptation is noticeable even among those allegedly committed to open discussion and debate, especially those now fighting back against the excesses of political correctness and left-wing identity politics. Something we have both noticed on comment sections is a kind of over-correction against the problem of left-wing identity politics. There’s been a tendency to fall into a reductive us-versus-them mentality fueled by a moral panic that sees the identity politics left as an enemy to be opposed at all cost. Any suggestion that some ideas from the identity politics left have merit is often met with intense hostility.”

    • Circuses and Bread says


      Outstanding comments.

      A suggestion? Consider a change of your perspective when you’re looking to explain political behavior. Think about it more in religious terms, like analyzing the belief systems, catechisms, and practices of a religion or cult.

      When I started with antipolitics, it became obvious that I was dealing with a set of people who held their views as fervently as those who were seriously involved with a religion. And I came to realize that politics comes with its own sects, prophets, catechisms, and ceremonies. So when I argue that that politics is not an efficient or useful means to achieve beneficial ends, I’m not making an intellectual argument; it seems that I’m instead a nonbeliever engaging in heresy.

    • KAD, you’ve posted the same comment twice. Instead of actually making an argument in favor of identity politics, or picking a specific comment you disagree with and why, you’ve decided to simply scold people. Can you use this open forum to articulate some of your specific views as to who is doing the demonizing and how they’re being unfair?

      I think what many of us see is people being fired, publicly shamed and ostracized, being banned from social media, and powerful companies like Google and Facebook doing/discussing some very scary things behind the scenes. I see the NY Times losing its mind and any attempt at a rational position by hiring and defending Sarah Jeong and fully embracing identity politics, which BY DEFINITION is highly partisan and driving people onto teams.

      If you’re going to call me – a straight white male – an oppressor and a racist and unfairly priveleged, I’m going to say to hell with you and defend myself, and I am going to view you as an enemy. I would have to be a rube or a pushover not to.

      So feel free to argue in favor of identity politics. I would not try to shut you up, and I am open to ideas here. But simply telling us all to be nice and stop being partisan is too little, too late. We’re way past that.

      • Circuses and Bread says


        I thought KADs comments were rather spot on, but be that as it may, I wanted to focus on the conclusion of your comment: “but simply telling us all to be nice and stop being partisan is too little, too late.”

        Really? Why? I would actually further go much farther than that and say that the time and resources spent on politics are wasted, and will result in a negative return on investment to you. Every minute you spend in a task has an opportunity cost attached to it. If you’re working in politics, you’re not say working on gardening. My point being that your efforts at the personal level are not going to change the political trajectory in any meaningful way, regardless of how emphatically you do it or the political sect you favor. If you’re working in your garden you’re exercising, stretching, and generally improving your health. And in the end you’re at least fairly likely to get some tomatoes. Not so with politics. You won’t even get a tomato or a carrot as a payback for your efforts.

        Unfortunately, we don’t look carefully at the underlying premise of politics: that politics results in a beneficial good to society. Instead we take it as article of faith and go from there.

        • Hi Circuses and Bread,

          Well, I don’t work in or on politics, I just come here and read and discuss these things like you do. So in that respect you are spending the same time and energy on politics, meaning discussing how we think things should be, that I am. You come here to say politics are a waste of time, I come here to argue my side of this or that issue, and KAD came here to say both Left and Right are too partisan and not listening to each other…but all three of us are here spending time, and taking a position.

          As for why it’s too late, look around you. People are losing their jobs and ability to earn, and the reason are either good or not depending on your viewpoint. If you can’t earn, you can’t pay the mortgage on the house where you have the garden. I don’t know the specifics of your life, but in mine my workplace has changed drastically for the worse (I work in the Arts) and I have seen shit go down that I am not ok with. As long as it doesn’t happen to you, you can not take a positon and be fine. But if they come for your head, or your kid’s head or your spouse’s head, that will do wonders to give you a strong opinion immediately.

      • M.D., I support the “common humanity” identity politics which Haidt and Lukianoff recommend in _The Coddling of the American Mind_, and oppose the “common enemy” version which is practiced by both SJWs and their anti-SJW foes. Examples of the latter are abundant in the comments section of almost any Quillette article. In the preceding conversation, SJWs are called “vile little humans” who want to “co-opt others’ property, lives and freedom of thought” (i.e., they’re totalitarians); they’re compared to “Bolsheviks …, Stalin, Gulags et. al., Pol Pot, Chairmen Mao, Castro”; they’re judged to be either “ignorant or evil”; they lack any “moral foundation for their beliefs” and use “lies and propaganda” in the “perversion of existing moral concerns”; they “literally do not care about causes, … they care only about preserving corrupt power for themselves”; and, finally, are “narcissists and sociopaths” who should be eliminated from society. I think these comments can be accurately described as “demonizing.” Is there really a widespread conspiracy of morally bankrupt, power-hungry totalitarians who are completely indifferent to issues of justice and want to impose their ideology on the rest of society? Or, as seems far more probable to me, are most SJWs sincere in their desire to combat inequality but overzealous and misguided in their approach? Many SJWs believe that anti-SJWs are racist, misogynistic, self-righteous reactionaries, and this caricature is equally wrong. Overheated rhetoric which depicts people who disagree with you as the “enemy” is only going to deepen the divisions in our badly fractured society. I don’t see what purpose it serves aside from virtue signaling to fellow true believers.

        • @ KAD

          I can get behind all of that. Hopefully it is still possible to effect a general calming down and drop the personal attacks on both sides.

    • @KAD Hello its William the guy who wrote the Peggy Mcintosh piece. Firstly really enjoyed that massive argument you got in with the fella on that thread, i actually learned quite a bit rhetoric wise so thx. What your seeing is visceral anger. Lets go back to say 2010. After 10 years of wars and financial collapse social movements were connecting worldwide in a massive and co-ordinated way. I was part of Occupy Montréal, worst fuckin camping trip ever but amazing in bringing people together from across the political,economic,ethnic, spectrum. There was an incredible unity of purpose to bring systemic change worldwide to a worldwide system. There were incredibly strong anti war movements. I spoke in Montréal at the worldwide demo, largest worldwide in human history. It was 40 below zero that day but when i got on the podium there were 250 000 people in the street in front of me. 13 million worldwide i think. Then with blinding speed this darl ideology swept in enforced by iron willed suppression of any descent. Longtime talented organizers were thrown out of social movements and it all fell apart. In the 2012 Québec student strike there were regularly 10k students marching every day, battling it out with riot police. At the recent G-7 summit they could only muster 300 demonstrators. Many will not take to the streets because of the antifa thugs, another creation of this stygian ideology. I served in NATO during the cold war. We are far far closer to the abyss than we have ever been. The control systems that existed then are gone. But you cant even grass roots organize a peace movement because you will be disrupted and forced to bow to the marginalized. Your meetings will soon have nothing to do with disarmament as you discuss the systematically racist nature of nukes, at any given meeting speakers are chosen by their marginalization points not the breath of their ideas. Our education institutions have been turned into indoctrination centres. Any independent thought is stamped out, kids are terrified of exploring alternate ideas. How many brilliant out of the box solutions will never be found because of this? Bringing systemic change is a matter of survival and this poisonous garbage may have destroyed resistive progressive politics for a generation. The kids coming out of universities are the indoctrinated and and materialy uneducated in history. And its creeping lower they are lining 12 year old kids up in Ontario schools by their “white privilege score”. As for your complaint that we don’t acknowledge their pure intent. When I was on Peacekeeping missions i met alot of people who had done terrible , make a billy goat puke level stuff you know what they had in common? They all believed that they were doing the right thing, very sincerely, so your defense there is pretty spurious. This ideology needs to be crushed and its adherents thrown out of social movements, it took over using violence and intimidation it might have to go the same way. I would close by noting that as a soldier I was trained in counter insurgency warfare. If you were facing the kind of insurgency that was happening worldwide as the “system” you could not have formulated a better solution. When fighting insurgents its is best if you can get them to fight themselves. Cheers

      • William, I think you’re illustrating my point. You’re presenting the struggle against SJWs as a war for survival based on hysterical claims like “our education institutions have been turned into indoctrination centres.” That does NOT describe the community college where I teach in rural Minnesota, nor do I think it applies to most colleges and universities in the U.S. In a recent interview, Jonathan Haidt admits that his analysis in _The Coddling of the American Mind_ (which I highly recommend) mostly applies to a minority of hyperwoke students at elite institutions on the coasts. SJW overreach is a real problem, but it’s not an epidemic or an existential threat! If you’re actually interested in progressive change, I would recommend toning down the rhetoric instead of threatening “violence and intimidation” against your ideological opponents.

        • “Is there really a widespread conspiracy of morally bankrupt, power-hungry totalitarians who are completely indifferent to issues of justice and want to impose their ideology on the rest of society? Or, as seems far more probable to me, are most SJWs sincere in their desire to combat inequality but overzealous and misguided in their approach.”

          KAD, here’s you problem, bud. You are such an equality freak that you have failed to consider the possibility that both of your statements above are true. Yes, there is a “power-hungry” elite, and yes, most SJWs “are sincere in their desire to combat inequality.” Get with the program, guy.

          • Breathnumber: please elaborate. I’m not sure what an “equality freak” is (or how you know I am one), nor do I know what program you think I should “get with.” If your program requires the acceptance of incompatible claims — most SJWs are misguided idealists vs. SJWs are incipient fascists — I’m not interested.

        • KAD, what do you mean by “SJW”? In my view SJWs are average nobodies. So of course they’re sincere for whatever stupid reason. Above them are the opinion makers. Above the opinion makers are the theorists, and above the theorists are the theorists’ employers. The question is what proportion of these last 3 groups are sincere. Thoughts?

          • In my opinion, most people who claim to fight for social justice have sincere motivations.

            Not really sure what you’re talking about in the rest of your post. I think we’re talking past each other, so it may not be productive to continue this conversation.

          • Perhaps. But there’s a difference between reasonable skepticism and conspiracy-minded cynicism. Unfortunately, I see far more of the latter than the former in posts like yours.

        • KAD, we simply ask you to make a distinction between normal people and an elite. Do you believe such a distinction can be made and is meaningful?

      • Lorrie Beauchamp says

        I like the way you think. Can you provide a link to the Mcintosh piece?

  30. Garry of Brisbane says

    The question that occurs to me is whether the signalling behaviour described in this article is unique to the regressive Left or, and I suspect this to be the case, behaviour that is increasingly prevalent across the board, such as with the populist Right.

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @Gary of Brisbane

      It’s not your imagination, the same sort of virtue signaling can be seen across the political spectrum.

      As I’ve suggested above, political behavior is more easily explained when you look at it using a religious lens. If you do that, virtue signaling starts to look a more like a mantra or chant. Or a call to prayer.

      • Exactly right. Circuses and Bread, can you say more about your anti-politics and/or provide a link? I’m not sure what you mean.

        • Circuses and Bread says


          If you’re looking for information on anti-politics you’ll be hard pressed to find much out there. Let me go ahead and define what I mean by anti-politics: anti-politics is the rejection of party and electoral politics. Further, it’s the view that politics as a means does not typically deliver beneficial ends in a society.

          That’s the core of it, but there are some ancillary views that I would use to flesh it out with such as:

          -rejection of politics as a means of accomplishing beneficial ends.

          -the view that politics exists as a social control mechanism.

          -the view that political involvement at the personal level delivers low or negative return on investment of time and resources.

          -embracing means other that politics as a way of achieving beneficial ends. Such as through art, culture, charity, and religion.

  31. Pingback: „Wokeness“ und Signalling bzw Statusaufbau | Alles Evolution

  32. redpony says

    If seeking status is a baseline human trait, then the appearance of this motivation amongst SJWs is not particularly noteworthy, contradicting the thrust of this argument. If this is something humans in large groups do, unconsciously and invariably, it does little to tell us about the unique character of this particular group and its dynamic.

    Oddly, this kind of take-down is not very different from a deconstructionist reading favored by the “woke.”

    There are some general truths here but it misses the target. To do that you’ll need to actually engage the ideas of the opposition and disprove them.

  33. Ocean Creature says

    Stranger Danger!!!!

    Except that we all really know this tired old voice. It’s as old as the hills: the seduction to make ourselves the gods of reality. And the seduction always has one hope: the current iteration of the first perfect world. And the seduction has only one outcome: we are destroyed by thought police, truth commissions, public confessions, purification camps, etc.

    Most of these woke nutcases are rabid atheists. How comical, ironic, tragic, and typical that they express themselves in the most religious of terms as the high priests of a purity cult, with legions of scapegoats. And so many of them are actually priestesses – the ones, who after years of “oppression” should be most filled with understanding…

    Ritual always demands sacrifice… wish it were prayer, fasting, and charity…

  34. Pingback: Is being “woke” a way to gain status? « Why Evolution Is True

  35. John Mason says

    People have lost their faith in God but still long for faith, with which various secular preachers seek to provide them. Like the godly preachers they supplant, these secular preachers—Woke preachers if you like—come in myriad sorts, from wise and selfless to stupid, arrogantly pious, mercenary and malign.

  36. Itzik Basman says

    I have not read the thread comments save for John Mason’s just preceding mine.

    I see in this essay for the most part twinkling in four eyes, each bro having two, and I see two tongues pushing hard against two facial cheeks, as the bros, as I read them, had a good time kibitzing around while making a few points.

    I don’t understand why a social status system is necessarily “inexpansible,” if I understand what the bros contend by that. Maybe my social science background, which is non existent, literature and then law my areas of study, fails me here. If a social status system is inexpansible, then does that mean no one who’s not in it can join it? But that’s flatly self refuting. Does it mean that fixed criteria for belonging to that system can never blend into, mix with, adopt or adapt to other such criteria? That seems rigid to a point of sheer reductionism, and, so, missing the complex ebbs and flows and mixings of social dynamics.

    The analogy undergirding this piece to the great religious movements dotting American history seems to me to be a clue to the pervasive kibbitz, a way of poking fun at the self righteous zeal and earnestness of our new woke preachers. But the limit of the analogy speaks to (me at least) a conceptual weakness in the argument that tracks the seeming (to me at least) incoherence of social status systems as inexpansible.

    The attempt to fit the complex phenomenon of what might metonymically be called wokeness into the bros’ conception of a social status system—the very idea of a social status system suggests (to me at least) trying to build a social construction unable to contain what it’s meant to house, like trying to fence in the wind—suffers from fitting it, wokeness, into a Procrustean bed, a social status system. There are some insights to be gained from that fitting no doubt, but finally wokeness as a thing gets descriptive short shrift in that fitting. There’s so much more to it behaviourally then that fitting allows for.

    One final comment on a jarring note in the bros’ conclusion:

    ….The preceding analysis, although it may deflate some of the pretensions of the most extreme preachers of the Woke faith, does nothing to impugn its accuracy or urgency….

    I understand the bros’ point: their social science analysis need not and does not entail any judgment about the content of wokeness: their analysis only is concerned with dispassionately seeing in it the operation of a social status system.

    My problem with this is that the essay is filled with so much obvious playfully exuberant derision of both the pretentions and much of key content of wokeness, that the bros are guilty of having it both ways—attacking and mocking that content along the way but then in conclusion disclaiming any substantive judgment of it as irrelevant to their argument. In this I fear, the bros do not sufficiently know what they are about here.

    For with that disclaiming, the twinkle is gone, the exuberance has been leached out and the two tongues have been placed squarely back in the position they normally occupy in the bros’ mouths.

  37. Pingback: The Preachers of the Great Awokening | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  38. My tactic with such pious puritans (and I live among many) is to simply appear as dumb as they think I am already. This puts them in a position of having to explain their ideology.

    So for example, there is no better argument than ‘Sorry, I just don’t believe you’. Just keep saying that. When they reply with statements like ‘surveys show, or science shows etc.’ You can then move on to another stock reply, whicb is: ‘show me these surveys. Who did them? How?’.

    There are a couple more I use.

    One is: ‘Who is saying all this? Is it the law? If so, which one? Because to me it sounds like you’re just making this stuff up’.

    Finally I resort to: ‘Well, uness what you’re telling me is an actual law, which I can read and consult, then I will continue to say, think and do whatever I please within the law as it stands. I mean, thanks and all that but you have no actual authority over me.’.

    And really finally: ‘I’m going now. Bye.’.

  39. Maralee Blue says

    This is one of the worst articles that I’ve read — its tone, completely juvenile, its message, completely soaked in defensiveness. If people are supposedly so good at psychology around here, how come you can’t diagnose your own defense mechanisms, to which is what this article, and most of the comments amount.

    I get it, white guys — you’re like “actually not racist.” Which is bullshit, because the fact that you’re hunched over a keyboard spending time reading and commenting on the works of two whitebros who defend The Bell Curve and this is on your radar and like, literally, your flawed and racist comments sort of betray your motivations.

    I feel your pain — I’m a white woman, and no one likes us — not the woke people, not white males who think that by having the right to vote we have ushered in the “woke” spectre like a person playing with a Ouija board alone in the dark. We’re Becky, Starbucks, whatever.

    Let me tell you the secret to not being a douche about this: get the fuck over it. Use your fucking eyes to see what’s in front of you and read history. Even this article concedes the fact that the opppression is probably real and the people who live its effects have a valid claim — and those who wish to help the situation are well-meaning.

    Just get the fuck over it. You’re not on top because you’re dominant. You’re not on top because you’re the rightful inheritors of Western Civilization. I thought of this analogy — whitebros get super defensive because they think that they are somehow being pushed down to make way for women and minorities. The truth — and the flaw in this article — is that there is some scarcity to the job market or we wouldn’t be arguing over this shit in the first place — and in order to give everyone a voice at the table, some equally qualified white males are going to have to sit the fuck back and not be able to line up for the porridge they’re waiting to get scooped into their bowl. It’s not personal — and you’re going to be alright.

    Think about it like this — since you love sideways analogies that don’t have to do with race. Most college professorships are filled with people from HYP before they even make their way down the list to the slums of Brown, Dartmouth and Columbia. People who go to HYP are not there because they are the smartest. People are turned away from these schools all the time with perfect SATs — because there are too many slots (a microcosm of the argument, anyway, because other criteria than “the most quantitively competent” are taken into account, including extracurriculars, legacy, affirmative action, etc.).

    Now, my son is about to go to college. If he gets a teacher who attended the wild ghetto of Cornell, am I going to stay up at night biting my nails because he’s getting a sub-par education? Fuck no. There’s plenty of competence in mediocrity — not every white male is Einstein — very few are, in fact — there’s not a roster of white male Einsteins out there where they’re all being chopped down because brown women are vaulting over their slots. There’s really, really smart people who are going to get jobs no matter what, and then a gigantic landscape of people whose differences are barely perceptible. It is this group where the white man feels the squeeze — and probably it does feel like oppression. It’s here that a company can pick and choose different attributes that may seem unfair, but, really, they might feel like the diversity is more valuable than sorting through people to find out how they can get a white guy his porridge.

    Because here’s news: plenty of minorities and women have worked just as hard or harder than the James Damores of the world — and they never get their porridge. And they have to work twice as hard to even get the bowl that most Damores are handed — the statistics on poverty demographics support this truth, as well. So that is taken into account — I’d rather hire a scrappy minority person who doesn’t have all the bells and whistles than some privileged schlock who got everything handed to him. And depending on the field, people who have faced adversity are far more creative and look at the world in a different way than people who have ho-hummed their way through a de riguer B+ existence.

    So, my advice is — stop pushing back with this fantastical counternarrative that puts your squishy ego-heart on display for everyone to see and do one of three things:

    1. Be excellent: first of all, your replacement is likely an H1B visa worker who was brought in because WestCivWhiteBro wasn’t living up to his end of the bargain and couldn’t fulfill the demands of the workforce. If you think it’s more about driving costs down for companies, fight for fairer wages or more affordable education for people. The woke army are your allies in this.

    2. Reject privilege. Most of the people getting your jobs are the outliers — they’re fine. You’re sitting around biting your nails about the people who built Western Civilization — it’s not James Damore in his mid-level coding job — it’s his boss (who is nonwestern, if I’m not mistaken) — and it’s not Steve who went to Arizona State or Rick who drank his way through MIzzou. There are plenty of girls in hijabs that are more qualified than Steve or Rick to run Tableau projections or just about anything else. Before you even get to the just-below-genius tier of competency, you have to fight through a thick layer of Daddy’s money and zipcode — this is, arguably, taking up more of your space than the Affirmative Action roster. So fight against legacy admissions, turn your back on the hierarchy of HYP like Freddy Krueger — don’t hire someone, yourself, who just has all the “on paper” shit — look beyond to see if they really made something happen from scratch.

    3. Build something yourself. Jump off the ride: if you’re so fucking smart and you’re being robbed, put your big brain to work doing something no one can touch. Just like Booker T. Washington told black people — don’t ask for fucking permission — just do it. You’re going to have to make like the ghost of your worst inner bootstrapper and tell yourself that if you think that YOU are facing adversity, it’s probably bullshit and you need to get your shit to work.

    And millennials running the news space is the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. As a bonus fourth thing — history did not start in 2004 on a college campus. I am from a place where people still run black people out of town, freely use the N word and think that their ranch house and GMC SUV means that they are unassailable as humans. Where women are subjugated, superstition is rampant and moral tenets only apply to those within arbitrary borders. Yes, it’s that bad out in the districts and racism is omnipresent and the effects of slavery and segregation still play themselves out. That’s why writing this article just makes you look like a fucking joke to me. You’re worried about a few people on campus, feeling sorry for your sad selves that some brown girl feels like she can tell you to shut the fuck up.

    Take the opportunity to understand what the boot feels like. Realize that much of what you have as a white person is a result of that boot. Deal with it.

    • beyondyesandno says

      @Maralee Blue – thanks, but there are plenty of people of various genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations who don’t want to live in the shitty world your equality-of-outcome cult is trying to usher in. Privilege? You must have missed the article on Peggy McIntosh the other week. It was a pearler.

      • Maralee Blue says

        lol — black people being able to live in a house where they want = shitty world of equality of outcome. Too much.

        • Itzik Basman says

          No one gets to live in the house they want.

          They have to be able to afford to buy that house.

          And to afford it they have to do that in their lives that puts them in a position to be able to afford.

          These truisms operate regardless of race, ethnicity and gender.

          • Itzik Basman says

            And if they can afford to buy the house they want, nothing will stop them from doing it, no matter *where* it is.

    • Jon Stubbings says

      Nice rant – peppered with attempts at humorous informality and obscenity – though unfortunately it doesn’t address one single actual point made in the article above – in fact it proves the very point that this, and many other articles on Quillette, are making.

      • “…fight for fairer wages or more affordable education for people. The woke army are your allies in this. ”

        This bit is demonstrably untrue. The “HYP” crowd ‘ you are so fond of referencing as a shorthand for American elites — guessing you mean Harvard Yale Princeton? — at present comprise some of the most visible, vocal boosters for wokeness, and this may go some way towards explaining why the anointed never tire of talking about historically marginalized groups but always seem to run out of steam when they get far enough down the list to talk about poor people. A fixation on Social Justice that conveniently elides any discussion of class is currently an extremely reliable upper-class status marker.

        Next time you’re struggling to come up with yet another oh-so-witty and dismissive portmanteau ending in “-bro,” consider the most popular of them all: “Bernie Bro.” That is what the Liberals Who Know Better used in the last election cycle to mock and ridicule the idea that economic justice matters, that it should matter, to anybody in their party. The groundswell of young, predominately female activists loudly and effectively demanding a return to FDR-style Democratic politics were simply painted out of the picture, covered over with a portrait of entitled dudebros cryiing white tears because they wanted a pony and the mean lady wouldn’t give it to them. The wokest people I know engaged in vicious ritualistic one-upmanship to see who could most aggressively portray overwhelming support for universal healthcare and higher education as little more than the retrograde misogyny of the Patriarchy in its final throes.

  40. sorethumb says

    In New Zealand there is a full on campaign to revive the Maori language. Maori is spoken fluently by <4%. Maori make up 15% of the population but you only need one ancestor to be "Maori". National Radio has been bombarding us unapologetically.
    One thing that caught my eye was when Steven Hawkings died. The host interviewed University of Canterbury Physicist David Wiltshire who studied under Hawkings. The conversation started with "Moreana Guyon" (Good morning). Somehow the New York Times is seeing a revival, however beyond the smoke there is no actual evidence of a revival beyond a government drive and push from a minority who see a need for things like "decolonisation". I was surprised to see a rest home learning Maori but thinking about it merivale is not for the hoi poloi.

  41. John McCormick says

    To those interested in further discussion, please see Joseph Bottum’s book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. He links the following Puritans-Great Awakening-Social Science-Progressivism-Protestant Mainline secularization and finally the conversion of religious values into civic values that are then imposed on the rest of us. A lengthy book review is posted at the Washington Post by Todd Zywicki, December 2, 2014.

    The Winegards’ commentary has precedent, and as a former liberal (US denotation), I think they have got it exactly right.

  42. Lorrie Beauchamp says

    You seem to have identified a minority group that will probably fizzle to flat in due time. As far as the big picture goes, though, you are SO WRONG. “Being woke” is a thread of eastern philosophy that is new to the west. It encompasses a viewpoint of inclusiveness and the realization that all sentient beings are equally worthy. It dismisses race, gender, language, monetary status, power and other “human categories” as irrelevant. Being woke means you are in touch with your gut instincts, healthy emotions, and an ability to see beyond the conditioning of media and marketing machines. It means you have the clarity of insight that can only be achieved through introspection, and an equinamity that is above the petty drama we are now drowning in. We should encourage everyone to find their own brand of “wokefulness” or whatever you want to call it. These are just labels. The act of “waking up”, though, is essential to our survival as a species. If we don’t get out of our rut we will die in it. It’s an evolutionary calling, and it seems as if you’re just not hearing it clearly yet! Keep trying. It is available to everyone, with a little soul work.

  43. Mark Williams says

    Lorrie can you back up your assertion that Woke is a thread of Eastern philosophy?

  44. Pingback: The Preachers of the Great Awokening – The winds are changing

Comments are closed.