31 Mar 2021 As Lockdowns End, Either Woke Recedes Or Freedom Does
The woke model of governance and society is about to face its first open-world test.
Last fall I wrote a piece identifying the current woke furor as a moral panic, particularly its uber-racist “anti-racism” and transparently mendacious “equity” strands. We’ve had lots of these moral panics throughout American history. Some were innocuous and silly, like the “comic books are making our teenagers gay” episode in the ‘50s or the “playing Zeppelin backward makes the Devil sing” one in the ‘70s, or the “Dungeons & Dragons…” does, well, whatever horrible thing it was supposed to do in the ‘80s. And there were horrifying ones that nevertheless have had little larger cultural impact, like the Janet Reno-driven “daycare workers are molesting our kids” lunacy of her Miami D.A. phase.
Some, though, have been characterized by attempts to destroy the lives and liberties of those who hold disfavored political views, like the red scares and the current hate campaign against the right (aka the Armed Insurrectionist White Supremacists of Amerikkka, a denunciation that you can read by the light of the fiery but mostly peaceful protests in fine progressive cities nationwide).
These last are the most dangerous, and so attract the most long-term attention. It’s worth reminding leftists that not very long ago they deeply opposed the McCarthyism they now practice – though current events suggest that perhaps they only opposed its use against allies of theirs, while admiring the oppressive concept itself.
I think the label of moral panic fits the crisis even better now than then.
Of course, I also in that column predicted that the panic would soon subside. I rather expected last fall would play out differently than it did, either with a different vote or with an honest count of that vote. One way or another, I shanked that prediction.
But now we’ve reached another fraught moment. The Great Awokening of 2020 was abetted in large part by the lockdowns. If people – you know, the non-woke ones whose outside activities didn’t magically cure COVID – had been free to roam about the world and to respond fully to indignity after indignity and crime after crime as they were stacking up, sanity would likely have been restored fairly quickly. (This woke lunacy has been floating around academia – and driving right-of-center academics out of the field – for decades. It’s only lockdowns that have allowed it to explode out into the real world.)
As people are finally freed from the travesty of lockdown in these spring weeks, they are going to have far greater opportunities to redress the vast web of discrimination that lies that the heart of (note: not is the target of) the Woke, Cancel, Destroy (WCD) “antiracist” moral panic.
Since my fall prediction went so awry, I’ll limit myself this time to laying out the possibilities.
What has developed since the fall is an anomaly: profound discrimination against a numerical majority in a still largely free society. It’s an anomaly because it’s unsustainable. All discrimination requires some level of control and oppression, else those discriminated against would object effectively. Active and severe discrimination against a large fraction of a total population, much less a majority, requires immense force and oppression.
Consider: The old Jim Crow in the South required a whole complex of state laws and power to survive. And that was against, in most parts of the South, a minority of the population. This New “Antiracist” Jim Crow, if it is to continue after the lockdowns, will have to be instantiated into law the same way, and then applied with massive force.
So, as the world opens up again, there are three possibilities.
The first is equilibrium on the old terms, with a withering away of the WCD movement as an effective force. We on the right will make our feelings clear to corporations who have discriminated against us (and against all whites, and all men, in various iterations), and they will back down. Either by threat of legislation and litigation or by actual break up, the tech tyrants and the banksters will be tamed. An essentially tied Congress will be made to see that we have not voted for oppression. And then we’ll go back to the comparatively sensible days of not-very-long-ago when, sure, the New York Times was still a far-left disinformation site that usually trafficked in misinformation under the guise of news, but at least people (outside of academia, anyway) weren’t having their economic and civil lives destroyed for daring to express heterodox viewpoints.
The second theoretically possible equilibrium would be based on the new WCD principles, but wielded by all. Everyone’s subjective feelings of “unsafety” or “disrespect” or “appropriation,” and everyone’s racial or sexual or other sensitivities, will be taken equally into account, and everyone will have the power to cancel. The problem with this possibility? It would be the Twitter-era version of global thermonuclear war: only the cockroaches would survive. (This impossibility illustrates fully why WCD is an inherently bad-faith position.)
The final possibility is that the WCD crowd will try to enforce its New Jim Crow nationwide. There’s legitimate reason to fear this. Indoctrinating the military about “extremism” but only of the almost entirely mythical “white supremacy” kind, rather than the kind that has caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the last year; a bill that would make election cheating by the parties that control the cities uncontestable; a bill that would force the unwilling disarming of millions of Americans, rendering them ripe for control: it sure looks like the preliminaries to massive coercion, doesn’t it?
So the practical choices are either stopping the WCD push peaceably this summer or saving up vastly uglier prospects for not very far down the road.
Let’s have a busy summer.
Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Deputy Director of its Free Enterprise Project. This was first published at Townhall Finance.