I have been trying to pin down or delineate the battlelines for the ideological strife America has been embroiled in since 2016, particularly online, and has accelerated since 2020. Obviously, Trump. But this alone does not explain the major divide within the left between the anti-idpol left vs. the SJW/woke-left. Or the alliance between the anti-idpol left and some on the online-right. Or why the SJW/woke-left behave the way they do.
I think the line can be drawn not with politics or race per say, but rather the successful vs. the unsuccessful, with unsuccessful, low-status people, by in large, being on the woke/far-left. They, the woke, tend to have low-paying, low-status careers and are preciously dependent on others for approval or income, such as itinerant low-ranking journalists who write for money-losing publications, hoping that the check clears before it’s on to the next gig. They have to stay on top of whatever the latest outrage or ‘current thing’ is, because their income depends on capitalizing on these fleeting moments of outrage that temporarily dominate the news cycle until it’s on to the next current thing.
Although someone like Taleb is presumably wealthy, high status, and self-sufficient yet woke, like regarding Covid, so there is more to it than that. But I think the woke fit the general profile of being inferior or ‘losers’…either not being that smart and or untalented–combined with financial precarity and low social status, that creates a sort of latent envy that expresses itself in attacking the successful or those who step out of line (crab bucket mentality).
Although there are woke people with a lot of social status, they tend less successful on social media compared to the anti-woke. For every Sanders or AOC, there are equally many or more anti-woke pundits, even on the anti-idpol left, who have equally big or bigger platforms, like Cernovich, DeSantis, Greenwald, Elon Musk, and Joe Rogan. Among the anti-idpol left, they also have large platforms, like on Patron or Substack in particular. Individually the woke are weak, but online collectively they have some power; for example, in 2017 forcing the NYTs to drop its op-ed column with blogger Razib Khan after it was brought to light he said some things about some people. Although the woke and its ally the ‘dirtbag left’ have some success with Patron, like the highly popular podcast Chapo Trap House, it’s more fragmented overall and relies on top-down coordination and activism (like Soros funding BLM activity) instead of individuals with large platforms.
Mainstream conservatives however have smaller platforms or write for legacy publications like AEI or National Review, so they tend to be excluded or relegated to the fringes of the online debate. Same for neoliberals, who also voluntary exclude themselves from the ‘platform wars’. Pre-2013 or so, before the far-left and online-right had such a large presence, I remember debates between neoliberals and neocons on small platforms such as BloggingHeads.tv, but that seemed to come to an end with the growing popularity of Twitter and more extreme politics on either side of the aisle, especially since 2020 with Covid.
Unlike the right, on social media, the left’s popularity is never organic, so it relies on censorship and unwanted impositions, like easily-ignored fact-checking and Covid disclaimers, to try to force people care about Covid deaths, Trump’s taxes, masks, or to not question that The Election Was Legitimate (because the surest sign of a legitimate election is not being allowed to discuss it). The accidental death of an overgrown fentanyl addict only became newsworthy and led to charges and riots after the media wouldn’t stop talking about it. Otherwise, no one cared.
I think the alliance between the online-right (Cernovich, Michael Malice, etc.) and the anti-idpol left can in part be explained by how they both have large planforms, in contrast to the woke who have smaller platforms.
As I said in the past, the woke overall tend to suck at building platforms or brands, and are dependent on legacy publications like the NYTs or Vice, which spend millions of dollars trying to make their crappy content go viral or ‘trend’ on Twitter, whereas something like the Hunter Biden laptop story went viral without such help, so much so that it was suppressed by Twitter and Facebook. I remember from 2016-2018 the NYTs, The Atlantic and other publications put out long-form, exhaustively-researched articles exposing Trump’s taxes, casino losses (the aforementioned stories opportunistically timed weeks before the 2020 and 2016 elections, respectively) and other overblown or non-scandals, which had as much of impact as a quarter dropped on a bedsheet. Same for all those ‘tell all’ books about Trump, which were dispatched to the bargain bin before the ink even cooled.
To go off on a digression here, everyone wants to be the next Woodward or Ellsberg. That era is over. Even if there was some smoking gun proving Trump had committed illegal activity, everything has become so fragmented and partisan/divided, that it would not register on the ‘public consciousness’ as past scandals had. The mainstream media now has to compete against YouTube, podcasts, and Twitter and short attention spans, not to mention that people have soured of the mainstream media overall and are less inclined to trust it. All such overblown scandals, such as the FBI Mar-a-Lago raid, serve to do is reinforce existing ideological divides in America, not change minds. To wit, the Access Hollywood 2005 leak of Trump making a crass joke was a dud, and this was in 2016. It’s almost pathetic to watch how activist journalists believe so strongly that their work matters when in reality it doesn’t.
This is the worst part about the woke…not because its ideology or beliefs are wrong, but how the woke are so adamant about making everyone else go along with it against their will. For example, ads on YouTube about vaccines or ads about healthcare providers and Covid. There is no way such ads are possibly profitable on an ROI basis (there is no obvious call to action); the ads are funded by some wealthy external source at a loss in order to keep Covid alive in people’s memories. This is the problem also with the ‘homo economicus’ framing of the world…companies and individuals will gladly lose money to affect sentiment and to push an agenda, which runs against economic orthodoxy that companies are dispassionate, profit-maximizing entities. I remember reading somewhere that the counterculture and post-war intelligentsia of the ’50s to the early ’70s was funded by the capitalistic excesses of the ’20s and earlier; this seems to make sense. Massive fortunes were amassed from the late 1800s until the early ’30s, and that money had to go somewhere.
The woke though are good at non-social marketing (YouTube, Google ads), in which virality is of secondary importance. If you see an ad on YouTube targeted towards urban black women or trans women, this is small relative to the general population, yet if the brand gets the business of every transperson or overweight black woman in the US, that is still a lot of money from a very targeted and loyal demographic. Intersectionality is a perfect marketing tool by allowing large companies such as Target to target very specific demographics, which ‘the right’ cannot do as well.
I think another framing is weak vs. strong, or femininity vs. masculinity. The woke also see it as their duty or moral imperative to venerate the weak (although this does not apply in the context of prenatal rights). This is where someone like Taleb fits in and other high-status men who are woke. Wokeism is pretty much an extension of male feminism, which is why Taleb was tweeting in support of the Iranian female protestors a few days ago, which was so predictable of him. It fits in perfectly with the woke obsession with the downtrodden or misfortunate. I agree with Dr. Jordan Peterson when he says, to paraphrase, that weakness and harmlessness are not virtues. His videos and books are still are so popular because millions of men are rejecting how society expects them to be domesticated and submissive. Richard Hanania has called it ‘safetyism’, which also seems appropriate:
Reading this, couldn’t help but go back to my theory that wokeness is just a subset of safetyism, as it’s about calming tensions and giving in to those most likely to complain. These institutions select for neuroticism, people who can’t deal with reality. https://t.co/lxrv7mz2Yw
— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) September 12, 2021
The weak vs. strong framing also explains why Elon Musk is the bête noire of the woke, being that he’s a confident, competant, wealthy white male who is also a vocal critic of Covid safetyism. The ‘pauper mindset’ of Taleb is why he always attacks those who are more successful and richer than him, like Musk or Andrew Tate. Karl Popper, whose name sounds like pauper, is a philosophical antecedent to wokeness, in his rejection of epistemic certainty and objectivity, and it’s little surprise that Taleb holds Popper, Hume, and other skeptics in high regard. This is also why Taleb dislikes Steven Pinker so strongly, who isn’t even right wing at all, because the latter believes that humans are endowed with certain immutable biological traits like IQ, which differs among individuals and is predictive of lifetime success. This immutability of IQ or gender differences runs counter to the woke notion that there are no such absolutes.
This is why the woke believe society should devote inordinate resources at preventing every possible Covid death, even at the cost of tanking the economy, or why they are obsessed with masks (even though they are at best of dubious efficiency at stopping Covid). Millions of healthy, strong people must be inconvenienced or have their lives disrupted because some old or otherwise unhealthy people may die a few years sooner than overwise predicted by their unhealthy lifestyles or other risk factors (the left, which claims to be pro-evolution or pro-Darwin, this does not apply to Covid, apparently).
As the word ‘justice’ in SJW suggests, there is also a strong sense of retributive justice, hence the social shaming aspect of wokeness. People dying of Covid and having their final, dying days broadcast on Reddit is punishment for being unvaccinated, or not supporting masks, or some other social transgression. And Reddit allows it.
But also Covid has become a sort of ritual or religion for an otherwise secular society. It’s not about eliminating the virus and moving on, but making Covid a focal part of life, and a form of virtual signaling or social bonding that goes along with permanent mask wearing and having to live in a perpetually heighted state of fear. So even if the vaccines did reduce deaths to zero, that would still not be good enough, because Covid must be a part of society for its socially instructive value, like how society must constantly be reminded of racism or the legacy of Jim Crow.