BILL HURRELL: Why wokeness faces extinction after Israel

So this is how wokeness dies: with hang glider memes.

After Hamas’ unprecedentedly brutal and barbaric attack on Israel – an event rightly likened to both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in the Israeli context – the first world jumped to its feet in horror and declared their support for Israel almost unanimously.

Even from a normie liberal perspective, this was a no-brainer. Already, reports have emerged of Hamas raping women (and then parading their corpses before mobs of shouting Islamist incels), not to mention of swastikas being flown both by Hamas and by their supporters. You’d think that for the #Resistance, which is all about supporting girl power (SLAY KWEEEN), #MeToo-style sanctification of rape victims, and opposition to racism and bigotry of all kinds, the choice of who to side with after that would be a no-brainer.

And, indeed, for the liberal establishment, it was: President Biden’s administration has announced its support for Israel unequivocally, and even woke curious organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have joined them. This should have been a moment of unqualified bipartisan agreement – a rare thing these days – with only the odd Cozy streamer or professor of postcolonial underwater basket-weaving dissenting.

And it would have been, if not for the infiltration of so many of America’s institutions by woke ideology. Already, we have seen absurdities like posters at Coachella featuring images of hang gliders (which the Palestinians used to attack), and X posts declaring that akshully, “decolonization” has always meant ethnic cleansing, and if you have a problem with that, check your privilege, shitlord.

But this time, there’s a difference: the adults in the room are openly striking back. For example, in response to students at Harvard University issuing letters blaming the Israelis for their own rape and murder, Pershing Square CEO Bill Ackman announced that both he and other unnamed CEOs were seeking a list of students at Harvard who had signed onto those letters so that they could avoid employing them. Fortunately, just such a list – the College Terror List – now exists. Winston and Strawn, a prominent white shoe law firm, has already announced that it is firing a summer associate over an “inflammatory” post about the conflict supporting the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned ADL has gone nuclear on MSNBC, of all people, demanding to know “who’s writing the script” blaming Israel rather than Hamas for these atrocities. The NHL has banned any and all regalia for “special events” from players’ uniforms, likely out of a desire to avoid Palestinian flags on the ice, but also coincidentally barring things like Pride flags or even rainbow-colored clothing during Pride month. New York University has disavowed a letter sent by its own students blaming Israel for the attacks. Playboy – Playboy – has fired Mia Khalifa over her pro-Palestinian statements. In short, across America, anxious corporate executives seem to have realized the nature of the snake they’ve clutched to their breast, and have flung it away before it can bite them too hard to survive.

Conservatives might be inclined to sniff at this, as President Trump is so fond of doing at his rallies, that corporate America knew damn well the woke were snakes before they took them in. I, however, am less certain. Given the still-overwhelmingly Boomer and Gen X leadership of America’s private sector, many of whom probably have trouble figuring out how to print PDFs, it’s far more likely that these people heard about the radicalism of young liberals on social media (say, on Twitter or Tumblr) and only had one question: “What’s a Twitt…umb…ler?”

Again, look at the tweet demanding to know who at Harvard was supporting Palestine. To these corporate leaders, many of whom probably attended Harvard (or similar institutions) themselves, the idea of kids at their beloved old alma mater being this nuts likely just didn’t compute. “I mean, come on,” they said to themselves, “we’ve all seen what they put on their application essays; this is probably just careerist posturing like that. For heaven’s sake, you can’t be that serious about ‘checking your privilege’ if you’re a Harvard student. Fighting ‘the man?’ It’s Harvard! You are ‘the man.’”

Except they weren’t, as corporate leaders found out, to their woe, once they started hiring the first generation of Pussy Hat-wearing Tumblr users. However, knowing that every one of these people was a class action civil rights lawsuit waiting to happen (not to mention a sexual harassment lawsuit if they were pretty enough), it’s likely that America’s elite institutions were simply too scared to, as the kids say, f*ck around and find out to voice their true feelings about the pink haired invasion taking place in their cubicles. Besides, what were they going to do? Hire Trump supporters, who didn’t go to Harvard, and who (more importantly) might make the federal bureaucracy sue them for hiring too many white people (and of the wrong sort)? No chance.

I don’t think any of this is a new insight; you can read something very similar to this in every blackpilled take from conservative writers about the Left’s institutional power. And yet, somehow, despite all those blackpilled takes, apparently, cheering for a bloodthirsty rape-a-palooza carried out by Arab Nazi cosplayers caused a mass-realignment of most cultural institutions to quietly shut out the worst woke offenders. Granted, this was probably already something they were starting to feel more comfortable doing after the Supreme Court signaled that the era of unchecked “civil rights” law and anti-“dominant class” discrimination was over this summer, which already weakened the hand of the woke invaders. But still. This was a bridge too far.

And frankly, any sane political movement should’ve been able to tell it would be. All but the most blinkered conservative shitposters, for example, have made a point of making nasty remarks about the Palestinians, even if they also have no particular love for the Israel lobby. If professional boundary-pushers know not to cross this line, it makes you wonder how the woke could ever be so stupid.

Answer: Because this has always been their weakness. Every time they’ve lost power, it has been due not to the machinations of some imaginary oppressor, but rather because of the woke themselves, whose abiding, incurable flaw is that they are too earnest to ever shut the f*ck up about what they actually believe and, in the process, always end up alienating their more cynical or situational allies when those allies inevitably figure out that no, this is not a LARP or a resume enhancer or even cute youthful overenthusiasm; these people actually believe this nonsense and are willing to die on every hill they find. They like dying on hills; that makes you a martyr. A victim. And while Israel may be the hill that’s claimed the most casualties so far, it’s hardly the only one.

But since we’re on the subject, okay, let’s talk about Israel. No, not the geopolitical conflict (I leave that for people with more expertise), but why the woke tendency toward embarrassing ideological logorrhea was specifically so incapable of shutting up about this one issue. Because, at the risk of being self-referential, I already warned about this early last year, in quoting this particular passage from Ernest Sternberg, a professor who warned of wokeness’ rise among the left-wing activist class (albeit under a different name) all the way back in 2010 and also provided a tidy explanation of how they see their enemies:

“Its enemy is the global monolith called Empire, which exerts systemic domination over human lives, mainly from the United States. Empire does so by means of economic liberalism, militarism, multinational corporations, corporate media, and technologies of surveillance, in cahoots with, or under the thrall of, Empire’s most sinister manifestation, namely Zionism.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, if today’s activist far Left is anything like the one Sternberg saw, and if the many commentators who compare the ideology to a religion are even halfway correct, then the idea of them not condemning Israel would be just about as brain-breakingly impossible for them as it would be to ask a Christian not to condemn the Devil. That is, unless you’re Winston Churchill, who famously said that if Hitler invaded Hell, he’d praise the Devil in the House of Commons. Churchill was being more than cute with that remark; he was making a difficult but practical point about how political necessity sometimes forces you to work together even with people (or entities) you regard as the ultimate evil; which he was, in fact, about to do by allying with Stalin.

No doubt, a woke person would respond that this is exactly the kind of calculus they’re doing when it comes to Hamas. That is to say, if the Devil invaded Literally Hitler ™, they’d defend the Devil as a decolonizer. Fair enough, but this doesn’t get them out of a larger problem: Churchill was making his remarks as the leader of a sovereign nation. In other words, from a position of power. Yet the woke, as they constantly remind us, feel like oppressed, exploited second class citizens struggling under the invisible weight of institutional racism/sexism/fascism/kyriarchy/whatever.

So, let’s ask a different question: even if Churchill was right, if Hitler invaded Hell, would it have been smart for a dissident in Nazi Germany (the kind of person who, in other words, really was suffering under institutional fascism) to loudly proclaim his affection for the Devil? Obviously, the answer is “no.” That person would’ve been either killed immediately or sent to the camps. Any dissident work they were doing would’ve been automatically compromised by their association. Which, by the way, is why you saw even people like Oskar Schindler (who did so much to save Jews from Nazi murder that he’s literally buried in a place of honor in Israel) pretending to be good supporters of the Fuhrer right up until the war ended with the Fuhrer dead of a bullet through the brain.

In other words, if the woke really did think of themselves as oppressed peoples fighting a tyrannical and basically invincible superstructure (like Jews under Hitler), or as “allies” of oppressed peoples doing that (like Schindler), they would have found some way to rationalize not taking a stance on Israel, not because they didn’t have one, but because doing so would have alerted opposing elements to their true nature, which would in turn have allowed any institutions they had infiltrated and subverted to immediately begin the act of cleansing, and would have drawn attention to anything they were doing, as allies, to protect their beleaguered patrons.

Instead, they’ve shouted their opinions from the rooftops, and are now being purged. Why? What makes them engage in what is, based on their own conception of their role in society, flatly self-destructive, politically suicidal behavior? Are they lying about thinking they’re oppressed? Do they not know what oppression means? Do they want to be oppressed?

Well…honestly, the answer is both a little bit of all three, and none of them at all. How can that be true? Well, fortunately, if you look at the history of past moments when they’ve lost power, I think you’ll see what I mean.

I. Out, Damned Spot(ify)!

In early 2022, after fattening themselves on an abundance of low-grade cancellations, the woke set their sights on a genuine big fish: podcaster Joe Rogan. The attack was swift, and typical of their style of culture war Blitzkrieg. First, the complaints from “health experts” that Rogan was hosting “misinformation” about COVID-19, resulting in a bunch of musicians who most people hadn’t heard from in decades loudly announcing that they were pulling their music from Spotify (Rogan’s platform). Then, a compilation video (since taken down) showing that not only was Rogan misinforming people, but he’d also said (gasp) the n-word! 24 times! In 12 years, granted, but still, just one was too much! Vox’s Aja Romano, in the typical “more sorrow than in anger” rhetorical fashion so enjoyed by the woke, laid out the case for the prosecution before warning, vaguely but ominously, “the more we let Rogan get away with it, the more we set ourselves up for something worse down the line – for something even more unacceptable to slowly become acceptable.”

Now, just looking at that sentence, you should immediately wonder one thing, specifically about the phrase “the more we let Rogan get away with it”: who’s “we,” and who the hell said you had the authority to decide who “gets away with” things in the first place? Who died and made you king, or queen, or gender-neutral monarch? And while we’re on the subject, hang on, don’t people like you kind of love this whole “oppressed minority” schtick? I ask only because you know what oppressed minorities don’t do? They don’t act as if they have the social power to order a man’s banishment from public life. That’s what privileged people do. Particularly when their intended exile is a man who a major corporation already shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to hire in the first place.

In retrospect, hearing that last point, the fact that it was even a question whether Spotify would listen to this complaining campaign is more a sign of how insane early 2022 was rather than of any real danger to Rogan. Of course, Spotify didn’t jettison Rogan, though it did make the weaselly move of making over a hundred episodes of his show inaccessible to the listening public.

Now, if the woke were actually operating like the dissident movement they claim to be, they would have seized on any evidence of capitulation by Spotify and declared victory. In other words, they would have treated the firing of Joe Rogan as nothing but an outlandish opening ask in an ongoing negotiation, and therefore made clear to Spotify (and everyone else) that they were reasonable and would take gradual capitulation, which would have made it possible to continue communicating their demands to Spotify, who would, in turn, have less and less excuse not to capitulate. Eventually, they may even have won Rogan’s firing, if he went on making remarks they didn’t like, which they could complain about, endlessly, to Spotify management (and in the court of public opinion) until Spotify decided that they’d gotten their $200 million’s worth and cut ties with him. This is what they would have done, if they were doing politics.

But they didn’t. They insisted on Rogan’s firing for the sake of maximum purity. Naturally, Spotify refused, Rogan survived, and in the process, it became clear that there were some people who were too big for the woke to cancel. In other words, what could’ve been a tactical victory turned into an unqualified rout. Why? Because they simply could not stop themselves from demanding everything they wanted, right now, and damn the consequences. Which brings me neatly to our second case…

II. She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

In summer of 2020, the beloved author JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter – that is, arguably the most consequential media franchise since Star Wars -- retweeted an op ed using the phrase “people who menstruate.” “I’m sure there used to be a word for these people,” Rowling snarked. “Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomad?” And if you don’t get why this is such a big deal, let’s just say this was a clear dig at the tendency among transgender activists to try to massage language to make it so words like “woman” and “man” aren’t applied to people who were actually born men or women. In short, Rowling was declaring herself “transphobic,” at least by woke standards.

Now, while I suspect the reader may have rolled their eyes the instant I mentioned Harry Potter, it’s worth remembering what significance the franchise had for the Left before this point. After President Trump’s election in 2016, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I can only describe as the closest thing to a court poet the Left has, tweeted out an image of Harry Potter characters, and comparing his liberal followers to “Dumbledore’s Army” (IE the club of student resistors that Harry Potter and his friends form in the series’ fifth book). He wasn’t the only one. In July of 2016, an actual academic study that someone was paid to produce showed that readers of Harry Potter were more likely to dislike Donald Trump than people who hadn’t read the books. In response, Uproxx published a piece about the study headlined “Trump Is Basically Voldemort [the Hitler-esque cult leader who serves as Harry Potter’s main antagonist], Says a New Academic Study.” It was a comparison that would go on to be mocked, ironically, both by conservatives and by the Huffington Post, which found it offensive because Voldemort is targeting white people, so obviously he’s not as bad as Trump (no, I’m not kidding, read for yourself).

My point here isn’t to laugh at Leftists – at least, not exclusively – but rather, to point out that before Rowling’s tweet, it would’ve been impossible to miss the significance that this woman’s fictional universe had for Leftist moral language. It was, quite literally, something that correlated with turning people against Donald Trump, and was a major touchstone for the Left to convert idealistic youngsters who read the adventures of the boy wizard and wanted to be just like him. Even Rowling herself got in on the action, denying that Trump himself would be sorted into Slytherin (the dorm at Hogwarts where most of the villainous characters made their home), because he isn’t magical enough to go to Hogwarts in the first place. Stay out, Trump, you’re not part of our magical country club! I’m sure the president was devastated.

In other words, even if Rowling herself had some embarrassingly retrogressive ideas about gender, a movement that wanted to retain the ability to propagandize young people with her stories would have tried to find some way to accommodate her, or at least would have told its members to gracefully ignore what she said on the issue. If they were smart, the fact that she was literally the wealthiest author who’s ever lived might also have weighed into their calculations about how much damage she could do as an 80 percent friend versus a 20 percent enemy.

But did they show any restraint in real life? Hell, no! Rowling was savaged across every corner of the internet for being a transphobe, faced death threats, had activists pressuring Warner Brothers to stop making movies based on her intellectual property, and even made the lead actors of all the films based on her books denounce her (one wonders why Rowling hasn’t gotten around to formally rescinding their Hogwarts acceptance letters). As an ironic sidenote, by the way, I have to note that the only actors who have stood up for Rowling of whom I am aware are Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Jason Isaacs, ie Voldemort himself, and two of his minions. Needless to say, this did not persuade activists to stop relentlessly comparing Rowling to possibly her most hated character, the pink-clad, bureaucratic sadist teacher Dolores Umbridge, nor to stop their campaign of harassment and terror against her.

What happened? Well, again, it almost worked. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, which Rowling had penned two screenplays for, was put on hold by Warner Brothers after disappointing box office numbers (and, frankly, disappointing quality), and between that and Rowling’s continually doubling down on her stance, for just a second, it really began to look like she was going to be too swamped with controversy to remain a bankable property. There were just two more opportunities for her to bounce back in the offing: firstly, a podcast being made about her struggle titled The Witch Trials of JK Rowling, and secondly, a video game which she had no actual creative influence over, but which was still based in her fictional universe, titled Hogwarts Legacy.

Now, again, both of these things could have been opportunities for the woke gender warriors. The podcast, for example, could have been a great opportunity to show everyone just how nuts Rowling sounded, even with a sympathetic audience, in her own words. Given that Rowling quite literally likened the transgender movement to the Death Eaters (Voldemort’s genocidal cult) in one episode, this could have actually been done fairly easily. But what did they do instead? They tried to get the podcast deplatformed, and when it came out anyway, posted incessantly about how awful it was while telling everyone not to listen to it so as not to let Rowling contaminate their feeds, even a little. Understandably, the result was that tons of people – even those skeptical of Rowling – listened to it out of curiosity, and many of them likely came away unsure what all the fuss was about. All this, because the Left was too fragile to listen to their opponent talk at all, even as a form of opposition research.

But this was an act of Napeoleonic genius compared with the woke reaction to Hogwarts Legacy. Now, again, there were many opportunities for the Left to declare victory before the game even came out. For example, when Troy Leavitt, a developer on the game, was outed as having made comments that were insufficiently loyal to the woke cause and subsequently left the project, the Left could have declared it was one small step toward purging the game of objectionable elements. When it was announced that the game would be made without Rowling’s involvement, they could have shouted from the rooftops, “ding dong, the witch is dead at Hogwarts.” When the game featured a prominent trans character, they could have celebrated the nod to inclusivity, particularly given that said trans character gives the player a sidequest devoted entirely to retrieving a box of letters talking about how awesome and totally a woman “she” is, despite the fact that the game takes place in the late 19th century. But hey, they’re wizards; maybe there’s an Expecto Vaginam spell for cases like this.

The point is, there were multiple concessions made to them, which they could have praised, and used as beachheads from which to demand further concessions in the inevitable sequels or Downloadable Content (DLC). Yes, the game would still come out, and yes, Rowling would still profit, but with the right spin, they could have still made it seem like Rowling was profiting from a world that their ideology had effectively colonized, and so looked like the winners.

You know what they did instead? They tried to make the game not come out at all. Yes, they somehow thought they could thwart the publication of a game based on a multibillion-dollar franchise with nothing but complaints about hurt feelings. And when that (predictably) failed, they tried to get media outlets not to cover the game, created literal enemies’ lists of anyone who had the audacity to play it on Twitch – even going so far as to harass one beloved couple who had announced their intention to donate any money spent on their Hogwarts Legacy stream to the Trevor Project – and basically made it clear that if you bought the game at all, you were literally killing trans people. You monster. In other words, they did everything possible to call attention to the game they didn’t want people to buy, and to make it clear that buying it would be taken as a personal insult to them, regardless of whether you donated money to their own charities to make up for it!

You’ll never guess what happened. Oh wait, yes you will: they lost. Hogwarts Legacy sold so well that it made $1 billion within three months of its coming out. Even now, it still outsells buzzy recent games like Armored Core 6 and the painfully woke Starfield, and if the Game Awards weren’t still somewhat captured by the Anita Sarkeesian-type scolds who infested the industry after #Gamergate, it’d be a strong contender for “Game of the Year.” And JK Rowling? She just inked a massive deal with Warner Brothers to develop the Harry Potter series into a multiseason TV show on HBO. Once more, what could have been a qualified victory turned into a rout because the woke literally did not know when to just shut up.

But even this – even this – is a minor hiccup compared to the final straw: a defeat which laid the groundwork for them to be totally ignored, and then actively countersignaled, following the attack on Israel.

III. Float Like a Blue Bird, Sting Like a Bee

In March of 2022, Twitter (as it was still called at the time) banned the satirical conservative news site The Babylon Bee indefinitely.

The site’s crime? It had declared Rachel Levine – a transgender White House official who identifies as a woman – its “man of the year.” For this, it was tossed out of, essentially, the internet’s public square.

Not, mind you, that this was unusual for early 2022 Twitter. During the years after Donald Trump’s election, and more importantly, Tumblr’s porn ban, Twitter was flooded with precisely the kind of hysterical, overdramatic, attention-seeking Social Justice Warriors who had already made Tumblr insufferable. And no, I don’t just mean the site; based on what we know now, this also extended to the site’s staff, and that’s where the real problem was.

Because, having been colonized by these people, Twitter turned into a permanent witch hunt cum struggle session, in which every user was constantly second, third, and fourth-guessing their own words in an effort not to become Twitter’s villain of the day, who would almost always end up banned, fired, and unpersoned forever as an example of What’s Wrong With the World, usually by a mob of angry 14-year-old hipster girls, not to mention woke demagogues with illicitly obtained blue checkmarks. The atmosphere was very “Reign of Terror in post-revolutionary France, if Robespierre was a teenage girl.” This got so bad that anyone who said anything even slightly upsetting to the hyperfragile Schadenfuhrerins could be targeted, even if it was totally unrelated to politics, such as the podcaster John Roderick who got turned into a meme for the crime of asking his daughter to figure out how to open a can of beans by herself. Silly though Roderick’s post admittedly was, it hardly merited the massive pile-on it got. Nor did most of Twitter’s “villains.”

However, one of those villains actually had money. A lot of it. More, in fact, than anyone on Earth. And wouldn’t you know it, while the Babylon Bee getting banned was depressingly normal for most Twitter users, for him, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I refer, of course, to the current owner of Twitter, now X, Elon Musk, who literally decided to buy the site because – shocker – he thought it was too hostile to free speech. He was right.

Now, again, this, too, could have been avoided many, many times. Musk’s first move, after all, wasn’t to buy the site outright. Instead, he simply joined the board. At this point, Twitter could have simply made concessions to his free speech position (unbanning the Bee with one of its usual unconvincing “banned in error” posts, for a start) and perhaps even quietly rejoiced in the fact that so many “villains” were back to keep its rabidly angry userbase occupied attacking them. Instead, Twitter dug in its heels, and Musk moved to buy the company for the price of $44 billion.

However, this, too, could have been fought against. After all, as we all know, Musk got cold feet about the deal, fearing that Twitter was inflating its userbase by counting so-called bots. Twitter, whose hands were tied by their shareholders, obviously sued over this. You’d think that staring down the barrel of having the woke hivemind’s literal brain of choice purchased by a suspected enemy, the woke Left – particularly in media, which they basically controlled at this point – would have enthusiastically agreed that Musk was wasting his money and bemoaned that the evil capitalist shareholders were forcing him to do it. This would, in turn, have created a huge PR issue for those shareholders, who might have rightfully balked at having their names splashed across major newspapers for forcing Musk to buy the site and decided that it’d be better just to hire a new CEO and make noises about how they were cleaning up the “bot” problem in order to rescue the share price from any hit it would take in the aftermath, reasoning that at least this way they weren’t being treated as Satan incarnate by the media.

But did the woke media do that? No. They were so blinded by their hatred for Musk that they literally rooted for him to be forced to buy the site. Which, of course, eventually, he did, likely reasoning that even if he was paying too much, at least this way he’d have a cast iron excuse to clean house ruthlessly. And, as we all know, he did. Oh, he did.

The result was best summarized by Taylor Lorenz of the Washington Post, who bemoaned when Musk took over that it was like “the gates of Hell” had been opened on the site. Within months, Musk had discontinued the practice of banning people permanently entirely, reinstated people who had been banned on Twitter for years, and who had rabid online fanbases just waiting for them to come back, and essentially conducted something akin to demonic possession on the woke hivemind, which was now suddenly flooded by all the right-wing edgelords they’d unpersoned for so many years. Having seen the atmosphere on Twitter after Musk’s acquisition, I can personally attest to the fact that it felt like being in a West German nightclub after the fall of the Berlin Wall, so gleefully (and sometimes irresponsibly) did the Right’s online army celebrate its conquest of the app.

I cannot overstate what a self-own Musk’s buying Twitter was for the woke. The Atlantic writer Kaitlyn Tiffany correctly described it (albeit with sadness) as the end of the “ultimate cancellation machine.” Before, if people were found to have posted even mildly offensive things, they were wiped off the map, off the internet, and out of polite society. Now? Even when one writer was exposed as a former open racist, it couldn't stop a book contract with a major publisher, or indeed stop him from being hosted by Stanford University. To be fair, the writer in question does seem to have genuinely moved on from his former bad ideas, and even issued an apology, but the point stands: This would have been a career death sentence before. Now, it's a speed bump.

In one move, Elon Musk wiped out the central nervous system of online cancel culture entirely, and not only that, but salted the earth to be sure it wouldn’t grow back. Because, as soon as major institutions realized that Twitter being taken over by Musk made everyone treat it as not really that influential, they almost certainly decided that it had never been that influential to begin with, and therefore to ignore online cancellation chatter completely. There is one exception – the Bud Light controversy – but that only took off because it turned out that unlike extremely online Leftists, conservatives have actual market power. In other words, everyone can cancel now, not just the Left, and that means that for corporations who are being urged to get involved in politics, the only winning move is not to play.

And that brings us, neatly, to the Israel controversy, which has given all those already disgruntled institutions a cast-iron excuse not to engage with the woke Left at all and, in fact, to purge them from their ranks whenever they speak up. In short, it has made the Left the movement of despised dissidents they always claimed to be, but which they are only now – finally -- beginning to be treated as. Which brings me back to the real question of this piece: how could they have let any of this happen once, let alone repeatedly, and with practically the same mistakes every time?

IV. If You’re Part of a Solution, You’re Part of the Problem

Let’s start with a perhaps obvious observation: There is literally no thinker in the history of political strategy who would counsel the woke to behave as they did, including among their own ranks. Saul Alinsky himself would have given this approach a failing grade, as would any number of other thinkers on war from Sun Tzu, to Carl Clausewitz, to Niccolo Machiavelli himself. At minimum, any strategist would have warned the Left after their failure with Rogan that their denounce-and-cancel tactics had a limited lifespan and would, if employed long-term, eventually be used on them. Many liberals and Leftists did try to warn them of this, to no avail.

This tells us something important, and no, it’s not just that the woke are hopeless at political strategy. Even the most hopelessly naïve and blinkered movement can learn from mistakes at least enough not to repeat them with such exact regularity unless there is something fundamental to their entire belief system, and to the structure of their movement, that makes such mistakes not only unavoidable, but necessary. As it happens, there are multiple reasons why this is true of the woke.

Firstly, let’s consider the inability to compromise, or declare victory at any intermediate point, no matter how advantageous it would have been. Without even talking about ideology, there is actually a completely understandable structural problem with how the woke movement conducts itself that explains this: theirs is a distributed movement.

That is to say, the movement has no single power center, spokesperson, or overarching organization that can dictate its party line. Unlike communists prior to the Soviet Union who took their marching orders from the Politburo, or even followers of Barack Obama, who had the president himself as a north star, the woke are essentially a mob with no leader. There are people who can influence them, like the aforementioned Taylor Lorenz, but these people are, at best, primus inter pares. We know this because JK Rowling, who again, created the universe which formed a central moral reference point for many of them, was immediately disowned when she refused to follow the mob on one issue. If that happened to Rowling, it can happen to Lorenz, or any number of other, similar people. Ironically, the only “movement” I can think of to compare it to isn’t even a human political movement at all: it’s a stampede, in which any creature that hesitates even for a second gets trampled by their peers.

What this means is that compromise with them is not only impossible, but so is negotiation, period, because any concessions you might win from one woke person will only get that person disowned by more opportunistic moral entrepreneurs, who will rally the mob to their side by taking the most defiantly uncompromising, “moral” position imaginable. How do you negotiate with people who literally have to take the most absurdly extreme position possible to avoid getting eaten by their own followers? You don’t.

This problem is compounded by a major ideological flaw, which is that, as thinkers such as James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose have explained, the postmodern ideology which forms the basis of wokeness is completely incapable of declaring anything conclusively non-problematic. Its question when confronted with literally anything is not “is this racist/sexist/bigoted,” but rather “how is this racist/sexist/bigoted.” And they ask that about everything, because it's an article of faith that everything is problematic. Why? Because language itself is problematic, and laden with assumptions from an oppressive past. And if language is problematic, then the terms in which we conceive the world are problematic. And therefore, our imaginations are problematic, which means that literally anything we come up with is irrevocably tainted by bigotry and oppression.

Needless to say, this slides into a philosophical position which can best be described as treating truth as relative, but morality as absolute. But even for Leftists, this is an incoherent position, and one that the original Marxists, to their credit, did not indulge. For them, the “realities” of class struggle and dialectical materialism were touchstones. Whether they were real was, in some sense, beside the point: they at least created a semi-objective measure by which Marxists could measure success or failure. Success was anything that magnified class struggle; failure was anything that tilted it in favor of capitalism or the bourgeois.

But for woke people? Even this can be problematized, which leads to a problem I refer to, with apologies to the blogger Scott Alexander, as the “infinite Stalins problem.” In his summary of reactionary philosophy, Alexander made the extraordinarily pithy observation that it was, in fact, possible to criticize Stalin’s government in the Soviet Union, provided your criticism was “we don’t have enough Stalinism in this country! We need 50 Stalins!” To which, one can imagine the immediate woke retort, “why only 50 Stalins, you problematic shitlord? Why not 51?!” This would, presumably, go on, until there was no room in the Politburo for all the Stalins we need, and then until there was no room in Russia itself, and then until there literally wasn’t space on earth, at which point they’d start talking about colonizing (or “decolonizing”) the Moon just so we can put more Stalins on it.

You can see the problem, can’t you? Even if the only thing your movement can agree on is that you need to persecute apostates, when an apostate can be instantly defined as whoever thinks we only need 1,563,324 Stalins instead of 1,563,325 (and even that person is only a non-apostate until someone proposes 1,563,326), then what you have is a situation where leadership of any kind is impossible, because any leader can be undercut by an ambitious underling at any moment because, lacking any coherent idea of reality, political or otherwise, the only thing that matters is the question of who takes the most morally uncompromising position, regardless of whether it’s possible or even coherent. In short, given the premises from which they start, at some point, insanity becomes inevitable. Which means that the movement’s being a distributed mob, and therefore impossible to negotiate with, is impossible to change.

Looked at this way, it’s really a miracle that woke people were able to cancel anyone, let alone to get so far over their skis that they thought they had a chance against the likes of Rowling, Rogan, or Musk. But again, considering the structure of pre-Musk Twitter, it’s no surprise that a distributed mob whose members had also infected the site’s own leadership could congeal just long enough to attack and unperson individual villains of the day, while simultaneously being utterly powerless to effectively plan or execute long-term structural change. This problem is only compounded by the fact that wokeness, to the extent it has any ideological content at all, is actually nothing but an ex post facto rationalization for the civil rights regime, as Richard Hanania persuasively demonstrates in his as-yet-uncanceled book. That regime’s power is based on never conclusively declaring any behavior legal or illegal, but rather treating everything as potentially discriminatory. Which is just the infinite Stalins problem applied to law. The only way you can be safe from cancellation within woke circles, in other words, is to shut up and follow the mob, whatever it does, without regard for whether it makes any sense.

But okay, you say, this still doesn’t explain why they claim to be oppressed, nor whether they actually believe it. And even if they do, if they really are allies, wouldn’t they be happy with a solution that lifted some people out of that state? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and so on?

First of all, even if some woke people would be okay with that, I think I’ve shown why any attempt to unify around such an agenda would be laughably futile. But to answer the oppression question, Chris Rufo explains in his excellent new book that one of the tenets of Critical Race Theory, which essentially takes it as written that all progress toward ending racism must serve the interests of whites or it wouldn’t happen, is that all victories for civil rights essentially only allow the people who are most like the dominant culture to be treated as non-oppressed.

In other words, for people to stop being oppressed is not a good thing according to the woke schema; it’s a sign that they were traitors all along. Think of the way in which woke Leftists have begun deriding “internalized whiteness” among Asians and Latinos, and huffily changing the People of Color (POC) acronym to “Black and Indigenous People of Color” (BIPOC) when it became clear that neither Asians nor Latinos were the reliable blank checks for wokeness that they imagined. Think, moreover, of how the Left spontaneously decided nerds were evil, sexist incels, despite going out of their way to court them and turn them against the Religious Right in the 2000’s. People ceasing to be oppressed, or rather, people having something to conserve, makes them more likely to become…well…conservatives. In short, rescuing people from perceived “oppression,” while it does make those people’s lives better, also makes them collaborators with the evil, white, racist, sexist, heterosexist, heteropatriarchal, etc system. And if your end goal is a revolution so radical that our minds can’t even imagine it because our language itself is racist, that’s not an advantage; that’s a step back.

So do they really think they’re oppressed? Yes, which is why, the instant they get power, their immediate response is to view it as inherently fleeting and fragile, and therefore to make no moves that, while ideologically imperfect, would aid them in keeping it, because their having it to begin with is potential evidence of their no longer being oppressed, and thus, of no longer being part of the ideological “in-crowd.” And what’s the fastest way to prove that your power was fleeting and not really a thing? Just abuse it until people rightly take it away. Say, by denouncing a country besieged by a humanitarian crisis as colonizers, while promoting ethnic cleansing, just so you can justify your inevitable marginalization by saying, “See?! The colonizers can’t handle the truth!” That is, of course, assuming that they could ever have been competent enough to hold positions of power at all, but I suspect that, too, is impossible, because to allow competent people into their movement would likely be seen as a concession to internalized ableism. That may sound like a joke, but it isn’t one; I’m dead serious. No one is more looked down upon (and therefore “oppressed”), after all, than the incompetent, and therefore no one is more likely to be woke than an incompetent person.

Do they understand what real oppression is? No, and in fact, they can never let themselves understand what it is, because to set boundaries on what counts as oppression (other than to exclude their scapegoat du jour from suffering it) would be to limit the size of their coalition. Should something like actual oppression of the kind practiced in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia ever actually happen to them, God knows what they’d do besides scream and cry and stomp their feet, both prettily and otherwise, but the pose of being oppressed is something they must allow to as many people as possible, while still keeping an identifiable scapegoat group so as to avoid being targeted for cancellation themselves. Today, that’s the Israelis, and if your main source of fear is that you’ll be considered no longer part of the mob, then you’ll attack the mob’s target, regardless of whether it destroys your credibility and gets you thrown out of every prestigious institution that once bent over backwards to accommodate you, because at least that way, you’ll still be one of the cool kids.

Do they want to be oppressed? Yes, or at least, they want to be able to claim oppression while feeling none of its actual effects. Power, after all, is hard. Power requires that you make compromises, that you risk cancellation, that you assume actual leadership and yes, even be held accountable not just by your ideological bedfellows, but by the people who make up your customer base, or donor base, or viewership. Far better to live life as an eternal armchair quarterback, talking about how society is just too blinkered and evil and stained by a history of bigotry to even comprehend your ideas, all while being paid handsomely to sit on your ass and do nothing but complain. Look at Ibram Kendi. Look at Black Lives Matter’s founders and their multiple houses. Look at practically every academic in the humanities. This is a movement that not only hasn’t achieved lasting change; it’s part of their ideology that they can’t achieve it, and if they ever do, that must mean they screwed up and elevated people who had actual redeeming qualities, which is just another word for being oppressors.

In short, wokeness is a movement that has always been sleepwalking towards its own self-inflicted destruction. That they were able to destroy so much already is an indictment of a cynical liberal (and even neoconservative) elite class who was happy to use their moral outrage until it became clear that it couldn’t be controlled, and would turn on them, at which point they simply sat and waited until it did something so ridiculous, so absurd, so morally outrageous that it could be discarded without a second thought. The only danger they pose to America, or to the West generally, is that they are too willfully stupid not to be used this way, again.

But I doubt they will be. Because after Israel, now everyone who used them knows they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Just like Hamas will be for their patrons. I hope that in the coming months and years, we see ever more moves to shut these perpetual infants out of power, which I am sure they will continue to court as they sleepwalk – and hang glide – toward oblivion.

Image: Title: Wokeness and Hamas