Monday, November 14, 2022

Anti-Woke as Vice-Signaling

Last week's awful speech set me on edge immediately.  The first words about handouts were a signal, but the thing that confirmed that the talk would be awful was Maisonneuve invocation of "woke."  Whenever I hear anyone tossing around that word contemptuously, I immediately code that person as not worth listening to.  Why?

To be clear, woke refers to folks who have become aware of the historical legacies of discrimination and the present-day implications.  That's pretty much it, that woke people understand that there is and has been significant discrimination.   That's it.  

To be anti-woke, which many folks on the right are now so proud of, means denying that discrimination happened and/or it has made an impact on today.  Of course, it is more complicated than that--it can mean being opposed to the measures used to address the remedial efforts aimed at reducing discrimination and compensating for its impact.  The classic case of this maybe opposing affirmative action as it may be seen as unfair to white men, and the opponents usually say that such measures are unfair as it means that those who are more meritorious are being denied opportunities due to the sins of their fathers.  There is a lot built into that including the notion that today's procedures would be otherwise focused entirely on merit if not for considerations of race, ethnicity, gender, etc.

The reality of today's politics is that when one loudly proclaims that one is anti-woke, one is doing one of two things (or both):

a) one is signaling to one's white, male, "Christian" supporters that one is with them, an enthusiastic supporter of some past status quo (real or imagined) where the woke folks were kept in their place;  folks, including myself, refer to this as vice-signaling. 

b) one is actually one of these folks who are actually an enthusiastic supporter of some past reality (fake or real) where the uppity folks knew better and that one could discriminate, harass and do more without being called out for it.

I tend to think Ted Cruz, for instance, is in the first category--that he does not really believe anything but wants power and signals being anti-woke to appeal to his racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist supporters.  That does not make these folks better even if they don't believe in the hate they are inciting--it makes them just as bad as the genuine article as they are inciting and providing comfort for them.  Vice signaling is dangerous and awful and should be called out.

Is this cancellation?  No, free speech means one has the right to engage in vice-signaling, but it also means that others have the right to call it out for what it is. 

Maisonneuve got more than just a right to speak last week--he got to have a platform to do it.  And he abused it.  And I have the right to call him out as does everyone else who considers his speech to be awful, intolerant, and retrograde. 



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clear and crisp rationale why last week’s speech was so awful. I am still stunned that a former military officer of his rank thought it would be a good idea to make this speech.

Personally I think there may be a third category of anti-woke: the intellectually lazy people. While they are not necessarily enthusiastic supporters of a past world where discrimination and racism were accepted, they like a world that is simple and without nuance. A world that does not require a lot of thought and where indifference is seen as a virtue. People that like simple solutions for complex problems, not because they have any illusions that that these simple solutions are effective, but because these solutions sound good and do not require any thought.

The retired general’s speech resonated well with this group. Unfortunately there appeared to be lot of representatives of this group in the audience last week.