Notes on the ascendant Left’s new terminology.
ith the rise of the Left inevitable over the next two years, the public should become acquainted with the Left’s strange language of Wokespeak. Failure to do so could result in job termination and career cancellation. It is certainly a fluid tongue. Words often change their meanings as the political context demands. And what was yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heterodoxy and tomorrow’s heresy. So here is some of the vocabulary of the woke lexicon.
“Anti-racism.” Espousing this generic compounded -ism is far preferable to accusing particular people of being “racists” — and then being expected to produce evidence of their concrete actions and words to prove such indictments.
Instead, one can pose as fighting for “anti-racism” and thereby imply that all those whom one opposes, disagrees with, or finds distasteful, de facto, must be for “racism.”
“Anti-racism” is a useful salvo for students, teachers, administrators, public employees, political appointees, and media personnel to use peremptorily: declare from the start that you are working for “anti-racism” and then anyone who disagrees with you therefore must be racist, or, antithetically, “pro-racism.”
Oddly, such Wokespeak “anti-” adjectives denote opposition to something that no one claims to be for. For each proclaimed “anti-racist,” “anti-imperialist,” or “anti-colonialist,” there is almost no one who wishes to be a “racist” or desires to be a “colonialist” or an “imperialist.” These villains mostly come to life only through the use of their “anti-” adjectives.
“Disparate Impact.” This word is becoming anachronistic — call it Wokespoke, if you will. In ancient labor-law usage, it often accompanied the now equally calcified term “disproportional representation.” But in 21st-century American Wokespeak, it is no longer necessarily unfair, illegal, or unethical that some racial, gender, or ethnic groups are “over”-represented in certain coveted admissions and hiring.
Thus there can be no insidious, silent, or even inadvertent, but otherwise innate, bias that results in now-welcomed disproportional representation.
“Disparate” thus will likely be replaced by a more proper neologism such as “parity” or “affirmative” impact to denote that “overrepresentation” of one group over another is hardly “disparate,” but just and necessary to restore “parity” for past crimes of racism and sexism.
So disparate impact in general no longer has any systematic utility in matters of racial grievance and will soon be dropped. It was once a means to get to where we are and beyond. For example, at about 12 percent of the population, African Americans are disproportionally represented as players in both Major League Baseball (8 percent), and the National Basketball Association (75–80 percent), as are “whites” likewise in both sports, who constitute 65–70 percent of the general population, but make up only 45 percent of the MLB and 15–20 percent of the NBA. No constant term can be allowed to represent facts such as these.
“Cultural appropriation.” This adjective-noun phrase must include contextualization to be an effective tool in the anti-racism effort.
It does not mean, as the ignorant may infer from its dictionary entries, merely “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity.”
Asian Americans do not appropriate “white” or “European” culture by ballet dancing or playing the violin; “whites” or “Europeans” surely do appropriate Asian culture by using non-Asian actors in Japanese kabuki dance-drama.
For non–African Americans, dreadlocks or playing jazz are cultural appropriations; dying darker hair blond is not. A black opera soprano is hardly a cultural appropriationist. Wearing a poncho, if one is a non–Mexican-American citizen, is cultural theft; a Mexican-American citizen wearing a tuxedo is not.
Only a trained cultural appropriationist can determine such felonies through a variety of benchmarks. Usually the crime is defined as appropriation by a victimizing majority from a victimized minority. Acceptable appropriation is a victimized minority appropriating from a victimizing majority. A secondary exegesis would add that only the theft of the valuable culture of the minority is a felony, while the occasional use of the dross of the majority is not.
“Diversity.” This term does not include false-consciousness efforts to vary representation by class backgrounds, ideologies, age, or politics. In current Wokespeak, it instead refers mostly to race and sex (see “Race, class, and gender”), or in practical terms, a generic 30 percent of the population self-identified as non-white — or even 70 percent if inclusive of non-male non-whites.
“Diversity” has relegated “affirmative action” — the older white/black binary that called for reparatory “action” to redress centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutionalized prejudice against African Americans — to the Wokespoke dustbin.
“Diversity” avoids the complications arising out of past actionable grievances, or worries about the overrepresentation or underrepresentation of particular tribes, or the class or wealth of the victimized non-white.
The recalibrated racially and ethnically victimized have grown from 12 percent to 30 percent of the population and need not worry whether they might lose advantageous classifications, should their income and net worth approximate or exceed that of the majority oppressive class.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion.” This triad is almost always used in corporate, professional, and academic administrative titles, such as in a dean, director, or provost of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Known more commonly by their familiar, abbreviated sobriquets of “diversity czars,” such coveted billets are usually immune from budget cuts and economic belt-tightening. Often such newly created czar positions are subsidized in times of protest and financial duress by increasing the reliance on exploited part-time or low-paid workers, by either cutting or freezing their hours, benefits, or salaries.
No “equity czar,” for example, can afford publicly to be concerned about university exploitation of all part-time faculty. (See also under “Equity.”)
“Diversity” and “inclusion” are not synonymous or redundant nouns. Thus they should be used always in tandem: One can advocate for “inclusion” without oneself actually being “diverse,” or one can be “diverse” but not “include” others who are “diverse.” However, serving both diversity and inclusion ideally implies that those hired as non-white males are entrusted to hire additional non-white males.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Equity.” Equity has now replaced the Civil Rights–era goal of “equality” — a word relegated to vestigial Wokespoke. After 60 years, equality apparently was exposed as a retrograde bourgeois synonym for the loaded “equality of opportunity” rather than a necessary, mandated “equality of result.”
Since seeking equality does not guarantee that everyone will end up the same, “equality” became increasingly unhelpful. Equity, in contrast, means that we do not just treat people at this late date “equally” — since most have been prior victims of various -isms and -ologies that require reparatory considerations.
“Equity” instead means treating people quite differently, even prejudicially so, to even the playing field for our past sins of economic, social, political, and cultural inequity.
“Hate speech.” Most of the incendiary “free speech” protected under the First Amendment is in actuality “hate speech,” and therefore deserves no such protection. If America were a properly woke society, then there would be no need for the First Amendment.
Like much of the vocabulary of Wokespeak, the notion of “hate speech” is not symmetrical. It cannot be diluted, subverted, and contextualized by false equivalencies. So the oppressed, occasionally in times of understandable duress, can use generic gender and race labels to strike back at the oppressor (see “Leveling the playing field”).
Crude stereotypes can be occasionally useful reminders for the victimized of how to balance the predictable hurtful vocabulary of the victimizer. In times of emotional trauma, the use by the oppressed of emphatics and colloquials such as “cracker,” “honky,” “gringo,” “whitey,” or “white trash” can serve as useful reminders of how “words matter.” In general, the rare and regrettable use of purported “hate speech” by one oppressed group against another is not necessarily hate speech, but usually a barometer of how a majority lexicon has marginalized the Other.
“Implicit bias.” “Implicit” is another handy intensifying adjective (see “Systemic racism”). Implicit bias, however, differs somewhat from “systemic racism.” It is analogous to a generic all-purpose antibiotic, useful against not just one pathogen but all pathogens, such as sexism, homophobia, nativism, transphobia, etc., that make up “bias,” a word that is now rarely used without an intensifying adjective.
Also, “implicit,” while implying “systemic,” additionally suggests chronological permanence, as in “innate bias.”
Thus “implicit bias” denotes a hard-to-detect prejudice against the non-heterosexual, the non-white, and the non-male that is sometimes as nontransparent as is it innate to the DNA of the heterosexual white male. Diversity trainers and workshops are needed to identify and inoculate against the virus of implicit bias.
“Intersectionality.” Race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics supposedly “intersect” with one another as shared victimizations. Thus, the community of the oppressed is commonly crisscrossed, and therefore amplified by such osmosis of shared grievances. The postmodern “intersectionality” has replaced the apparently now-banal term “rainbow coalition.”
In theory, the more shared victimizations, the higher the ranking one enjoys within the intersectional community.
However, when intersectionality results in stubborn tribal rivalries and struggles over identity-politics spoils, either one of two things follows: On the good side, those with the most oppressions (e.g., gay women of color) are the most rewarded accordingly. But on the bad side, the intersectional graph is blurred into rank Balkanization or worse.
A bellum omnium tribūum contra omnes tribūs follows, as the number of victims outnumbers the victimizers. Unfortunately, reparatory claims then must be fought over intrasectionally, i.e., each offended tribe unites monolithically in opposition to the others: e pluribus tribibus una becomes plures tribūs ex una.
“Leveling the playing field.” Sports terms can become useful Wokespeak. So to un-level the playing field is to “level” it. Leveling does not mean insisting on equality of opportunity (i.e., ensuring a soccer or rugby field does not slope in one direction), given inherent inequity. After all, when one team has not had access to proper training facilities, it deserves to play on an advantageously sloped field.
So to “level” means most certainly to slope the field for the benefit of one team, which in other matters allegedly suffers from past disadvantage brought on by bias that can only be corrected by and compensated through downhill advantage — or bias.
“LGBTQ.” This is currently the most widely used woke sobriquet for the homosexual and transgendered communities (see “Intersectionality”), although almost no one can agree on what the letter Q actually stands for.
Most clumsy politicians invoke the combined abbreviations — but often mangle and mix up the letters — without knowing really who does and does not qualify within the larger rubric. The term assumes there are few if any different agendas among homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered — at least that might outweigh their common nonbinary affinities.
“Marginalized.” The marginalized are those dehumanized by the white majority culture on the basis of race, sex, and sexual orientation. On rare occasions, the category can be difficult to articulate, given the intrusion of irrelevant class considerations that supposedly remedy “marginalization.” Income and wealth, however, are transitory criteria; sex and race are not. Jay-Z, Barack Obama, and LeBron James are permanently marginalized in a way that an unemployed Pennsylvania clinger is not.
“Micro-aggression.” “Micro” is another qualifying adjective of our subtler age in which active race- and gender-based prejudices are almost impossible for the novice to spot.
Instead, adept micro-aggression experts and skilled diversity trainers can detect double entendres, gestures, inexplicable silences, facial expressions, fashions, and habits — the “code” that gives one away as an offensive sexist or racist. Such skills, much like cryptography, as mastering a cult’s hand gestures can be taught through workshops to the general population to enable them to break these silent systems of insidious aggressions.
“Proportional representation.” This, and its negative twin, disproportional representation, is another ossified term (see “Disparate impact”) that has largely served its 1990s purpose and is now relegated to Wokespoke.
Originally, it meant that various minority groups deserved to be represented in hiring and admissions, and in popular culture, in numbers commensurate to their percentages in the general population.
But in 21st-century Wokespeak, the goal of ensuring “proportional representation” can now be racist, sexist, and worse — given that females enroll in, and graduate from, colleges in far greater numbers than their proportions of the general population, or that African Americans, from lucrative professional sports to coveted federal jobs such as the U.S. Postal Service, are represented in number greater than their percentages in the general population.
To reflect new demographics, proportionality is becoming questionable; disproportionality is now almost good.
“Race, class, and gender.” Another Wokespoke, Neanderthal tripartite term that is dropping out of Wokespeak.
“Class” no longer matters much in America. Billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros are not enemies of the people; white impoverished deplorables in West Virginia certainly are. Oprah is a victim. So are Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama. Class is an anachronism.
To ensure distance from the irredeemables and clingers, Wokespeak will soon likely reduce the catechism to just “race and gender.”
“Safe space.” Safe spaces on college campuses (see “Theme house”) are not just segregated by race, gender, and sexual orientation; they are better described as official no-go zones for identifiable white heterosexual males. It would be debatable whether particular non-white or non-heterosexual or non-male groups can intrude into the segregated spaces of other particular groups. In general, these segregated enclaves offer sanctuary against “implicit bias” and “systemic racism.” Labeling them as “segregated spaces” is proof of implicit bias and systemic racism.
“Systemic racism.” “Systemic” belongs to this newer family of intensifying adjectival epithets (e.g., “micro,” “implicit,” etc.) that are necessary to posit a pathology that otherwise is hard to see, hear, or experience.
When one cannot point to actual evidence of “racism,” one can simply say that it is nowhere precisely because it is everywhere — sort of like the air we breathe that we count on, but often can’t see or feel.
“Theme house.” Theme houses are university dorms or sponsored off-campus student housing segregated by race. “Theme” is a useful euphemism for segregation, given that in theory there can be dorms for those of all races who share musical, artistic, or scholarly interests — or “themes,” e.g., an opera dorm or History House. But, in fact, “theme” today refers usually to race, gender, and ethnicity.
In Wokespeak, everyone is for theme houses; no one is for racially desegregating them. Being against the racial segregation of college dorms can become racist; being for them is never racist. Picking a future college roommate on the basis of race can be allowed — if neither the selector nor the selected is so-called “white.”
“The Other.” See under “Diversity.”
“Unearned white privilege”— as opposed to mere “white privilege.” The intensifier “unearned” is usually an added-on confessional by middle-aged white people in administrative or elite professional and coveted billets who wish to express their utmost penance for their high salaries, titles, and influence.
“Unearned,” however, is not to be confused with “undeserved.” Instead, it suggests certain white elites who wish to publicly confess their guilt for doing so well but without having to resign and to give back what they admittedly claim they did not earn.
Thus a college president is allowed to confess to having enjoyed “unearned” white privilege that nonetheless does not mean his present position is “undeserved.”
In sum, despite the fact that he was unfairly catapulted into the presidency, the college president’s manifest genius displayed after obtaining the job means he is now woke and clearly deserves to remain in the post. In other words, what explicit “unearned” was then, implicit “deserved” is now.
The 2020 election was a referendum on the progressive elite, and they were soundly defeated
In a week of surprises, California’s rejection of a ballot measure that would have allowed the state to resume its affirmative action program was among the most significant.
The measure, known as Proposition 16, wasn’t defeated by shy Trump voters. Polling showed Hispanic and other minority voters evenly split on the measure, and on Tuesday it was defeated in California’s most Latino counties.
California’s result is just one piece of the mounting evidence that voters on Tuesday threw a wrench in the progressive plan to leverage a “coalition of the ascendant” and an “emerging Democratic majority” to turn the country into a woke utopia.
The 2020 election was in large part a referendum on Democrats’ race baiting and pandering, starting with the party’s own elevation of Biden to the top of the ticket. Democrats’ rejection of Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris was a leading indicator that the media missed.
Millions of voters of all races made clear that they instead prefer the old ideals: equality of opportunity, economic freedom, and a society that judges its citizens not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character.
Beyond that, the president whom Democrats have lambasted for four years as a racist and a xenophobe turned out more minority voters than any Republican candidate in decades. It’s not just that right-wing Cubans handed Trump a surprise victory in south Florida; he clinched some of the nation’s most Latino counties, improved his margins with black men and women, and even earned commanding majorities in some Native American counties. And that exit poll data does not account for the shy Trump voters, an effect we presume may well be exaggerated among black and Hispanic voters.
Senate races yielded more bad news for the progressive left. Even if Joe Biden wins the White House, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who easily overcame an $80 million challenge, will serve as a check on the ascendance of socialists such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) to the Biden cabinet. Voters may have wanted Biden, but there’s a whole wing of his party they’d prefer to do without.
Some House Democrats can see the writing on the wall. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) reportedly told her caucus that the progressive push to defund the police and embrace “socialism” almost cost them the majority. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) advised Democrats to drop the woke speak, starting with the bizarre “Latinx.”ADVERTISING
Tuesday’s results should shatter the Democratic presumption that their party is destined to command the overwhelming and eternal support of minority voters—but it won’t. The politics fueled by racial grievance and personified by the “squad” of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib is a cancer on the Democratic Party that it indulges at its own peril.
Why politically correct institutions cave to Communist China
Last week a few sharp-eyed members of the audience for Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan noticed something ugly in the credits. The film’s producers thanked, among others, the publicity department of the “CPC Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee” as well as the “Turpan Municipal Bureau of Public Security.” These are the same political and disciplinary institutions that oppress China’s Uighur minority. Disney cooperated with them without batting an eye.
But Disney is more than happy to call attention to human-rights abuses in the United States. Since George Floyd died in police custody earlier this year, the corporation and its subsidiaries, including ABC and ESPN, have issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter. The House of Mouse has reaffirmed its commitment to the ideology and practices of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Nor is Disney the only film studio to ignore repression in the People’s Republic of China while embracing the cause of social justice at home. They all do it. The question is why.
Part of the reason is parochialism. Americans just don’t care very much about what happens in other countries. Another motivation is profit. All companies desire access to the largest possible markets. Angering the Chinese Communist Party, or violating the tenets of political correctness, endangers the bottom line. Meanwhile the legitimacy of political, cultural, and economic institutions, including the corporation, has come into question. To ensure their survival, corporations must conform to the values and regulations of host societies and governments. That means playing nice with China, embracing “stakeholder capitalism,” and adopting the teachings of Ibram X. Kendi.
Selective indignation is not new. What’s striking about this latest version is its zones of prevalence. The sectors of the economy most wedded to the view that American society is systemically racist—entertainment, sports, media, tech—are the least concerned with the real and concrete injustices of the antidemocratic and hostile Chinese regime. This is the woke dialectic: dissent in America, acquiescence to China.
Just as people became aware of Mulan’s complicity in injustice, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promulgated a complicated set of ethnic, racial, and sexual quotas that films must meet in order to become eligible for the best picture Oscar. “The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is committed to building an antiracist, inclusive organization that will contextualize and challenge dominant narratives around cinema, and build authentic relationships with diverse communities,” read part of the statement announcing the rules. But the Academy is less interested in contextualizing and challenging the absence of civil and political rights elsewhere. In 2013 it was happy to accept $20 million from one of China’s largest multinationals.
The NBA is no different. Its front offices, coaches, and athletes are among the most progressive in the country. Social justice messages adorn players’ uniforms. “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the court. LeBron James has leveraged his celebrity to earn further political concessions from the league, including the transformation of arenas into polling places on Election Day. But James has also made embarrassing comments regarding the conflict between democracy and autocracy in Hong Kong. And the league itself carries the shameof having operated training facilities in Xinjiang.
The Washington Free Beacon has shown that the same newspapers that devote so much space to advancing America’s racial reckoning (and whose foreign desks often report on the foulness of China’s dictatorship) also accepted millions from the Chinese government to run propaganda. The same company, Alphabet, that earlier this year announced millions in donations to social justice nonprofits expressed no qualms in 2017 when it opened an AI research center in China.
In other words, the same businesses that promote the progressive reconstruction, radical reform, or transformation of the United States are intertwined with the revisionist great power that aims to replace the United States as global hegemon. This synthesis of the woke dialectic lends an additional meaning to the term “allyship.” And it is why champions of individual rights, equality under the law, due process, and pluralism stand athwart both political correctness at home and authoritarianism abroad.
In 2020, there is no element of life too small or too trivial to not get outraged over. It’s time for us to be the change we want to see in the universe.
Finally, NASA is doing something important: Taking a closer look at the nicknames for cosmic objects.
In a real and not satiric press release announcing the move, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Science Mission Directorate, said, “Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we’ll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”
This comes a little too late. It is 2020, after all. It also focuses on things like the Eskimo Nebula and the Siamese Twin Galaxy, and doesn’t take into account all celestial bodies. The sad fact is that it’s time to cancel all the planets in the solar system, starting with Uranus.
Discovered in 1781, the seventh stone from the sun was named for the Greek god of the sky. Although all the other planets except for Earth are named for Greek gods, this is especially troubling as the god of the sky is the sun, unless you have a misbegotten belief in a geocentric universe. Even then, though, no way Uranus would get the crown.
It’s a cold, desolate planet with harsh winds and foul-smelling clouds (obviously). Its environment is most likely too harsh to support any life, at least life as we know it. Its 27 moons are named for characters from the works of William Shakespeare and Alexander Pope, two white dudes. Its atmosphere is leaking out into space. As far as planets go, it’s the least capable of taking a joke. Uranus is no god of the sky.
Those reasons are not themselves sufficient, however, in explaining why Uranus is offensive. No, the real reason Uranus is offensive is the same as why the names for allthe planets are offensive. Naming the planets after Greek gods just reinforces patriarchy on a cosmic level. How can NASA truly achieve its goal of inclusivity if it doesn’t acknowledge this?
Starting with the one closest to the sun, we have Mercury, the messenger of the gods. He was also the god of financial gain (read: greed), and we don’t need a giant Gordon Gekko orbiting the sun. Canceled.
Then there’s Venus, goddess of love and beauty, who is just a tool of the patriarchy. Buh-bye.
Up next, it’s Mars, the god of war. War is bad, okay? Gone. Well, how about Jupiter, the king of the gods? Kings are also bad. Sayonara.
Saturn is named for the god of agriculture. Saturn’s reign was marked by peace and benevolence, but his girlfriend was called Mother Destruction, so he’s out.
We’ve already covered Uranus, so next on the chopping block is Neptune, the god of water. Water is good and Neptune was one of four gods that one could sacrifice a bull to, but bulls also produce methane (think of the polar bears!), and too much water causes problems, so Neptune is canceled.
What about Earth? Our planet is not named after a god or even a mortal — so far, so good. The word Earth, however, is derived from Old English and thus represents a tacit endorsement of colonialism. It’s time to ditch that one, too.
Some may object to renaming all the planets because it’s unnecessary and ridiculous. Well, those people should probably be canceled, too.
In 2020, there is no element of life, or lifeless planets, too small or too trivial to not get outraged over. It’s time for us to stop being the change we want to see in the world and start being the change we want to see in the universe. To not do so would be to not go too far enough!
The left calls for racial quotas in the name of progress
The American dream is that any citizen, regardless of sex, race, creed, or color, can rise on his determination and merit. History is littered with examples of the reformers who worked to realize that dream, pushing the most influential institutions in the country to prize talent and hard work over wealth and connections.
The introduction of standardized testing, accessible to all American teens, was part of that push. Harvard University began administering a standardized test to all applicants in 1905. Its effect was profound and immediate: historically a landing spot for the Protestant upper crust, the school began admitting far more public school kids, Catholics, and Jews.
The increasing number of Jewish students was a major concern for Harvard president and committed progressive A. Lawrence Lowell. He tried to implement a quota on Jews, then pivoted to an admissions process that used intangible factors such as “character” and “manliness.” It worked: Jewish applicants consistently fell short.
These sorts of hazy, intangible assessments are now championed by the left. In the name of racial equality, the woke now seek to dismantle meritocratic norms and return to the quota systems that practices like standardized testing were designed to relegate to the trash heap of history.
In a lawsuit likely headed for the Supreme Court, hundreds of would-be Asian admittees allege that Harvard caps their numbers with quotas based on “personality”—an eerie echo of Lowell’s method for keeping out Jews.
The New York Times’s classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini, is calling for the end of the blind symphony audition, which drove a tripling of women’s representation in the field, so that conductors can make race-based selections. The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, where merit is literally a matter of life or death, recently suspended admissions to its honor society because the GPA-based admissions criterion did not produce an honor society that, as Bill Clinton said, “looked like America.”
The SAT—which measures intellect better and more fairly than do intangible heuristics—is under fire. University of California president and former Obama official Janet Napolitano has joined the chorus of administrators at elite universities who complain that race-blind admissions aren’t producing the desired results.
Those calling for “progress” usually want to forfeit someone else’s job. Tommasini is a white man, as are all his listed colleagues at the Times‘s “music” section. So is the L.A. Times’s Mark Swed, and Washington Post music critic Michael Brodeur, who recently penned a news report about classical music’s “long overdue reckoning with racism.”
All are curiously quiet on the “racism” of their clique. None seem ready to give up their own position for indigenous or trans critics, who surely exist! Surely they are waiting somewhere for the call from the New York Times that their turn has come, merit be damned!
As the Times‘s own Ross Douthat noted, those who stand to benefit most from this new attitude are the rich and powerful, who will be free to clear the way for their underachieving kids—the Varsity Blues scandal, legitimated by wokeness.
The new war on merit is the same as the old, and it marks regression rather than progress. It’s straight out of Lowell’s playbook: In the name of “equality,” tear down the only system we have that gives the talented a shot over the powerful.
Can Joe Biden withstand the storm of political correctness?
Before Thursday morning I had not heard of Thomas Bosco, and I am willing to bet you haven’t heard of him either. He runs a café in Upper Manhattan. From the picture in the New York Times, the Indian Road Café is one of those Bobo-friendly brick-lined coffee shops with chalkboard menus affixed to the wall behind the counter and a small stage for down-on-their-luck musicians to warble a few bars of “Fast Car” as you sip on a no-foam latte while editing a diversity training manual. It looks pleasant enough. “Local writers, artists, musicians, and political activists are regulars,” writes metro columnist Azi Paybarah. “And for years, two drag queens have hosted a monthly charity bingo tournament there.” Drag queens! You can’t get more progressive than that. Bosco seems like a noble small businessman making his way in a turbulent world.
There’s a problem, though. He once expressed an opinion. Though Black Lives Matter signs are posted throughout the restaurant, and its owner identifies as “a liberal guy who supports almost every liberal cause I can think of,” in early June Bosco told MSNBC that he voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and expects to do so again. Omigod no. “The backlash was swift, as you might expect,” writes Paybarah. Neighbors denounced Bosco on Facebook. Some vowed not to patronize the café. Randi Weingarten, who as president of the American Federation of Teachers draws close to half a million dollars in salary and benefits, wrote online that it would be “hard to ever go back.” No more tips for the barista from her. As for the drag queens, they are taking their glitter elsewhere.
Bosco is distraught. “My staff feels like I let them down to a certain extent,” he told the Times. He has supported Bernie Sanders, donated to immigrant groups, contributed to the food pantry, provided child care for an employee, and plans to change the name of the café to Inwood Farm to avoid any possible offense toward the Indigenous. None of this is enough to quell the fury of the Very Online. “Similar backlashes have erupted in liberal New York City, usually after a business is revealed to have financial links to Mr. Trump or socially conservative causes,” notes Paybarah, citing the example of Stephen Ross, an investor who had to cut ties to the Equinox and SoulCycle gym chains after it was revealed that he was going to throw a fundraiser for the president. “But Mr. Bosco is no Mr. Ross.”
No, Mr. Bosco is not. He is instead one of the countless private individuals whose lives have been upended by the gale of righteousness blowing through this country since the killing of George Floyd in police custody on May 25. For all of the high-profile sackings, vandalism, and cancellations—the editor of the New York Times opinion pages, the CEO of Crossfit, the editor in chief of Bon Appétit, the head of Adidas human resources, the Atlanta police chief, statues of Confederates, Columbus, Grant, and Douglass, and the Washington Redskins—there have been an equal number of stories concerning absolute nobodies, pipsqueaks, formally anonymous men and women whose unpopular opinions or boneheaded errors of judgment, widely publicized on social media, transform them into public enemies, splittists, and heretics whose livelihoods suffer as a result. Andy Warhol’s 1968 prediction of the future was wrong. It’s not that everyone is world-famous for 15 minutes. It’s that they are infamous.
This towering inferno of outrage culture, social media virality, and social justice journalism reached new heights on June 17, when the Washington Post devoted thousands of confusing and bizarre words to an investigation of a Halloween party at cartoonist Tom Toles’s house two years ago where a random neighborhood woman, in a gross misjudgment and lack of self-awareness, showed up in blackface. “I’m Megyn Kelly—it’s funny,” the woman is said to have toldpartygoers agog and offended by her costume, demonstrating the truism that any “joke” requiring explanation is a bad one. The embarrassed Megyn Kelly impersonator left the gathering, not knowing that two years later she would lose her job because another guest at the party could not take her mind off the incident. “Why Did the Washington Post Get This Woman Fired?” asked Josh Barro and Olivia Nuzzi in New York a week after the superfluous exposé appeared in the paper. No one they spoke to could explain why.
Here’s one theory. Bouts of hysteria are often accompanied by loss of perspective and lapses in critical thinking. In a moment of national self-examination, distinctions between private and public, between guilty and innocent, between criminal and clueless are tossed aside. What was precious and inviolable minutes ago—the musical Hamilton, for example, or Harry Potter—becomes the object of suspicion and derision. The frenzy builds on itself, and grows stronger, and doesn’t know where to stop.
At first the flagellation is sincere. No one, no society, is without fault. But the self-punishment soon becomes an end in itself. And for some, it even starts to feel … pleasurable. Confessing your badness turns into an uplifting sensation. It’s good. You help make bestsellers of How to Be an Antiracist, Between the World and Me, White Fragility, Stamped from the Beginning, So You Want to Talk About Race, The New Jim Crow, Begin Again, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, White Rage, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, Me and White Supremacy, and I’m Still Here. You get into Run the Jewels. And before long, you can’t contain the self-criticism, it has to be poured outward, unleashed, directed at others. Whoever that may be.
When Noam Chomsky, who had no trouble putting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge into “context,” signs a letter warning that “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” it is a sign that things … things have gotten out of control. Social media has become a system of surveillance, policing, and stigma, news media the vehicle for an attack on the American Founding and on classical liberal principles, and progressive politicians the saps for a revolutionary ideology that hides behind egalitarian ideals.ADVERTISING
Joe Biden better be paying close attention. The other day a member of his vice presidential shortlist, Senator Tammy Duckworth, expressed her willingness to “listen to the argument” of radicals who would tear down statues of George Washington. As I wrote this, Nancy Pelosi shrugged off the illegal desecration of the Columbus statue in Baltimore, saying, “People will do what they do.” You know how people are—they get angry and wild and destroy public property. So fuggedaboutit. Would she say the same if vandals tossed the sculpture of her dad into the Inner Harbor?
There is only so much self-abasement a nation can take. And when the winds of woke start to blow, millions of Americans find that there is one way left for them to oppose political correctness: pulling the lever for the man in the White House.