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Culture War Battlefronts Part 2: Woke Versus Anti-Woke
Soul Shivers: Stories of Regeneration from Women Near and Far w/ Freya Yost and Luea Ritter. February 9th, 16th, 23rd, and March 2nd @ 1:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
A Systems Approach To Resilient Lifestyle Design w/ Jacob Lund Fisker. February 9th @ 5:00 PM ET. RSVP here.
February 8th, 2021
I will continue musing about culture war battlefronts for this entry, looking at woke versus anti-woke. I will then explore two other battlefronts over the next few days: institutional knowledge versus stigmatized knowledge and normies versus weirdos. I will attempt to look at all of them through a Hegelian lens.
WOKE VERSUS ANTI-WOKE
According to Aja Romano, culture journalist at Vox, the word woke, along with the phrase “stay woke,” started gaining popularity amongst Black communities in 2008 to refer to staying aware of social deceptions. It turned political after the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and its meaning morphed into becoming aware of police brutality, and into having an awareness of systemic racism more generally.
It morphed again, in a bipartisan way, to refer to progressivist politics in general, as Romano writes: In the six years since Brown’s death, “woke” has evolved into a single-word summation of leftist political ideology, centered on social justice politics and critical race theory. This framing of “woke” is bipartisan: It’s used as a shorthand for political progressiveness by the left, and as a denigration of leftist culture by the right.
For those watching, there are indeed “50 Shades of Woke,” and I think one way to look at it is through the intellectual influences, e.g. standpoint theory, intersectionality, critical race theory; the other way to look at it is how it is manifesting in the culture, e.g. Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter, BreadTube, student activists aka “social justice warriors,” and corporate advertisements aka “woke neoliberalism.” I sense finely tuned distinctions will be useful for navigating this battlefront, and something akin to a “nebulous woke egregore” might be a useful label to understand a certain strain of woke.
BJ Campbell has consistently good assessments of the culture war, and in his “Science Says Sam Harris is Alt-Right” piece he describes the shape-shifting quality of fashionable virtues in this battlefront. He gestures towards Thorstein Veblen’s idea of “conspicuous consumption”—the notion describing when one purchases goods and services for the purpose of showing off one's status—and applies it to the virtues being signalled: Virtue signaling becomes the social currency of The Woke, and the drive to elevate one’s own status ... seeking that virtue, by plugging into that signal, is the gasoline that fuels the engine. Except instead of clothes, it is the “new rules of basic human decency” being constantly revised.
The countervailing backlash against woke (or the antithesis) can be labelled with the catchall of “anti-woke,” and this largely consists of the Intellectual Dark Web (and what emerged from it). An anti-woke cottage industry has emerged, pointing out the inconsistencies and incoherencies of this shape-shifting nebulous woke egregore. Even legacy media like SNL gets in on the action, dunking on this brand of wokeism.
This is what philosopher Robert Talisse calls the “weak man fallacy,” or perhaps “weak egregore fallacy” is more appropriate here. This is the fallacy when somebody picks on the weakest aspect of a group, usually a person that represents it badly, and uses them to dismiss the entire movement or philosophy. And this nebulous woke egregore is easy to dismiss via a propositional lens.
Other memetic tribes are reacting against this egregore: alt-right, manosphere, incels, Groypers, Proud Boys, etc. Also, lots of other memetic tribes have been divided by woke versus anti-woke lines: rationalists, atheists, skeptics, and entire religions, e.g. Christianity.
Our friends at Transparency Tube labelled our friends at Rebel Wisdom as anti-woke, which does not seem completely accurate to me but it is understandable given Rebel Wisdom’s earlier focus on Jordan Peterson. As an aside they labelled The Stoa as “center,” of which I am glad because it helps with our spiritual mission of stealing the culture, but I do secretly wish they labelled us as “meta” instead.
This battlefront has been one of the most significant battlefronts for a while, and the epistemic gap between the two memetic tribal constellations is quite large. There seems to be a new battlefront emerging that may overshadow this one, which I’ll discuss in the next entry, and there does seem to be an opening in this front.
I asked Evan McMullen about this woke egregore during his excellent presentation at The Stoa called “The Bridge From Stopping One Game To Starting Another: GameStop, SOCI, and Power,” and I appreciated his take. He said:
… I see the woke egregore as losing steam rather than gaining it, and what I mean is that there already seems to be thought leaders there who are disentangling the valid critiques of structural power dynamics made by the woke camp from the totalizing meta-narrative of the woke camp. So yes, the woke make some very valid criticisms of existing power structures, and I see those as gaining memetic currency and traction, whereas the totalizing meta-narrative by which cancel culture operates is losing steam. I think this is the trend that we're seeing, because I’ve seen a lot more people in recent months or years as refugees from that culture than as new adherents.
I sense he is right, or right enough for us with metamodern proclivities to help make this happen.
Possible synthesis: Post-Woke and/or Non-Woke
I think the refugees from this nebulous woke egregore, which is to say the “totalizing meta-narrative by which cancel culture operates,” are growing in number, and The Stoa seems to have become an informal home for them. Perhaps the synthesis for these woke refugees can be referred to as post-woke. There are refugees coming from the anti-woke side as well, and I sense this is because of a general fatigue from all the negativity that comes from dunking on social justice warrior types, and the overall phony outrage porn quality a lot of the anti-woke stuff has morphed into. Perhaps non-woke can be the synthesis for the refugees that are coming from the anti-woke side.
This battlefront seemed to be the most intense aspect of the culture war for a while, but given the phenomenon of QAnon and what happened at Capitol Hill, the battlefront I will discuss tomorrow may have overshadowed it.
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