Academic Ideologues Are Corrupting STEM. The Silent Liberal Majority Must Fight Back

Earlier this year, I (Anna) did something that my friends feared I would come to regret: I publicly spoke out against the intrusion of illiberal thought into science and education, with a letter entitled The Peril of Politicizing Science, published on June 10th in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. In that letter, I drew on my own early life in the USSR, where communist “ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.” I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth. My own home town of Yuzovka, I noted, was called Trotsk (after Leon Trotsky), then renamed Stalino after Trotsky was purged, then Donetsk when Stalin was posthumously canceled by Khrushchev. Survey the stream of recent renamings of awards, buildings, and even laws of physics, and modern parallels aren’t hard to find. The intrusion of newspeak into science and education is truly Orwellian.

I expected to be viciously mobbed, and possibly cancelled, like others before me. Yet the result surprised me. Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship. The high ratio of positive-to-negative comments (even on Twitter!) gave me hope that the silent liberal majority within STEM may (eventually) prevail over the forces of illiberalism.

People shared their observations of cancel culture, the politicization of scientific institutions, language policing, and grievance-mongering among activists. They spoke of cancellations of prominent scientists by their own schools, whose reputation they’d helped build—Sir Ronald Fisher by Cambridge, Robert A. Millikan by Caltech, and Thomas Henry Huxley by Western Washington University (and also by Imperial College London). They also updated me on the latest absurd attempts to ideologically subvert STEM programs, as with the new undergraduate course at Cornell University dedicated to exploring the supposed connection between the cosmos and racism. (Students enrolled in Black Holes: Race and the Cosmos will be tasked with answering such questions as, “Is there a connection between the cosmos and the idea of racial blackness?”)

I also was pleased to read reports from other scientists who, like me, possessed a historical understanding of this kind of ideological movement. With their permission, I will share some of their comments.

In The Peril of Politicizing Science, I made mention of the Soviets banning resonance theory—an important contribution to our understanding of molecular valence-bond structures—as “bourgeois pseudoscience.” Following on this, physicist Alexander Efros told me that his father, a Soviet chemist who applied resonance theory in his own work, was so concerned about official denunciations of this “metaphysical science” that, in 1952, he’d taken to keeping a small suitcase full of warm clothes near the door of the family home, as he was expecting to be arrested and taken off to prison.

Another physicist, Ilya Kaplan, reminisced about his encounter with Iosif Rapoport, a prominent Russian geneticist and war hero, who publicly opposed the Soviet ban on research into Mendelian genetics, infamously enforced by Stalin’s favorite agronomist, pseudoscientist Trofim Lysenko. Rapoport was the only attendee at the 1948 Meeting of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences to speak up against Lysenko. Consequently, Rapoport was expelled from the Party and severely punished (but, miraculously, was not imprisoned, and survived Stalinism).

The point of learning from history, rather than rewriting it, resonated with many. Roi Baer, a theoretical chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote: “For me, it is difficult to think of [Nobel-prize winning German physicist] Johannes Stark as a great scientist, because of his antisemitism and his vocal call for the persecution and canceling of Jewish scientists and ‘Jewish physics.’ Still, I teach the ‘Stark effect’ in my class [the effect caused by an electric field on the spectral behavior of atoms and molecules]. I also tell my students what a terrible man Stark was. He deserves condemnation, but not a cancellation.”

Recognizing the complexity of human nature, and of history’s protagonists, Baer added: “Three thousand years ago, complexity was tolerated. King David appears in the Old Testament as a character of greatness while morally flawed. He was the head of a band of thieves, extortionists, and murderers. As a king, he arranged for the death of Uriah the Hittite, the husband of beautiful Bat Sheva, just so he can have her for himself. David was severely punished by God for his crimes. Yet his royal greatness was preserved.”

Nearly a quarter of the approximately 200 email responses I got included a description of some personally observed or experienced instance of cancel culture, or of the intrusion of politics into scientific pedagogy. But with few exceptions, these writers said they were scared of being seen as opposing this movement. “The situation in STEM is certainly Orwellian,” wrote one writer, whom I am quoting on condition of anonymity. “I am frequently scared of expressing the Wrong viewpoint, resulting in self-censorship. Worse, at times I feel pressured to give a statement (a social performance) [indicating] that I am aligned with the Correct viewpoint.”

Another correspondent wrote: “I came [across] your viewpoint … as I was scrolling through Twitter over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, a Twitter mob … came together to demand the retraction of this essay from the JPCL. I am appalled with this behavior … Ideas like this should be rigorously and thoroughly discussed and debated, instead of just shutting [them] down. I am a gay person of colour, supposedly belonging to that same group of people that [the mob seeks] to protect. However, I do not think I am protected, nor am I ‘safe.’ And often because of this, I remain quiet in these social-media platforms, fearing that my future career in science will be in peril.”

The extent of fear among American scientists is shocking. An old friend cautioned me: “Unfortunately 1984 doesn’t end well.” The analysis of the responses showed that self-censorship—the refusal to produce, distribute, circulate, or express something for fear of punishment—and compelled speech are experienced at all career stages, from graduate student to emeritus faculty. Dr. Lee Jussim characterizes it as an epidemic: 40 percent of Americans self-censor their speech, greatly exceeding levels observed during the McCarthy era. Alarmingly, the level of self-censorship is higher on college campuses and among the more educated.

This pervasive sense of fear is not unfounded, as expressing opinions (or research findings) that are out of line with the dominant ideology is a recipe for attracting a bullying campaign. The sharp rise of attacks on scholars targeted for their speech has prompted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to start a database of such incidents (as described in this Inside Higher Ed article).

Censorship and suppression of dissent is now typically imposed not from top-down authorities, but from the bottom (i.e., the mob) in the form of social-media-powered social ostracism and bullying. Substantive and scholarly discussion on complex issues requires discipline and effort. Twitter, where anyone can spontaneously hurl 280 characters into cyberspace, has no room for the required depth or nuance. As Seth Moskowitz has noted, meme activism corrupts our political conversations and endangers our democratic process because it encourages performative and fleeting action, silences dissent, and sanctions simplistic and naive political beliefs.

My use of the word “mob” might be taken to suggest that the illiberal movement I am describing lacks institutional backing. But that isn’t the case. Regrettably, the leaders of our organizations are failing to protect the core principles of science and education. Rather than resist censorship, they enable it. The cancellation of Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist from the University of Chicago, is a prime example of how “coward culture” has taken hold of our institutions, thereby enabling cancel culture. Abbot had been invited to deliver a prestigious public lecture at MIT on “Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets” in October. But Twitter vigilantes, outraged over Abbot’s advocacy for equal opportunity, fairness, merit-based evaluation, and academic freedom, initiated a social-media disinvitation campaign. MIT quickly caved in to the mob’s demands and cancelled the event, violating its own “policy of open research and free interchange of information among scholars.” Such precedents create a chilling effect that inhibits the expression of non-conforming ideas throughout academia.

Some institutions have actually institutionalized censorship. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has issued guidelines urging editors to “consider whether or not any content … might have the potential to cause offence.” The guidelines, developed after a German science journal retracted an essay criticizing diversity hiring authored by Brock University professor Tomáš Hudlický, instruct editors to be on the lookout for “any content that could reasonably offend someone on the basis of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, marital or parental status, physical features, national origin, social status or disability,” or that is “likely to be upsetting, insulting or objectionable to some or most people.” Since such a vaguely defined standard, interpreted broadly, could serve to block the publication of almost every imaginable kind of article, it clearly undermines the RSC’s ostensible mission to facilitate the communication of high-quality chemistry research and to engage in the “general advancement of chemical science and its application.”

In regard to the criticism I received, there was some that deserves a response. This category includes those who asked why my article didn’t also discuss political intrusion from right-wing, as well as left-wing, sources. By way of reply, I should acknowledge that conservatives have long sought to inject their beliefs into science—from creationism, to climate change, to stem-cell research, to COVID policy. But these examples are already well-documented, and there is little controversy among scientists about the need to reject such pressures. By contrast, the danger coming from the extreme left is more difficult to recognize and oppose, because it often enjoys official approval under such euphemistic terms as social justice, diversity, inclusiveness, and equity. And to be denounced as “anti-social-justice” in 2021 isn’t so different from being denounced as “bourgeois” in the USSR a century ago. In Soviet times, those who opposed the Party line were called “enemies of the people”; now they are called “racists” and “sexists.” Moreover, the extreme Right tends to attack objective science in discrete subject areas, whereas today’s leftist doctrines seek to undermine the entire enterprise of science, casting the very idea of objective truth and the scientific method as tools of colonialism and oppression.

To those who ask whether I care about societal inequities, the answer is that of course I do. We need to talk about tax reform, police reform, universal health care, subsidized child care, reducing crime, and—most important—improving access to education. We need to discuss barriers responsible for under-representation of women and minorities in STEM, and develop solutions to these problems (they are not simple). But none of this has anything to do with the causes that attract the most visible and militant social-justice advocates on university campuses. Their efforts are directed, often single-mindedly, at enforcing contortions of language and ideology within their own rarified institutions, forming task forces to rename equations, invent microaggressions, police language, rename moths and ants, and repackage soap. And they are completely vicious in the use of mob tactics to intimidate or cancel those who dare object to their extreme strictures. Again, the parallels with the USSR of my youth are rather obvious.

One line of rhetorical pushback I encountered was the assertation that, by criticizing the extreme Left, I play into the hands of the extreme right (by which these correspondents meant Trump supporters, in particular). It’s the same sort of argument that’s been invoked throughout history as a means to avoid—or even suppress—criticism of anyone deemed to be on the “right side” of history. This argument has been invoked to excuse the horrific crimes of totalitarian regimes: Western liberals looked the other way when the Soviet regime was throwing dissidents into jail and subjecting them to punitive psychiatry.

Unfortunately, we continue to see variations of this argument everywhere in progressive silos. In many ways, it’s just an inversion of the tribal reflex that long served to suppress reporting on sexual abuses within universities, athletic teams, religious institutions, and countless other institutions, on the cynical theory that calling out evil within one’s ranks would undermine the “greater good” embedded in that group’s collective mission. As Yascha Mounk recently wrote, “the primary question most participants in public debate ask themselves is not, ‘How do my values inform my views on this matter?’ or ‘What is the evidence for what is being asserted?’ Rather, it is ‘How do I demonstrate that I am a loyal member of my political tribe?’ As it happens, the easiest way to do that is simple: Look for what the enemy says on any one issue and stake out the opposite position.”

We need to break the spell of illiberal ideology, and come back to our collective senses—to stop self-censoring in fear of the mob and excusing nonsense in the name of political allyship, and to start defending the values of pluralism, humanism, and democracy. It is time for the silent, liberal majority to speak up.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2021/12/18/scientists-must-gain-the-courage-to-oppose-the-politicization-of-their-disciplines/
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This is definitely a problem in STEM. More and more hiring decisions require a “statement of diversity”. These do not want the applicant to promise “fair and equal treatment”. These require affirmative action statements where the applicant promised to “right the wrongs”.

For a time in 2019, I was part of an email list called “radstats”. At first, I thought this meant “radical statisticians”, as in “radically committed”. No, what this meant was “radical” in the sense of antifa, where statistics would be used to combat racism and whitey-ness. I was thrown off when I dared to question if the sickle cell condition could account for the higher incidence of severe COVID disease in blacks. This speculation was termed “racist” and I was removed.

We need to ensure that STEM, and humanities, and languages, and all academic disciplines, are defined by excellence. Equal opportunity needs to be present. But equal opportunity is present. In point of fact, the best thing to be in the USA today is a black guy who can do math. Get that PhD and publish 6 articles, and be coherent. You will have a job for life. Departments are DESPERATE to hire such persons.

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I wish the authors success in their effort to push back on the illiberal left. I also hope they are given the freedom to follow their studies wherever the facts lead them without interference from either side of the political nonsense machine.

I sincerely hope that, as a Trump supporter, my endorsement won’t cause too much embarrassment at the next faculty social function.

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I have a relation who is on the tenure track at a big university. He’s a Trump supporter. He has been very very careful to keep his political orientation quiet. When he was applying and on the visits, those in the department were open about their Trump hatred. He finds a way to say nothing while not agreeing.

This “default liberalism” where any “progressive” “anti-Republican” statement can be made, but no one on the other side is allowed to say anything, is constraining and anti-open. There are many students who are not on the progressive side. What about them?

I’m not a Trump supporter, but have left the Liberal Ranch for 8 years now.

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You have given one example of how minorities are being harmed by CRT and wokeness. There are many others. More damage to life and property has been committed against black folk in the past several months by antifa activities than by anything done by municipal police over many years.

Dumping professional training systems based on merit will do more to damage minority professional status in society than done by the most vile autocrat.

Wokeness and CRT is promoted by the left not because it rights a wrong, but because all their massive government programs are expensive, dismal failures and they are incapable of admitting that so they propose such idiocy as institutional racism as the the root of all racial problems which not only diverts attention, but makes things worse. Evil knows no limit.

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A great essay, and thank you so much for sharing your interesting perspective and the parallels between our current paradigm and the Soviet Union. It is worth noting that a certain PBS interviewer was recently quite taken aback when Chinese activist Ai Weiwei identified the real threat coming not from authoritarianism Trumpism, but from PC authoritarianism. But take heart, it would appear that when people finally decide to summon the courage to stand-up for what they believe, the bullying habits of a tiny but vocal minority is exposed for exactly what it is- the Dictatorship of the Small Minority- as this personally recited essay by Jordan Peterson so aptly proves.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how racial disparities really arise, and I’ve come to quite an stounding conclusion- it’s precisely the insipid kindness and debilitating special treatment which comes from the desperate need for white atonement which is at the heart of the matter. We know exactly what works to correct for the very real affinity bias which occurs in hiring and with promotions- and it is most definitely not implicit bias or diversity training, which is actually proven, on a statistical basis to reduce the chances of Black seniority. This article from Harvard Business Review shows that mentoring and active participation by future (non-HR) managers, both of which need to be on an entirely voluntary basis, can achieve substantially positive results.

But the real problem stems from K-12, and although funding may play a tangential role in some cases, we know exactly what works at almost completely eradicating racial achievement gaps- stricter schools and a scientific approach to learning, which in order words means cognitive load theory and an understanding that a knowledge-rich education is vital. Ironically, the Left vehemently opposes both.

In part, this is because are highly dubious of the concept of objective knowledge itself- even if the concrete proof of its existence is all around us- in our roads and architecture, and as well through our longer lives, indoor plumbing and access to modern dentistry. The other reason is because they see Western knowledge as possessing inbuilt oppression, inherently pollutive to children and honestly expect knowledge to magically emerge from children, like Pegasus springing from Medusa, when all the evidence proves this simply doesn’t happen. It why they place such as emphasis on skills over working knowledge, which is at best at artificial partition which divides knowledge which is better demonstrated and imitated from that which is easier to explain and conveyed primarily through words.

It has been white people all along, but not in they way they think. The imposition of separate or lower standards to make up for historic sin has been disastrous at every turn, whether we are looking at K-12, academic mismatch, the disaster of HUD, the fact that a low income supplement would have highly preferable to a welfare system which ultimately disincentivised both fatherhood and work. Even globalism was a liberal invention, with trade deals prioritising Mexican peasant farmers over American jobs hitting Black America the hardest with deindustrialisation.

If you don’t believe me or think I’m wrong, just look at the results of a school which actually makes things harder, not easier:

No special treatment was asked for or needed in the second poorest borough in London, one which also has endemically high crime, including knife crime. The kids are given detention for being one minute late to school, which starts at 6 am. The discipline code is tough, requires the carrying of an activity book so that staff know exactly where students are expected to be at all times and applies equally to the parents. Two or three years ago they were advertising for teachers with Bachelors degrees which they wanted to train themselves through the vocational route, rather than have their teachers exposed to the ideas which might be inculcated in the one year academic PGCE process and as result of the bizarre and often unworkable field of educational theory.

And these schools exist everywhere in isolated pockets. They are not selective, and placements are usually assigned by lottery. Brampton Manor isn’t even one of our new academies, analogous to the American charter system. It is a state school. Things could be so much better for African Americans, but Leftist biases are killing them. Mass incarceration may have possessed a despicable lack of empathy across racial divides and it made little effort to separate the truly dangerous from those with which American society was punitively angry, but at the core, both despite and because of America’s attempt to atone for its criminal past, were the very policies which were supposed to help them.

It has to stop. If we can take the remedial steps to set the high standards needed to reverse white underachievement without blushing, is it not racism when we don’t the same thing for Black kids when they struggle. That is the real racism, the embarrassed averting of the eyes, the kindness that lets a kid just barely skate by, if even that.

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Good observation. In addition to your comments I feel that the left is incapable of admitting why their past efforts have failed so they heap more money and more complexity onto past failures.

CRT and wokeness provides the means to divert attention away from these failures rather than take an objective look at issues and really fix them. In the end this will prove detrimental to those who the left thinks they are helping.

One of these failures, of course, is contemporary government-run public schools which fail minorities miserably. The left refuses to examine success stories and will brand one a racist for pointing out the superiority of such programs.

One thing that George W. Bush had right was the idea of the bigotry of low expectations.

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I recently read the novel Child 44 set in Stalinist Russia, where the overwhelming modus vivendi was conformity for the sake of security. Being denounced was a more terrible issue then, but is no different now than Twitter mobbing. A university culture where wokeism is abetted by the administration is merely another form of Stalinism.

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Apologies in advance for this cut-and-paste, but i find relevant to this article. Ludwig von Mises wrote of the left:

They are: “… utterly … intolerant zealots … they entirely disregard the possibility that there could arise disagreement with regard to the question of what is right and expedient and what is not. They advocate enlightened despotism … convinced that the enlightened despot will in every detail comply with their own opinion.… They are utterly intolerant and are not prepared to allow any discussion. Every advocate (of the Left) … is a potential dictator. What he plans is to deprive all other men of all their rights, and to establish his own and his friends’ unrestricted omnipotence. He refuses to convince his fellow citizens. He prefers to ‘liquidate’ them. He scorns the ‘bourgeois’ society that worships law and legal procedure. He himself worships violence and bloodshed.

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Ideologies’ primary function is to present the narrow interests of a social group as universal interests of the society as a whole. Without analysis of the underlying structure of group interests, ideologies are incomprehensible. They seem non-sensical, intentionally unreasonable and impossible to understand using the standard tools of critical reasoning. The cold, objective analysis of the economic and political interests behind the ideological curtains is the only way to penetrate behind them and see the ghost in the machine. And this analysis is missing not only from Quillette but from any platform where free speech still survives in some shape and form.
There are so many interesting questions if we follow this line of inquiry. For example, why big multinational companies embrace a seemingly Marxist far left ideology? Why the working class got abandoned by the Democratic party? How come traditional liberalism that cared primarily about the economic and political interests of the working class devolved into a performative art form embraced by the professional/managerial class? Why all the social groups/classes that benefited from half a century of dismantling of the US industrial base went bonkers when Trump tried to do something to restore this base? How come AOC wears a “tax the rich” dress and then votes to give the rich a massive tax break in the form of the repeal of the SALT deduction limit? Whose interests does she and her brethren really represent in Congress? Who benefits from the closure of an auto plan in Detroit to be reopened across the border in Mexico? Who benefits from the export of cutting edge technologies to an authoritarian state with ambitions for global domination? None of these questions has been really addressed in any of the articles I have read here. We have to go beyond the documentation of the surface-level ideological oddities of our time and start understanding the underlying economic forces. The Western political scientists have been well trained to avoid this type of analysis. The most they can muster is to look at the demographic breakdowns of political and ideological views; a purely descriptive science without much depth and insights.

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Definitely. But it proliferates across so many dimensions. Academic mismatch isn’t really a problem at the top. It’s when you start to get further down the list of America’s 200 or so competitive schools that the problem becomes really apparent- because each successive college is forced to draw from further below the standard for the ideal student for their college. By the time we get a fair way down the list dropout rates rise to 40%. Critiques argue these rates are comparable to community college, but this neglect the fact that a significant portion of those attend community college simply aren’t up to it scholastically, when this simply isn’t true of anyone who places in a competitive school.

Those kids could have been turned out as professionals if they had simply been accepted and attended a school further down the list. There is a whole literature which tries to refute the claim, but of course the colleges chosen are always towards to the top of the list, where there isn’t a problem, or if there is it’s through displacement from STEM fields or placing in the bottom third of the class.

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An interesting examination of the problem described in this essay was penned by Polish intellectual Ryszard Legutko in his book The Demon in Democracy : Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies where he tries to understand the apparent paradox that former communist politicians found a much more comfortable home in the EU beauracracy which emerged after communism’s “fall” than did the anti-communists who had engineered it.

Meet the new boss …

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Opposing one extreme =/= espousing the other extreme. That is one point I took from this essay that seems to deserve emphasis (even though it also seems self-evident).

Otherwise, this essay adds to the recurring theme. To say woke ideologies “must” be repudiated seems to be preaching to the choir on this blog. The more pertinent question might be the “how” in order to effect the self-evident “what”.

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We can talk and hand-wring over this and hundreds of other issues from now until the cows come home. The solution is simple but unacceptable to nearly everyone because nearly everyone has their finger in the pie. Take federal government funding out of schools, science, business, healthcare, trade, welfare, everything. Everything except what the constitution specifically states is the responsibility of the federal government. Not things we can twist our minds into reading into the constitution or wish the federal government could or should do. Let the people keep their money and let the states compete with each other to be the best, cheapest, most free, safest, comfortable, beautiful, or whatever, place to live. Cut taxes appropriately and let people vote with their money and their feet as to where and how to live, get educated, get a job, have fun, worship, find fulfillment, or whatever. The free market will put the people and money where they will best be used. The result will be an endless competition by everyone to give others what they want and/or need.

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True. And, unfortunately, because this is the case, it is and will continue to be impossible to engage them. The only way to stop their bullying is to make it too painful for them to continue.

Name them. Shame them. Ridicule them. Document their behavior. Post recordings. Post vote tallies and meeting minutes. Whatever it takes.

Play dirty. Nothing else will work. These are rotten people - and they are tasting success. They will get worse.

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But the moron Bush’s solution was the No Child Left Behind legislation which immediately led to the bigotry of low expectations and the associated expensive diversity counselors becoming the law of the land as far federal subsidies to local education are concerned.

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Moderates who play by the rules will always lose to fanatics who have transcended the rules. That is the point Saul Alinsky was making when urging revolutionaries to make a decadent and corrupt liberal regime follow their own rules.

Crane Brinton made that point as early as 1938 in “The Anatomy of Revolution.”

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Yes well, I agree with you there.

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We have no more chance of altering the trajectory of Wokeism than Stalinism, because these phenomena were and are not a product of some serendipitous burst of institutional ill luck, so much as powerful forces that made and make it difficult for the players past and present to behave otherwise than they did and are doing.

During the 1930s, the Soviet Union, which had given up notions of a world revolution, undertook a massive series of 5 year plans with a view to provide this now lone Socialist state with an in-depth industrial heartland east of the Urals, that could withstand another eventual imperialist invasion similar to that of 1915-17.

The regime in effect crammed 4 five-year plans into two. And to do that meant a degree of social and economic mobilization that would normally only occur in wartime and require extraordinary sacrifices by the civil population, including mass enslavement, very tight rationing of food and consumer non-durables and unprecedentedly totalitarian governance.

When the Germans invaded in '41 and took out all of Russia’s traditional western industrial and agricultural heartlands within three months, there was enough newly built industrial and agricultural capacity to keep the Soviet Union in the war. But that had only been achieved at a nightmarish cost to the integrity of the regime as well as the society it had battened on and relentlessly battered.

By the time the Germans were finally ejected from the country, the place had taken an unprecededly brutal and protracted hiding and somehow survived. It should come as no surprise that after all that, all the cultural software was a bit bent and bizarre by any normal standards.

Despite a very widespread sense after the war that ‘things needed to change’, that had to wait until the death of the dictator, much in the same way as happened with the passing of Cromwell. There were considerable limits on how far that process could go without collapsing the whole now existentially gutted and increasingly gerontocratic regime, which would have to wait for generational change…and even more trauma, as the Russians got a taste in the early '90s of what a postmodern period might actually look like, if it lasted.

The ‘Orwellian’ nature of Soviet political culture was an outcome of a history and politic so dire, it is hard for outside observers to properly appreciate the terrible forces that drove it, and the same applies in some measure to Wokedom.

While this may seem counter-intuitive, that is because the totalitarian nature of consumer societies only recognizably shows its malign face at the end of the process of its colonization of mass consciousness and the deconstruction of human social and existential infrastructure in favor of marketed economic and cultural forces, who’s cancerous capacity for exponentially unhealthy and chaotic replication is as irresistibly organized as it is ultimately doomed by its own overwhelming success.

If the sayings and behavior of Wokes seem like the voices and behavior of once asylum inmates, it is because most of the mechanisms for maintaining a grip on reality have been silently removed over a period of about three generations.

Three generations of deregulation and privatization of the social system have done their work. A once disciplined economy and culture of needs and wants gave way to fantasies of desire and immediate gratification regardless of long-term consequences and sustainability, to the point where reality itself started to blur, as mass populations ceased to be able to distinguish fantasy from delusionality. The postmodernism that now grips most of the intellectual class is emblematic of the much wider reality deficient genre.

In the process we got a paradox of unprecedented disinhibited conformity to consumer prompts, at the same time as the substructures of human existentiality fell to bits into absolute chaos, as the social infrastructure that held them together, disintegrated, which is what happens when a system keeps pulling out the support structures that hold it up.

Something very similar has happened to the wider life force as an uncontrolled system of replication overwhelms it in a narrative reminiscent of the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, except that in our scenario, there is no sorcerer who knows how to curb it, even if he wanted to. And nobody in the Industro-Replicariat wants to call him in, even if he existed. There is no, ‘Oh my God, what-have-I-done?’ moment here, even vaguely in prospect.

For all regime apparatchiks, whether it is the Wokes who are in charge of the public and private system of social reproduction and its management, or those who do the mining, manufacturing and services, there is however a sense of deep unease that is sufficiently unsettling and threatening to make them want to shift attention off themselves and onto their opposite numbers. Each side accuses the other of abusing the commons it is supposed to be stewarding. It is a beautifully self-canceling Tweedle Dee and Dum scrum that gives the impression of democratic disagreement, while maintaining the unseen whole.

But that happy situation is giving way to something much tougher and less tractable to domestication, which was when the sense of threat became ungovernable and the symptom of that was and is ideological fundamentalism. This happens when significant groups start to declare non-negotiable bottom lines in the sand and a preparedness to fight for them. And because that mostly isn’t rational, it is much more difficult to control.

That moment crystallized in 2016 when the hayseed hinterlands of the old now much diminished working class, rebelled against its masters from the coast, and polite society. The Muslim fundamentalist threat was external, but the new threat was internal and it existentially threatened the Wokes in much the same way that heresy threatened the Medieval mother Church…and it triggered the same response which was to shut it down no matter what it meant to the decencies of democratic impressionism.

The rupture to the status quo is palpable as the ever-increasing sectarianisms prepare for war. Debate becomes a direct threat to the Churchy establishment of our day, because it
would only serve to expose the real basis of its social Ascendancy, which is not the myths of ‘rationality’, ‘justice’ or ‘equality’, but the unnegotiable absoluteness of its social power.

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