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10 ways to fight back against woke culture: Bari Weiss
More than six in ten Americans say they fear saying what they think, including a majority of liberals, 64 percent of moderates, and fully 77 percent of conservatives. Only self-described “strong liberals” feel confident in saying what they believe these days. To be a left-wing authoritarian is to feel the certainty of anti-conventionalism, the passion for top-down censorship, the thrill of revolutionary aggression.
Tomorrow belongs to them.
For the rest of us, a society run by left-wing authoritarians is extraordinarily burdensome. It is to be surrounded by institutional hatred. If you are conservative — or merely non-leftist — in America, the hatred is palpable.
They hate you in academia. They hate you in the media. They hate you on the sports field, in the movies, on Facebook and Twitter. Your boss hates you. Your colleagues hate you — or at least have been told they should.
They hate you because you think the wrong way.
Perhaps the problem is that you attend church regularly. Perhaps it’s that you want to run your business and be left alone. Perhaps it’s that you want to raise your children with traditional social values. It could be that you believe that men and women exist, or that the police are generally not racist, or that children deserve a mother and a father, or that hard work pays off, or that the American flag stands for freedom rather than oppression, or that people should be judged based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
Maybe it’s that you haven’t put your preferred pronouns in your Twitter profile, or hashtagged with the latest pride symbol for the latest cause, or used the proper emoji in your text messages. Or maybe it’s just that you have friends, or family members, or even acquaintances who have violated any of the thicket of cultural regulations placed upon us by our supposed moral betters. Guilt by association is just as damning as guilt through action or inaction.
The reasons they hate you are legion. They change day to day. One day, you might be a ballyhooed champion of justice for standing up for gay rights or feminist ideals; the next day, you might be told that you have been banished for your refusal to acknowledge that a man calling himself a woman is not in fact a woman (Martina Navratilova or J. K. Rowling). One day, you might find yourself a hero of the intelligentsia for your cynicism about religion; the next, you might find yourself a villain for the great sin of suggesting that cancel culture breeds radicalization (podcaster Sam Harris or professor Steven Pinker).
This is not a question of Democrat or Republican. Not one figure named above would identify as a Republican, let alone a conservative. There is only one thing in the end that unites the disparate figures deemed worthy of the gulag in our ongoing culture war: refusal. The standards matter less than the simple message: You will comply, and you will like it.
As a prominent conservative, I always warn those who aren’t prepared for blowback not to associate with me publicly.
In June 2018, prominent Hollywood actor and producer Mark Duplass approached me about getting together — he was producing a film dealing with gun rights and wanted to speak with someone on the right to get a more accurate point of view. I thought that was shockingly decent of him, given Hollywood’s permanent and thoroughgoing determination to caricature conservative positions; I told him so, and suggested he come by the office for a discussion. We ended up spending about an hour and a half together. As he left, I gave him the usual warning: Don’t mention that we’ve met publicly, unless you’re prepared for the fallout.
‘I’m really sorry. I now understand that I need to be more diligent and careful. I’m working on that.’
Mark Duplass, after he got slammed on Twitter for praising conservative Ben Shapiro
He didn’t listen. In July, a couple of weeks later, he tweeted this shocking message: “Fellow liberals: If you are interested at all in ‘crossing the aisle’ you should consider following @benshapiro. I don’t agree with him on much but he’s a genuine person who once helped me for no other reason than to be nice. He doesn’t bend the truth. His intentions are good.”
The world fell in on poor Mark. After trending on Twitter publicly, and surely receiving a boatload of nasty notes privately, Mark quickly deleted his tweet, and then replaced it with a Maoist struggle session of hot-button social justice warrior thought vomit:
So that tweet was a disaster on many levels. I want to be clear that I in no way endorse hatred, racism, homophobia, xenophobia or any such form of intolerance. My goal has always been to spread unity, understanding and kindness. But I am going to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes I move too quickly when I get excited, or fail to do enough research, or I don’t communicate myself clearly. I’m really sorry. I now understand that I need to be more diligent and careful. I’m working on that. But, I do believe deeply in bi-partisan understanding and I will continue to do my best to promote peace and decency in this world right now. That said, I hear you. And I want to say thank you to those who reached out with constructive criticism. I have genuinely learned so much and wish everyone all the best.
Honestly, I felt rather sorry for him. Duplass has to work in this town. And Hollywood is a one-party ideological dictatorship. That said, I did warn him.
This sort of stuff happens all the time. Just about a year after the Duplass incident, I attended a rather tony political summit — perhaps the only real ritzy cocktail party I’ve ever gone to. One of the other attendees happened to be one of the more prominent left-wing podcasters in the country. After a few pleasantries, I suggested that perhaps we ought to do an election-year crossover podcast. “The numbers,” I said, “would be extraordinary. And I know my audience would love it. We’re always having on guests who disagree.”
“I’m sure your audience would be cool with it,” the podcaster answered. “But mine would murder me.”
This is why when I meet prominent people, from conservative sports stars to libertarian tech magnates, I do so quietly. I’m not in the business of getting studio heads fired simply by confirming with whom I lunch.
Now, I’m lucky. I speak my views for a living. But tens and tens of millions of people aren’t so lucky. For them, the consequences of speaking non-leftist views publicly in our absolutist time are grave.
Every day, I receive dozens of letters and calls from people asking how to navigate the minefield of American life.
“My boss is forcing me into diversity training, in which I’m told that all white Americans are inherently racist. Should I speak up about it? I’m afraid I’ll be fired.”
“My professor says that anyone who refuses to use preferred pronouns is a bigot. What should I write on my final? I’m afraid he’ll grade me down.”
“My sister knows I voted for Republicans. Now she says she doesn’t want to talk to me. What do I do?”
The consequences of woke cultural authoritarianism are real, and they are devastating. They range from job loss to social ostracism. Americans live in fear of the moment when a personal enemy dredges up a Bad Old TweetTM or members of the media “resurface” an impolitic comment in a text message. And the eyes and ears are everywhere. One simple tip from someone on Facebook to a pseudo-journalist activist can result in a worldwide scandal. Cross the social justice warriors, and you will be canceled.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of our culturally authoritarian moment is the blithe assurance whereby Americans are informed that they are exaggerating. There is no such thing as cancel culture, our woke rulers assure us, while busily hunting down our most embarrassing political faux pas. There’s nothing wrong, they say, with calling your boss to try to get you fired — after all, that’s the free market just working! Why are you whining about social media censorship, or about social ostracism? People have a right to tear you to shreds, to end your career, to malign your character! It’s all free speech!
In a certain sense, they’re not wrong: Your boss does have a right to fire you; your friends and family do have a right to cut you off. None of that amounts to a violation of the First Amendment.
It simply amounts to the end of the republic.
Free speech and free exchange of ideas die when the attitude of philosophical tolerance withers. Writing in 1831, the greatest observer of America and democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, summed up the threat of democratic despotism in terms that sound shockingly, eerily prescient:
If you crave the vote of your fellow citizens, they will not grant it to you, and if you demand only their esteem, they will still pretend to refuse it to you. You shall remain among men, but you shall lose your rights of humanity. When you approach those like you, they shall flee you as being impure; and those who believe in your innocence, even they shall abandon you, for one would flee them in their turn.
This is the America we currently occupy. As Axios reporter Jim VandeHei writes, “Blue America is ascendant in almost every area: It won control of all three branches of government; dominates traditional media; owns, controls and lives on the dominant social platforms; and has the employee-level power at big tech companies to force corporate decisions . . . Our nation is rethinking politics, free speech, the definition of truth and the price of lies. This moment — and our decisions — will be studied by our kid’s grandkids.”
And yet, buried in authoritarianism is always one deep flaw: its insecurity. If authoritarians had broad and deep support, they wouldn’t require compulsion. The dirty secret of our woke authoritarians is that they are the minority.
You are the majority.
It’s not that everybody hates you. It’s that millions of Americans are afraid to say that they agree with you.
We have been silenced.
And now is the time for the silence to be broken by one simple, powerful word, a word that has meant freedom since the beginning of time: No.
Excerpted from “The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent” by Ben Shapiro. Copyright © 2021 by Benjamin Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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