By Victor Davis Hanson
Two recent polls suggest wokism is beginning to recede on a variety of fronts, from less trust in Black Lives Matter and more confidence in the police, to suspicion that the Capitol “insurrection” account is being used to unfairly suppress political expression while Antifa, increasingly, is seen as a terrorist organization whose violence has been ignored improperly by authorities.
There are tens of millions of Americans who either have been stung, or turned off, by McCarthyite wokeness (and thus have anti-wokeness antibodies). More have been vaccinated from its latest virulent strains by their own values of judging people as individuals, not as racial or gender collectives. So lots of Americans have developed peremptory defenses against it. The result is that daily there are ever-fewer who are susceptible to the woke pandemic. And it will thus begin to fade out—even as the virus desperately seeks to mutate and go after more institutions.
Peak wokeness is nearing also because if it continued in its present incarnation, then the United States as we know would cease to exist—in the sense that 1692-93 Salem or 1793-94 Paris could not have continued apace without destroying society. Woke leftism exists to destroy and tear down, not to unite and build. It is not designed to play down and heal racial differences, but to accentuate and capitalize on them.
The methodology of cancel culture is utterly incoherent and unsustainable. The shark was jumped by the case of the Dr. Seuss books—banned by some local school districts, even as Dr. Seuss Enterprises, in terror, pulled some of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel’s publications of its own accord. If the author of The Cat in the Hat is now an enemy of the people, then anyone and all can be so designated.
That is, after 70 years and millions of books in the houses of millions of Americans, our generation’s new Soviet censors have now decided that Seuss’s books of the late 1940s and 1950s do not conform to our 2021 sensibilities and thus should be banned. The same kind of canceling of Disney films and cartoons, and of particular novelists and social critics is now a matter of record.
But what are to be the new standards of Trotskyization as we go forth? Can the Governor of New York be excused for months of policies that led to nearly 15,000 unnecessary deaths, but not for inappropriate kisses and touching of women? Or will he, as an Emmy-winning woke official, be exempt from punishment for both types of transgressions?
There are no logical standards that dictate who is and who is not canceled. For now, all we know about the rules of wokeness is that living leftists are mostly not canceled by the woke mob for the thought crimes that ruin both the non-Left or the generic dead.
The operating assumption is that the uncovered sins of the progressive are aberrations and not windows into their dark souls. Or perhaps woke leftism works on the same principle as carbon credits: the more you act progressively, the more pluses you have when minuses are summed up.
Most who have claims of being non-white are likely to find partial vaccination from the woke mob. Those who are independently wealthy or successfully self-employed likewise have some immunity. Then there are the defiant, the proverbial “Don’t Tread on Me” folks, who will fight, and thus encourage the zombie walkers to detour around them.
The only consistent pattern of woke punishment is the shared logic of the lions and water buffalos at the ford—devour the sacrificial, single, and vulnerable while avoiding the robust herd with retaliatory horns.
The Woke Tax
Wokeness eventually would put an unsustainable economic strain on the system. Wokeness is siphoning off billions of dollars from a productive economy through a sort of value-subtracted tax. We are spending a great deal of labor and capital for merit to be replaced in college admissions, in hiring, in grants, in publication, in the selections of awards, and in movies and videos, in everything—as racial, ethnic, and sexual identity considerations replace meritocratic, literary, artistic, and technological criteria, rather than just augment, them.
Americans also are investing lots of capital in preempting wokeness—writing/saying/acting in ways that are not productive, but simply defensive. Diversity oaths, and diversity applications, pledges, and statements take some time to read and digest. It will not be long before insurers will sell “woke insurance,” the premiums adjusted upward for those more conservative and of the wrong genealogy. It won’t be long before we all carry cards certifying that “At no time, did I say, hear, or think anything . . . .”
At a time of $1.7 trillion in student aggregate debt, and existential financial crises in universities during the zoom virtual campus, is higher education really so rich that it can add layers and layers of six-figure-income diversity and equity coordinators?
Most will not invent, create, teach, or produce. Instead, they are not merely monitoring but hindering those who do—either out of a need to justify their apparat or from self-importance. To believe otherwise is to suggest that on, say, May 1, 2020, the United States was an utterly racist society, without civil rights protections or any reparatory programs for those deemed unfairly victimized in the past.
The result is that billions of Americans’ hours are invested in woke reeducation and diversity training, in workshops and group confessionals, and in adjudicating and punishing those who do not comply. Ad hoc and personal cancel culture results in thousands of days of unproductive labor as functionaries scour the internet on the scent of a past misspoken word, or an ancient but now incorrect gesture that can return to ruin a rival or an enemy.
Every time I see a Lefty pulling a cry for cancel culturing someone or something I see, in my mind’s eye, Donald Sutherland as a pod person pointing at someone who isn’t passing as a fellow pod person in the remake movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The People’s Cube suggests other dictatorships where lefties varying brands of despotism would be a better match.
Cancel culture is the one thing all despots have in common be they Iranian Islamic Mullahs, Chinese Commie cronies or Europe’s pseudo-democracies.
I think the one thing that keeps lefties in the US is that they each and all dream of being in charge.
In a dictatorship, like with sled dogs, if you aren’t the leader, the view never gets better.
I’m still waiting for Yale to be cancelled and the entire Democrat Party to be held accountable for their support and defense of slavery and implementation of institutionalized racism and Jim Crow. But that would be the woke eating their own, wouldn’t it?
Well, honestly, these are two different points. The troops and barbed wire are not there to oppose anyone; what the military SHOULD be protesting is the military being used for a propaganda ploy. But, still, they are subservient to politics.
Plus, they wouldn’t survive anywhere but here.