Lately, a lot of folks, from Bill Maher to Ben Domenech at the Spectator to David Remnick at New Yorker have contemplated the meaning of "woke."
So, do we need to replace it with a new term? Yes. Does that mean another think piece on the topic? Yes.
Depending on which blogger you read, there are many definitions of "woke" and few that satisfy.
Jennifer Sey—who dealt with piles of wokeness while she was president of the Levis brand—comes close to the mark. She says wokeness means "reducing all problems to oppressor versus victim." I think that's a solid definition of identity politics, but it doesn't go far enough to pinpoint this stage in the evolution of the term.
People shouldn't have been surprised to see how author Bethany Mandel was at a loss to define "woke" when put on the spot. It has become a nebulous Orwellian term after it nudged and shoved its way into the lexicon.
Once upon a time we were supposed to see the woke agenda as striving towards social justice. That's because the term "woke" originated many decades ago as black slang that meant a keen awareness of the many forms of discrimination. But no more.
It became so manipulative in its usage—so knee jerk accusatory—-that many of the accused and others started citing the term with contempt. This negative use of "woke" has deeply annoyed those who identify as progressive.
But the evolution is organic. The term was turned against the mostly white leftists who used it as a battering ram for their agendas in the same way President Trump turned the originally leftist expression "fake news" right back on the propaganda media.
Well, here's my synonym for "woke": anti-thought.
And here's my definition: mob and media-enforced group think.
The main ingredient of wokeness is intolerance for free speech. Speech is how we express our thoughts to others. So, ultimately, wokeness leads to social isolation, which is a precursor to tyranny.
Normal Americans don't like being bossed around by self-important hall-monitors who tell them what words they may speak and what thoughts they may think. At some point, the busybodies start throwing cement "milkshakes" at their heads and threatening them with firearms to force them into compliance.
Hence, the meaning of "woke" changed to match what it really stands for: an accusatory and manipulative system of anti-thought tyranny.
To understand just how far we've moved past the original meaning of "woke," consider how Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of a color-blind society has been hijacked and distorted. Try asking a woke proponent of critical race theory about accepting human beings as unique individuals without regard to race. Ibram X. Kendi will insist that such color-blindness is just "a mask to hide racism." If you don't shut up and do what he says, you're a bigot.
Sadly, Kendi's claim looks very much like a mask to hide—and ground on which to build—totalitarianism. After all, "woke" does not apply only to race. The term refers now to every tyrannical agenda under the sun, all of them requiring absolute allegiance. In fact, linguist John McWhorter has likened Kendi's form of "anti-racism" to a religion that demands purity of belief.
Such agendas include: the flooding of gender ideology into all corners of society; hard-core sex "education" for children as young as pre-school; gun confiscation; abolition of parental rights; no border control whatsoever; alignment with a totalitarian globalist oligarchy; erasure of due process and the rule of law; turning our law enforcement into a secret police; top-down population control; legalized infanticide; eugenics; digital and trackable cash; ending family autonomy; ending religious freedom (except for the religion of wokeness;) eliminating private property; ending your access to fuel and mobility; increasing the scarcity of goods and services (especially health care); ending private life entirely, and too much more.
We can also spot many common denominators in the themes that tie the above woke agendas together. They include: demonization campaigns against dissenters; cancel culture; constant attacks on free speech; erasure of cultural memory; destabilization of identity and relationships; cultivation of hostilities; endless propaganda; constant thought policing; and mob agitation, to name just a few common threads.
This all adds up to what I call the weaponization of loneliness.
Woke's Destination is Total Mindlessness, Dehumanization, and Tyranny
All of this puts us on the well-paved road to totalitarianism by atomizing us and instilling hostilities among us. Totalitarian regimes have always strived for isolation of individuals because human isolation softens the ground for social engineering and control.
The Soviet regime waged war against family loyalties and private life because such cohesion gets in the way of state power. Mao Zedong called out mobs of Red Guard youth to violently harass and humiliate anyone accused of being enemies of the state. The list goes on.
Such agendas are ancient, and all reflect the tyrant's goal of total control over every single aspect of your life. And, indeed, those who promote "wokism" are aiming to control your speech, your thoughts, your associations, and of course your behavior.
Consider how they constantly mobilize mobs to shout down anyone who might speak against their agendas. It happens in elitist law schools by mind-raped students who now serve as flying monkeys for their deans of "inclusion." The same sort thing happens to women who organize a little event at which they plead not to be raped by men who masquerade as women.
"Woke" is now an all-encompassing term that embraces every totalitarian agenda and strategy under the sun. It enforces a mode of thought that is, in essence, anti-thought. Just look at the members of mobs who are enforcing wokeness on college campuses, in corporate HR departments, and in the streets. They seem completely immune to thinking anything through.
As I've written before at the Federalist, we've exhausted all political labels today, including conservative/liberal, leftist/right-wing, Democrat/Republican, and so on and so forth. There are now only two political camps: pro-thought and anti-thought. And "woke" is literally anti-thought.
Stella Morabito is the author of The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer. She is a senior contributor at The Federalist where she has written extensively on the social fallout of propaganda and group think.