Thursday, October 27, 2022

How to Defeat Wokeness

People will be talking about Michael Lind’s Tablet article about how to defeat wokeness. We might be able to find some fault with it, but it does raise an important issue. For the record, Lind is a law professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

Wokeness has invaded many of the major cultural and professional and commercial institutions in America. And no one seems to know what to do about it, or better, how to undo it.

Universities, the school system, social media, online marketplaces, professional organizations-- they have all adopted the most absurd woke standards. If you do not adhere to these standards, by showing, for example, how much you support diversity, equity and inclusion, you will not be hired. If your book says the wrong thing about transgenderism, you might be thrown out of Amazon, which, in the publishing world, is the kiss of death.

Now, it is true enough that these draconian and despotic rules are being laid down by private institutions, it is also true that they have the government winds behind their backs. As Lind sagely notes, bureaucratic directives during the Obama presidency helped normalize transgender identity:

Then in 2016 the Obama Education Department suddenly threatened to cut off federal funding to K-12 schools that did not allow students suffering from gender dysphoria to use bathrooms reserved for the opposite sex. The Obama Justice Department threatened to sue North Carolina for passing a law requiring people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. By the time it rescinded the law, HB 2, in 2017, the state of North Carolina had lost billions of dollars thanks to simultaneous boycotts by the National Basketball Association, the National College Athletic Association, Deutsche Bank, PayPal, and other corporations and financial institutions.

Of course, once anyone tries to reverse these edicts, the hue and cry threatens their business or profession. Given the generally worshipful adoration of one Barack Obama, criticizing him or trying to undo his legacy becomes heresy. As Lind points out, we are dealing with something like a secular religion, not with democratic politics.

Link continues to describe the long cultural march through America’s private institutions:

By the 2020s, at one university after another, applicants for faculty positions were required to submit “DEI statements,” listing the ways that they would personally advance this particular ideology through their work as teachers and researchers. Campus commissars were appointed to ensure that faculty reading lists and guest speaker panels had the appropriate race and gender makeup. In corporations, banks, universities, and government agencies, the relatively anodyne “diversity training” of the late 20th century, designed to minimize the possibility of racial or sexual discrimination lawsuits, gave way to DEI trainings. The goal of such exercises was not to promulgate knowledge of specific anti-discrimination rules and procedures, but to engage staff in Maoist-style struggle sessions designed to break down the personalities and identities of non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian Americans through confession of “microaggressions” and “racial privilege.”

You might say that the process underwent something of a hiatus with the Trump presidency, but the perpetual cries of outrage, the constant efforts at demonization, the unprecedented vitriol and hatred directed by the media and by Democratic politicians, against someone who dared to reject the Obama legacy, showed the world how dangerous it was to dissent. Dissent became heresy. Speaking ill of Obama or anyone who resembled him became blasphemy.

And then, American corporations jumped on the bandwagon. They saw themselves living in a theocracy and they wanted to manifest their virtue. At the least, it was good public relations. By this time, the social media titans had monopolized public discussion and debate. Those who said the wrong thing were instantly canceled. The concentration of media power, without any oversight, propelled the movement forward:

Meanwhile, large corporations and banks, universities and major foundations, and the Democratic Party—now the party of college-educated whites and most of the super-rich—ostentatiously signaled their virtue as one new social justice cause succeeded another: Black Lives Matter, climate change, gender radicalism. Ironically, the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement became the logo of U.S. corporations and U.S. embassies, even as gay men and lesbians who questioned the new orthodoxy were hounded out of the T- and Q-dominated LGBTQ+ acronym alliance for the sin of “transphobia.”

Whether they work for Amazon or Twitter, Podunk U. or Paypal, the people who control these organizations act as gatekeepers, in Lind’s words, to the national economic life.

One thing we are not dealing with is a free market:

As a result, they can “deplatform” people, including the president of the United States, at will—and those who have been deplatformed, canceled, or otherwise disappeared from the marketplace or the public realm have little recourse, except to a rubber-stamp board appointed by the platform’s executives, on the basis of “rules of service” that the corporate managers and their puppets make up and can change at any time. This combination of exemption from regulation with legal impunity would have been unthinkable in the age of AT&T and the three broadcast networks, before the rise of the tech sector at the end of the 20th century.

As for how we can tame these out-of-control private entities, Lind proposes a solution. You may or may not like what he proposes, but, the truth is, it is more constructive to recommend a solution to the problem than to continue whining about how there is nothing we can do about.

Lind’s solution-- increased power for the government regulators. 

Alas, only one solution to the threat of woke hegemony can possibly work: a massive and permanent expansion of the regulatory powers of American government. Because of the longstanding ideological habits and precommitments of those who broadly agree with the above diagnosis of the problem, this is typically the last solution that occurs to them. Paradoxical though it may seem, however, political intervention is necessary to depoliticize the institutions that have already been diverted from their limited missions and competencies. Reluctant but determined intervention by the elected branches of government can compel neutrality on the part of professional and commercial institutions that have been captured and weaponized by the new entryists.

He remarks that certain members of our political commentariat tend to oppose all such interventions. Whatever they call themselves, they are fervent believers in the free market and tend to see the government as the root of all political and socio-economic evil. 

Of course, we have traditionally turned to the government to bust trusts and to restore freedom to the free market.

If the delegation of authority by the government to private institutions empowers the activists who capture those institutions, then the solution is to repeal those delegations of authority and replace them with direct government regulation. The power of the AMA and ABA and other private associations to license professionals should be revoked. Professionals of all kinds should be licensed by government boards that are appointed by elected officials and subject to legislative oversight, and whose decisions are subject to judicial review.

We can object to many of these proposals, but, the problem is, do we want the American Medical Association, by edict to destroy medical education by making entry into medical school contingent on race, equity and inclusion? Dumbing down the medical profession is ongoing. Would it be worse if governments got involved in the process?

Of course, this raises an obvious objection. When government gets involved, why do you imagine that these trained bureaucrats, people who have no especial loyalty to free markets, will really make things better?

To which Lind replies that state governments should systematically refuse to obey edicts that promote wokery. Some do it today. Others should get with the anti-woke program.

Increasingly, state governments led by anti-woke elected officials have begun using state power to check the ideological excesses of corporations and banks. Far from being an assault on liberty, this is a healthy and overdue reassertion of democracy. Elected officials answer to citizens. Corporations and nonprofits answer only to their boards of directors and shareholders or donors. And as entities that can exist and do business only because of government charters, corporations and nonprofits must follow rules promulgated by representatives of the people.

Lind replies that government officials can be voted out of office. This is a dubious notion:

But if they do, their misdeeds will be easily identified and have clear remedies, unlike the hidden decisions of vast private bureaucracies. Abusive legislators and governors can be voted out of office, unlike the obscure individuals who belong to Facebook’s self-regulating bureaucracy.

Actually, the bureaucrats who constitute the deep state cannot so easily be removed from office. Congressional representatives, yes; unelected government officials, not so easily.

So, we can find some ways to question Lind’s proposal. But still, he addresses the problem and offers a way to correct the horrors of wokery. Surely, he is right that someone has to rein in these people, and if you think that someone other than the government can do so, let’s hear about your ideas.


ErisGuy said...

Is Lind proposing he—or someone like him—be Sulla, Augustus, or Solon? It’s hard to tell.

ErisGuy said...

I think the moment for Lind’s proposal was twenty years ago.

List of societies that have had wrong think purged from their bureaucracies and corporations:

Germany. De-nazification. Required a war with tens millions dead.
Russia. Destruction of Czarism. Tens of millions dead.
France. Destruction of Old Regime. Tens of millions dead and wars for a generation.
China. Even worse.

Lind’s proposal is yes, you can vote your way out of this by electing people who will use the state and corporations to enforce the right (or “Right”) values instead of the wrong (or “Woke” or “Left”) values. I hope so.

Steel up! Because if we don’t win the vote….