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The phoney War on Woke The Government's obsession with statues and street names is a dangerous distraction

Credit: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty


January 29, 2021   6 mins

The height of political madness is to be consumed by frivolity while everything is crashing around you. Nero, at least to his enemies, played music while fire consumed his city; Himmler invested time and money in researching fairy-tale horses as the Red Army pulled closer to Berlin; the Tory Government, while thousands were dying each day, launched a “war on woke”.

The Government knows who its enemies are: Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has attacked the “woke worthies and town hall militants” trying to remove statues, while Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised the “woke brigade”.

But what do they mean by this very overused four-letter word? I imagine most people, when they hear the word “woke”, rather feel like King Théoden after a day of Wormtongue whispering in his ear. It’s a boring, overused, culture-war term used to denote people arguing over nothing. Even the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to know. When asked if there was “nothing wrong with being woke”, his spokesman said: “I’m not sure what you mean specifically.”

Some Tories certainly don’t see being woke as a problem. Lord Vaizey, once MP for Alfred the Great’s home of Wantage, has labelled the whole War on Woke “pathetic”, adding for good measure: “Maybe I’m not good enough or noble enough to be woke. I want to be woke.” Rather than getting excited by statues, Vaizey said, the Government should “lean in” to issues of social and racial justice, and be more like Joe Biden — “woke in the best way” — by celebrating both tradition and diversity.

Because it isn’t clear what it means, woke has become synonymous with either “leftie”, “liberal” or just “nice”. And that is why it will win – just as happened with its ideological forerunner in the 1990s.

One of the reasons that “political correctness” eventually proved successful, or at least overcame the initial disdain and contempt it inspired, is that a less important aspect of it was more attention-grabbing than its central component. PC was, in one respect, a form of political politeness, the desire to use language that was more inclusive and forgiving. But it was also — more importantly — a way of enforcing political orthodoxy, a belief that certain ideas should and could be made unsayable, even unthinkable, with enough social pressure.

Theodore Dalrymple called PC “communism writ small”; it emerged out of radical left American academia in the 1960s, and had certain similarities with the stifling orthodoxy of Soviet Russia. But it might better have been described as a mutation of Christianity, another successful form of behavioural enforcement with a long history of intolerance towards unbelievers, especially heretics.

Woke is not “kindness”, nor is it even “political correctness” — although it is rooted in that ideology. To be woke is to believe particular things about human society and human biology, and with a zeal that is often described as religious. One of the most useful definitions was made by the brothers Bo and Ben Winegard, who identified some of the main credal points of the woke Left, including the idea that “bigotry is pervasive” in America (and the West), that “almost all disparities among demographic groups are caused by bigotry”, that “if we all work really hard, we can create a more just, multicultural society” and that “diversity is almost always a good thing.”

Unlike political correctness, however, woke — originally an African-American term to mean “awake” to social justice — is primarily about race, although gender is a secondary issue. To be woke in particular means to believe in “equity” rather than equality, that is equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunities between groups.

The term has been around since at least the 1970s but grew in use and salience during the “Great Awokening”, the name for the seismic, radical shift in American upper-middle-class opinion from around 2013. The link between the smartphone and the Great Awokening is as clear as that between printing and the Reformation – and, thanks to social media, this period saw a dramatic shift in attitude towards racial injustice, diversity and immigration.

Social media encourages conformism, which was most visible last summer when huge numbers of people around the world displayed black squares on their Instagram pages following the death of George Floyd. Yet most people know fairly little about US homicide rates and statistics; they imitate the belief systems of their friends, colleagues and people they look up to, and will adopt beliefs if they appear socially desirable or moral.

This can include some quite implausible beliefs that would not survive rigorous scientific analysis and, if the roles were reversed, would resemble conspiracy theories. It is now taken as given that “systemic racism” prevents some minorities from achieving equity in terms of education, income or imprisonment rates, while the fact that other minorities far exceed that average is left unspoken. Indeed, some of the most vocal supporters of the idea that the United States is overwhelmed by systemic and systematic racism come from groups who outperform white Americans on any metric.

Diversity is a central part of the Creed, and while it clearly has some benefits, especially in restricted settings — such as science — there is also a vast literature on diversity’s negative impact on trust, political stability, corruption and various other social ills. But the mainstream conservative movement has largely given up on this issue, partly because the social cost of debating such a sacred idea is too high. A few narcissistic show-offs on the Right like to be hated; most of us don’t. And when conservatives are no longer willing to fight for their beliefs, they launch wars over symbols instead.

It seems bizarre for a government to flag up the issue of statues and street names while over 1,500 of its citizens are dying each day from a virus they failed to control. But statues and street names don’t actually matter. They are a proxy for the far more important issue of diversity and demography; perhaps people worry about statues of dead Englishmen disappearing from city centres because they worry about Englishmen disappearing from those cities.

America’s iconoclastic spasm is certainly related to the country’s transformation from an overwhelmingly European country to a multicultural liberal caliphate, a bold experiment which is yet to produce its end results. African-Americans, though small in number and in relative overall decline, are a totemic group for the multicultural “Blue Tribe”, and their all-American narrative of slavery and redemption echoes the country’s Christian ideals.

What we call “woke” has become the court religion of that Blue Tribe which, despite or because it is led by wealthy whites, has become obsessed with “whiteness” as a form of original sin. But this strange, apparently masochistic tendency also, perversely, acts as a form of elite justification, distracting from more material injustices and allowing the privileged to present themselves as part of the moral vanguard, protecting society from the bigoted masses. Beliefs can be genuinely held and at the same time be manifestations of class interests; it’s happened throughout history.

When conservatives liken current Left-wing ideas to religion, they are not doing so to undermine faith, only to point out progressivism’s power to create a strong belief-community — religio means “to bind” — glued together by rituals and creeds and without the need for empirical facts. The mostly peaceful protests we saw last summer, with white protestors washing the feet of black protesters, contained a goldmine for anthropologists studying the binding power of religious ritual — well, they would, if there were any conservative anthropology professors left.

The most obvious religious echo is with Calvinism, which holds that humanity is divided between the saved and the damned. In the 17th century, Calvinists would agonise over this issue, and in many cases it caused acute psychological distress, just as the desire for moral purity in the social media age does today.

Calvinists also believed that some people were more morally righteous than others, and that these Godly folk should make laws for the betterment of others. Overthrowing the natural hierarchy was an extremely alarming idea to more traditionally-minded Englishmen — and it was in response to this that the political philosophy of conservatism was born. As historian Jerry Z Muller put it:

“Conservatism arose in good part out of the need to defend existing institutions from the threat posed by ‘enthusiasm,’ that is, religious inspiration which seeks to overturn the social order. The critique of religious enthusiasm, which was central to [David] Hume’s conservatism, was later extended… into a critique of political radicalism.”

It is this “enthusiasm” that makes woke politics dangerous, because to its adherents their opponents really are bad people and, because there will always be inequality, this is a forever war. Equality of outcomes, a doctrine now so all-encompassing that it even enters the vaccine debate, might be theoretically desirable, but by definition it is also a zero-sum game. One group’s success is another’s failure, or injustice, and so it inevitably sets some minorities up against the weakest, poorest and least educated members of the majority, who have nowhere to turn except to Right-wing populists.

This is not just about things like censorship or quasi-blasphemy laws, although these are concerning; the American homicide rate increased 20% after the George Floyd protests, and an additional 3,500 are now dead as a result. These are real-world consequences.

Nothing that spectacular will happen in England, but the underlying ideas behind the Great Awokening will lead to endless bitterness and division, often ostensibly about the pettiest of issues but, deep down, about everything. And conservatives will lose because our own thought-leaders will convince the world that this is about well-meaning kindness vs the performative toughness — vice-signalling — that characterises so much Right-wing politics.

I’m not “anti-Woke” because I care about statues of slave-profiteers, or because of people using their pronouns in emails. I object to it because I think its ideas are fundamentally untrue and dangerous, just as our forefathers believed that “enthusiasm” was untrue and dangerous, as they did of Jacobinism and all the utopian ideologies of the 20th century, too. That is what conservatives believe — and if our own prime minister cannot even agree on that, then we really are damned.

 

Ed West’s Tory Boy: Memoirs of the Last Conservative is published by Constable


Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable

edwest

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Vikram Sharma
VS
Vikram Sharma
3 years ago

The welfare state will not survive wokeness.
Solidarity and diversity are fundamentally in conflict. I am willing to pay higher taxes so I know my neighbour is like my brother, and if he falls on hard times or is ill, I share some of my good fortune with him, for the time I might need his help. If my neighbour turns around and keeps pointing out how different he is, and how his needs are special, and most importantly how I am the cause of his trouble, I will tell him to FOAD.
Do not underestimate the risk that wokeness, especially the state of brainwashed millennials, poses to social cohesion.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Indeed, yet the woke left can’t see this contradiction in their beliefs. Multiculturalism undermines their desire for a stronger welfare state.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

the same left that used to champion multiculturalism is also the left that accuses people of cultural appropriation. Sorry, but appropriation is a feature of a multi-culti society, not a bug.

Last Jacobin
LJ
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Not all the left. I support multiculturalism but find some of the cultural appropriation arguments ridiculous. The left isn’t a homogeneous pot into which you can tip everything you disagree with.

John Jones
John Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Then it’s up to the left to make those distinctions clear. If they can’t police their own, they deserve the criticism.

Don Gaughan
DG
Don Gaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

In your personal belief in multiculturalism,do you see ie the unicultural racially exclusive communities of aboriginals as racist and immoral?Are citizens who disagree with multiculturalism ( ie Cameron, Sarkozy, Merkel ,etc,) racist and must be suppressed?
These are fair questions and I welcome a response from a believer and impose of this largely left liberal fabricated multiculturalism meme and policy.

Mark H
MH
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Gaughan

I’m not Mark B, but will take a stab. As a starting point, there are multiple cultures in the indigenous UK population. Even in England there are cultural differences between regions and classes.
“Culture happens” – and we need to deal with it.

So it’s beneficial to appreciate cultures other than one’s own and not write off (or idolize) people who come from a different culture.
At the same time, when one’s own culture is a minority it’s still important to integrate into the host culture and respect it. IMO “multiculturalism” fails when it is used as a justification for de-facto segregation – from either side.

To the specific point about aboriginal communities in Australia, maybe the best way of viewing this is that in “the reserves” the aboriginal culture is dominant and its norms should be respected. In the city the western norms hold & likewise should be respected.

I must confess that view was shaped by my grandfather, who managed a farm in Zululand. I well remember an afternoon when he needed to visit one of the Zulu foremen on his homestead, and I had to stay in the car. My grandfather explained: “here, he is the chief and children are not welcome in adult discussions”.

Don Gaughan
DG
Don Gaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

I live in Canada and was referring to the racially excluding aboriginal activists and communities here, where they are free to join any other community here but you can not join theirs unless you are the accepted …race.
The unjust Apartheid race policies of the former South African regime has been replaced by the new race based Apartheid regime , and racial identification and subsequent govt race based response is altered but back inflicting its injustices.
A movement opposing the New Apartheid is forming and growing, as those who can simply flee are doing so.
When western leaders whose countries have been so dramatically altered that historically, it took war , invasion and occupation to witness, and stood up on stage together to declare the liberals multiculturalism policies a complete failure( Cameron , Sarkozy , Merkel), I hear the message and heartily agree.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Gaughan

That’s interesting… and not something that I’d expected from Canada.

Robin Lambert
RL
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Undercurrents,Such as ”Unconscious bias” ”diversity” destroy Unity not uniting it…..Dont trust lib-Lab-Cons-SNp- Greens-plaid their Globalist pro EU,UN Agenda is exposed by vaccine War engendered by U van der leyen &EU…

Steve Porter
SP
Steve Porter
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Hell yes Vikram, couldn’t have put it better myself!

David Jory
David Jory
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Good point Vikram.
If diversity is good that implies that unity is bad. That does not sound sensible.
Unity helps to create a high trust society.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

It is already there in the data – the collapse of volunteering. Partly, this is due to increased commute time due to pressure on housing (which, of course, cannot possibly be connected to immigration). But there is an independent connection between immigration and volunteerism.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Blow

It is also connected to women going out to work. Both sexes now have less time as a result.

Don Gaughan
Don Gaughan
3 years ago

Theres been a noticeable withdrawal from community activities and engagements here with a retreat to the safe familiarity of home and family.The shared values and community gatherings that brought us together have been eroded , and the voices and forces that now monopolize the public info sphere dictate a divisive accusatory persecution .
For many , the world outside their door is a strange and adversarial place they do not identify with , and cocoon in protection from.

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  Don Gaughan

You can be a member of the black/POC community. Ir the muslim community. Or the Jewish community. Etc

But when did you ever, ever hear the BBC for example talking about members of the white community? Or the Christian community? Never, that’s when. We don’t exist.

rosie mackenzie
RM
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

They are occasionally referred to as “the majority community” even when they aren’t.

R Malarkey
RM
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

That’s because they are oppressor classes, unworthy of special consideration.

Wokeness is a mutation of marxism, a fairy tale of goodies and baddies and justice. All these strands of thought only differ in who the goodies and baddies are.

Don Gaughan
DG
Don Gaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

The natural universal observed behaviours of humans to group and identify in family and ethnic/ race/ culture tribes is common and accepted , tribal collaboration for the survival and progress of its members , and a vital drive for all social order life forms on earth, even in our now politically multi culturalised western ddemocracies.Tribal loyalty and tribal preference is accepted in all groups , except one color of humanity, where it is criminalised demonised persecuted prohibited and denied to those humans…under the pretext of fighting against systemic racism.

bsema
bsema
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Unless I’ve misunderstood, the Critical Race fundamentalists think we SHOULD be talking about the white community. I believe that this obsession with ‘communities’ will divide, not unite.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago

And entertainments like television and the internet at home.

Kathy Prendergast
KP
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago

I’m all for a war on “woke”, as long as it’s real, unapologetic, take-no-prisoners war and not “phony”.

regnad.kcin.fst
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago

No excess in the anti-Woke war is excessive.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Lock them up?

Irina Vedekhina
Irina Vedekhina
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Even better, make their ideas illegal on the ground that they are divisive and overall undermining our society.
In practical terms, we can start with introducing a law that making decisions about hiring people/university admissions should be based on merit using ‘blind’ interviews, where one cannot see the candidate, so that gender/ethnicity/sex preference were excluded from consideration.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

That strategy has been tried, with very mixed results. The ingenuity which was applied to defeat the purpose was amazing. For instance, if you are in the US and have a bunch of job applications and you want to divide them up by race or ethnic group, you look at the zip codes in their home addresses and at the names, especially the given names, and with any luck you’ll be correct about 90% of the time. Tribalism is very, very important to a lot of people.

‘Make their ideas illegal….’ You guys suggest turning to fascism awfully quickly. Why not try something a little less dire?

Irina Vedekhina
Irina Vedekhina
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

By blind interviews I meant all that information hidden: home address, names etc.
Say, for university admissions, the relevant pass to get the interview would be your grades/exam results. Computer initially does that selection. The second stage is the interviews: the examiner sees a computer screen with some visual of a human with voice/accent unrecognisable (modern technology allows that). Examiner cannot see a candidate and knows nothing about them other than that they passed the initial criteria. So the decision is based on merit. Anything different means racism/discrimination and should not be tolerated.
Same with job interviews.
The main thing is that the idea of meritocracy should reinstalled. The sooner the better.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago

Do you really not want to know anything about the person you are interviewing?

Irina Vedekhina
Irina Vedekhina
3 years ago

I certainly do, but that should be job related. I should not know the way they look, or their address, or the way they they choose their sex partners.
I can ask them about their job experience, or how they will contribute to the company, or a new idea that impressed them most recently, or ask them some moral dilemma puzzle (would you choose to save the old folks or the economy in this covid situation, for example), the list of what you would be allowed to ask is endless.

Jacob Riddock
Jacob Riddock
3 years ago

I think we ought to be careful about how much we dismiss as unrelated to the job. As well as selecting an appropriate person for the tasks, what we are doing in an interview is selecting an appropriate member for the tribe. Much of what we might consider irrelevant will be at play in the interactions of the tribe.

Bias isn’t a glitch, not in the slightest. It’s what allows us to navigate the world without every encounter presenting an infinite set of infinitely complex problems. Rather than neutralising biases, a more humane less self-defeating strategy would be to hone them, and for that to happen we must engage the matter fully.

Robin Lambert
RL
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

I think its Senile Joe,Botux face Pelosi and others ”Want TRump supporters,People who oppose ,Climate Nonsense” to be re=educated

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Wokeism is the exact counterpart on the left to the BNP. The latter are not allowed to spread racial hatred. Why should left-wing race hucksters be allowed to do so?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

If they commit criminal acts, such as inciting racial hatred against whites, vandalising public property, or rioting, certainly. They’re entitled to their opinions, but also to the consequences.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

That gets my vote. Seriously it is the only solution

Mark Kerridge
MK
Mark Kerridge
3 years ago

I’m appalled by the idiocy of the woke ( critical social justice, regressive left ). We desperately need o real discussion in society about the levels of inequality ( which are far too high imo) but calls for equity and the rejection of the idea of equality of opportunity ( as a characteristic of white supremacy no less ) make a nonsense of this debate. Then there is the divisiveness dividing people by their immutable differences into identity groups, instituting a new type of racism , neo-racism if you will.. None of this will end well – especially for the labour party who are likely to become more unelectable in the future the more the adopt this divisive nonsense . For an old school leftie like me, I find this all very disheartening.

Mark H
Mark H
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

This constant categorization of people by skin colour is only promoting racial consciousness and inter-racial grievance.
We’ve got to get back to responding to Rodney King’s plea “can’t we all just get along?”

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark H

Or the other King, Martin Luther, who hoped his sons would be judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin.

Woke is making people think in a hyper-racialised way. That’s going in the opposite direction to MLK. The unintended consequence (or is it?) will be that some white people will think, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. And then the woke, observing the uptick in white racism, will feel vindicated yet they created it – rousing the atavistic heart in all of us which is only quelled by civil society.

If there is a race war in the US, I hope the woke feel proud of themselves (irony alert).

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

As we always said at work its a good job there are so few racists, really its just the KKK etc, Islamists and Left Wingers. (Our team in no particular order is English, Poles, Pakistanis, Sikhs and Romanians we rub along well and enjoy taking the piss out of each others’ ethnic characteristics without falling out)

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

I think you give such a discussion far more credence than it merits. Grievance politics exists because it is successful, especially for those who make a living from it. Devising genuine solutions is a threat to their livelihoods and to their ability to agitate for favored govt programs. The point of division is the division.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Quite so. Labour doesn’t want to eradicate poverty because to do so would eradicate itself. It follows that it must instead perpetuate it.

Labour’s solution to this conundrum in office was to precision-bomb people who earned £1 a week less than the arbitrary definition of poor with benefits of £1.01 a week. This meant they could claim those people had been “lifted out of poverty”, when in fact nothing of substance had been done.

The race grievance industry is similar. I don’t know what the equivalent racial grievance sleight of hand would be since the case rests on assertion rather than facts.

The British Crime Survey used to report the breakdown of crimes by race. It stopped publishing these numbers because they were so embarrassing: white people were consistently something like 30 times likelier to be victimised by an ethnic minority than vice versa. It wasn’t even possible to argue that this was only because white people are more numerous and more available as victims: ethnic minorities were prolific offenders against other ethnic minorities.

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Kerridge

Thanks – i’d settle for centre left or centre right as long as they are grown ups. Boris’ antics chucking tax payers cash to his mates whilst pretending to fight the Covid dragon are sickening, and as much an insult to ordinary decent folk as Corbyn and his IRA clowns.

J J
J J
3 years ago

Woke values are essentially Marxist values.

The innocent or naive are often unaware of this and assume it’s just about being a good person (who isn’t against racism?). And they further assume anyone who is against woke is a bad person (how could they be against anti racism?)

We should not surrender the moral high ground to the Marxists.

Hate Racism. Love Britain

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Exactly; I moved in leftist circles myself for long enough to know that the ideology has nothing to do with “being a good person”. And “antiracism” (to give one example of their Newspeak-ish terms) isn’t at all about not being racist.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

It’s about being racist: actively racist towards white people, and the denial of individual moral agency for black people.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Or maybe you found circles to move in that were more reflective of the way you perceived other people’s motivations? Rightist circles are generally based on the ‘people are inherently selfish’ principle. If that’s your view it might be hard to recognise an alternative in others. Just speculating.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I don’t really understand why people who are opposed to social or political pressure to achieve equality and equity are against racism. Racism produces exactly the inequality you desire. What is the basis of your opposition to it, then? Human beings are immeasurable and cannot be compared objectively in any meaningful way; hence, if there is to be inequality, people have to be selected and separated in some irrational, nonobjective way. Racism performs this job very efficiently. The fact that it is irrational and destructive does not make it differ much from a great many other institutions and practices.

Jacob Riddock
JR
Jacob Riddock
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

It could only occur to someone to claim equality between groups of people if they’d already made the mistake of seeing equality within those groups. It’s simply a second step away from proper regard and into hell.

Better yet, the mistake is this imposed unity according to objective features taking the place of the unity intrinsic to such as shared aspects of ways of life, which are nonetheless unequally in competence, style, severity, organisation.

That arguement against human inequality is
quite good, but it’s also almost completely backwards. For things to be equally or unequally, they would have to be measurably. Since humans cannot be compared objectively, at least not with regard to their humanity, and therefore cannot be equally or unequally, they are necessarily non-equal.

Kathy Prendergast
KP
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

How would you know what “rightest circles” are like if you’ve never moved in them yourself? I wouldn’t say I have, either. I tend to avoid “circles” of any kind these days, mostly just hanging out – when I feel like socializing – with family members or people in my choir (or did the latter, up until last year…) All I know is that when I worked and hung out mostly with leftists, as a young person, I did not find most of them to be very tolerant people or even kind people, and sometimes very much the opposite. I always knew that being accepted by them – like being allowed to sit at the cool kids’ table in high school – was very much contingent upon saying only the right things, and avoiding saying the wrong things, or associating with the wrong people. Snarkiness, teasing, bullying, undermining, gossip and backstabbing happened all the time. Bitter factional conflicts frequently erupted over political issues. There is absolutely no unity on the political left. Maybe that’s why Trump became such an obsession; their hatred of him was one thing that made them feel unified. But hatred is never a strong thing to build real unity around.

Konstantin Kouzovnikov
KK
Konstantin Kouzovnikov
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Well defined! High time to elect informed? Hesse dreamed about informed leadership. Still is a dream.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

It probably always will be. As some wit observed long ago, reason must be very well distributed, because almost no one complains of not having enough of it. And we can easily observe that most people resent being offered more information than they already possess. They are certainly not going to elect people who exemplify what they dislike.

Corrie Mooney
CM
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago

It’s funny to see the defeatism of conservatives. I know it’s particularly pronounced by Ed West, but it’s quite extensive.

As an anti-woke lefty, let me inject some optimism. Woke isn’t a problem because it’s excessive. It’s a problem because it’s fundamentally wrong.

For many decades the secular/atheist left was essentially post-Christian. But now it has drifted into deep relativism, and despite the Calvinist trappings the woke are very much following this drift. It’s a Calvinism without Christianity.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Corrie Mooney

‘Woke isn’t a problem because it’s excessive. It’s a problem because it’s fundamentally wrong.’

Almost all public policy in Britain for the last 30 years, and everything the EU has done for over 20 years, has been ‘fundamentally wrong’. Many or most people knew these policies were fundamentally wrong at the time of their implementation, but still the polices were implemented. Thus the Woke problem will continue to do a great deal of damage for many years to come.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Many of the polices were not only wrong but were opposed by the majority of the population

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

And that will inevitably have negative consequences. You cannot import millions of ‘diverse’ people without the consent of the native population and expect things to run smoothly.

Starry Gordon
SG
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

Sure you can. I live in New York City, which allegedly has about 200 not-entirely-assimilated ethnic groups, and according to one of our mayors, 250 religions. (Don’t know if he counted them all personally.) Most people who come here focus on making money rather than ethnic and religious war, so we usually get along.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Well you must be Asleep! cuomo and Democrat mayors .Bloomberg news .CNN, ABC,CBS, Ignore 800,000 fleeing Rat infested,Murder ridden New York and go to Republican States

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Try telling Native Americans that mass immigration isn’t a problem because the newcomers are “focused on making money”

Corrie Mooney
CM
Corrie Mooney
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Money is New York’s one religion.

Jon Redman
HJ
Jon Redman
3 years ago

If people thought Brexit was cataclysmic, wait till the great British public notices the consequences of ecofascist activism.

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Its amazing how their policies have had so little effect on the ground. You’d think they’d go home but no, they soldier on trousering out hard earned taxes. Perhaps they hope that the next Trump, Bolsonaro etc will be so extreme even the grown ups take up arms?

Saul D
SD
Saul D
3 years ago

I object to ‘woke’ because fundamentally it draws on an extreme and simplistic right wing theory that the world is divided into identity groups. It then attempts to apply a Mao-ist style ‘Cultural Revolution’ onto society to cleanse society of previous failings, and it heading towards Pol Pot style re-education camps to cancel wrongthink. It’s not about equality, or justice but divine retribution. Ideology, and the belief in ‘a’ truth, is the most dangerous invention ever created.

Historically, we are where we are because of the mistakes and struggles of the past. To retrospectively judge people in another time, acting under a different morality, with different understandings of the world is a form of temporal cultural imperialism. Equality can only come by treating people the same, not by treating them differently.

Alan Hall
AH
Alan Hall
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

You meant “left wing theory” I think.

Colin Reeves
CR
Colin Reeves
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hall

Exactly. Group identity is of the essence in Marxism-Leninism. In the Russian Revolution, Lenin’s agents were told:
“Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background”¦”

Elizabeth W
E
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Your last sentence hits the nail on the head, for me.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

By “narcissistic show offs” do you mean people with the courage of their convictions, Mr West? True, you manifest a degree of opposition to the hard left insanity of our day; but your characterisation of the monuments issue as concerning “statues of slave-profiteers” is a shameful capitulation. Can’t you see that in using such language you run up the white flag? That you implicitly accept the libel upon all statues; and more broadly upon western culture? That you register no human failings in any society other than our own? So – where exactly do you stand, these days? I have the impression that doubt and introspection have stranded you in a small prison yard, in which the left permits you to frown and object and count your fingers, so long as you don’t raise your voice. If that’s the alternative to brave “show offs”, it stinks.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

If I may, he would be on to something when referring to keyboard warriors that would never go near a non-woke church, or the sort of person Dominic Cummings referred to when he talked about the rare Brexiteer “too busy chasing girls to do any work”. Such people sadly exist. My local church is as anti-woke as they come, but not a single member of the local conservative association turns up to services.

Just to be clear, I’m not referring to anyone here, and I’m sure he isn’t either.

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

The reason I don’t go to non-woke churches is quite simply that I am an atheist. Albeit as a conservative I am very supportive of religious faith, I simply don’t share it myself, so I don’t go to church, let alone non-woke church.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I find it hard to defend the statues of slave traders but I think our attitude to them has to be the same as the NY police chief who instituted ‘zero tolerance’, starting with graffiti. The theory was, if you refuse to tolerate the apparently trivial you signal that the war on crime is total (it worked). Likewise, non-toleration of any statue removal signals a complete refusal of woke.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

it may have begun with slave traders – though tearing down statues does not change history – but it moved on to abolitionists and assorted others whose statues were simply there. And now the bright minds in San Francisco are renaming schools, including one with Abraham Lincoln stamped on it, for the perceived social crimes of the past. Lincoln. The title of this piece is horribly mis-worded. The only phoniness is within the woke themselves.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

That’s exactly why there should be zero tolerance of any statue removal. What starts with a slave trader ends with Lincoln (or Winston Churchill here in the UK).

Drahcir Nevarc
RC
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

“Likewise, non-toleration of any statue removal signals a complete refusal of woke.”

Quite right. Well said.

Pauline Ivison
PN
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Absolutely, well said.

Brian Dorsley
0
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I agree. Libraries, museums and bookstores – any kind of cultural artifacts – that ‘promote white supremacy’ are next on the target list, followed by college courses that don’t adhere to woke ideology. At the rate we’re going, anyone who speaks out against this will also be labeled a ‘far-right extremist’ and be targeted by the obsequious media for cancellation.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Powell’s bookstore in Portland being an example: caving to Antifa by removing hard copies of Andy Ngo’s book about Antifa. That’s coming perilously close to book-burning.

Robin Lambert
RL
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I agree Tear down ”The Guardian” building now …Slave Supporting Rag..

Simon Harris
Simon Harris
3 years ago

The woke expectation of “equity” is ridiculous – we don’t expect equity among family siblings, success or failure or the many points in between cannot be guaranteed or controlled. To expect equity across races when it does not exist in reality anywhere is farcical, so why can’t the Right mount a rebuttal strong enough to bury this nonsense for good, instead of allowing it to fester and grow in schools, HR departments and Labour run boroughs? That ‘equity’ looks very much like Chinese style Communism should provide more ammunition for the Right, but they seem too timid to load the weapon, lest they are called a nasty name, like “racist”.

Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
3 years ago

Of course the war on woke will be phoney: because the neoliberal global corporations run the world, and woke is their weapon of division and conquest: to confuse and disorientate, to divide and atomise, to disintegrate, demoralise, conquer and exploit.

One hundred different Facebook genders multiplied by a hundred different racial categories multiplied by a hundred other meaningless group identities: a paradox: the true individual dies, but also a bonded humanity dies, and a billion sovereign states are born, defenceless consumers and producers in the face of neoliberal globalist corporate exploitation. No coherent sovereign nations to oppose.

That’s why Trump had to go, of course, and why Biden will be doing what the corporations tell him to do – and did – : gender identity, multiculturalism, diversity, etc, etc, almost literally on his first day in office.

There’s a common misapprehension, and a dangerous one, that wokery is a project of “the left”. That means the war is fought on a phantom front. The extent to which universities are vanguards of wokery doesn’t reflect the fact that they are dens of leftism: the opposite: that they are the petri dishes and the puppets of neoliberal corporate globalism.

The corporations always win, the corporations rule the world, and so woke isn’t going anywhere.

Colin Reeves
Colin Reeves
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Oxford

Jordan Peterson pointed out that the whole thing degenerates into metaphysical solipsism several years ago. A quick mathematical calculation shows that just 33 binary classes are needed to make the average group membership across the world’s population equal to 1.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Oxford

”Wokery” like its organisational zealots, most Universities ,United nations,Weather companies, World Economic form, all follow this mantra 4 Legs Good, 2 legs bad..
Soros,Bezos,Branson,Bloomberg, subscribe to this Vulture Capitalism Chinese Communism of Thrying to monitor &brainwash 200 countries

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

Since when is government a one issue organ? Many people think woke is the one thing that is bringing true liberalism crashing down in the west and leading us to an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian future. There is definitely not nearly enough being done to ‘awaken’ people to what is really happening.

Chris Wheatley
CW
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

What do you think should be done? Politicians will never do anything which could rebound against them. Newspapers are trying because I am starting to articles explaining what ‘woke’ is – but who is reading and thinking about it. Perhaps the disasters in the EU and the articles in Die Zeit will help.

Mike Bell
MB
Mike Bell
3 years ago

I think you are wrong Mr West. I have come round to the opposite point of view – that dealing with ‘Woke’ should be one of the Conservative government’s high priorities.
Here’s an example. We have been trying to influence the UK Domestic Abuse Bill but are completely swamped by the ‘women and victims’ lobby. Despite government data which shows that 35% of DA victims are male, both major parliament committees called only female victim representatives to give evidence. The peers have been bombarded with ‘briefings’ by Women’s Aid, Refuge, Victims Commissioners etc all giving the same distortion – that domestic abuse is principally against women. Men as victims are mentioned in the debates at least 10x less than women.
It is inconceivable that this bias can be removed by simple discussion as this bit of Wokeness has invaded the whole system. The only way it could be countered would be for the government to recognise what has happened and take central action.
…and that is just one example. I have watched black labour MPs claim that the claimed higher incidence of COVID among BAME is down to ‘institutional racism’.
As others have pointed out in these comments, the Woke are not open to discussion of facts. They are not interested in personal responsibility etc.
The use of facts has been labelled by the intellectual post-modernists as white/male dominance.
This is not peripheral, Ed, it’s central to the agenda (as it is so unheard)
Statues is/was just one manifestaion.

Joe Francis
JF
Joe Francis
3 years ago

If you reject Christianity, nothing will happen to you. If you reject wokeness, you stand to lose your job, perhaps your bank accounts (because “respectable” banks won’t deal with “haters”), your house if you can’t keep up the mortgage, the people you thought of as your friends and even your family. It can get even worse than that. Yahoo (please don’t Google, it only encourages them) “Sluggish Schizophrenia” to see how, in the near future, you might even end up in a mental hospital.

David Uzzaman
OT
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

It’s Christianity without redemption. If you’re white you are dammed as are all your generations. If you made an off colour joke or slapped a girl on the arse in the 1970s you are double dammed. It’s an inhuman and very bleak ideology.

regnad.kcin.fst
GT
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago

There is a reason why the Woke world-view is difficult to work with – the Woke are essentially driven by a very different mindset than normal rational people. They hold the Culture of Victimhood. Normal sensible rational persons raised before 2000 or so hold the Culture of Dignity.

In the Culture of Dignity, ideas are important, argument is designed to persuade and not insult, and (as said by MLK) we are judged by the “content of our character”.

In the Culture of Victimhood, the only important thing is your racesexgenderage. The intersectionality view says that those with more “disparity dismerit badges” are more worthy. Accomplishment means nothing, although if you are accomplished as an untermensch, this actually means that you are a “race traitor” or “Uncle Tom”.

The discrepancy in world-view makes it impossible to reason with Woke.

Mike Bell
Mike Bell
3 years ago

Well said. I logged on to write something similar. Ed West seems to have missed the ideas boat. Worrying if he is Senior Editor.
The current use of the term ‘Woke’ has little to do with its origins. We are now using it as a convenient shorthand because the thing it describes has so many names. I like your term ‘racesexgenderage’.
It’s radical feminist
It’s intersectionality
It’s identity politics
It’s champagne socialism
It’s victim ideology
It’s post-modernist
It’s critical race theory
It’s ‘believe all women’
and on…and on…
That’s why we need a short-hand term: ‘Woke’ is good for me.

stephen f.
SF
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

One change to your list: It’s ‘believe all women’ of the approved political persuasion.

Chris Mochan
Chris Mochan
3 years ago

“”Maybe I’m not good enough or noble enough to be woke. I want to be woke.” Rather than getting excited by statues, Vaizey said, the Government should “lean in” to issues of social and racial justice, and be more like Joe Biden ” “woke in the best way” ” by celebrating both tradition and diversity.”

A perfect illustration of the kind of vapid unthinking rot that passes for political discourse at the moment. A series of soundbites and half-heard phrases from twitter cobbled together to say precisely nothing, with an added obsequious reference to the US establishment.

Alan Hall
AH
Alan Hall
3 years ago

The government are hardly obsessing about statues etc they are firmly fixed on the pandemic To suggest otherwise is dishonest and crass. It is the Left that has that obsession.
This article, even though very long, completely misses the point. Statues are symbolic and the thin end of the wedge. The “war” (sigh) on woke is about post-modernism, relativism, the distortion of language and the destruction of free speech. The Left have shifted to woke and climate issues as their traditional socialist arguments have been defeated.

Stephen Hoffman
SH
Stephen Hoffman
3 years ago

“Statues and street names don’t actually matter,” says Ed West. What should matter, according to West, is fighting woke ideology on ideological grounds, with an opposing “conservative” ideology.

I’m no conservative and I don’t give a fig about battling ideologies. But I do care about statues and street names. “Woke ideology” is just a power grab (all ideologies are fundamentally bunk) and erasing the past is one of the woke left’s most terrifying and effective new weapons.Compare this famous passage from George Orwell’s !984:

“Do you realise that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it’s in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has
been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself. After the thing is done, no evidence ever remains. The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don’t know with any certainty that any other human being shares my memories.” (Thanks to Will Jones.)

Jeff Mason
Jeff Mason
3 years ago

Is complaining about woke radicals destroying our culture more important than fighting a pandemic? No, but those fighting ‘wokeness” would not be otherwise fighting the pandemic so one does not impact the other. The battle over ‘statues and street names’ is a battle over shared culture and history. British Pakistanis should understand the history of their home whether their ancestors were directly involved or not. Every historical figure has faults. We can acknowledge this without negating the deeds they accomplished. The fact that Julius Caesar owned (mostly white) slaves does not diminish his military or political skill. But I am waiting for the woke crowd to demand we rename July because he does not live up to today’s ever changing moral standards. History and culture are important; they are the glue that holds a society together. The radical left understands this which is exactly why they are attacking them.

Guy Priestley
GP
Guy Priestley
3 years ago

A good article, as ever, from Mr West. However, I would take issue with the statement that ‘their all-American narrative of slavery and redemption echoes the country’s Christian ideals’. The problem is that it is actually a dangerous inversion of the Christian ideal.

Christ’s sacrifice was to redeem the repentant sinner, not to raise up
the Jews oppressed by Rome. Indeed, Jesus more than once reached out to Roman soldiers.

Woke, in contrast, seeks to raise up the non-white oppressed against the white oppressor, and offers no promise of redemption to the latter (even if they repent), least of all through the abnegation and self-sacrifice of the woke priesthood.

Don Gaughan
DG
Don Gaughan
3 years ago

The left liberal marxist progressive woke cult is waging war on the free democracies of western civilisation and the peoples who built it.They lobbied/virtue signaled for mass foreign migration , peddled the discredited culture erasing meme of multiculturalism , and now undemocratically unilaterally forcefully imposing its blatantly racist fabricated Critical Race Theory dogma on all. The moronic political correct mob fringe that was a joke has now grown in size , fanaticism ,influence and control into an intolerant oppresive dissent persecuting tyranny.
The slander- and- smear – your – way – into – power marxist left woke are using race as their class struggle revoloution , feeding a racist scapegoating propaganda to the arbitrarily designated victim groups , and an old fashioned socialist wealth and power transfer they will impose.
The left woke progressives ignore human nature and violate almost every principle and right western civilisation developed to make them the peaceful stable prosperous free societies all want to live in.
They are a truthless profoundly hypocritical faction that is verifiably guilty of everything they falsely accuse to suppress, persecute and cancel their dissenting fellow man.
The peoples of the west have every right and reason to speak out , stand up and liberate humanity from the left progressive tyranny.

Alex Hunter
AH
Alex Hunter
3 years ago

Left to itself I suspect ‘woke’ will eat itself.

Let’s not forget that the one time High Priestess of all things inclusive, one JK Rowling is now condemned as transphobic.

If things carry on as they are in 10 years Owen Jones will probably be considered beyond the pale!

A real danger for the left is the determination to place everyone in ever-smaller boxes. So you can be gay (as I am, full disclosure) but in terms of the progresssives this is somehow less valid that being gay AND black, for example. My suspicion is that many gay, black people would feel justifiably patronized.

In short, tempting though it is to engage, the Tories should probably resist the temptation to get too excercised about all this stuff. The left will tie itself in knots and the electorate will deliver their verdict accordingly.

William Murphy
WM
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Hunter

There is the possibility that one branch of wokeness will eat another – e.g. traditional feminists versus transgenders. I remember the day in 1993 when my union’s annual conference was debating whether to affiliate to the Cuban Solidarity campaign. Normally this would have been passed nem con, given all the Marxists in the National Executive Council. But then a delegate jumped up to protest at Castro’s treatment of gays. Oh shite…..eventually the motion to affiliate was passed, after some stooge explained that we would have more leverage to modify Fidel’s homophobia if we were active participants.

Daniel Goldstein
DG
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

Muslims are favoured over gays, women and Jews by the left. The Jews are no longer useful to the left though.

Jon Redman
HJ
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Hunter

I think it’s the equivalent of loony left councils of the 1980s, and will deliver Boris an electoral dividend similar to the one those delivered to Margaret.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

This article works rather hard to make irrational people appear rational.

And conservatives will lose because our own thought-leaders will convince the world that this is about well-meaning kindness vs the performative toughness ” vice-signalling ” that characterises so much Right-wing politics.
I doubt any conservative on the planet sees the wokeltarians as well-meaning about anything, and the odds of this becoming the same caricature that PC culture has become are strong.

Francis Lankester
FL
Francis Lankester
3 years ago

Wokeness is about staues because destroying memory of the past is a necessary part of the poltical agenda. It undermines rationality & the Enlightenment by allowing ideological presuppositions to drive research. One clear example is a leading UK proponent of critical race theory at a Russell Group uni included 10 bullet points from Robin Diangelo’s White Fragilty, which is a non-scholarly publication, wthout comment. This was published in a peer-reviwed journal. That is the end of critical scholarship. The desired suppression of lockdown scepticism combined with it will lead to the end of the Age of Enlightenment.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

It is difficult to have a “year zero” when all around you are reminders of the past…at some point I imagine a woke leader will encourage them to destroy all the evidences of the white patriarchy-buildings, power plants, automobiles, electronics-then we can build a glorious woke world in the ashes.

David Green
David Green
3 years ago

It is already over, we are now in the Age of Emotion

Simon Harris
SH
Simon Harris
3 years ago

Apparently, in order to be Woke (awake?) you must “edookate yo’sel”

Ah the irony.

Oh, and….
https://www.themideastbeast

Dorothy Slater
DS
Dorothy Slater
3 years ago

According to Yahoo news, the Board of Education by a vote of 6-1 have agreed to rename 44 schools in San Francisco including Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Lincoln – AND Diane Feinstein. The renaming will take place on April 18 while all the schools continue in lockdown and will cost close to 1 million dollars. THe reasons given for these changes cannot be listed here. Only a read of Yahoo news will outline the reasons for this insanity.

I dare not discuss this with anyone in Portland – home of the free and the brave – since I am sure the majority would agree. We have already renamed Wilson H,S,and there will be more renaming to come as we discover the horrible facts that some of our forefathers were human.

regnad.kcin.fst
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago

I’m confused. First this essay discusses why over-reaction against the Woke is bad. Then it concludes that the Woke are bad. Which is it? I suppose that since the essay ends up anti-Woke, it’s an anti-Woke essay. And it should be. The Woke, and Wokish thought, are both evil and dangerous.

Kevin Thomas
KT
Kevin Thomas
3 years ago

I had to read it twice. I think he spends much too long criticising the “war on woke” before getting to the real point he is trying to make.

mike otter
MO
mike otter
3 years ago

Wokeism seems to be a stupid persons understanding of critical theory/post modern deconstructionism. I had a clown on here telling me the other day that identifying people with their culture and origin (redneck, peckerwood etc) is bigotry. Tell that to David Allan Coe or GG Allin. (who says rednecks gotta be southerners).

As a thought experiment Derrida, Foucault et al are interesting, as is Nietszche. As a manual for how to live your life and treat others its a disaster. Since wokeists offer no alternative to whatever theory they are “deconstructing” it is pointless to debate with them. They have the
intellect of a rat but lack the social skills and raw cunning of those critters. Good news is if you do a real job where objectivity needs to be shared with other parties wokeism offers no threat. A ton of beef is is still a ton, a sick person with kidney failure still needs dialysis, however much you argue that “beef” and “dialysis” are the inventions of white supremacists. The problem seems to be when the ideology becomes a fashion. Like heroin chic or pacifists with Che Guevara posters 1. it doesn’t work and 2. its not fun. As the ephemera of fashion, post modernist critical theory allows people to break stuff, go on demos, rebel against authorities that don’t fight back and generally make whoopy. Which is fine but has all the intellectual depth of football hooliganism.

Daniel Smallwood
Daniel Smallwood
3 years ago

“The mostly peaceful protests we saw last summer……..”

He appears to be referring, without a hint of irony, to the ‘mostly peaceful protests’ referred to by the BBC News, and others, during which numerous police officers were injured, and property destroyed.

Pete the Other
Pete the Other
3 years ago

No.

Woke is simply the new name for political correctness. It’s certainly true that – whichever you call it – it has become more and more extreme, to the point where even moderate, go-along-to-get-along types are starting to notice how evil the whole thing is. One can argue that the loss of this or that statue is trivial, et cetera; but the aim of the statue smashing, and the pronouns, and of all the rest of it, has become obvious: to obliterate reality and replace it with a leftist mythology full of counter-factuals, where criminals become heroes and women become men purely because a sufficiently pious virtue-signalling leftist says so.

Case in point: it was still called political correctness back when the Civil Service started to refer to ‘partners’ instead of ‘spouses’ in official documents. The aim, even back then, was to blur the distinction between a lifetime commitment and a one night stand.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete the Other

Authoritarian political correctness then.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

Good article. People are worried about demographic change, but to talk about it is taboo. I predict a shitstorm when the results of the forthcoming census are revealed. As for the woke battles:

They are a proxy for the far more important issue of diversity and demography; perhaps people worry about statues of dead Englishmen disappearing from city centres because they worry about Englishmen disappearing from those cities.

And when demographic projections are quoted, they are smeared as “far-right conspiracy theories”.

regnad.kcin.fst
GT
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago

Census where? USA? GB?

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

UK, this is a UK website.

regnad.kcin.fst
GT
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago

Yes, aware of that. But many are US reader/commenter, including myself. The USA is concluding its census at this time as well.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago

The UK census is done every ten years. The next one is this year.

Michael J. McEachern
MM
Michael J. McEachern
3 years ago

The term “woke” is just another white progressive virtue signal. Privileged white people who stand for practically nothing have adopted whatever they believe is hip, like wearing FUBU clothing. I don’t know what is going on the UK but in the US there is a “social-justice” obsession with obliterating history; not just statues but recorded history being expunged from school curricula. There is a growing backlash in the US against whitewashed and revisionist history being forced on us by the dumbest and least educated in society. Indeed, those who stand for nothing will fall for anything!

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago

I normally like Ed West’s articles even if I disagree with them, but this is the biggest load of tosh, in my view, that I have read from him. He can bring in all sorts of red herrings like Calvinism and religion, but the fact is that ‘wokeness’ is the most pernicious form of censorship to arrive in the West for a very long time. As a result of it, we have lost our sense of belonging – whether religious, gender, political, the way we speak and think – to an unwritten disallowance of anything lest we offend someone. Well, I find that acutely offensive: robust debate, difference of opinion, discussion and experience of racial types and cultures makes us all richer; now we keep quiet for fear of upsetting the mob. We cannot say anything now without fear, have lost diversity in literature – and us British, renowned worldwide for our sense of humour, now don’t have one – (unless the lefty and biased BBC bashing of Tories is seen as funny by some, which I, as a conservative, find offensive and trivial); no wonder people are doing their best to rid themselves of the BBC by deserting it in droves, risking criminalisation due to non-payment of the licence fee. No one group should have the right to dictate what others think and then ridicule them for their views and I believe that this eruption of wokeness is causing racism and cultural division to worsen because in the past you just accepted people were different, had different opinions and got on with life – that was that. Of course any form of bigotry is unpleasant but, as Ed West says, there will always be inequality so, rather than have so-called ‘progressives’ (a term I detest as it is they who are actually holding back progress by their monothought wokeness – they are the regressives). It disturbs me to think that in this wide, diverse world they have the upper hand and that the (anti-)social media companies behind them can create their own censorship by demanding only their ‘approved’ version of groupthink and anyone who does not agree is a bigot or stupid. That is not progressive, ‘nice’ or helpful to cohesion but actually offensive. And to say we should follow Biden’s edict that we must just be ‘nice’ is fine until you realise that he has just formed probably the most ‘virtue-signalling’ cabinet in any history: by trying to be ‘nice’ to everyone he has ended up with a bunch of people who are there because they ‘are’ rather than what they can do or whether they are right for the job. They might turn out to be brilliant but I’m not holding my breath. The liberal left are suffocating debate and diversity – no wonder there are few connservatives in positions of power and influence because we have been censored, derided, attacked and humiliated. But they are still there and when the idiocies of wokeness become apparent on a bigger scale – as it will – thank goodness there will be people to treat the progressive wokies in the same humiliating way they now treat us. In short, one can not institutionalise or quantify niceness or behaviour or opinion – humanity is too diverse for that.

David Shaw
DS
David Shaw
3 years ago

Ed, I find it remarkable that you would belittle the frightening rise of WOKE/BLM and the cowardly submission by out liberal left inteligensia to do their bidding
Let us look at BLM and what they believe in according to.Patrisse Cullors(BLM co-founder)
BLM is a Cultural Marxists organisation and believes in , as a revolutionary ideology, and sets out to destroy things which it calls oppressive.
It believes the following:-

Gender assigned at birth (your sex)
This is supposedly a mere ‘construct’ of oppressive ‘heteronormativity’.

Marriage
They say it is a patriarchal institution, oppressing women. Further, it is a heteronormative institution, oppressing sexual minorities.

Children and the nuclear family
An increasingly popular term is ‘motherhood penalty’, the idea that a mother raising children suffers a penalty more than she enjoys a blessing.
This is not only anti-child and anti-family, but pro-abortion. Black Lives Matter’s statement of “What we believe” explicitly rejects the nuclear family.

Capitalism
True to its classical Marxist roots, the key focus here is on the oppression of work ““ that to be a worker is to be oppressed in that condition, exploited by capitalists.

Justice
This has become particularly clear through the Movement for Black Lives, who openly advocate the abolition of police, the rolling back of criminal law, the annulment of convictions, and the unravelling of the courts system. ‘Justice’ is apparently oppressive to those who cannot obey the law.

We see from its rioting, violent, and anarchistic behaviour that movements like this exist to agitate, tear down, create chaos, divide, and destroy. That is the Cultural Marxist objective ““ wreck the joint; destroy the system; do it violently. It is the revolutionary objective; the destructive impulse..
To incite this, they substitute facts with emotion, stoking the flames of anger ““ for example, by wildly exaggerating the extent of racist policing. (Disproved by black Havard Professor, Roland Fryer-In 2019 of the 116 unarmed(loose term-as everyone is armed) people that were killed-52 were white and 29 black-proportional to those who are responsible of homicides or violent crime-38.7% are black.
Forgiveness
Most horrifyingly of all, however, Marxists don’t substitute forgiveness with anything. There simply is none. Sins of the past cannot ever be made right. Every last drop of reckoning, penance, and reparation must be extracted. So tear down the statues and every person in History on the back of one prejudicial remark!!
And if you have an ounce of Christianity or indeed any religious belief or even decency about y ou , you will know that not to forgive and move on is t he most blatant anti- Christ feature of the ideology and the most destructive!

If no one took them seriously, as they should not, then there would be problem. Unfortunately the BBC, Labour party, Universities,Schools and Large Corporations cowtail to everything ‘WOKE’ and even the Conservative Party let them in their doors to evaluate ‘Unconscoius Bias’. Anyone who stands in their way gets cancelled or in quite a few cases have their careers destroyed…..so I think it is more than a minor inconvenience of putting graffitti on the statue of this country’s greatest hero, who saved the World from the Nazis and the fascist Japanese, or who desecrated the statue that stands in memorial to all those who died to save the freedom of this country.
Ed you maybe above all this but I assure you For me and very many more the desecration of those two statues is enough a reason to get very very angry and to feel disgusted at those who had the power at the time to stop it dead!!!

Zak Robertson
Zak Robertson
3 years ago

Interesting article.

Technical point, though: the increased US homicide rate following the George Floyd protests is a correlation. Cause (i.e the protests causing more homicides) cannot be reliably inferred because any number of other factors will have been at play, so individual causative effects (if there are any) cannot be isolated. And given the enormous social upheaval from coronavirus and the increasingly charged political landscape on the run up to the election, it seems fairly unlikely to be the result of protests or what’s behind them alone (if at all).

Convenient for the argument, but poor logic.

regnad.kcin.fst
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago
Reply to  Zak Robertson

That’s false. You, like many, do not understand “correlation-causation”. When you have 1) homicides in Year 2019 2) BLM riots and demands to decertify/defund police 3) increased homicides, we have an interrupted time series, and the event in the middle IS a plausible causal factor. There are doubtless multiple factors. But the BLM riots and demands are a legitimate candidate, and certainly are a partial cause.

Those who don’t understand epidemiology make this error all the time.

Zak Robertson
Zak Robertson
3 years ago

You’re right – the BLM riots are a legitimate candidate, but that’s all the available information can tell us for the reasons I outlined. A candidate isn’t a cause.

Academic consensus on interrupted time series evaluations is that they are limited in what they can say about causality, e.g. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije

So my point stands – the author’s argument that the protests *caused* the higher homicide cannot be made based on the available information because the available information is limited in what it can say about causality.

Zak Robertson
ZR
Zak Robertson
3 years ago

You’re right – it is a candidate (among many others). But that isn’t the author’s argument. He argues that the protests are the cause, and thus the primary candidate. The available information cannot tell us anything about which candidates are more likely to be causes, so he’s unable to make the argument.

Academic consensus on interrupted time series of this kind is that it’s limited in what it can say about causality by design, e.g.
https://doi.org/10.1093/ije

So yes, it’s a candidate. But that’s all.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

“And conservatives will lose because our own thought-leaders will convince the world that this is about well-meaning kindness vs the performative toughness ” vice-signalling ” that characterises so much Right-wing politics.”

Exactly. “I am tough and I will say pessimistic things” is a pathetic way to respond to the wokists. Osborne was like that sometimes, and I think that is one of the things that drove IDS out of government.

Anyways, the wokists want to breed out certain ethnicities in Britain. Some of their methods in doing so are somewhat colonialist. In keeping us tied to the EU, their methods were also imperialist. Ironically, if the conservative party gets its skates on and combats all that, it will be more anti-imperialist than the wokists.

Kevin Thomas
Kevin Thomas
3 years ago

Is Ed Vaizey a conservative then? I thought they threw him out for trying to scupper Brexit along with all the other traitors.

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago

Having just met an old friend of 15 years who, after a bit of a hiatus, discovered he became a woke cultist during that hiatus when he was apolitical before, and in the space of 20 weeks lost him as a friend purely because of his batshit politics which he wished to insert into every conversation like a monomaniac, and his desire to try and give me a struggle session over the phone when I finally had enough, I can say that woke is most definitely a problem.

It is, at root, a deeply collectivist, even racist ideology, which punishes or rewards people based on whether they fit into a designated victim group or oppressor group, a million miles from what conservatism should be, and scarily close to 20th century totalitarianism.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  R Malarkey

Sad story. But sometimes you find that people you thought were friends really are not. Maybe it’s better to know that now. The racist element in wokeism you mention is worth battling and people are starting to push back more on it. Probably not a bad thing as racism is evil.

Hilary Arundale
Hilary Arundale
3 years ago
Reply to  R Malarkey

I’m definitely not a woke leftie. I try to be open to rational thought and to stay informed about current debates. I seem to have lost my own sister and a nephew to right wing anti woke, ‘performative vice signalling’ (thanks, Ed West). I just can’t talk to them any more. It’s sad.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago

More enlightening if you published the actual interracial crime figures. But you could never do that. I understand the US figure for rape is 10,000 to 1. Interracial crime where Europeans aren’t victims is practically non-existent which is why we know every detail of the 1992 killing in SE9 even if the evidence was actually very tenuous and it was only because of the media the case continued at all. Meanwhile crimes against Europeans are routine, mostly unreported and never characterised as racially motivated even when they are. Can imagine if the identities in the recent Reading multiple murder were reversed we’d not only know the victims names but their biographies, families etc. Check out YouTube channel: Forbidden Recalls.

Chris Milburn
CM
Chris Milburn
3 years ago

Ridiculous lack of logic: Coronavirus is bad, so Woke is OK – just ignore it.
While politicians sit at home with nothing else to do than enforce that we do nothing other than sit at home, I see no better way they could spend their time than working to unroot evil identity politics and wokeness.

If I had a genie to grant me one wish, and my wish was: “Please preserve western society”, I don’t think COVID would disappear. I think BLM, Antifa, and most grievance studies programs and profs would disappear.

Joe Blow
JB
Joe Blow
3 years ago

If all this stuff is a distraction, then set it all aside for now.

A five year moratorium on the removal or relabelling of public monuments (including graves, university statues, blue plaques, street names), on changes to the university curriculum except where warranted by new scientific and medical research, and a simple ministerial sign off for any policy or procedure changes at any public body or QUANGO.

Complete cessation of all this crap for a minimum of five years. Then, these restrictions stay in place until removed regionally by public consent.

Mark Boyle
Mark Boyle
3 years ago

‘Unlike political correctness, however, woke ” originally an
African-American term to mean “awake” to social justice ” is primarily
about race.’

I’m sorry, Ed West, but that is complete nonsense. ‘Woke’ is a term coined from The Matrix (1999) series of films, where the character Neo is given a red pill by the rebel leader Morpheus – who happened to be black. Upon swallowing it, the ‘reality’ he thinks he’s in falls apart and discovers to his horror he’s simply one of millions in an artificially induced coma by the IT system which really controls the world (Huxley’s Brave New World taken to 2001 extremes)

‘Woke’ is merely the new twist of all the old conspiracy theories about Jews, the Illuminati and other such nonsense controlling the world. Currently it has taken an identitarian form – rather ironic considering those now propagating it are the very career ‘anti-fascists’ warning the world against it ten years ago when the far-right adopted it as a way of attempting to become popular again.

Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Boyle

I don’t think it’s a conspiracy theory. Clearly it’s in the interests of global corporations to attack the phenomena and philosophies which frustrate their ends. The last thing the neoliberal corporations want is moral, confident, conservative individuals and families living in moral, confident, conservative and strong nation states. It’s in their interest to promote materialist ideologies that disintegrate and atomise.

Barclay’s bank, for example, literally bankrolled the “equal marriage” campaign, promotes transgender ideology and was fined £20m for treating its poor customers like s**t.

You can’t divorce the rise of wokeness from the rise of the global corporations and their control of the institutions and the politicians. Unless you can posit an alternative source.

regnad.kcin.fst
GT
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Boyle

Woke is about power, and the acquisition of power. Supposedly white normal men have the power. Thus, they must be demonized to acquire the power. Race is but one of the 5-6 dimensions of intersectionality which wrest the power from normal white men and invest it in those who have chose alternative sexual approaches, and who are other ethnicities and races. Except Jews. If you are Woke, you don’t support the Jews. Woke = anti-semitism at this time.

harrygoldstein7
HG
harrygoldstein7
3 years ago

‘Woke’ is an inadequate term. I have referred to it elsewhere as ‘totalitarian progressivism’. A bit of a mouthful, I acknowledge, but accurate. A dangerous feature of the so-called ‘culture wars’ is the way that both sides have confused this totalitarian ideology with liberalism. See here: https://harrygoldstein7.med

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Liberals ”Mensheviks” provided Gateway to ”bolsheviks” and in Paul Van Hindeberg in Germany 1932, provide the Gateway to mr Adolf shitelgruber!

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Whilst I agree with much of what you say, there is a kind of ‘enthusiam’ in your expectations of our Prime Minister.

The PM is not going to fall in the media gotcha trap of denouncing ‘woke’ when the journalist specifically asked the question in relation to the President of the USA.

How would you have responded? By pronouncing yourself as ‘anti-woke’. The Left would have had a field day.

If anything, our PM got the answer absolutely right with his first statement but then bungled it somewhat by his unnecessary second. He has to be diplomatic.

This means the Conservative work of resisting wokism by reason is the work of Conservative activists. In other words, Conservatism isn’t something that is solely embodied by the Conservative Party, it is something embodied by the entire Conservative Movement.

As we know, wokeism is largely the domain of social media and is rarely mentioned beyond it except in political meetings. The outcomes of the ongoing culture war do reverberate into popular life, but I myself have no indication whatsoever that wokism is gaining the upper hand. In fact quite the opposite and I live a Liberal Left stronghold.

At the end of the day, most wokeists are bigots whose only real response to rational arguments and reasoning is to name call.
In other words, they know their arguments have no real basis in reality.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

The confusion comes from the fallacy that Wokeism is left wing. It isn’t. Whether it once was or not, it isn’t nowadays. It is entirely right wing, capitalistic, corporate driven and recently imperialistic. Hence the shutting down of Parler by corporate rivals and the proclamations of wokeism by corporations like Gillette, Ben and Jerry’s and even oil companies. Hence its embrace by private, elitist educational institutions. Wokeism aims to determine a moral code for the middle classes to exclude and beat down the working classes into its place. None of its issues of race, gender, trans right, gay rights, environmentalism, you name it, are sincerely held. They are merely features of a new moral code, almost arbitrarily chosen. They could just as well be fighting over which end of a boiled egg to crack open and condemning those who prefer the other end. The middle classes are being squeezed, reduced in number by competition for wealth from the developing world and wokeism is the competition for status survival. Those who don’t obey the new moral code are to be cancelled and thrown into the abyss of the underclass.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

No one would call Ben and Jerry’s right wing. And where did you get the idea that capitalism is right wing? Ever heard of Nancy Pelosi? You’ll never find a bigger capitalist. Facebook isn’t capitalist? Twitter? Can you come up with a better example of raw capitalism than Twitter? And yet left wing as can be. Do you consider Hollywood right wing? And yet it’s nothing if not capitalist. Parler was shut down by left wingers, not right wingers.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Capitalism = right wing.
Socialism = left wing.
Democrats = capitalist = right wing.
Ben and Jerry’s = capitalism = right wing.
Republicans = capitalist = right wing.
Pelosi = Democrat = right wing.
Amazon (which shut down Parler) = capitalist corporation = right wing.
Hollywood = capitalist = right wing.
In short, America = capitalist = right wing.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

You’re confused. Facebook isn’t left wing. Neither is Twitter. Both are supremely capitalist. Ben and Jerry’s is not right wing. Neither is Hollywood. Do you not know anything about them? Pelosi is not right wing. But she is the biggest capitalist you’ll ever meet.

Jonathan Ellman
IS
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Ben and Jerry’s are right wing. They are woke, so they pretend to be left wing. They are not. They care as much for the working classes as Pol Pot cared for Cambodians. Likewise Pelosi. You believe them when they pretend not to be right wing as a means of moral posturing or virtue signalling. That’s your confusion.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

No Ben and Jerry’s are not right wing. Do some research and stop making a fool of yourself. I agree that Pelosi doesn’t care a bit about lower income folks that’s how you know she is left wing. I don’t believe a word she says by the way.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

re B&J’s Google: The Truth About Ben and Jerry’s
Contrary to myth, the sale of Ben & Jerry’s to corporate giant Unilever wasn’t legally required.

Unherd won’t let me post the URL

Jonathan Ellman
IS
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

re B&J’s Google: The Truth About Ben and Jerry’s
Contrary to myth, the sale of Ben & Jerry’s to corporate giant Unilever wasn’t legally required.

Unherd won’t let me post the URL

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Of course it wasn’t required. What does that have to be with being left wing?

Don’t confuse what people say with who they really are. Nancy Pelosi is a capitalist who proposes left wing ideas. What she means is that it’s okay for her to be rich but not you. Do what I say, not what I do. That’s pure leftism. Same with Hollywood. All those rich lefties don’t give a hoot about anyone outside their gated compounds. That’s a lefty thing. You could not come up with a US left winger who is not also a capitalist.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Well, whether Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were once left wing or not, Unilever’s subsidiary no longer is.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Really? Check out the Values section on the website and point out the right wing ideas.

Here’s one….
Racial Justice
We invite you to join us on a journey to better understand the issue of race in our country, to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism and the implicit biases that all of us carry”and to join hands and move forward together.

Sound right wing to you?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

No doubt mere virtue signals. They are a capitalist, therefore right wing, corporation.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

Well all lefty stuff is virtue signaling. Name a single leftism/wokeism that isn’t virtue signaling. You don’t believe that lefty’s actually want to live according to their own ideology, do you? You don’t believe that lefties want to live amongst refugees and illegal aliens, do you? That’s what gated communities are for. How innocent of you. All lefty’s are capitalist. It’s part of the definition of left wing – money for me but not for thee. You could not name a single US lefty who is not a capitalist.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Of course. That’s what makes them right wing, being capitalist. I think we’ll have to simply disagree on that.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

You’ve been asked several times and keep ducking. Name a US lefty who is not a capitalist.

Scott Carson
SC
Scott Carson
3 years ago

You’re both in agreement. You keep challenging him to name a US left-winger who isn’t a capitalist, and he keeps repeating that all US left-wingers are capitalists. He’s not ducking the question, you’re both saying the same thing and you’re both correct.

I think. 😄😄

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Carson

This is what he said

“Capitalism = right wing.”
“Socialism = left wing”

Look at his posts above. He claims that it is socialism that’s left wing. So if all left wingers are capitalists, was he wrong when he posted the above?

Scott Carson
SC
Scott Carson
3 years ago

I took what he said to mean that although twitter, Facebook etc may purport to be left wing, they are actually capitalist organisations and therefore right wing.

Or something. 😄 Fwiw, it’s a sterile argument. I’m inclined to believe that most of the giant corporations that are now running the media are fundamentally malicious and leave it at that. I don’t believe they hold any deeply held political views, just a desire for money and power like every large corporation.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Carson

He tied himself in a knot trying to override his original comment. There is nothing about capitalism that is right wing. Which is why he could not name a single US left winger who isn’t also a capitalist. Even the self titled socialist Bernie Sanders is a capitalist, albeit a far left winger.

I don’t see corporations as having personal feelings and desires. Corporations are legal entities and yes people work for them, it’s the people who have desires and rights and feelings. If you want to say that Mark Zuckerberg is fundamentally malicious that would not be unfair. But then again, Mark Zuckerberg is a left wing capitalist and they are indeed often fundamentally malicious.

Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
3 years ago

One of the tokens they drone on about is education. For the last 20 yrs teachers have had a constant barrage of training about the underachievement of ethnic minorities and girls and the problems of large cities. Everyone knew that the opposite was true- white working class boys in towns and smaller cities do the worst by far. Woke ideology refused and refuses to accept this. Now the figures show it to be starkly true. Similarly with gender. Huge amounts of time have been spent on ‘women into science (WISE – they love a snappy term) but UK girls still opt for humanities and caring careers or heas towards accountancy and law where they now increasingly outnumber boys. Even in Finland, they still have problems with girls stubbornly refusing to opt for STEM subjects despite almost perfect equality. With exceptions I don’t see women queuing up to learn building trades despite a huge shortage of young entrants for well paid jobs. Or for grittier more dangerous outdoor jobs. I wonder why? But then wokeness means you’re only allowed to be upset about certain issues and not others. Still, at least there has been a growth in wokeness degrees taught by well paid woke academics. As the comedian hilariously pointed out- can’t think of a better kind of sexism than inveigling young women into paying a lot of money to do a fairly useless feminist studies degree! Pretty much patriarchal rip off right there.

Neil Bradley
NB
Neil Bradley
3 years ago
Reply to  Terence Fitch

Underachievers will remain under achievers, almost no matter what. High achievers in the minority classes will simply skim the cream. You do not have to look too far to see it occurring now.

Lyn Griffiths
LG
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

Even Boris……..but this was his spokesman not Boris who spoke. So not confirmation of anything either way, he said, they said? However, enjoyed reading your essay and saw the truth of its content, and agreed with most

alistairgorthy
AG
alistairgorthy
3 years ago

Once again one comes across an Unherd thread that disappoints. No attempt to self reflect on any failings; just pillory the ‘other side’ for being self-righteous and morally superior – qualities that many posts to this thread seem to have in abundance. What appears to be equally troubling is the author’s misunderstanding of the term woke’s historical provenance (the film the matrix comes to mind) and the latent identification of conservatism with a form of respect for Royalist authority and something betrothed by ‘our forefathers’. No wonder some of the posts here seem to be calling for something akin to blood and honour. A shame.

regnad.kcin.fst
regnad.kcin.fst
3 years ago
Reply to  alistairgorthy

Clearly you have never been in a tussle with a Woke wack.

Jack Walker
Jack Walker
3 years ago

“It seems bizarre for a government to flag up the issue of statues and
street names while over 1,500 of its citizens are dying each day from a
virus they failed to control”.
With not from a virus. There is a huge difference.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Walker

it seems bizarre that allegedly sane people believe it is within the power of govt officials to control a virus. Just this week, the nursing home death count in New York was adjusted and it makes Andrew Cuomo look even worse than originally thought. Is it all his fault? Not all, but the part that put infected people into those homes is. So is the lockdown mentality that not only has an economic effect and related offshoots, but also ensured that masses of people stayed in relatively confined quarters for long periods of time.

Mike Bell
MB
Mike Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You say:”it seems bizarre that allegedly sane people believe it is within the power of govt officials to control a virus”, but this is exactly what they did in Taiwan and New Zealand. Proper lock-down, close borders, monitored and supported isolation. Everyone has been back at work/play for months.

Annette Kralendijk
AK
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Bell

I guess we erred in not being a small island. In any case Australia just closed its travel bubble with New Zealand over new cases.

vince porter
VP
vince porter
3 years ago

A good read – though neither the conservatives nor the woke will win. When the dust settles, democratic society usually finds a balance somewhere between two extremes. We did not get the Sixties in the Eighties, but, many of the ideas of the Sixties radicals became norm in the Eighties, and, Jerry Rubin became a stockbroker millionaire! When a balance cannot be found, therein lies the danger. History is pockmarked with examples.

stuart.marshall
SM
stuart.marshall
3 years ago

Both ‘woke’ and ‘politically correct’ are both rarely used seriously by people on the left. They’re buzzwords tawdry outrage merchants like Richard Littlejohn or Brendan O’Neill employ and they’re successful because they’re so vague and can be changed to whatever target is in vogue this week.

David Platzer
David Platzer
3 years ago

I doubt there ever was a statue erected to a slave trader to praise him as a slave trader. He must have done other things in the course of his life., quite apart from his slave trading, that seemed worth honouring. As some other contributors here have suggested, one of the problems of defacing or taking down some statues because they are seemed to honour persons guilty in slavery is that it soon degerates into vandalising any statue including those who risked their lives fighting slavery. France’s Macron had his finest moment when he proclaimed that no statue in France will never be taken down since every statue there exists because it belongs to France’s history. No one ever seems to think that most people don’t pay much attention to statues they see every day until a big deal is made about one of them.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

The much loved statue of Sir Edward Colston was in memory of a merchant prince who made his fortune in trading wine, wool, and corn with the Continent. He did this in London as one of the London Mercers to whom he had been apprenticed as a boy. He was Bristol’s greatest philanthropist, and also its MP. He also extended his charity to London. A lifelong bachelor he used to say, “I have the widows of Bristol for wife and all the poor orphans for children”.

It was only recently that someone discovered a connection with the Royal African Society, again in London, and made it their business to upset and divide Bristolians. He may well never have met a slave, let alone brought them into Bristol’s harbour as is now made out.

Leave the morality of 300 years ago alone and concentrate on today’s. There is plenty of slavery and slave trading to abolish now that Britannia no longer rules the waves.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Budgie: “If I were Britannia I’d Waive the Rules”. Perhaps the woke should find the album…

Scott Carson
Scott Carson
3 years ago
Reply to  stephen f.

It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only person here old enough to remember Budgie.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Macron’s finest and bravest moment indeed.

William Murphy
WM
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  David Platzer

Trying to rename streets in French towns and cities would be a massive set of culture wars. So many are an expression of earlier culture and shooting wars. My favourite is The Street of Secular Schools in Montpellier – right beside the church of St Roch, the city’s patron Saint.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago

Woke = shallow, simplistic and pedantic approach to problems, driving poorly though-out “solutions”.

Hank Williams
Hank Williams
3 years ago

Woke:
To be woke.
To adopt a self consciously publicly overly visible socio political stance regarding belief in social equity, equality and inclusion, in addition to environmental concerns; whilst simultaneously exhibiting hypocrisy by contradicting such a stance through one’s behaviours, actions, and public interactions; either via an over reliance on emotion, groupthink, or narcissistic tendencies over practical realities, or as a “useful idiot” in the unconscious support of political groups utilising such traits to advance various specific agendas beyond the immediate remit of “woke” concerns.

robert scheetz
RS
robert scheetz
3 years ago

I think Mr. West is myopic. Sure “woke” is a pop cult meme, but cuts much deeper in that it signifies the saturation level of nihilism, from Nietzsche to Foucault. Not progressivist cry for social justice (that is the comfort level on which the establishment wishes to frame it), but cultural despair at the total debasement of culture, deconstruction of justificatory narrative, institutional morbidity, and ecocide.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Sir, you are inebriated by the exuberance of your own verbosity. The word traitor will do!No more no less.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

When it’s all stripped down to the food chain and the barnyard, what is there left to betray?

George Lake
GL
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Nihil.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Thanks for getting me to look up Jacob Rees-Mogg’s attack on wokeness, Tom. A great effort by Jacob. I didn’t know that Gordon of Khartoum had helped wipe out the slave trade. It is always good to learn more about history. Anyway, you have an anti-woke Conservative government in the UK and we have an aggressively pro-woke Liberal government in Canada. You have the third fastest rollout of COVID vaccines per capita in any country and we were in 21st place on Thursday, and now seem to be even lower, in 30th place. You ask why the Conservative government should be distracted by its fight on wokeism. It doesn’t appear to be seriously distracted at all. It is our Liberal government, that has egged on the thugs that toppled and beheaded a statue of our first PM, John A. Macdonald, in Montreal, that seems to have dropped the ball.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

I am surprised that the term “identity politics” does not appear either in Mr West’s article or in the comments. It is identity politics, with its distinctive ideologies about human nature and human society, that provides the ground on which this whole progressivist movement depends.

Nevertheless, in most respects this is a commendable article because it is one of the few pieces of writing to home in on core ideas ” the issues that make “woke” in its various manifestations a profound threat to the highest qualities of western culture and tradition, including democracy, free speech and individual liberty. Yes, the attention paid to statue bashing etc. is a distraction because that is just the surface manifestation.

What matters most is the ideas; and Mr West does a pretty good job of identifying most of the underlying ideas, especially their similarity to religion, and above all to various forms of Christian Calvinism. Ever since my late twenties I have been a decidedly orthodox Christian. I recognise heresy when I see it; and although Mr West’s summary of Calvinism is flawed, he does home in on how a number of Calvinist groups have behaved. However, unlike orthodox Christian belief, this secular form of Calvinism offers no prospect of individual repentance, conversion and forgiveness. Human beings are flawed, but society and even human nature is perfectible. It is on such fundamental levels that the battle must be waged if it is to have any hope of success.

But I see very little awareness of that happening among our political masters. As Mr West says, wittering on about statues is a distraction, all the more frustrating because there is a handful of politicians sufficiently alert to the nature of the beast. I think especially of the excellent Kemi Badenoch and Kwasi Kwarteng, MPs who hold offices of state and have spoken eloquently in Parliament about these very issues. But do we hear about their speeches in the mainstream media? Hardly, because the MSM is dominated by people who refuse to engage on those levels and by people who are sympathetic or even openly supportive of the progressivist agenda.

As those MPs’ speeches in recent weeks and months have shown, it is possible to undermine the ground on which progressivist ideas stand ” to undermine the foundation offered by identity politics. You address bad ideas ” and these are worse than bad, for they appear to promote good, yet promote evil ” partly by promoting good ideas; and you demonstrate that those seemingly good things offered by identity politics are societal poison.

Peter KE
PK
Peter KE
3 years ago

We need to get our politicians to properly start the process of pulling down the woke who now infest our universities and taking a hold in our civil servants and police forces. The woke are nothing more than left wing criminal thugs using the banners of BLM, X rebellion etc to promote their criminality of disruptive and damaging acts to our democratic society and property. We should not over intellectualise this just act and defund any institution or groups that will not support mainstream society.

Neil Bradley
NB
Neil Bradley
3 years ago

To me Woke(ness) is about contorting the facts to achieve a progressive end that would not of itself happen. Unlike the author, I do not think it will last. Its dishonesty will destroy it by eating its own, once it has finished in the productive part of the world. Then we will have a second reformation. One of the reason for its existence according to Ed West, is social media. I would agree with that, but only because it has become the means of communication 24/7. We are starting to see a fightback forming over social media right now. It will take a few years, but most will realise that views formed in haste tend to be hollow.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

God, what has happened to your brain?

Derrick Byford
Derrick Byford
3 years ago

To be “woke” is to take an essentially moral or ethical viewpoint within our current cultural perspective, but to then aggressively pursue it, expand its compass beyond all reason and then religiously seek to impose the expanded version on everyone by all means available including abuse, censorship and ultimately destructive eradication of history.

G Worker
GW
G Worker
3 years ago
Reply to  Derrick Byford

What is moral or ethical about the lie of human eguality, the lie of multiple genders, or the lie that the English have no right to reject the foreignisation of their home? What moral or ethical cause does the hating left espouse?

Diana Durham
DD
Diana Durham
3 years ago

You start by saying the government is launching a war on woke, when thousands are dying, like fiddling while Rome burns. But you also say members of the government don’t know what woke is. I’m left not understanding the point you are making overall here, not just about whether the government should or should not take wokeness seriously, but whether you take it seriously.

Neil Bradley
NB
Neil Bradley
3 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

No one should take it seriously. BLM has nothing to do with Black Lives. Equity versus equality means the same winners will scope the pool. CRT is perhaps the greatest attack against equality in modern times. This is Gramsci pure and simple.

Mark Beal
MB
Mark Beal
3 years ago

The removal of statues and the renaming of streets isn’t merely a symbolic issue – it has to be seen in the greater context of historical revisionism, of which it is one part. That’s why it needs to be opposed, and then a more realistic historic narrative asserted in the face of the masochistic guilt-trip that masquerades as history in woke circles.

Stuart Bennett
SB
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

The author doesn’t appear to appreciate that the long march through the institutions has eventually been realised.

The Wokies have built their influence by brainwashing humanities students (the least academically competent department in any university, the courses you take when you’re not interested in anything useful and where most of the taxpayers money wasted in universities is going) and on the foundation of decent peoples desire to be kind and not be thought of a racist/sexist/homophobe etc.

I’d point anyone interested towards Cynical Theories by James Lindsay & Helen Pluckrose

Last Jacobin
LJ
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Despite holding very different views from Ed West I found this a very interesting and well written article. I particularly appreciate that Ed made clear a definition of woke before going on to discuss it. I’m still searching for a definition of conservative that isn’t essentially a reaction against change or desire to preserve without making explicit how to define what should be preserved. Maybe, that’s because there isn’t one and conservatism is a feeling rather than an ideology or set of principles.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

I don’t think it’s that complicated. Part of it conserving what works, be it traditions, customs, and processes. Another part sees the individual as a human being with agency who does not need govt to dictate every aspect of his waking life. The power and duties of govt should be limited to those things that are impossible or close to it to handle on a private basis, such as cops and courts, roads, even schools.

Others likely have their own view so take this for what it’s worth. As to preserve, you preserve that which is worth keeping because it has proven utility over time. You can’t cling to everything, nor should you want to.

stephen f.
SF
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thank you.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Thanks, Alex. Preserving the best of the past I understand but still lacks a definition of what works. As little government as possible again needs definition as to what requires government? Enforcement of property laws or enforcement of Jim Crow laws? What principles underly the decisions? For the left it’s easier to define – equality/equity, redistribution of wealth, based on the premise that all humans are equal and have inherently the same right to prosper.

Kiran Grimm
NS
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

You have quite neatly summed up the chief problem that conservatism faces: poorly defined aims and a diffuse identity. The inevitable outcome is division and bickering.

Daniel Goldstein
DG
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Isn’t that also the inevitable outcome of left wing or liberal ideology?

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
3 years ago

Not sure. Could you flesh out your argument a bit.

Daniel Goldstein
DG
Daniel Goldstein
3 years ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

Well, the outcome of the immigration policies of the last Labour government has been division and bickering.

ml holton
ml holton
3 years ago

Two films are circulating at the moment. On our library system (in Canada) is James Baldwin’s ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ and on Netflix, ‘The White Tiger’, set in India. Both are superficially about ‘race’, yet both are fundamentally about ‘class’ or economics ~ aka ‘money’ ~ as the principal tool to gain and maintain power. As far as I can see that is what’s REALLY going on … Race, creed, sex, identity politics etc., are sidebars to this very real ‘war’ of perceived ‘inequality’. There is some irony here in that what is being accused (and equally desired) is the same ‘power & control’ that has been enjoyed, and will continue to be enjoyed, by a small group known as the ‘rich & powerful’. Usurpation, insurrection and ‘revolt’ have been used since the beginning of time to oust ‘overlords’. Overlords have always reacted in various ways to protect and maintain their positions. Some survive through ‘power sharing’ and other chicanery, while others fall spectacularly. Either way, this hierarchical system perpetuates itself as the ascending group replaces the dominant group. Right now, the target dominant group, like it or not, is ‘privileged whites’. The ascending group, as fractured as it is, is fed-up, angry & blood-thirsty … Prepare yourselves accordingly.

Kevin Thomas
KT
Kevin Thomas
3 years ago
Reply to  ml holton

Privileged whites are the people primarily pushing this stuff. I suspect guilt has something to do with this and they prefer the idea of their having white privilege (which they can beat their breasts about but not change) to the reality that they have their position in life because mummy and daddy were able to buy them an expensive education. I think it’s also about a desperate need for approval caused by bad parenting and social media addiction. (Blow up Twitter’s servers tomorrow and all of this ends rapidly). Most of the black people you see pushing this are from exactly the same background. You almost never hear it from working class black people who, if this was a genuine movement and not a giant virtue signal, would be the ones you would expect to be rising up.

ml holton
MH
ml holton
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Thomas

… Those who have ‘power & control’ are constantly under threat from those who would usurp them to gain that ‘power & control’. At core, in this era, that usurpation includes gaining greater access to the prime motivator, ‘money’. This isn’t a typical ‘class war’ as such. It’s global. Think of the global response to the George Floyd killing (etc). Why have these localized incidents sparked sympathy riots outside of the US? Social media and mainstream media have definitely connected and enflamed varied SJW ‘groups’ eager to overthrow “white oppressors”. Whether justified or not, that’s the main and very seductive narrative.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

I don’t understand why woke is inevitably left.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Because it’s privileged white people virtue signaling. It’s the left that does that.

Richard Spicer
RS
Richard Spicer
3 years ago

Woke is impossible to define because it is often just a form of virtue-signalling and is bound to be divisive.
The statue of Thomas Guy, the founder of his excellent hospital , has been boarded up since June 2020. Those responsible have justified this by bracketing it with the statue of Robert Clayton at St Thomas’s hospital. Clayton was a slave trader who was virtue-signalling by donating a small proportion of his money to the hospital. Guy was a philanthropist who made money by selling seaman’s tickets before the South Sea bubble burst. He was never anything to do with the slave trade and he used all his money to found Guy’s Hospital with a mission to treat patients previously regarded as untreatable.
There is a strong suspicion that Kings College have not treated ethnic minority students well and, rather than correcting this, have found it easier to virtue -signal by boarding up the 2 statues,- much easier!

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago

I have already read this article somewhere else.

Theodore Dalrymple is right and Vaizey is wrong.

Woke means maoist cutural revolution, the removal of history, literature, and culture, the trashing of identity. CRT is the main tool. The BLM manifesto is the instruction. HMG are waking up at last and the protection of statues and street names is exactly where they should be starting. Where on earth was the author and this shallow, second generation life peer last summer?

Lionel Woodcock
LW
Lionel Woodcock
3 years ago

I don’t often take the trouble but, my days, that was boring!

Also confused.

I expect better.

David Foot
DF
David Foot
3 years ago

If I was a Marxist/ Woke I would undermine the war on woke which is so necessary
There is nothing more necessary to teach patriotism in schools and to decolonize all the state and the arms/ offices of the state of the Marxists/ Woke.
We no longer own a quarter of the world and there are no margins left to give up anything else, we must stand our ground and send the woke packing ideally send them outside the Country and far far away from our borders.

Jon Bartlett
Jon Bartlett
3 years ago

It’s worth noting that “politically correct” does indeed come from the left, but its meaning has shifted. Here’s how it began: “I’d like to chop off……..’s head and piss down his neck, but it would be politically incorrect”.

tmglobalrecruitment
JB
tmglobalrecruitment
3 years ago

I imagine most people, when they hear the word “woke”, rather feel like
King Théoden after a day of Wormtongue whispering in his ear

At this point I was bored then followed a quote from senile Joe – at that point I give up on this pointless t**t of a writer

airmailpilot
airmailpilot
3 years ago

It is not phony read “rules for radicals”, Woke is subversive

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  airmailpilot

I agree. It’s a very powerful statement, almost an act of war. Trashing the Churchill statue, “Honest” Abe Lincoln, …or p***y Riot in St. Basil’s, defacing the demigods of the state religion, is giving the lie in the 7th degree to your official history and institutions, and the legitimacy of your power.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
3 years ago

I’m not sure whether I should be recommending James Kirkup to be reading Ed West’s article, or vice versa: probably both. Perhaps Ed West should consider being a Brexit supporter to be a form of being Woke. Perhaps James Kirkup should expand his vision of the Woke to include those not seeing economics as the prime driver. BLM v the Somewheres: a forthcoming civil war between two Woke tribes?

Dennis Boylon
DB
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
David Shaw
David Shaw
3 years ago

Ed, I find it remarkable that you would belittle the frightening rise of WOKE/BLM and the cowardly submission by out liberal left inteligensia to do their bidding
Let us look at BLM and what they believe in according to.Patrisse Cullors (BLM co-founder)
BLM is a Cultural Marxists organisation and believes in , as a revolutionary ideology, and sets out to destroy things which it calls oppressive.
It believes the following:-
Gender assigned at birth (your sex):-This is supposedly a mere ‘construct’ of oppressive ‘heteronormativity’.
Marriage:-. They say it is a patriarchal institution, oppressing women. Further, it is a heteronormative institution, oppressing sexual minorities.
Children and the nuclear family:- An increasingly popular term is ‘motherhood penalty’, the idea that a mother raising children suffers a penalty more than she enjoys a blessing.
This is not only anti-child and anti-family, but pro-abortion. Black Lives Matter’s statement of “What we believe” explicitly rejects the nuclear family.
Capitalism:- True to its classical Marxist roots, the key focus here is on the oppression of work ““ that to be a worker is to be oppressed in that condition, exploited by capitalists.
Justice:-This has become particularly clear through the Movement for Black Lives, who openly advocate the abolition of police, the rolling back of criminal law, the annulment of convictions, and the unravelling of the courts system. ‘Justice’ i is apparently oppressive to those who cannot obey the law.
We see from its rioting, violent, and anarchistic behaviour that movements like this exist to agitate, tear down, create chaos, divide, and destroy. That is the Cultural Marxist objective ““ wreck the joint; destroy the system; do it violently. It is the revolutionary objective; the destructive impulse..
To incite this, they substitute facts with emotion, stoking the flames of anger ““ for example, by wildly exaggerating the extent of racist policing. (Disproved by black Havard Professor, Roland Fryer-In 2019 of the 116 unarmed(loose term-as everyone is armed) people that were killed-52 were white and 29 black-proportional to those who are responsible of homicides or violent crime-38.7% are black.
Forgiveness
Most horrifyingly of all, however, Marxists don’t substitute forgiveness with anything. There simply is none. Sins of the past cannot ever be made right. Every last drop of reckoning, penance, and reparation must be extracted. So tear down the statues and every person in History on the back of one prejudicial remark!!
And if you have an ounce of Christianity or indeed any religious belief or even decency about you , you will know that not to forgive and move on is the most blatant anti- Christ feature of the ideology and the most destructive!
If no one took them seriously, as they should not, then there would be problem. Unfortunately the BBC, Labour party, Universities, Schools and Large Corporations cowtail to everything ‘WOKE’ and even the Conservative Party let them in their doors to evaluate ‘Unconscious Bias’. Anyone who stands in their way gets cancelled or in quite a few cases have their careers destroyed…..so I think it is more than a minor inconvenience of putting graffiti on the statue of this country’s greatest hero, who saved the World from the Nazis and the fascist Japanese, or who desecrated the statue that stands in memorial to all those who died to save the freedom of this country.
Ed you maybe above all this but I assure you For me and very many more the desecration of those two statues is enough a reason to get very very angry and to feel disgusted at those who had the power at the time to stop it dead!!!

Douglas Redmayne
Douglas Redmayne
3 years ago

Conservatives always concede ground. I remember when they used to fulminate about abortion and embryonic stem cell cloning. Thankfully, at least in the UK, they never even dare raise the slightest objections to such things today because they are too busy using their bandwidth to oppose statue toppling. Progressive impluses are sustained and probably ultimately driven by technological change. Until that stops conservatives will always lose