Jul 12, 2023, 05:55AM

What "Woke" Means

In many ways, it's a manifestation of the "Dunning-Kruger effect."

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Not everyone was grilling hamburgers and guzzling beer in their backyards on the 4th of July. The "woke brigade," as with any occasion celebrating the USA, took to social media to bemoan the state of the Union. Ben & Jerry's delivered a bold message on Twitter: "The United States was founded on stolen indigenous land. This Fourth of July, let’s commit to returning it." The firm didn't mention anything about once the land got returned to a tribe, should that tribe then return it to the tribe they conquered it from?

The ACLU, which went woke several years ago, said: "Since the nation’s founding, the fabric of American society has been woven with deeply racist policies that directly harm Black, Indigenous, and other people of color." WNBA star Natasha Cloud, who probably isn't well-traveled, celebrated the nation's birthday with, "Our country is trash in so many ways and instead of using our resources to make it better we continue to oppress Marginalized groups that we have targeted since the beginning of times. Black/brown communities & LGBTQ+ man we are too powerful to still be attacking issues separate (sic)." Cloud's a black lesbian making $190,000 per year.

On July 4th, there was no mention of the "rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that makes the US the most popular nation in the world to immigrate to. How do these immigrants find so many good things here when so many despise their own country? What does "woke" actually mean?  Few can define it, just like Critical Race Theory, even those who crusade against it. Several months ago, conservative, anti-woke author Bethany Mandel became flustered when asked to define the word "woke." Her reply: "So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that … um …" After some silence, Mandel predicted: "This is going to be one of those moments that goes viral." It did. Lefties pounced on that blunder, which they said reinforced their claim that wokeness doesn't even exist. To them, wokeness is just the normal state of being a caring, compassionate person, which I've seen explained with exactly those words on many occasions. They view the excesses of wokeness, if they even recognize them, as good intentions just taken a little too far, no matter who loses their job.

Mandel said that wokeness is hard to define, but it's not. Wokeness is "social justice fundamentalism." Social justice, as a concept, can be the basis for positive change, but fundamentalism is about taking things too far, as when ISIS threw gay people off high buildings during its rampage. The woke don't murder people, but their philosophy of punishing "sins" against society stems from a similar rigid place. While the proper response to someone who's said or done something deemed unacceptable is to correct that person and then move on, the woke organize online mobs aimed at making the offender unemployable.

One of the first instances of this bloodthirstiness that I encountered of was when a vicious, woke mob, stoked by a false accusation of racism by New York Times tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg, went after former ESPN tennis announcer Doug Adler after a few morons heard him say "gorilla" during a broadcast, when he'd actually said "guerrilla," in reference to her tactics. The words are pronounced exactly the same, but the mob wouldn’t even entertain the notion Adler, who had a clean track record, hadn't made a racial slur. The former tennis pro remains unemployable today.

I'm using the word woke in a pejorative way in which it's come to be used now due to the rabid fundamentalism that's become attached to it over time. Originally, being woke referred to awareness within the black community about the struggles it faced, as in, "I'm woke to the realities of oppression." It's hard to find anything to criticize about this, but things changed as the term became increasingly attached to matters beyond race—such as gender, sexuality, and all firms of identity—a shift that coincided with the birth of trendy theories such as white privilege, whiteness, intersectionality, white fragility, and anti-blackness. The fundamentalism inherent in those theories that don't rest upon a solid foundation of research, and the attendant extremist behavior, was the spark for non-believers beginning to speak of wokeness disparagingly. Wokeness is now associated with excessive punishment, censorship, tribalism, humorlessness, and authoritarianism.

The Left's standard response when the topic comes up is that excessive wokeness, as a problem, doesn't even exist. Partially responsible for this denial is the fact that the media they consume won't cover woke excesses. When Doug Adler got fired, the New York Times didn't print one word on the story. Had ESPN fired a black reporter over a similar race-based controversy that could be interpreted in two different ways, the Times would've been all over the story.

Adam Serwer wrote in The Atlantic: "What many conservative critics of wokeness actually oppose is the pursuit of equality." He also tweeted: "Sometimes when people say 'woke' they mean liberals being self-righteous and vicious about trivial things and sometimes they mean 'integration,' or 'civil rights laws' or 'black people on television' and it's convenient not to have to explain what you actually mean." 

Serwer's dishonest intent is to portray critics of wokeness as often being the kind of people who hate seeing black people on TV, a trait that now's confined to hardcore, KKK-style racists. He's right about the self-righteous and vicious part, but either misinformed about the civil rights laws part, or lying; probably the latter. Serwer's the perfect example of a writer who starts with a conclusion, and then writes anything he thinks will defend that conclusion.

Wokeness is a manifestation of the "Dunning-Kruger effect," which refers to the tendency of people who’ve just started studying something to overestimate their knowledge on the topic. Demographically, the woke are young, many of whom are in college. While colleges should try to move their students beyond this state of self-deception, they now encourage them to remain in this childlike zone. The unearned conviction the woke have on their pet topics suggests cultism—an environment in which platitudes are swallowed whole, without proper intellectual rigor applied to them. This is why the woke, who call those who disagree with them bad people, won't debate those people. Their platitudes and rote talking points are ineffective in debate. In the rare cases they will debate, they stick with ad hominem attacks. A movement based on such a flimsy intellectual underpinnings will find it challenging to survive the backlash that's already underway.

I can define wokeness, but it's not easy to understand a movement that has so-called liberals acting in such an illiberal manner. I'm aware of this nation's shortcomings, but it's disconcerting to live among so many who hate it so much that July 4th is just another excuse to express their rage. Ben & Jerry's now has an opportunity to show that wokeness is real rather than performative hot air. Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, has told the New York Post that the land Ben & Jerry's built their HQ on is Native land. Watch how the ice cream company handles this, and count all the weasel words.


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