It was bound to happen. As Mark Twain writes in “Corn Pone Opinions,” our self-approval is “acquired mainly from the approval of other people.” Our ideas don’t come from “thinking and examination,” but are about “association and sympathy” with our tribe. For most of human history, this worked to our benefit. Being tribal helped you survive. In the animal world, especially among our closest relatives—chimpanzees—banishment often means death. Sometimes the banished form a new tribe. As a teenage outsider in the 1980s, I found my tribe in the goth and punk scene. A tribe is the ultimate safe space. But it can also become too insulated.
A few years ago, I joined a new tribe. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I intended to do the opposite. We were a tribe against tribes. Ironically, part of my reason for unwittingly joining this tribe was my dislike of tribalism. This new tribe was centered on a dislike of PC culture and identity politics. As someone who went to college in the late 90s, studied the humanities (my BA is in comparative literature) and became an adjunct professor, I’d been immersed in PC culture for a long time. But, as much as I disliked some elements of the culture, I was still a card-carrying liberal. Not just liberal, but even left of center at times. I still am. But my liberal academic tribe had begun to change their views on things like free speech, especially in the arts, and on tolerating diversity of opinion. So I found myself ideologically homeless. I was seeking a new tribe. I just wasn’t conscious of it. I was looking for like-minded individuals, who would agree that it was outrageous that offended Twitter mobs could get people cancelled or de-platformed. I wanted allies, so that I didn’t feel quite so crazy.
The tribe I joined was supposed to be an independent one. Perhaps that was my first mistake: since that is an inherent contradiction. Still, our tribe wasn’t like those other tribes. Our tribe was a loose conglomerate of free thinkers. We had no ideological purity tests—or did we? The tribe began as a relatively small group of scientists, intellectuals, artists, journalists and disgruntled academics, who had begun to push back against call-out culture. They gave it a name—the Intellectual Dark Web—and at least one author referred to it as Free Speech YouTube (Meghan Daum, in her book The Problem with Everything). This tribe consisted of ideologically diverse people with one thing in common—they were free speech advocates, who championed independent thought and civilized disagreements and disliked the way mob rule was beginning to shut down conversation.
I began following members of this tribe on Twitter. I wrote articles for the magazines at its tribal center. Soon, my Twitter feed began to fill up with tweets from my tribe, thanks to algorithms. The more such tweets I liked, the more I saw. And, like all tribes, we even had a common enemy to rally around—they were called the woke, a loose conglomerate of online social justice activists who comported themselves like new Victorians, or McCarthyites, monitoring everyone’s behavior, words and art for transgressions against their worldview. The woke were the new fundamentalists. Their tactics were illiberal, damaging to a society that believed in the free exchange of ideas and free speech. They weaponized social media and were turning us into a surveillance society. In the name of democracy, freedom, reason and the Enlightenment, it was important to push back against this illiberal tribe. After all, unlike them, my tribe was intellectually honest. We had checks and balances. We were ideologically diverse. We avoided groupthink. We even avoided saying we. Except when we didn’t. Because we were also prone to tribal behavior, just like any other tribe.
A professor at the University of Calgary recently incited a mini anti-woke Twitter riot when he tweeted out a blasphemous joke: the claim that any student who cited Jordan Peterson in his class would fail. The new anti-woke (a group that has begun to be taken over by regular old-fashioned conservatives) mobilized the mob against him. Their reaction was humorless and literal. This professor had only a little over a thousand followers, but it didn’t take long for a pile-on to begin, after a few news organizations and YouTube talk show host Dave Rubin, with his 650,000 followers, got involved in the public shaming. As is often the case, the problematic professor retreated from the fray: first protecting his tweets and then issuing an apology, stressing that it had only been a joke. Because we were the good guys, the ones who cared about free speech, the reasonable ones, we, the anti-woke crowd, accepted the apology and retracted our articles, realizing that we had overreacted to a joke and it was time to move on.
Except that’s not what happened. Just as the woke mobs do, my tribe doubled-down.
Two days later, an article appeared in the Post Millennial, titled “Anti-Jordan Peterson Professor Accused of Abuse of Power by Former Colleague, Students.” Someone had dug up more dirt on this professor, in the form of a few anecdotes—one from an anonymous former colleague, who claimed that the professor “does penalize students for divergent views,” though he offered no evidence of how, and a few from anonymous students. It’s so easy to create a narrative. Without any substantial evidence that this professor has ever lowered a student grade, he was essentially accused of thoughtcrime.
No doubt universities are skewed ideologically, but I’m not sure attempts to destroy the reputation of an individual professor on the basis of a joke tweet is any way to change society. Is Twitter outrage really the best way to correct a professor’s ideological biases? Shouldn’t there be a higher bar set for turning a tweet into a news story and damaging somebody’s reputation in the process?
Nobody censored the professor or tried to get him fired (that we know of) but is ruining someone’s reputation really a much better thing to do? I thought we were against mob outrage and public shaming? Loss of reputation can lead to missed opportunities down the line. This would be acceptable in the case of a true injustice—if there were real evidence that this professor had lowered somebody’s grade or stood in the way of a student’s own opportunities. Just as it’s acceptable when the woke mob calls out a real injustice, such as a police shooting of an unarmed citizen. But, just as woke mobs aren’t always concerned with real justice, this wasn’t a case of real justice either. Anti-woke outrage is now a brand and the new anti-woke justice warriors, with their large platforms, used mob intimidation to court likes and followers. A single Google search could now damage this professor’s reputation: based only on hearsay and a desire to smash the woke. Isn’t this the same tactic woke journalists employ, when they write hit pieces for Vox? Why was my own tribe doing this?
Threats to campus free speech are real (and are mostly directed against professors). But most professors are anonymously evaluated by students and colleagues on a regular basis. Students always get the chance to complain if something has gone wrong. On websites like ratemyprofessors.com, students can comment on a professor’s performance (a quick search of the professor in question here revealed mostly positive comments, and nothing about bias). Public shaming is not an effective way of defending free speech. These are the same kinds of intimidation tactics employed by the woke. I will probably get banished by my tribe for saying this: but perhaps anti-woke is becoming the mirror image of woke. Maybe it’s time for some self-reflection.
This article supports my thoughts in watching the anti-woke backlash, sadly cheer-led by Don Trump Jnr. I’m not justifying the stupid absolutism of wokeness, but most of the movements goals are towards equality of opportunity. It was obvious cancel culture would be weaponized/reverse engineered and turned on its wielders, and perhaps there is some justice in that, but if you look around you I think you will see the “woke mob” stepping back, recognizing that they have been out-strategized by the real power players, The Mainstream Establishment. They laugh at the distraction of polarized politics and identity politics; it keeps the fringe thinkers attacking one another. Mission accomplished!
how many times can you write “tribe” in your douche bag article?
This is your excuse? Ignore social awareness and social problems because of the tactics use by some liberals. Allow the bigotry and social injustices to continue and pretend that we live in a decent world? This is your solution? This attitude is so fucking hypocritical that it makes me want to puke.
[…] Is Anti-Woke Becoming the New Woke?AeroMagazine.com | Clive Margrave | 1 January, 2020Link to Article […]
Of course it turns out the same, it’s what humans do: they mob. They always do. I got kicked out of every single tribe because of it since I was 6 years old. Did’nt you get that 98% of the right wingers who defend free speech now are the same that have bullied Anita Sarkeesian with rape threats, or at least claped at it .They created the wokes ,and gave them amunitions and legitimacy. It felt warm for a while to find that new tribe, but they are a bunch of hypocrites just like the others. Now I understand that what I want to defend is the very idea of civilization, seing human beings as equals in rights and dignity, all those things that I took for granted , I see now that it might be the real fight for years to come. Nobody seems to care anymore, it’s only… Read more »
[…] https://areomagazine.com/2020/01/21/is-anti-woke-becoming-the-new-woke/ […]
It is true indeed. Feminism, blm, gender studies – their attempt was to solve real problems and it may have solved some but at large their method failed. They fight fire with fire, sexism with sexism, racism with racism, and they divide people into more artificial groups instead of uniting. Feminism – an ideology. It was always sexist to begin with but in past it was justified. In today’s day and age it became unnecessary. A rational person will sympathise with both men and women instead of just women. Gender studies – ideology that puts meaningless labels on people. Man playing with dolls doesn’t make him a woman. Woman not liking pink doesn’t make her man. A person liking things that likes things from either side is not gender fluid, it’s just a person with individual personality. It being a university subject is a blatant indoctrination. Transgenderism – ideology. Impying… Read more »
[…] seen a lot tribalism from people who purport themselves to be beyond tribes. I’ve seen scholars present themselves as though they had actually […]
I think we badly need to explore dimensions of political attitude and behavior largely ignored or neglected in our current near-exclusive obsession with power relations and with two-sided oppressor/oppressed, exploiter/exploited, elite/”subaltern” binaries, especially in liberal, leftist, and progressivist “discourses.” I’d thus like to introduce here the concept of “countersignaling,” or “showing off by not showing off.” Countersignaling is the strategy of people so confident of their valuable qualities that they feel no need to flaunt them. It contrasts with the often exaggerated displays felt as urgently necessary by people with only a moderate amount of the desirable qualities in question–whether of wealth, social status, intelligence, education, competence, physical strength, or social position. Countersignaling, as far as we know, seems to be a uniquely human trait, while positive signaling of one’s attractive or dangerous characteristics is widespread throughout the animal kingdom–as in mating displays (e.g., the peacock’s tail) and in the… Read more »
Regarding my February 10, 2020 comments on Clint Margrave’s January 21, 2020 AREO article “Is Anti-Woke Becoming the New Woke?,” Ray Andrews wrote later on February 10 that my post was “not a comment, it’s an article in itself,” however finding “[m]uch to like” in it. Agreeing that “the woke left drives people away,” he added that he was “sure many of the people who voted for Trump did it with a tear in their eye.” Yes, my own feeling also has been that many of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 did not do so because they particularly liked him or agreed with much of his platform, but only because they were disgusted or frightened by the people, groups, and positions he attacked. Many pundits and commentators have pretty much said the same thing. Thus, for instance, it’s been observed that many of the counties and precincts… Read more »
The worst thing about the “woke,” “politically correct” mentality, I think, is just that it’s atrociously bad public relations for liberals and progressives–both on campus and at the ballot box. As Napoleon’s police minister Joseph Fouché said of Napoleon’s execution in 1804 of one of his political enemies, the Duc d’Enghien, in a remark sometimes also attributed to Talleyrand, “C’est pire qu’une crime, c’est une faute”–“It’s worse than a crime; it’s a blunder.” Students who shout down or de-platform conservative campus speakers, professors who flunk a student for quoting Jordan Peterson, administrators who fire (or refuse tenure to) “politically incorrect” professors, and politicians like Hillary Clinton who call working-class White voters “deplorables” have forgotten Dale Carnegie’s reminder over 80 years ago that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You just don’t “win friends and influence people,” whether among voters, students, or teachers, by scolding and insulting them,… Read more »
Many here refer back to the un-funny nature of the ‘joke’ made by the academic. Few refer to the apology that followed. One of the biggest problems (on all sides of politics) these days is that we are devaluing expressions of remorse by refusing to offer forgiveness. That cannot be worthwhile in the long term. Also I noticed something odd in this comments section. Many or even most of the comments have garnered more thumbs down than thumbs up. Is that likely in an open debate? Surely if we aggregated into moreorless two sides (in this case answering the title question with a yes or no) then there would be two scenarios. Either both sides would be evenly matched in which case ups and downs would even out. Or one side would be in the majority in which case you could see who they were by the fact they had… Read more »
The claim is that a political movement called Woke is censoring free speech. How? You are entitled to you opinion and so are they. From they very onset the scenario is that whites have free speech but blacks don’t. They can say things that are racist and belittling but if a black person speaks out and says it is wrong he is dubbed cancel culture and attempts to shame him into conformity with white supremacist ideology and political views. All I got was the writer was an out of touch white person that agrees with racist viewpoints while not recognizing them as such. I guess that was the strategy of the goths. It is okay to be racist if you slap the word liberal in front of it. Plays out like modern day Jim Crow. There are black people who are disfranchised by white people. In the 1990’s there was… Read more »
This whole article seems to be just giving us a modern example of the danger that was pointed out by Nietzsche over a century ago:
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”
On the other hand – the very mild mannered liberal Jonathan Haidt sets out very clearly his excellent book ‘The Righteous Mind’ why all of this (group mentality and virtue signalling) happens on all sides of the political spectrum – and is likely to go on happening…
For anti-“woke,” anti-“SJW,” and anti-“PC” liberals, the danger posed by the “woke” is not that they will actually ever gain power. Short of an armed Leninist-style coup d’etat repeating Petrograd October/November 1917, our contemporary American PC neo-Stalinists have virtually absolute zero chance of being elected to positions of serious political power, as their rhetoric and antics simply disgust and frighten the vast majority of American voters, including most of those who would gladly vote for a traditional JFK-Hubert Humphrey style Democrat–and most of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. “Wokeness” and “political correctness” will only drive ordinary Americans, including many who would in fact benefit from Sanders/Warren style social-democratic (NOT “socialist” despite “Bernie’s” slightly inaccurate terminology) reforms, into the arms of the right-wing Republicans (including whoever might come after Trump), and maybe even feel that the Alt-Righters and white supremacists might perhaps have a point after… Read more »
“Woke” is fast becoming the new politically correct euphemism for “retard.”
Dear Mr. Margrave, I read your January 21, 2019 AREO article “Is Anti-Woke Becoming the New Woke?” with great interest a few days ago. I’m an enthusiastic new reader of AREO, which I serendiptously discovered a few weeks ago after coming across a couple of online links to some of Helen Pluckrose’s and James A. Lindsay’s articles criticizing identity politics, contemporary radical feminism, and postmodernism. From those I proceeded that same night to a number of other AREO articles by various contributors on various topics, which with a few exceptions I found very close to my own perspective on social, political, and cultural issues. Like yourself, Pluckrose, and Lindsay, I’m a long-time left-leaning liberal thoroughly dismayed by the intolerant, illiberal, proto-totalitarian “woke” or “social justice warrior” culture of so many liberals, leftists, and feminists today yet reluctant to join the ranks of the conservatives and rightists. I too hold basically… Read more »
“The tribe I joined was supposed to be an independent one. Perhaps that was my first mistake…”
No, In my opinion, it was your third. Your second mistake arises from your apparent confusion about tribal identity and mob psychology being the same thing and originating from the same source. They aren’t, and they don’t.
Your first mistake is thinking that Twitter is both a legitimate barometer on the validity of opinions and an accurate source of information to pull from. It isn’t and it’s not. Twitter = opinion porn. The more you prove you are willing to do and say anything to be popular, the more popular you become. But in the end, it’s still porn and not an accurate representation of reality.
I agree with those comments which answer the question posed in the title with “no”. The problem IMO is not that this side or that side expresses whatever crazed or overwrought reaction to whose-ever’s comments, made publicly or in classrooms, work, media etc. The problem is when those in power succumb to the cacophony and use their power to censor or otherwise punish those who express their opinions-whatever those opinions are. As Jordan Peterson has rightly observed, the reason the “woke” postmodernist-cum-socialists define all of reality in terms of power, and deny reason, is bc it justifies THEIR irrational use of power. This reaction by the “anti-woke” to this professor’s “joke” is perfectly understandable given the Orwellian treatment by the “woke” establishment of anyone who deviates from their orthodoxy; an orthodoxy that unfortunately enjoys hegemony in education, media, our political bureaucracy and other institutions of power and influence today. You… Read more »
If you use twitter you get what you deserve coz only tw**s use twitter.
Ugh. In the wake of the Orwellian academic fascism Lyndsay Shepherd (and others) faced because of citing Peterson, was this REALLY an overreaction and the mirror image of woke leftist cancel culture? Is there anything even remotely funny about his “joke” in this context? The power structure the Prof. works in is totally sympathetic to him and hostile towards the kinds of people who are angry at him–as are most of the students. The term “False equivalence” is overused these days, but… COME ON, MAN!
The answer to the title question is “No,” but it’s important that our side ask and subject ourselves to the rigors of intellectual honesty. It can be tough to draw a clear boundary between subjecting the enemy to their own rules and upholding our own standards. It seems to me that one good way to negotiate that conundrum is to make clear decisions about what we want to accomplish: I think (hope) we’d like for people to be able to express good-faith viewpoints without facing violence, ostracism, or professional ruination; to be given the benefit of the doubt and have their arguments evaluated in the light most favorable to a presumption of decency and benevolent intent; to have recognized the distinction between an opinion and an intrinsic characteristic (what Contrapoints calls “essentialism” in his recent video about cancel culture); to be free from being extorted or bullied into advocating views… Read more »
If you are ignorant of the fact that Twitter has very low psychological bandwidth, maybe you should refrain from using Twitter.
Then you wouldn’t have to claim to have been joking in a Tweet that gave people the impression you’re an intellectual bigot. Then people wouldn’t look for evidence about whether it was likely to have been a joke.
You’re not Donald Trump, so you probably won’t get away with it.
It is good that the `anti-woke’ guard against the tendency of any political movement to take on the methods and tactics of their opponents – in the way, for example, that `Antifa’ is now objectively fascist, and the `anti-racists’ now imitate the racist language of the hardcore Jim Crow types of the twentieth century. However, the author can only offer one example wherein a professor was allegedly harried by the `anti-woke’, and a very weak comparison this is indeed. I am against any professor – anyone really – losing their job over mere statements. I was against the professor who was fired for praising Antifa, and more recently the professor fired for saying – `joking’ – that Iran should bomb U.S. cultural sites in response to a putative U.S. attack on their cultural sites. I would be vehemently against this U. of Calgary professor’s job being menaced by his `joke’… Read more »
When one shares a message in a private post group think is avoided. The mob mentality is always the reality with a public post. The mob mentality is what makes social media so addicting and chaotic. The best way to confront a member of one’s tribe with an issue is privately.
I disagree with the author. It was not an overreaction. First, regarding the joke, I don’t know what the guy intended when he wrote his tweet. It’s possible that he was indeed joking. However, had there been no scandal around it, the outcome would be the same regardless of his intent. Most students would be deterred from mentioning opinions, which would seem to them as running counter this professors’ narrative. And most likely this would not be just Peterson’s opinions. In this regard, he did a very bad thing and deserves all the criticism. Second, by ganging up on him, people send a message that this behavior is not acceptable and hopefully this message will be heard not just by the profession in question. So these “attacks” have utility beyond this concrete incident. Third, regarding the fairness of attacking the professor, it’s not case like any other. The left would… Read more »
I freely admit to having commented on the “professors” tweet and his announcement that it was just a joke. If it was indeed a joke he need not apply to the comedy circuit as his comedic timing is non-existent and there was no sign of the alleged joke status of the post. If only such things or similar things had never been said by other woke people throughout the last decade then the “joke” assertion would have resonnated
Of course “anti-woke” people need to avoid emulating the worst features of the “woke”, but the article offers little in the way of evidence that this is happening. If a few people not rowing back from an over-reaction is the worst you can find, this suggests things aren’t too bad so far.
You are praising with faint damnation.
Clint, of course this is happening. It’s inevitable. We human beings are tribal to the core. Get enough people in a room who agree with each other about something controversial, and we stop feeling lonely. We feel powerful, to ourselves, at least. Then we create rules for speech, thought and behavior to differentiate ourselves from those benighted outsiders. At that point the endeavor morphs into religion, with our own terminology for virtual signaling, but the same old, mandatory conformism. Then it’s time to leave. It doesn’t mean you abandon the good ideas that brought you together with others in the first place, but groupthink will kill your soul and you’ve got to go. The question is, then what? I don’t have a good answer. The fact that you’ve written this meta-analysis is a good sign. It means you can think for yourself, even as you acknowledge your longing to find… Read more »
I didn’t read anything about what should have happened in the case of the antiJBP professor? Anything? When such events occur (I have no doubt whatsoever this professor was completely serious), what should good men (and women) do? Just ignore it? Huh, no
“I thought we were against mob outrage and public shaming?”
This article is what’s called concern trolling. I’m ashamed to see it here.
It’s not a surprise that the victims of a movement have adapted and began using that movement’s superior strategy. The SJWs have won for years using these outrage mobs. It’s only become a problem now that the enemy has mastered the new weapon and is using it against them?
I compare it to the Soviets being taught harsh lessons by the Nazis in 1941. By 1943, after enduring the harshest possible curicculum, the worm turned and they chased them all the way back to Berlin. But evidently that was a bad thing, they shouldn’t have learned what they did.
“A professor at the University of Calgary recently incited a mini anti-woke Twitter riot when he tweeted out a blasphemous joke: the claim that any student who cited Jordan Peterson in his class would fail.”
Was there anything about the tweet which ought to have made it clear to a reasonable reader that it was a Joke? Given the recent history of Left academia in relation to Jordan Peterson – the Lindsay Sheppard affair comes to mind – one might be forgiven for thinking, in the absence of a clear signal to the contrary, that said professor was dead serious. Had that been so, the anti-woke twitter riot would have been well justified.
Most anti woke don’t even identify as such, we’re just people going on about our lives.
Is Anti-Woke Becoming the New Woke?
“I will probably get banished by my tribe for saying this”
I doubt you will face much pushback from the IDW for this. Also, if I remember correctly the tweet you discuss here from the UCalgary professor had no indication of humor. Outrage certainly seemed justified in that case and doesn’t strike me as tribal.
Once the professor indicated it was a joke, the IDW should have given him the benefit of the doubt and accepted him at his word unless evidence was provided to indicate otherwise. Minus the one article you linked, for the most part people have laid off. At least from what I can tell.
If you are asking yourself this question, you are already out of the tribe. I was very serious when I told to my grandson “Be yourself, especially in the crowd”.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch
Ridiculous claim in the article.
‘Identity politics’ — the hokey wokey jive — is the all-pervasive, in-depth totalitarian hate-mongering backlash towards the masses by the cognitively dissonant Left.
It will take a lot to shift it, and the trajectory is to civil war if it’s not defeated before that likely eventuality.
There is nothing like ‘woke’ in the criticism of it, and there does not need to be, because it is based on nonsense.
See the forthcoming paper, ‘The falsity of identity politics (PC): negative attitude is specifically to males and for any difference, in policing male sexual access by gate-keeping group membership’, due out shortly, with pre-prints at Researchgate and Academia.edu.
I just read something that feels closely related to this topic yesterday – https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2020/01/16/the-internet-of-beefs/
If Venkatesh Rao is correct in the article I linked, then the anti-woke mirroring the woke was pretty much inevitable. Underlying all of this is that humans seem to be inherently tribal. It’s incredibly hard to avoid tribal behavior, and even if one person does avoid it, tribal behavior will still emerge from pretty much any cause or group.
What are the solutions to preventing tribalism? One would be a very hierarchical organization with policing from the top down. This is unlikely on Twitter or the internet as a whole, since there’s no way to actually enforce norms. The other is walled gardens and self-policing communities, which _do_ work, but are inherently limited in their reach and influence. Venkatesh Rao does cover some of this in his essay as well, which I highly recommend.
“I will probably get banished by my tribe for saying this: but perhaps anti-woke is becoming the mirror image of woke.”
I hope not. It is hard not to fight fire with fire. I myself think of this as war, and the woke must be quite defeated. If there was an over reaction then the genuinely intellectual should retract, and you seem to suggest that they have. Give the rest a little while to stand down.