"Stop dissing the woke" - are the alt-right the real problem?
As you might guess: No! As in, Which institutions have been infected by the Proud Boys?
Extremists from the right are more of a problem? It’s on.
First let’s try roughly summer 2020. Remember the idea from the hard left that it was alarmist to think there was a woke takeover afoot?
Please know – I don’t mean “woke” as in “good lefty.” I mean “woke” as in “woke” in a way that makes you feel like it’s okay to be mean. As in what I call The Elect. And The Elect, interestingly, tend to resist the idea that they are making inroads. This is because they see it as a defining trait that they are Speaking Truth to Power.
As such, they will always have a hard time allowing that they actually have any Power, which is why it is wrong to think they level their brickbats out of a desire for power – they definitionally will never admit that they have any, which makes them this much more challenging to exist among.
Anyway, this idea that The Elect have no real power is – despite that they will object -- now officially obsolete.
It’s been deep-sixed by 1) basic intuition from anyone who takes a look at the news every day and 2) things like, if I may, my Atlantic piece on academics writing me from all corners sick to death at watching religious “antiracist” ideology (as opposed to pragmatic, fact-based antiracist ideology rooted in grass-roots activist reality) take over their institutions.
Yep, that was based on only a hundred-odd “anecdotes” – but just three “anecdotes” about white cops killing black people (or landlords preying on black tenants, or doctors thinking of black people as more tolerant of pain) are accepted as portraits of America writ large. We must be consistent.
Especially since my Substack comrade Bari Weiss reports almost daily contacts from people desperate about the same thing, as does my sparring partner on the Glenn Show. Then also organizations such as FIRE, devoted to fostering genuine free speech in academia, as well as Heterodox Academy and FAIR (stay tuned) hear from similar legions of people with the same burdens (and you don’t even need to ask whether I am connected to all of those organizations).
So – there is a house on top of the idea that someone like me is just whining. But now there’s a new distraction – that the racist, roiling alt-right who just invaded the US Capitol building and lurk menacingly here and there, often even with guns, threatening to take “America” back by force, are more of a problem.
So, I wring my hands about somebody holding a copy of How to Be an Antiracist close to his chest while some asshole storms the Capitol holding a Confederate flag.
Okay. Violence is scary. Gruesome. And I am unaware of anyone with a copy of White Fragility in their pocket storming into some government building with a gun asking for antiracist justice.
But the question is this.
The optics of that Capitol takeover were hideous. And we can know that people of those sentiments are gabbing incessantly in repulsive manner 24/7 on line.
Yet – what institutons are such people infecting?
Really. I will put it again.
What institutions are people like this taking over? Yes, they have websites. Yes, they summon one another to travel to Washington and make a big, vicious noise. Which then ended, with most of the perpetrators being arrested.
Which institutions are those boobs taking over? Which persons have seen them coming and yielded, such that now we say that an institution that once was fostering the Good is now marching to the tune of right-wing idiots?
What’s different now because of how they wanted things to go?
Because if you pause to answer that, you need to consider that The Elect are transforming institutions.
3. (In which I support the argument that The Elect are transforming institutions in a way that the crazy right is not …)
This just in. I wrote of the white music professor who dared contest the black music professor who thinks German music theory “is racist.” Here’s a detail – people who initially supported that white professor before the radical shift in what was considered “proper” changed their tune, roughly last June, in fear after that. Affadavits of Jackson’s case reveal some of this, such as a particularly craven graduate student, first in Jackson’s corner but then changing course – based on nothing about what Jackson had written -- as he saw how the wind was blowing. Thank you to the person with access to the documents in the case in question who wrote me who – in line with the tenor of our times – wishes to stay anonymous.
This just in. People who seek to do voiceovers as a career are supposed to be coached in how to do accents. You just know what has happened to that, since roughly last summer.
Now, to be a voiceover artist requires understanding that you aren’t supposed to “do” the voice of those who are not in power. Which means, essentially, not white. Which means, essentially, most people in the world.
What’s wrong with that?
Well, a friend of mine is a professional actor. I recall him demonstrating the number of accents he could convincingly do one night about 10 years ago. He was not ridiculing any of the accents – he had just learned a skill. Today, he’d be seen as a bigot, for what at a thoroughly civilized “cocktail party” gathering somewhere in the Obama Administration came off as the demonstration of a dedicated pro.
But now we have this kind of thing, from actual discussions:
“What if they taunt, tease, abuse, or belittle someone with it? What if they do that and think/say "it's ok, my teacher told me how to do it and they told me they're just sounds?”
I say – yes, what if? But I also ask – which actors have ever done this? What leads to your suspicion or fear, given that sociopolitical attitudes among the theatrical community have tilted way-left for many, many decades? Are you afraid of something really impending for reasons all would understand, or are you saying that you fear that, out of sense that doing so is what makes you a good person?
“It may not be appropriate for a White speaker to learn Spanish accents of the Dominican Republic, but a Spanish accent of Barcelona could totally make sense.”
Um – what? Well, wait – it’s because Dominicans are often sociopolitically disadvantaged but Castillians are not. But I present this: I get my hair cut in a barbershop where basically everybody is Dominican but me. I will venture this: if the guys there watched a white guy – or black guy! -- doing their accent in English well in portraying a Dominican person on stage, they would enjoy it. They’d enjoy calling him on where he slipped, but they would not hate him for trying. The only people horrified at the very attempt would be hypereducated persons looking on from the outside. Why, if I may, are the PhD’s who we should listen to more?
This just in. At the Yale Law Journal, if you’re black, you have a 62% rate of acceptance to think about. That is, a black applicant can think “I will pretty likely get in.” If you’re Asian, the rate is 27%. An Asian applicant can think “I’d be lucky at best to get in.”
It’s because, partly, there’s a 20 bonus for a “diversity statement.” But Asian apparently isn’t diverse enough … “complicated,” we say, making sure to not look at the person while we say it.
Yes, it matters. Most people looking on will know that black people on the Yale Law Journal weren’t accepted for the same reasons as white and Asian people there were.
And if anybody thinks that George Floyd is somehow a justification for that, well -- if anyone tells you it is, notice that they are looking over your shoulder instead of into your eyes.
This just in. Jodi Shaw leaves an admin job at Smith because she can no longer tolerate the official culture there tarring her as an evil whitey. Read this by my illustrious Substack colleague Bari (yes, just Bari – love her, and really, take a look at the link) and now consider Smith Prexy McCartney’s letter to concerned folk … (thank you to the Smith alum who sent this):
Dear members of the Smith community:
A college staff member resigned last Friday in a letter that she made available to the public. Ordinarily, a personnel matter of this nature would not warrant a letter from the president to the college community; however, in this instance the former employee, in her letter, accuses the college of creating a racially hostile environment for white people, a baseless claim that the college flatly denies. In addition, her letter contains a number of misstatements about the college’s equity and inclusion initiatives, misstatements that are offensive to the members of our community who are working every day to create a campus where everyone, regardless of racial identity, can learn, work and thrive.
I write to emphasize that Smith College remains unyielding in its commitment to advancing racial justice, a commitment that includes and benefits every member of our community. Given the centrality of this work to Smith College’s mission, I want to take this opportunity to ensure that each of you has accurate information.
The employee suggests that Smith tried to buy her silence. But it was the employee herself who demanded payment of an exceptionally large sum in exchange for dropping a threatened legal claim and agreeing to standard confidentiality provisions. Further, while the employee aims her complaint at Smith, her public communications make clear that her grievances about equity and inclusion training run more broadly—as she puts it “to the medical field ... the publishing field, the tech field, it's in the schools, the legal field, public schools, private schools, colleges of course, government. It’s everywhere.”
At Smith College, our commitment to, and strategies for, advancing equity and inclusion are grounded in evidence. Research demonstrates the continued presence of systemic discrimination against people of color across all areas of society, from education to health care to employment. Redressing the reality of racism requires asking ourselves how we might, even inadvertently, reinforce existing inequalities or contribute to an exclusionary atmosphere. While it might be uncomfortable to accept that each of us, regardless of color or background, may have absorbed unconscious biases or at times acted in ways that are harmful to members of our community, such self-reflection is a prerequisite for making meaningful progress. The aim of our equity and inclusion training is never to shame or ostracize. Rather, the goal is to facilitate authentic conversations that help to overcome the barriers between us, and the college welcomes constructive criticism of our workshops and trainings.
As a college, we remain committed to continuous learning in support of the humanity, worth, and dignity of every member of our community.
Folks – compare. McCartney doesn’t even contest the Cultural Revolution ideology that forced Shaw to resign.
Some will be distracted by the idea that Shaw wanted to couch counsel in rap because that’s CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. But these “some” also have no problem with the fact that rap has been mainstream music now for a quarter century, such that it’s normal to see people a-graying dancing to it at weddings.
Some will also be distracted by the rap part only in ignoring that it’s roughly one tenth of Shaw’s story. The rest of her story – most of it – is Lord of the Flies for today.
Nota bene: from black people, acting like Lord of the Flies can arise from what is at heart a quest for significance, a sense of belonging, a sense of fellowship. Whites who bow down to this behavior do so out of fear. None of these actors deserve contempt. However, all of them, quite unintentionally, are acting in performative insincerity.
But no. At the end of the day, if I ask whether we want academic inquiry, artistic endeavor, and moral judgment to be founded on whether or not the investigator centers their effort on dismantling power differentials – please know that this is what the issue is these days – then The Elect say YES.
But what they say is not the answer to my question here. I ask: is the loony right having the same effect on institutions as what we might, intemperately, term the loony hard left? Note, to the extent the that latter enjoy victories – and note that they do – they confirm that they are winning over the loony right. Because the loony right changes nothing; they merely alarm.
Yet I am often asked why I am so concerned about this wokester takeover rather than about the alt-right. I have an answer: I am a little French.
I highly suspect this question would not be asked in France. I say that our intellectual culture is being subverted and people ask me “How is that important when racist boobs invaded the Capitol.”
Upon which I note that a certain M. Macron has signalled France as opposed to the CRT ideology. Yep – I know: to the American left this means that Macron is bigoted against Muslims. But it isn’t that simple – Macron is battling the idea that everything comes down to who is more powerful than who and that this question must guide everything. Everything. And even mean that your experience as someone not white is fact, exempt from logic, exempt from the empiricism of the Enlightenment.
Macron is not a white supremacist to contest this, despite what hideous injustice is happening in the policing of the banlieux he supervises. We must have a watchcry, a fulcrum, and this cannot be “What I feel is fact because I am not in power.”
That’s not hard. But our moment urges us to pretend it is – and to pretend that if I have made you feel like it is, I am a suspect White Supremacist.
I suspect that those who see our mental culture as fungible in favor of the very specific matter of overturning power differentials are demonstrating the anti-intellectual substrate of being American.
There’s a reason this is resisted officially in France and would never acquire any purchase in Russia where there is a furiously active intelligentsia, and why it is having an effect in Germany where there is understandably always a sense of national guilt about the Holocaust.
Let’s try this. I dismiss claims that it is trivial to be concerned about a paradigm that threatens to overturn our concepts of intellectual inquiry, artistic endeavor and moral perspective. Apparently there are those who consider those things sideshows, things to get to later. I proudly disinclude myself from their number.