Keeping up with the FITs, No. 20
mostly on Wokeism: Bari Weiss, Mike Solana, Wesley Yang, Wilfred Riley, Joe Rogan/Michael Shellenberger, Antonio Garcia Marquez
Commentary’s November issue has a symposium on the Woke revolution, and it includes a number of FITs.
How did we get here? There are a lot of factors that are relevant to the answer: institutional decay; the tech revolution and the monopolies it created; the arrogance of our elites; poverty; the death of trust. And all of these must be examined, because without them we would have neither the far right nor the cultural revolutionaries now clamoring at America’s gates.
But there is one word we should linger on, because every moment of radical victory turned on it. The word is cowardice.
The revolution has been met with almost no resistance by those who have the title CEO or leader or president or principal in front of their names. The refusal of the adults in the room to speak the truth, their refusal to say no to efforts to undermine the mission of their institutions, their fear of being called a bad name and that fear trumping their responsibility—that is how we got here.
I think that people are not invested in the quality of their institutions. Bari Weiss herself exemplifies that, in that leaving the New York Times did not reduce her visibility, something which would have been unthinkable for a journalist ten years ago.
Mike Solana says that tech CEOs can get away with showing more courage.
As racial and gender diversity were the grounds on which he was initially attacked, Armstrong first mentioned such diversity at his company had taken no hit. In fact, along some dimensions it increased. Then, most importantly, he noted the reaction of his employees was overwhelmingly positive. As it turns out, the handful of activist employees tech writers most love to put on blast, ostensibly on behalf of their colleagues, actually make the lives of their colleagues miserable. Finally, Armstrong encouraged the rest of the industry to follow his lead.
…The minority of cultural authoritarians working in tech don’t actually have much leverage, so why do we keep entertaining their authoritarian demands? The attempted takeover is opt-in. You can truly just opt-out. The Verge won’t like you. This will continue to not matter.
Wesley Yang offers the pessimistic take.
I have coined the term Successor Ideology to name this species of bourgeois ultra-radicalism that has become official value system of a rising generation of office-holders and office-seekers. These cadres are in the process of obtaining ever growing influence over an ever metastasizing regulatory leviathan of offices claiming to mediate racial conflict.
According to the best publicly available data, members of most minority groups dislike PC culture more than whites do. Eighty-eight percent of Native American Indians, 87 percent of all Hispanics, 82 percent of Asian Americans, and 75 percent of blacks (vs. 79 percent of whites) call political correctness “a problem” for the United States. Per several studies, the only group that strongly supports the movement of speech in a more woke direction is made up of young liberal white women.
This is not so surprising. The moral dyad theory, as described in my review of The Mind Club, says that we simplify complex moral situations by assigning one party the role of unfeeling agent and the other party the role of helpless person who feels pain. In the case of political correctness, white males become the unfeeling agents and others become helpless feelers. In the extreme example, the party with agency is a robot and the party with only feelings is a baby. But a full human adult has both agency and feelings. So PC not only insults white males by treating them as unfeeling; it also insults others by treating them as infantile.
The problems with a simplistic moral dyad approach on the issue of homelessness are articulated in a podcast with Joe Rogan and Michael Shellenberger. Shellenberger constantly argues that try to help the homeless by giving them stuff and asking for nothing in return is bad for them and bad for society. We need to treat them as adults.
Antonio Garcia Marquez writes,
The real beneficiaries of the current equity program are rich mediocrities who will manage to coast ahead of the poor, smart and determined kids who would otherwise academically eat them alive and ultimately replace them in the elite firmament. Recall again that Lowell was majority Asian, and whites were actually under-represented (the school was 82% minority). The animus against Asians in higher education bears an obvious comparison to the quotas around Jews in the Ivy League that prevailed well into the 1960s (and at schools like Yale who are now the biggest enforcers of the equity agenda).
In the end, a society that makes equity the enemy of excellence will not produce much of either. And a society that only grants dignity to those of service to an increasingly specialized economy will eventually be rejected by those deemed inadequate by their supposed meritocratic betters. Arguably, that’s exactly what we’re seeing with the rise of populism all over the world.
Today's Commentary podcast with Wil Reilly was very good
Bari Weiss will be on the podcast Friday
Why CEOs lack courage is a good question to begin with. I'm not aware of many (or any?) successful boycotts or mass resignations around woke issues. What is so serious about angry twitter mobs that could distract a CEO from focusing solely on the business?
My theory: CEOs care deeply about the opinions of the fellow elites they rub elbows with. I dub this the "cocktail party effect." Woke virtue signaling has somehow become a status symbol among the elites and they look down upon others who don't do the same (actually doing anything about such issues is not required).
And how did such values become fashionable? My theory is they help address an underlying guilt about just how bifurcated our society has become via extreme inequality etc. A lot of elites probably have some awareness that they haven't done anything remarkable to amass such wealth.