When Francis Fukuyama wrote his seminal article, “The End of History” in 1989, in which he stated that liberal democracy would be the world’s final form of governance, he was proclaiming the end of the era of competing alternative ideologies, even the end of ideology itself. Other forms of rule, especially those totalitarian forms of the left and right, had been discredited by becoming the losers of history itself, leaving liberal democracy to stand alone as the default, uncontested form. He could not have anticipated the consolidation and rise to world power of the collectivist dictatorship in China, nor the impact of the Internet on politics, the economy, and society, nor the emergence of the totalitarian ISIS as a serious contender for power in the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, he could not have foreseen the emergence of a serious totalitarian contender within the United States itself, the leader of the free world, the beating heart of liberal democracy.
In the years following the publication of Fukuyama’s article, as globalization took hold and liberal democracy transmorphed into neoliberal oligarchy, the legitimacy of America’s governing institutions tumbled; polls show that our current system lacks the consent of the governed, and overwhelmingly so. The loss of legitimacy of America’s form of governance has implications for its international power relations; it presents to the rest of the world as a sign of weakness and decline. A gaping void was left behind at the heart of the free world where Fukuyama’s final form of government once stood, and politics, domestic and international, abhors a vacuum. Thus was the way paved for the return of contending ideologies of all forms, not merely in the world but in our own country. The fall of the ideology of freedom, at the core of liberal democracy, allowed for an interpretation of American history in which representative government had failed to survive its own regressive decay and devolution into a semi-liberal, semi-authoritarian oligarchy. This, in turn, paved the way for avowedly illiberal, even more regressive ideologies antithetical to freedom, and explicitly embracing unfreedom, to rebound with great force, even in the United States.
During the reign of liberal democracy (1776-2010), America and the world witnessed a wide spectrum of totalitarian ideologies, movements, and governments, on both the left and the right, as well those not fully illiberal but with authoritarian tendencies. Never, however, did any such movement come close to overturning America’s global power, nor accumulate enough power to cause the guillotine of silence, motivated by fear, to descend onto its own population and institutions. We are in the midst of a Great Silencing, the quashing of all voices from both our present and our past. Liberal democratic America saw both communists and fascists, and many cult-like enterprises large and small, but never did any of them become so powerful as to so completely strangle the public discourse, or to so credibly demand absolute obedience to its core tenets from the entire mass populace, with such totality, as the ideology today known as Wokeness.
We argue that Wokeness is a totalitarian ideology and movement analogous to old-style Communism and Fascism, totalizing mid-century cults such as Scientology, and the present-day totalitarian Islamism of ISIS. If we are to preclude the rise of this new totalitarian form of governance in our country as the successor to the failed neoliberal oligarchical state we have now, it is necessary that we act resolutely while it is still possible to divert it from taking up the central position in our long-term individual and collective futures.
We set forth those characteristics that identify Wokeness as totalitarian, with the understanding that its (lack of) leadership structure, which seems to be a feature of all major 21st-century Western political movements thus far, constitutes an historical exception to the norm. Historically, totalitarian ideologies and movements have not been able to take root except in the presence of already permissive environments of fading or faded authority. While healthy, functioning democracies will automatically repel and reject them outright as preposterous and immediately relegate them to the fringes of the political discourse, in those spaces where Wokeness has taken hold, not only in the United States but throughout the Western world, we no longer have healthy, functioning democracies.
Wokeness is deep into the process of filling the void with objectives and methodologies that bear the classic hallmarks of totalitarianism. Wokeness holds strategic objectives of a grand, civilizational scope that involve the re-structuring, re-definition, and rigid, arbitrary classification of our populace, and with it, the common lens through which we should see ourselves as a society. It employs complex gymnastic contortions of thought and the English language that leave the populace vulnerable to being easily herded into strict, unthinking compliance with its demands. Nothing is left to chance: Woke advocacy is followed up with a feverish societywide indoctrination campaign designed to compel absolute allegiance to its authority, while simultaneously unleashing unto the unwitting populace its brutally efficient deterrence and enforcement mechanisms, designed to close down all possible avenues of conscientious objection and dissenting opinion.
Hallmark #1: Legitimacy and Authority Based on the Arbitrary Dichotomization of the Subject Populace
Wokeness is nothing less than a project to unilaterally tear down, and to re-structure, the entirety of our human environment—this includes all society, culture, customs, ethics, and politics in the United States and across the Western world—to fall into alignment with whatever arbitrary contours it desires. What it desires is to get rid of all of Western civilization, past, present, and future, which it re-names “Whiteness”—the original sin of Woke doctrine, and to which it attaches its own re-defined adjective “racist“—and replace it with “Wokeness,” characterized first and foremost by its own re-defined attribute of “anti-racist,” hence, “anti-Whiteness.”
These desiderata are admittedly subjective and whimsical, avowedly based on feelings and desires, placing Wokeness in alignment with a philosophically postmodern, pre-Enlightenment mindset. The Woke legions explicitly disclaim the philosophy of rational objectivity, which is denounced as a Woke-defined “racist,” therefore “white” philosophy. Its linguistic architecture, lack of an individualistic leadership structure, and determination to tear down of enemy (Western civilizational and older) dichotomies (e.g., men and women) and ethical systems rely heavily on and trace back to postmodernism. As a form of poststructuralism, postmodernism abhors all fixed dichotomies and structures generally. Despite its postmodern origins, Wokeness’s construction of its own rigid dichotomies and other structures contains a distinct, but borrowed, 20th-century modernist component. At the same time, its endeavor to establish its arbitrary, rigidly-structured form of governance without trying to cover up the latter’s arbitrary character by asserting some basis for itself in objective rationality, as 20th-century communism, fascism, and even Scientology tried to do, is more akin to the pre-modern totalitarianism of ISIS.
Wokeness, in its arrogance and attitude of unchallengeable self-righteousness, instead of molding itself to fit the needs of Western civilization as it finds it, claims, and then exercises, the right and authority to systematically re-design it and every individual in it in whatever manner it wishes. It does not negotiate its demands of us; it simply executes them, and it does so with both a singular sense of urgency and a peculiar intensity of focus.
Totalitarian movements always begin the process of constructing their architectures by compartmentalizing the entirety of would-be subject populations into honored groups and dishonored groups, which, for most, function operationally as in-groups and out-groups. They then place their own newly-created friend/enemy dichotomies at the heart of their claims to cultural legitimacy, and ultimately, political authority.
Although the liberal democracies historically have also had laws and customs based on in-groups and out-groups, both implied and explicit, especially in the United States, never were they placed at the heart of their raisons d’etre as nation-states, which were always based on other principles. Thus, laws and customs formerly grounded in such categories were gradually dispelled and eventually eliminated altogether; America’s own history always moved in favor of including everyone under its umbrella, starting with the emancipation of the black slaves, and continuing with the achievement of women’s suffrage, and eventually, universal suffrage. Totalitarian movements, in contrast, once it becomes possible, will always move in the opposite direction: toward the hardening of their own self-created dichotomies that form the original basis for their existence.
Historical communism, an ideology organized around a class-based dichotomy relating to the ownership of the economic means of production, placed workers in the honored group category, and the bourgeoisie, that is, capitalists and the owners of capital, in the dishonored group. Historical fascism grounded itself in race- and ethnicity-based dichotomies: Aryans constituted the honored group, Jews constituted the dishonored group, while non-Aryan foreigners were cast as inferior out-group members. ISIS, constituted on a religious dichotomy, has Sunni Muslims as its honored group, with Shi’ite Muslims, who are considered heretics, and all other disbelievers as members of dishonored groups, collectively denounced as kufar (infidels). The cult of Scientology, basing itself on a non-religious, complex, abstract belief system, holds those who accept that architecture as their own to be in the honored group and those who refuse in the dishonored group; it also explicitly requires the members of its in-group to cut all ties, even family ties, with the disbelievers beyond its invisible walls. Today, the Woke claim to authority is being constituted on the grounds of race-, color-, ethnicity-, and sex-based dichotomies, with its honored and dishonored groups constructed explicitly around them.
Therefore, whereas the classification of the populace, and the denial of equal status under the law based on ascribed categories (i.e., attributes given at birth) were in the latter stages of being phased out in the United States and the other liberal democracies as the 20th century pressed on, Wokeness, as a 21st century successor ideology, has set out to deeply re-instill them in accordance with its own self-avowedly subjective priorities. As an ideology and as a movement, it fully adheres to the totalitarian pattern of basing its core claim to authority on the coercive re-classification of the entire subject populace into its own friend/enemy compartments. We now move to a discussion of who and what are in these different compartments.
The honored group category in Wokeness, starting at the highest level of honor, consists of black (and indigenous) people, and secondarily, people of other racial and/or ethnic ancestries displaying various shades of brown skin colors. Additionally, in a second dimension of identity, self-declared transsexual people of any race or color, which we define as people who publicly declare themselves to be a member of their opposite sex, are also an important component of the honored group category. The dishonored group categories, which are always denoted by attaching to them the label “privilege” (i.e., in the outgoing political system), are Caucasian men and women first and foremost. People of other racial and/or ethnic descent who either display lighter skin colors, and who can therefore “pass” as white (e.g., significant subsets of white-colored Spanish-speaking, Arab, Iranian, and Central Asian people), or have gained admittance to what Wokeness anachronistically terms “white society” right behind them (e.g., people of East and South Asian ancestry, and fully assimilated brown-colored people of Spanish-speaking origins who do not see themselves as part of an oppressed group).
Woke sexual hierarchies have turned women and gay people of both sexes into dishonored categories due to their respective categorical clashes with transsexualism, whose advocates are actively working to discredit them by accusing them of “transphobia” and “cis privilege.” They are also engaging in feverish efforts to excise the notion of women in particular, and all terms that describe women, completely from the English language, and hence, to afford them neither status nor even recognized existence.
As between the racial and sexual self-identity categories, the former holds predominance (i.e., a black man will have a higher status in Wokeness than a white male-by-birth transsexual, though the latter will still enjoy the higher status within the transsexual subcategory, whereas a black man or woman will not lose any status points as compared to a similarly-pigmented transsexual). In other words, “white privilege” trumps what Wokeness terms “cis” privilege where both are at play, and as long as one has the right skin color, the sexual attribute doesn’t add anything; therefore, the Woke claim to authority is ultimately based on racial classification—indeed, this is unsurprising as it mostly arose from black liberationist feminism. Wokeness also incorporates a page from Communism into its racially-based ideology: it advocates a kind of racial socialism (“racial equity”), in which wealth would be massively re-distributed along racial lines.
Where Wokeness differs from its totalitarian predecessors is in the fact that its in-groups and out-groups are not entirely synonymous with or identical to its honored and dishonored groups. The difference is as follows: honored/dishonored group membership determines the social ranking and relative status of acceptable individuals, whereas in-group/out-group membership determines the acceptability or unacceptability of the individual person in the first place, and his right to have any status at all.
Fundamentally, then, an individual’s membership in the in-group, his acceptability as a human person with a right to exist, is determined not by his race or sexual self-identity but by his acceptance of the new Woke social contract. An acceptable person is defined as someone who agrees to accept, respect, cherish, and prioritize, over and above any other values he may have had before, the Woke honored group and dishonored group classifications, and to agree to re-structure all of society, and all facets of his day-to-day life, around them. In return, these individuals are granted the right to live normal lives, or what we would call “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This right does not exist in Wokeness by default, not even for honored group members, and consequently, individuals Wokeness deems unacceptable are not entitled to it.
Although Wokeness expresses active animosity toward dishonored group populations and specifically targets them for re-education and punishment, individuals in this category are allowed to live normal lives for so long as the Woke deem them to be acceptable. Unlike the honored group individuals, they do not enjoy the benefit of the doubt; they do not default to a state of acceptability. They are, after all, the descendants of the makers of the civilization Wokeness despises. Those among them who earn acceptability are denigrated with a correspondingly low stature within Wokeness itself.
An unacceptable individual, by contrast, is defined as anyone whose speech or actions demonstrate opposition to the new Woke social contract. Dishonored group members, of course, are held to a higher standard. They may be deemed unacceptable even if they accept Wokeness but stray from, neglect to heed, or otherwise are felt to be in a state of non-compliance with universal or personalized Woke commands. In general, individuals are deemed unacceptable because they stand accused of thinking unacceptable thoughts and vocalizing unacceptable speech. Wokeness terms these “problematic thoughts,” “problematic speech,” and the people who think and speak them “problematic individuals.” Accused individuals are automatically guilty. Once a person is so labelled and the news has spread through the Internet to the Woke mob, there are no second chances, no possibility of redemption, and no hint of mercy.
The Woke in-group category, then, consists of all loyal members of the honored groups, who occupy its upper rung, and those members of dishonored groups who have fully internalized and agreed to act in accordance with their own dishonored status, who are left to take up its lower rung.
Although the latter belong to the in-group category, and are hence deemed acceptable people despite their membership in a dishonored group, they are accepted only reluctantly as active supporters. They are held very much at arms length by the movement and assigned a subordinate status within it, a status misnamed as “allyship.” As something less than full members, more like associate members of Wokeness, the members of this “allied” subcategory are expected to adopt a submissive, “humble” posture toward the members of honored groups. They must always obey their directions, and in some cases are not allowed to display certain emotions in their presence (e.g., dishonored women are not allowed to weep in front of them, even if they are emotionally moved for what Wokeness would consider the right reasons). In organizations that have succumbed to Wokeness, dishonored group members are expected to stand down from their leadership posts to make way for honored-group members.
Very often, at marches, rallies, and other in-person venues, members of racially dishonored groups are physically segregated from the racially honored-group members and/or disallowed from showing their support for them in high-profile ways in their presence (e.g., leading chants, standing or walking at the front of the march, carrying certain types of signs, etc.). In every way, these “allies,” these dishonored friends of Wokeness, are looked on with a degree of contempt for their alleged hypocrisy (if they’re white, they’re still Woke-defined “racists”) and probably also for their willingness to self-deprecate at this level, which is human nature. In any case, they are barely tolerated, explicitly not honored or credited with their participation in enforcement roles, are sometimes used as human shields, and are always treated as individually expendable.
Hallmark #2: An Intense Focus on Domestic Enemies
Unlike liberal democracies, totalitarian entities are characterized by an intense, unwavering focus on their declared internal (domestic) enemies, which they require in order to survive, thrive, and expand their powers. Specifically, the domestic enemies of Wokeness include, at the collective level, all dishonored group populations across the board, except those individuals among them whom Wokeness deems to be acceptable. Its highest-level enemies are those dishonored group individuals who actively and openly dissent from Woke authority, deliberately ignore or mock the mandated Woke party line, state their belief in the principles of color-blindness, free speech and association, or equal treatment under the law, or are otherwise audacious enough to proclaim these blasphemous thoughts from the rooftops, unapologetically and proudly so. Most of these people have no issue with the members of the honored groups of Wokeness per se, they just ardently disbelieve in the concept of honored and dishonored groups on its face, which for Wokeness is the highest form of crimethink.
People who express these opinions publicly with the intent to influence the views of others constitute the open dissenters from Wokeness, its dissident opposition. These active dissenters together make up the legions of the self-declared Unwoke. Their key characteristics are that they are fully Awake to their own Unwoke thoughts, and that, in sound mind and body, they deliberately choose to stand by their own sociocultural ideas rather than surrender to the totalitarian doctrine of the Woke. This overt, public Unwokeness threatens Wokeness’s hold on the remainder of the populace, and as such, it has to be forbidden completely: in order for Wokeness to complete its rise to power, Unwokeness, as a phenomenon, has to die.
Along these same lines, members of honored groups who publicly count themselves among the proudly Unwoke, which Wokeness would consider malicious out-group behavior—are considered traitors to Wokeness, and therefore, if the transgression is serious enough, will suffer consequences every bit as great as would any disbelieving honored group member. This makes it clear that the Woke care more about enforcing their authority than they do about honoring the individual members of honored group categories: intentional Unwoke speech or action ultimately trumps a person’s honored group status. A black man in Milwaukee was executed by Woke activists for brandishing political signs supporting the wrong presidential candidate; the head of Goya Foods, of Latin American ancestry, found his company targeted by the Internet’s Woke mobs for having shown up at the White House.
A second category of enemies of Wokeness consists of those former members of the “allied” subcategory of the Woke in-group who have been turned upon and sacrificed for failing to behave in accordance with Woke expectations. This subset of enemies we are calling the Insufficiently Woke: they are composed of both Wokeness supporters and distant acquiescers. These could be any supporters who either refuse to engage in a particular instance of compelled speech, neglect to participate in any mandatory Woke ritual, fail to do either of these with the required degree of enthusiasm, heartfelt passion, or frequency, or do not display a self-effacing enough attitude toward members of honored group categories.
More unscrupulously, a former “ally” can be excommunicated from Wokeness for reasons of personal opportunity or exploitation by a member of the Woke party. This would include the levelling of false allegations of Woke-defined “racism” or “transphobia”—the cardinal sins against Wokeness—on the same pattern as false rape allegations, or to satisfy unrelated feelings of personal animosity. In the latter case, in the event the accuser is an honored group member, the former insider’s “white privilege” or “cis privilege” will often be held to be the cause of that person’s “true” feelings and as justification for their excommunication.
Some of the Insufficiently Woke attempt with all their hearts to submit to Wokeness, sometimes with exhaustive efforts, while others, the acquiescers, go along with it blandly from a distance because they think it is the moral thing to do and because they want to fit in, but nevertheless find themselves in a state of non-compliance. These people are not dissenters, but the Woke mobs treat them as if they were. Woke dogma states explicitly that a person’s intent does not matter, because his dishonored group status, over which he has no control, is always at the root of his culpability.
Neutrals from members of dishonored groups, for all intents and purposes, are placed into the enemy camp: Wokeness does not recognize, acknowledge, respect, or accept any claim of neutrality on the part of any person or group. It signifies this by declaring that one may declare oneself to be either a “racist” or an “anti-racist,” but is not allowed to say he is simply “not racist.” That, in the eyes of Wokeness, is disingenuous; the speaker of these sacrilegious words is just one of many Woke-defined “racists” in a “systemically racist” society who hypocritically attempts to deny his original sin. One either accepts the fact of a “systemically racist” society (“racist”) or not (“anti-racist”), with tacit acceptance through neutrality still counting as “acceptance.” As such, he is an enemy of Wokeness. Anyone who wishes to be treated as neutral, to stay out of the fray, will find that the expectations Wokeness has of him are no different than for any other person. The would-be neutral is placed squarely into the out-group category; and if he also displays white skin coloring, he is doubly guilty, because he is also a member of a dishonored group.
Would-be neutrals belonging to honored groups have somewhat greater latitude to speak at the edges of the strict boundaries of Woke speech codes and are to some extent given the benefit of the doubt. However, an honored group member who is trying to be neutral, but who in the eyes of the Woke is expected to default to conformity with the in-group, must be careful to some degree. If he questions Wokeness in a way that causes too much damage to its narrative, he will find himself cast into the enemy camp and treated accordingly.
Hallmark #3: Proclamation of a Complex, Ever-Changing, Mandatory Party Line
Having divided the populace into immutable honored and dishonored groups, Wokeness builds the compulsion for compliance with its preferred social hierarchies and friend/enemy classifications into everyday speech by constructing its mandatory party line script around them. This is done to force the population to speak and even think in ways that recognize, comply with, enforce, and reinforce the Woke-defined relative status, or lack thereof, of each group. Composed of myriad sets of rules, rituals, customs, and beliefs, the Woke party line stands as a grand ideological sociocultural superstructure through which Wokeness seeks to pre-determine all permissible modes of thought, speech, and interaction.
Proclaimed onto us from outside our existing political and sociocultural order, from an illegitimate, unrecognized, self-anointed authority, the party line is arbitrary, ever-intensifying, and ever-changing. It evolves in ways that allow the Woke legions to adapt, seize newly available opportunities, tighten their grip, and increase the efficiency of their enforcement mechanisms through their ongoing collective learning process. Their approved script is constructed through the spinning of complex linguistic webs whose objective is first to delimit, and ultimately to foreclose, our possibilities of understanding and relating to our surroundings in accordance with both our rational minds and our longstanding, though greatly weakened, original social contract. Through its party line, Wokeness seeks to compel us to re-write our internal thought patterns in general, including our personal and societal value systems and orders of priority, to bring them into compliance with its own.
The party line is arbitrary in that, to the Unwoke, it appears as not only unreasonable on its face, but also more or less random in both form (i.e., linguistic mandates and prohibitions) and substance (areas of focus or neglect). Wokeness expects people to comply with a moving target that internally makes no sense, as viewed by those raised under an Enlightenment-derived liberal democratic social contract, and who thus hold dear completely different sets of priorities, ethics, and first principles.
Woke edicts are moving targets: they change and deepen continuously and are subject to change without notice or warning. Foremost among the Woke demands is that we exhaust ourselves to keep current with newly-minted changes to Woke-sanctioned forms of thought and expression the moment they are proclaimed (“white fragility” gave rise to “brown fragility” with astonishing rapidity, for example). Sometimes we don’t even know about these revisions until they are enforced; thus we are motivated out of fear to keep ourselves constantly up to date. And since they are alien to our longstanding modes of thought, and avowedly not based in any objective rationality, there is no way for us to logically predict or infer what new absurdity will be demanded of us next.
Hallmark #4: Re-forming the Individual Based on the “New Man” Principle
In order to create conditions for the population to interact, both with one another and with the state, in accordance with Wokeness’s new arbitrary human group categories, deep re-structuring of the society’s self-perception is required. This starts, as it does in all totalitarian enterprises, with the deconstruction of the individual as he was and his reconstruction according to what would, in any other context, be described as the “new man” principle, thus priming him for assimilation into the Party’s collective consciousness.
The “new man” approach to societal engineering starts with the presumption that the individual is unacceptable as he is and has to be reformed (that is, re-formed, which means “to form again”). The approach is then scaled up to the entire population. The compulsory re-molding of people to fit someone else’s pre-determined script is illiberal on its face, incompatible with any kind of freedom or democracy. This holds doubly true for Wokeness, because its particular doctrine explicitly denounces the principle of individualism as a “racist” (enemy) form of thought. Wokeness does not want to merely break down and re-create the individual in its own image, but to explicitly de-create the individual’s notion of individuality itself.
This tearing down of the individual as he was is accomplished by climbing inside the human mind and using each person’s emotions and morality, together with various forms of coercion, to convince him that he needs to be re-molded. The ultimate aim is the erasure of any previously-held beliefs and the inscription into the mind of the approved script in their place. Once the slate of the mind has been cleared, indoctrination is pumped in, and the person is re-educated into the Woke self-concept, using propaganda and brainwashing, backed by a self-declared claim of moral authority and a credible threat of existential consequences for non-compliance. The subsequent carrying out by the “new man” of whatever approved script applies to his group classification represents the real-world enactment of the re-ordered set of priorities imposed from outside.
Wokeness shares with other totalitarian movements a propensity to focus sharply on the indoctrination of young people, especially the very young: children and young people are blank slates, and hence, the hard work of erasing longstanding modes of thought is not required. Consequently, Wokeness is being deeply and aggressively injected into the educational curriculum at all levels. Having escaped the university, it made a beeline directly into the K-12 school system, to the point where a great deal of the standard curriculum for all schoolchildren in the United States is now completely structured around and endowed with substance in accordance with the absurdities contained within the indoctrination protocol. The movement even has its own youth groups for honored group children, which are strictly dedicated to the inculcation of Woke ideology and include participation in Woke-sanctioned marches and demonstrations.
In adult communities, Woke re-education, which comes in the form of seminars and “training” sessions in the workplace, includes mental abuse and gaslighting of members of dishonored groups. Its purpose is to tear down targeted individuals’ existing self-conceptions, worldviews, civilization, history, and insistence on their inalienable rights. The idea is to turn them into receptive blank slates in which the new self-deprecating Woke self-concept and worldview may be instilled. Successful graduates may even be motivated to participate in Woke-sanctioned marches, demonstrations, and riots. It is a feature of some totalitarian movements, though normally not those that attach status and honor to ascriptive characteristics such as race and ethnicity, to bring the ruled into active and enthusiastic complicity with their own subjection.
Hallmark #5: The Emergence of the Atmospheric Fear Layer
Anyone who has ever been in a totalitarian country, including this author, who has spent considerable time in a number of them, will keenly remember the existence of a layer of tension that is always present, not in the background, but in the foreground. The vibe of baseline tension permeates to the core atmosphere of the interhuman environment, not just in certain kinds of interactions, but in all of them, on a collective, societywide basis. It is created by the background existence of the totalitarian authority, its ever-watchful eyes, the pervasiveness of its enforcements, and the severity of its punishments. It forces every person, every time he steps out of his house, and sometimes even within it, i.e., around his own children, and especially around his computer, to mind the integrity of the compartment between his free internal thoughts that live inside his head and his unfree external behavior out in the world. It requires every person, as he conducts his normal daily interactions with others, to always take great care with every word or silence, every action or non-action, to hew correctly and with sufficient enthusiasm to the mandated party line.
As Wokeness opposes individualism on its face, to be in the Woke state of mind it is important that each individual think primarily as a member of the greater collective (what they redefine as “authentically”), and not his own individual thoughts. People are directed to think about the substantive elements of Woke doctrine all of the time, to take them into consideration in everything they do, and to always be on the lookout for deviants. Like other totalitarian architectures, it insists on always being top of mind.
When everyone is walking eggshells not some of the time, but all of the time, when everyone is afraid of making a mistake, of speaking the wrong word or not speaking the right one, of forgetting to say something when it is required, or of inadvertently doing or saying anything that could be interpreted, correctly or incorrectly, as a “microaggression” against a Woke disciple or any member of an honored group, this is the sort of material out of which the totalitarian fear layer is brought into existence. Every active dissenter from Wokeness feels its tensile force already, whether consciously or subconsciously, in the rapidly increasing tightness of the demands this alien doctrine is now imposing on us, and the life-altering consequences of non-compliance with or ignorance of Woke expectations. There will come a time when its presence will be undeniable, when the entire population, even the most naive and politically inexperienced, will come to experience it for the first time. At that point, as Wokeness enters the mature phase of its development, it will fast be approaching the peak of its powers, and all but impossible to oppose or defeat.
The emergence of the fear layer, concurrently with the sudden irruption of Woke doctrines and enforcement protocols into the mainstream of public life, confirms beyond any doubt that Wokeness as a movement is not consent-based, it is power-based. Its authority is not requested, demanded, or solicited; it is imposed. Submission to its rules and repetitive declarations of allegiance and adherence to it are absolutely compulsory and are a part of the movement’s ritual. Power is exclusive to the Woke, but that power may be rescinded from any person at any moment, on any arbitrary basis, especially from members of dishonored groups.
Hallmark #6: The Cancellation of Public Discourse and Conscientious Objection
Those who are sufficiently Awake to the fact of Woke power in the here and now can see that at the level of both people and ideas, it’s purge night in America. Purging is purification: Wokeness is collectivist, and Wokeness itself represents the new Collective its in-groups are building. The right to dissent, in contrast, belongs to an individualist value system; the plurality of ideas and the protection of dissenters from punishment by the holders of an active, insistent, and vocal minority view, as Wokeness is, is an integral part of a liberal democratic form of governance built on Western civilizational values. With Wokeness, we are still in the early phase of its power; although it has a grip on us, that grip is not yet complete. It has not yet taken over the entirety of our fallen institutions, nor has it yet been enshrined in all of our laws, nor have all the symbols proclaiming the existence of the United States yet been injured beyond repair or destroyed, though all of them are coming under increasingly credible attack.
To achieve full power, and to signify the passing and death of the country slated for cancellation, Wokeness would have to become capable of officially retiring the American flag and national anthem from all public institutions, buildings, venues, and events, just as it has already retired American history and Western civilization from the greater part of our children’s classrooms. It is already trying to re-structure America’s founding date around its own categories (i.e., through its 1619 Project), and weaken our national holidays (e.g., Columbus Day, Fourth of July) with a view to ultimately replacing them, and so forth, in order to artificially place their honored/dishonored group classifications at the center of our national memory. A country emptied of its established history is not a country; such a country will find that its once-cherished monuments celebrating that history will automatically take on the features of zombie symbols and become even easier to pull down than they are already.
The deprecation of the American national anthem is of course well underway: having partially turned it into a symbol for Woke-defined “racism,” the Woke legions have succeeded in putting a dent in it in most major national sporting venues. As for the flag, and indeed, the name of our country, they would have to be declared as symbols of “Whiteness” and diminished accordingly. Chants of “Death to America” at Woke protests, marches, riots, and looting sprees, coupled with the burning of the American flag—and the fact that the Woke are able to do this openly without losing credibility—reveal both the clarity of their intentions and the actual, pathetic state of resistance in our country to them and their destructively deformative (as opposed to transformative) grand objectives.
The Bill of Rights and the Constitution, as the laws of the land, the ultimate pillars of the country’s heretofore individualistic values, complete with their protection of the right to hold and safely express one’s own opinions, are the highest of all the symbols representing the liberal democratic social contract and all its civilizational antecedents. In short, these are the America’s crown jewels. Certainly the First Amendment has already acquired a legacy status, as the all-powerful Woke technology oligarchs and associated Internet and street mobs have successfully stepped in front of government to make sure that, although intact on paper, it is rendered hollow in practice. Because the official retirement of the country’s Constitution would require action from multiple branches and levels of government, and because it would carry an air of such finality, it will be up for grabs only if and when everything else representing our original social contract has already been fully discredited and dissolved. At such time, legitimized by the full nationalization of its party line, symbols, and icons, and the complete erasure of everything that came before, Wokeness would become the new law of the land.
The purge extends from the realm of American values, symbols, and laws to actual living people who do not wish to live under the Woke value system or be subject to its social contract. Central to Wokeness’s totalitarian form, even prior to having taken official power of the country itself, is its conduct of active human purges, that is, search and destroy missions against the lives of individuals it deems unacceptable, and against the basic rights of people it has assigned to dishonored group categories.
Today, instead of the unacceptable individual being condemned to a lifetime of forced labor in a gulag or a re-education camp, or forever disappeared by the secret police, he is handed a life sentence of “cancellation.” He is subsequently tossed down the memory hole, into the metaphorical incinerator. Cancellation is defined as the social, economic, and cultural death of unacceptable individuals at the hands of the Woke mob, with a further objective of spiritual death in the cancelled person. Often the cancellation sentence will be extended to the person’s spouse, employer, friends, and known acquaintances: any willing consort of an unacceptable person is deemed unacceptable under the Woke law of guilt by association, which has largely replaced the freedom of association clause of our First Amendment. Cancellation of the spouse is meted out as a punishment for continuing to afford credibility to the unacceptable person by remaining at his or her side, because that detracts from the totality of the initial cancellation. Wokeness would instead force the spouse to denounce the fallen loved one publicly, a form of compelled speech, to avoid the automatic verdict of guilt by association, just as an employer would be expected to sever its ties with a cancelled employee for the same reason.
Wokeness purges disobedience not only from the national discourse, but from any participation in social, cultural, economic, and political life at all. In most cases, it doesn’t resort to the crude tools of direct physical violence, but instead wields the power of the torch-bearing mob—combined with the silencing levers of the Woke Silicon Valley technology elite—against its victims individually. No single person acting alone could hope to defend himself from the oncoming tidal wave populated by the small contributions of so many people to his demise. Thus is the energy of the Woke Internet mob actively mobilized and leveraged to deny the unacceptable person not only the right to participate in the public discourse, but also the permission to earn a living, by also targeting his employer with accusations of guilt by association. Cancelled individuals and their associates are not entitled, in the judgement of Wokeness, to the right to live a normal and peaceful life free from threats or acts of economic sanction, bodily injury, or death.
The non-dissenting offender, the Insufficiently Woke, may or may not be allowed to get away with a sufficiently enthusiastic, self-shaming apology, in which guilt and remorse, and the severing of ties with any previously cancelled individuals, are urgently projected into the public realm. If the transgression is severe enough, however, the individual will be punished with the same fury as would be done to the self-consciously Unwoke dissenter. The Woke mob possesses a hive mind similar to a Borg-style Collective; it behaves mechanically, automatically. It has no conscious awareness, and therefore, no conscience. It lacks the means to distinguish between the proudly Unwoke and the Insufficiently Woke, that is, to discern shades of Unwokeness and hand out sentences accordingly. It has no sense of its own actions being just or unjust; it is capable of neither empathy nor mercy.
Cancellation may not be physically painful or terminal, but its finality is just as great and its objective is the same as it was for the totalitarians of times past; it is simply more refined and requires fewer resources, while being just as effective in accomplishing its goal. The objective in all cases is to silence and excommunicate unacceptable individuals from society and the economy so they cannot enjoy the legitimacy of their own existence, the credibility of their views, or the ability to influence others. This has the effect of appearing to make the speaking of unacceptable thought realistically impossible, and of effectively deterring others from adopting a position of dissent. However, in a number of European countries, Wokeness has also gained a level of influence over the state such that people are being sent to jail for exhibiting Unwokeness in public. Because the First Amendment to the US Constitution is already in its crosshairs, similar penal outcomes for unacceptable speech would clearly be forthcoming in a future United States of Woke.
Conclusion: Building the Unwoke Resistance and the Resurgence of First Principles
Oligarchical elements in our most powerful neoliberal institutions have already deprecated the greater part of the liberal democratic social contract by disallowing it from functioning it in practice, giving it the whiff of obsolescence. By 2010, with some help from the Citizens United decision, the United States had more or less officially passed from democracy into oligarchy. The effective disenfranchisement of the populace by oligarchical elements, seen and unseen, by candidates who speak for and represent the donor class instead of the citizenry, and the consequent erosion of the original meaning of citizenship generally, have together created a permissive atmosphere for Wokeness to push forward now and directly attack the philosophical and historical bases for the rump liberal democratic state.
A set of new generational cohorts has stepped into that gap: they are composed of people who grew up in an environment in which real democracy already felt anachronistic, and who, for various reasons, had learned to equate speech with violence. Significant majorities of these upcoming generational cohorts, amongst whom political scientists are finding increasing support for authoritarian rule, and majorities in opposition to the core American value of free speech, are now able to credibly oppose the original social contract and the civilization on which it was built. Our founding principles and symbols are being collectively dismissed as one giant civilizational “dog whistle.” They are deemed not only to contain no positive value, but as actually possessing of negative value. These Woke cohorts have acted by outlawing liberal democracy on their university campuses and replacing it with the new Woke social contract. Having now emerged from the universities into the adult world, they talk seriously about how the First Amendment—written by historical individuals they are in the process of cancelling—must be “updated,” re-formed, that is, purged, to be in compliance with the new trending value system of Wokeness.
It is in this environment whereby the Harper’s letter, signed by 150 highly acclaimed thinkers opposing Wokeness’s human purges, was birthed stillborn, or DOA, dead on arrival. Instead of entering into debate with it, the Woke mob simply discarded it due to the race, age, or institutional affiliation of the signatories. Wokeness then went a step further: it demanded, successfully in two cases, that all who had signed it retract their affirmations or be punished for guilt by association with other, previously cancelled signatories. Every time Wokeness successfully withstands a serious challenge like this one, the result is the strengthening and deepening of its real-world authority and power. Therefore, challenges of this type, although well-intentioned, will not by themselves—and not without a lot of advance mutual commitments among participants to stand together and defend one another against subsequent Woke retaliation—be capable of stemming the tide.
If we are to prevent Woke totalitarianism from rapidly overrunning the remainder of our decayed institutions and consolidating the fullness of its powers, we will have to organize, first offline and later online, until we arrive at a place where we can safely confront and override Woke judgments, edicts, and faits accompli. The objective would be to put ourselves in a position to shut down the permissive environment that has been carved out for totalitarianism and turn the country back into a “safe space” for full democratic discourse, individual rights, and first principles.
Re-establishing our civilizational principles as facts on the ground, built upon the foundation stones of the past, while looking toward the future, will require that we eventually overcome neoliberal oligarchical rule, which, by way of its malignant neglect of the interests of the people, has left our liberal democracy, metaphorically represented by our national physical infrastructure, in an acutely decrepit state. We must recognize that it is the historic failure of America to repair and strengthen its liberal democratic and civic institutions over the last few decades that has opened the door to our neoliberal oligarchy’s would-be replacement, the post-modern, yet pre-modern, Woke totalitarianism.
First, however, addressing the problem of the immediate and urgent Woke threat will require us to focus our efforts directly against the onset of Woke totalitarianism. This would require that we begin to move beyond the publicity and awareness-raising stage, and directly into building of a well-thought out, practical, grand-strategic, powerful civic defense action against it. Publishing our opposition is an important first step, as it helps us to reflect together and solidify our own ideas. But words alone cannot defeat and turn back a movement that is already so deeply entrenched in our real-world institutions, backed up by a powerful Internet presence, and has now taken directly to violence in our streets. The next step would be to convene focused, private, practical discussions with small numbers of similarly-minded non-interchangeable people to directly formulate a fully-blown, credible, actionable, operational strategy against Woke totalitarianism, and following that, to actually implement it. This is what will put us directly in a position to change the game.
Wokeness has presented us with its main argument which, distilled down, is that if democratic freedoms afford people the ability to oppose its own belief systems and operational agenda, then freedom itself must be purged, cancelled, taken down, and forbidden from here on out, right along with the statues of the country’s Founders who brought it into existence. That is now our default historical trajectory, unless we can amass enough real-world power to deflect it. If we don’t, Wokeness will soon accumulate and consolidate enough power to foreclose any possibility of our ever being able to undertake precisely these kinds of efforts, or any efforts against it at all.
Democratic discourse, and anti-totalitarianism in the larger historical picture, will only survive if we who believe in it are willing and able to build deep, multi-layered real-world relationships and structures capable of mounting a direct, strategic defense against Woke totalitarianism. Only by working closely together, with a top-level strategic mindset, would we be able to deploy our combined human agency to directly altering the historical trajectory onto which Wokeness is so powerfully steering us.