Dutrisac: Placer ses pions (identity politics and polarization in Quebec)

Of interest:

Les élections à date fixe ont un effet pervers : comme on connaît l’échéance électorale, il s’instaure, avant la campagne officielle d’une trentaine de jours habituellement, une précampagne informelle qui peut durer des mois. Or, à plus d’un an des élections d’octobre 2022, François Legault place déjà ses pions, comme on l’a vu à l’ouverture de la session parlementaire cette semaine.

On a dit que le premier ministre avait été « piqué au vif » quand le nouveau chef parlementaire de Québec solidaire (QS), Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, l’a accusé d’imiter Maurice Duplessis. Rien n’est moins sûr. Il a plutôt semblé sauter, tel un félin, sur l’occasion, que lui offrait le solidaire sur un plateau d’argent, de le qualifier de woke.

Chez les caquistes, on parle sans gêne aucune de former une union des Bleus, une nouvelle union nationale. Le sentiment que la souveraineté n’est plus dans l’air du temps — leur idée première —, associé à la dégénérescence du Parti québécois, les conforte dans cette ambition unificatrice. François Legault ne ressent pas d’aversion viscérale envers le « cheuf ». Il n’a pas hésité au printemps dernier à livrer sur les réseaux sociaux qu’il avait lu avec intérêt l’essai Duplessis est encore en vie, de Pierre B. Berthelot. Il a révélé qu’il avait été marqué par une scène de la remarquable série télévisée Duplessis, de Denys Arcand.

Il est ironique que Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois se fasse traiter de woke puisqu’il incarne au sein de QS la gauche classique, celle qui fait grand cas des inégalités sociales, et qu’il a dû lutter contre une faction de la gauche identitaire radicale au sein du parti, le Collectif antiraciste décolonial.

Revenant de lui-même sur le sujet au lendemain de son échange avec le chef solidaire, le premier ministre nous a donné sa propre définition d’un woke : « C’est quelqu’un qui veut nous rendre coupables de défendre la nation québécoise, de défendre ses valeurs, comme on l’avait fait avec la loi 21, de défendre nos compétences », a-t-il dit. Il y a deux partis multiculturalistes, le Parti libéral du Québec et QS, qui sont contre la loi 21 sur la laïcité, caractérise-t-il.

Évidemment, François Legault tourne les coins ronds. On peut être nationaliste et s’opposer à la loi 21. Dans le passé, plusieurs souverainistes au sein du PQ ont d’ailleurs exprimé leurs réserves relativement à l’interdiction du port de signes religieux.

Habilement, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois a fait semblant de ne pas savoir ce que c’était un woke. D’ailleurs, comme l’écrivait notre journaliste Stéphane Baillargeon, si la définition du mot telle qu’elle est contenue dans l’Oxford English Dictionary est simple (le fait d’être « conscient des problèmes sociaux et politiques, en particulier le racisme »), certaines manifestations du phénomène, qui se présentent comme une exacerbation du « politically correct » — la culture du bannissement (cancel culture), la censure et l’autocensure à l’université, et maintenant l’autodafé —, conduisent à un extrémisme qui recourt à l’affect plutôt qu’à la raison. Sur les campus universitaires, ce « crois ou meurs » bien-pensant, cette ferveur presque religieuse ne sont pas sans rappeler l’orthodoxie liberticide et anti-intellectualiste des militants marxistes-léninistes et maoïstes des années 1970.

Agissant en chef de parti qui prépare le terrain du prochain affrontement électoral, François Legault, loin de la réflexion sociologique, a voulu définir ses adversaires en grossissant le trait et proposer un choix binaire entre le duplessisme et le wokisme, entre la défense de la nation et le progressisme multiculturaliste. Dans cette dichotomie, solidaires et libéraux se retrouvent dans le même sac. Quant aux péquistes, ils ne figurent plus, ou à peine, dans l’équation.

Le grand gagnant de cette semaine parlementaire, c’est sans aucun doute Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, qui faisait ses premières armes dans sa nouvelle fonction. Le chef de la deuxième opposition a éclipsé la cheffe de l’opposition officielle, Dominique Anglade. La perspective que les solidaires puissent incarner la véritable opposition à l’Assemblée nationale va dans le sens d’une polarisation qui ne peut que réjouir les caquistes. Rappelons d’ailleurs que QS est maintenant le deuxième parti après la CAQ chez les francophones avec environ 15 % des intentions de vote, soit au moins une fois et demie plus d’appuis que le Parti libéral.

La CAQ pratique ainsi une forme de politique de la division ou de polarisation (wedge politics) qui semble désormais bien ancrée dans les mœurs partisanes. C’est détestable. Mais comme l’a déjà dit Brian Mulroney, cité récemment par Michel C. Auger, « en politique, il est important d’avoir des amis, mais il est encore plus important d’avoir des ennemis ». Et s’ils peuvent se trouver à un extrême du spectre politique, c’est encore mieux.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/editoriaux/633687/duplessis-et-les-placer-ses-pions?utm_source=infolettre-2021-09-20&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

Joseph Heath: Woke tactics are as important as woke beliefs

Always interesting to read Heath and his uncomfortable observations and analysis:

After several years of creeping illiberalism under the guise of progressive politics, American liberals are finally getting their act together. They are pushing back, creating several organizations committed to combating the influence of “woke” politics and ideology. They have momentum, not just because many woke mantras like “defund the police” have proven spectacularly unpopular, but also because there is genuine growing alarm about the intolerant and authoritarian brand of politics that has become associated with the woke left.

Unfortunately, many of the woke genuinely do not understand why anyone finds their politics, or their political tactics, threatening. In particular, the accusation that they are being authoritarian, or that “cancel culture” is a threat to freedom of expression, is one that they are simply unable to process. 

There is a reason for this — and one that’s worth understanding. There are several key phrases that play an enormously important role in woke politics (e.g. “safety,” “mental health,” “microaggression,” “bullying” and even “human rights”) which they use to deflect the accusation of authoritarianism. If you adopt the right words, it’s easier to convince yourself that you’re the good guys even as you’re acting like the bad ones.

I want to take a shot at explaining how this works. 

The most important thing to understand about woke politics is that it is not a conventional form of illiberalism, it is better thought of as a type of “illiberal liberalism.” It involves making a set of political demands that are fundamentally illiberal, but then articulating them in a way that fits the conventional structure of liberal political discourse. Because of the way that their complaints are packaged, the woke are able to brush off criticism of their tactics.

Take an issue like freedom of speech. There are various versions of this traditionally liberal virtue; predominant among them, is that those who hold this belief are opposed to content-based restrictions on speech. In the old days, lots of politicians didn’t really believe in freedom of speech, as many among the ruling class maintained straightforwardly illiberal views. 

Consider, for example, the aftermath of the “police riot” that occurred during the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. The Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, put the blame for the violence squarely on the protesters. In those pre-feminist times, it was a common tactic for hippie protesters to provoke police by describing, in graphic detail, the various sex acts that they intended to perpetrate on the wives and daughters of the forces of order. Humphrey found this intolerable, and so defended police violence in the following terms:

The obscenity, the profanity, the filth that was uttered night after night in front of the hotels was an insult to every woman, every mother, every daughter, indeed, every human being, the kind of language that no one would tolerate at all. You’d put anybody in jail for that kind of talk. And yet it went on for day after day. Is it any wonder that the police had to take action?

This is good-old-fashioned illiberalism. Someone said something outrageous, something intolerable, and so needs to be punished for it. If you insult the police, you can’t complain if you get beat up. According to Humphrey, it was the content of what the protesters said that justified throwing them in jail.

What I find striking about this example is that people who want to censor speech don’t talk this way any more, because it is such an obvious violation of liberal principles. Modern enemies of free speech have found ways to formulate their demands for punishment in ways that violate the spirit, but still respect the letter, of those very principles. Most obviously, they take advantage of certain exceptions to the general prohibition on content-based restrictions.

Anyone who has studied free speech issues or read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty will of course be familiar with these exceptions. The biggest one is that, while it may not be permissible to prohibit the expression of an idea, any particular episode of speech can be prohibited if the performance of the speech act is likely to bring serious harm to some other person. Mill, for example, famously suggested that while it was permissible to publish the opinion that “corn dealers rob the poor,” chanting that slogan in front of an agitated mob outside the corn dealer’s home is another matter entirely. The latter can be prohibited, because it is likely to cause harm to the corn dealer.

While this caveat may seem reasonable at first glance, it creates all sorts of problems, precisely because the concept of harm is not well-defined. Notice that in Mill’s example, the speaker does not directly harm the corn dealer. The speaker rather incites the mob, and it is members of the mob who then pose a threat to the corn dealer (and that threat may never materialize). 

This loophole is the one that has been taken advantage of most aggressively by the woke left to push for restrictions on speech. When they come across something they don’t like, rather than calling for censorship on the basis of content, they will instead attempt to restrict it on the grounds that it causes harm. Of course, they are smart enough to realize that the mere fact that it upsets them is not enough to qualify as a harm. So they posit a causal connection to a more serious physical or psychological harm. For example, students who are trying to censor the expression of ideas in the classroom will claim that the discussion makes them feel “unsafe,” or that it threatens their mental health. What is crucial about this move is that it allows them to call for illiberal actions (i.e. censorship or punishment of speech) on grounds that are, in principle at least, not illiberal.

Consider a concrete example of this. My own academic discipline was rocked by a cancel-culture scandal in 2017, involving an article published by the Canadian philosopher Rebecca Tuvel in the journal Hypatia. In the article, Tuvel upset a lot of people by asking the awkward question why, if it’s all just socially constructed, we accept the claims of people who want to switch genders, but not those who want to switch races. What ignited the real controversy, however, was not the article, but rather the attempt by hundreds of academics to cancel it, by signing an online petition demanding that the journal retract the piece. 

This recent trend of demanding the retraction of controversial academic work is a perfect example of illiberal liberalism. Traditionally, the way that philosophers have responded to journal articles they disagree with is to write their own articles criticizing the view. Demanding that the journal retract the paper is an entirely different tactic. On the surface, it is not illiberal, since academic journals are committed to publishing material that meets a certain standard, and are committed to retracting work that is subsequently shown to have fallen below that standard. And yet at the same time, it is clearly punitive. Having published a journal article that subsequently had to be retracted is a major stain on a scholar’s reputation, and could easily serve as an obstacle to being granted tenure.

In the case of Tuvel’s paper, the purpose of the online petition was obviously punitive, since the case for retraction was non-existent. It was clearly a demand for censorship (something illiberal), but it was presented under the guise of a demand for retraction (something consistent with liberalism). 

In the petition letter, the central argument for retraction was made in terms of the “harm” caused by the article, as well as the claim that its publication was “dangerous.” Many wondered how an article published in a feminist academic journal, dealing with an entirely abstract argument about identity and social construction, could possibly cause harm. In its defence, some of the signatories pointed to the high rate of suicide among transgendered individuals, claiming that anyone seeking to ask questions or to debate their claims was putting them at risk of self-harm.

This argument is obviously spurious. The suggestion that upsetting someone who belongs to a social group with an elevated suicide rate should count as a “harm,” sufficient to justify restrictions on speech, is not a defensible conception of harm. Young white American men who own guns also have an extremely high rate of suicide, and yet no one worries much about hurting their feelings. More generally, expanding the category of harm in this way makes it so broad that practically any action can be construed as harmful, and therefore completely undermines freedom of speech. This argument was obviously being gerrymandered to prohibit the expression of a specific view that certain people found offensive.

What is crucial though is the form of the argument. By pointing to these ephemeral harms, those who are trying to engage in censorship of speech that they disagree with are nevertheless able to convince themselves that this is not what they are doing. The appeal to harm is a “fig leaf” argument, in that it conceals their true motive from others, but also, one senses, from themselves.

This analysis allows us to better understand some of the strange “snowflake” behaviour that one sees among young people of a certain political persuasion. Explicitly or implicitly, they have internalized the idea that in order to get other people punished for doing things you don’t like, you have to claim that they have harmed you. This is why they are so quick to claim injury (e.g. damage to their mental health, fear for their safety, etc.), in circumstances that a normal person would shrug off. They are like soccer players trying to draw a penalty. It’s not a “culture of victimhood,” on the contrary, it is more often an act of social aggression, since these performances of injury are typically carried out, not to attract sympathy, but rather punish and control others.

This is also why HR departments have become an important vector for illiberalism. At my own university, for example, staff at the Office of Accessibility Services have attempted to censor the curriculum in certain philosophy courses. The logic of this is not difficult to see. Students realize that they are not going to get authors or texts banned by appealing to the faculty. So instead they go to their disability services counsellor and claim that they cannot attend class when certain authors are being discussed, because they feel unsafe. Staff have no particular commitment to academic freedom, and so are happy to take up the cause. 

HR departments aren’t full of cultural Marxists, they’re a liberal fig leaf used to cover up these fundamentally illiberal impulses. Most HR professionals have no particular ideology, they are just extremely averse to conflict, and think that the easiest way to make a conflict go away is for the person who is saying the thing that is upsetting other people to stop saying it.

As a member of Generation X dealing with young people, I sometimes feel like a hockey player watching a soccer game, trying to figure out whether the players are completely hamming it up, or whether they actually are that delicate. The answer is probably somewhere in between. I have no doubt that many young people truly are lacking in psychological resilience, but it is important to recognize that there are also important political motives at work that encourage them to act this fragile.

It is equally important to recognize the futility of calling them “left fascists” or authoritarian.  Not only do they brush off the accusation, but it encourages them to double down on the snowflake behaviour,because it’s precisely by claiming injury that they deflect the accusation of intolerance.

Source: https://email.mg2.substack.com/c/eJxVkk1vozAQhn9NuCXyB2A4cKiKkiUq6XY3TdtckLGH4MQxLJgS8uvXSfayku2RXs-8I80zgls4NN2UtE1vvdtT2KmFxMDYa7AWOm_ooSuUTDBiOA4Q82TiSxwFkaf6ouoAzlzpxHYDeO1QaiW4VY25VTCEKPHqREQMgS8jJpn0ZUliWokKQUk5ECk4f_Tlg1RgBCTwDd3UGPB0Ulvb9jP6NCNLd2wNWhlY9EPZWy5OC9Gcndy6e2x6aOt5DdzW87E5wdwlWCX6Oe9gzp3H0jrVzGgK0xoLsps-iT5lx-aSp-Lyun0fN9OoxCq-ymXc7p-zML8Kf3N8J5v0qc_OupY3bfs1bdI3nF-_gvz3qPjn5uo8lPixUy9bMeZpPmXK-dCduus3v2c87T-WR7nS36VaxwvD1kwc5Av6lcdMy-VHGja0362MZoS9-e2fn9nrZarHbI88lRBEMAoJxRQFPl3gBa9wQEouQ3CKG2oMURkiFmHsSxbGZOaj84H8NySvS7iRHYz60KmqUrZ2SUroZpD3b8etcPE8GGWnAgwvNcgHUvvYjDvk4gAGOrcxsuA2wSHx_YC6jhSFD4SOOWVRGIQ-8lx_2bgqk_zD9hfzNtGv

Coren: Change can be intimidating, but that doesn’t justify turning words like ‘woke’ into slurs

Another interesting column by Michael Coren. Best line IMO “while I’ve no idea if I’m “woke” or not, I hope I’m not asleep”:

Back in the late 1970s while living in the U.K., I took a university course on modern British history. In one tutorial we discussed pre-war fascism and its leader, the repugnant Sir Oswald Mosley, whose black-shirted followers would randomly attack Jewish people in London’s East End. One of the young men sitting around the table said, “We had that chap speak at our school once.”

Silence. I broke it by asking if there were any Jewish children at the school. Pause. “I rather think there were,” he drawled. How, I asked, do you think they felt? His reply: “I have absolutely no idea.”

No, he certainly didn’t.It’s increasingly fashionable to make fun of, dismiss, even insult concepts of “political correctness” and “woke,” and to describe progressive comment as “virtue signalling.” The habit, a spasm really, used to be the preserve of the hard right, but has become increasingly common in the mainstream.

The well-known British actor Laurence Fox recently became something of a hero to some, for example, when he appeared on a highly popular weekly television show and made the correct noises for conservative-minded viewers. He then solidified his status by claiming that he would never date a woman under the age of 35 because they are “too woke” and that “woke people are fundamentally racist.”

In Canada, federal Conservative Party leadership contender Erin O’Toole ran an ad in January in which he said he would, “defend our history, our institutions against attacks from cancel culture and the radical left.

Cancel culture — the most important issue to everybody in Canada! No doubt he said it because he thinks, or was told, that it hits home within right-wing circles, among people who genuinely believe that free speech and contrary opinion are distant memories. And it probably did.

Which is odd, because almost every weekend when I look at Twitter I find right-wing journalists trending because of yet another ultra-conservative and provocative opinion expressed in their newspaper column. I also see the same types of people – white, usually male, invariably from similar backgrounds – dominant in politics and business.

I graduated from the University of Toronto last year as a mature student after spending three years studying for a Masters of Divinity degree. Based on all the noise around woke culture, I’d confidently expected a hotbed of censorship and intolerance. In fact, it was incredibly similar to the university I’d attended in Britain three decades earlier, other than the students were generally more studious and less self-indulgent

Which is not to say that there are not problems. As society evolves and power is redistributed, there will be abuses and extremes. The healthier rhythms of a balanced and just culture will eventually settle, but it’s hard to deny that there are people on the far left, sour and jargon-adoring puritans, who seem to define themselves by how offended they are. Sometimes about everything.

They seek to control, curtail and ban, and they can be harsh and even violent. We learn about their excesses, however, not because they are particularly common occurrences, but usually because those who are their victims, tellingly and ironically, have access to media.

But these zealots are a small and vocal minority, and are little different from those on the far right with similar notions.

Six years ago, after I embraced a more open and radical view of my Christian faith and in particular spoke out in support of equal marriage, I was banned from speeches, fired from jobs, harassed and vilified. My children’s Facebook pages were trolled, my wife received letters demanding that she leave me, and I was accused of being a rapist and a thief. By the very sort of people who shout “woke” at those with whom they disagree. I know this because they said it, and still say it, to me.

That alliance of the polarized and irrational is hardly surprising, and both sides — the far left and the far right — are convinced that it’s the other, not them, who is the problem.

I appreciate that change can be intimidating, and I say this as a 61-year-old white, straight man. But this doesn’t justify sweeping generalizations and turning “woke” and similar terms into abuse. It’s not only facile and inaccurate, it also reveals an enormous misreading of life’s realities.What we might think of as political correctness is, at its best, being socially aware and sensitive.

It’s about developing a visceral and emotional understanding, openness to transformation, and the ability to admit painful and often shocking truths about oneself. Privilege isn’t linear, but it is genuine — and about the only people to deny that are those who fail to grasp their own possession of it.

The recently canonized Cardinal Newman, although often adored by modern conservatives, wrote that, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” That implies a permanent revolution of new vision, an ever-expanding circle of sympathy and ideas. It’s not easy, and if it were it probably wouldn’t be the real thing.

It was not very long ago that jokes about racial minorities, LGBTQ2 people, and anybody else outside of society’s circle of dominance were mainstream and common. Today most of us cringe when we recall that time, but some still try to justify it with, “They were just jokes!”

Not for their targets.

I’d much rather signal a virtue than scream a vice. And while I’ve no idea if I’m “woke” or not, I hope I’m not asleep.

The bloodstream of the body politic is receiving a transfusion, and while a few toxins might sometimes be flowing, we’ll all likely be a lot healthier in the end.

Source: Change can be intimidating, but that doesn’t justify turning words like ‘woke’ into slurs

How White Liberals Became ‘Woke,’ Radically Changing Their Outlook On Race

Interesting history and analysis:

Jeromy Brown, a 46-year-old teacher in Iowa, considers President Trump a white supremacist.

“If the shoe fits, then say it, and the shoe fits him,” Brown said, while waiting in a photo line at an Elizabeth Warren rally in August. “Why should he be excused from that label?”

Brown, like many white liberal voters, appreciates that some Democratic presidential candidates have begun explicitly referring to Trump as a white supremacist. His top choice, Warren, told The NPR Politics Podcast in August that “when the white supremacists call Donald Trump one of their own, I tend to believe them.”

But she’s not alone in using such strong and direct language. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has repeatedly referred to Trump as a “racist” on the campaign trail. And former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke insists that tackling white supremacy should be the No. 1 law enforcement priority in the country.

Undoubtedly, race and racism have become more salient political issues because of how the president talks about immigrants and minorities.

But the shift in how white liberals think about race actually predates both the president’s victory and the response from 2020 Democratic candidates.

Beginning around 2012, polls show an increasing number of white liberals began adopting more progressive positions on a range of cultural issues. These days, white Democrats (and, in particular, white liberals) are more likely than in decades past to support more liberal immigration policies, embrace racial diversity and uphold affirmative action.

Researchers say this shift among white liberals indicates a seismic transformation in the last five to seven years and not just a blip on one or two survey questions.

“The white liberals of 2016 or even 2014 are very distinguishable from the white liberals of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s,” said Zach Goldberg, doctoral student at Georgia State University who has been studying the change.

In poll after poll, on a range of racial issues, both Goldberg and another researcher, Andrew Engelhardt at Brown University, have independently discovered repeated evidence of a more left-leaning white Democratic electorate.

These days, a large majority of white liberals — nearly 3 in 4 — say discrimination is the main reason black people can’t get ahead.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

For some context, in the early 2000s, white liberals were split on that question — about half said blacks who couldn’t get ahead were mostly responsible for their own condition.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

An increasing number of white liberals now think the criminal justice is biased against black people. An increasing number of white liberals also say the police are more likely to use deadly force against black people.

And, more white Democrats say the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism, rather than Southern pride. The reverse was true in 2000.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

Some metrics even seem to be suggesting that white Democrats express more woke attitudes than their fellow brown and black Democrats.

Goldberg cited the 2018 American National Election Studies pilot survey, which found that 78% of white Democrats thought having more races/ethnicity in the country make it a “better” place to live. Fifty-seven percent of black Democrats, and 63% of Hispanic Democrats said the same.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

About two years ago, Engelhardt said he also noticed another major shift.

“Starting about 2016 … white liberals actually rate non-white groups more positively than they do whites,” explained Engelhardt. “Usually, it’s the opposite.”

Most racial groups feel more warmly about their own race than they do about other races. That’s true for every group, except white liberals, according to the American National Election Studies.

Engelhardt says these recent flips suggests there’s something about being white in America that white liberals are trying to distance themselves from — something that could be accelerated by the rhetoric and tone of Trump and some of his supporters.

When white liberals adopt some of these progressive positions, Goldberg said, they’re “virtue signaling” — they want to prove that they’re allies of minority groups and feel they need to do that more assertively and openly in the Trump era.

Although Trump did not create the current conditions, both Goldberg and Engelhardt agree the president has accelerated the change in white voter attitudes.

Brown, from the Warren rally, derided some of his fellow white people for being “white supremacists” who think they are the only people “with the real birthright claim on this land, even though that makes no sense whatsoever.”

Engelhardt also suggests white guilt could be a motivating factor.

At an O’Rourke rally in Iowa a few weeks ago, 64-year-old Polly Antonelli teared up as the former congressman recounted a story from the El Paso, Texas, shooting. The suspected shooter in that incident had told police he was targeting Mexicans.

Antonelli said it’s “highly appropriate” to refer to Trump as a white supremacist.

“He is the one dividing people, by saying the things that he says about Muslims, about Mexicans, about s******* countries,” she said. “Calling him out on his crap might sound divisive, but it’s a reaction to his divisiveness.”

Antonelli admits that her own opinions on race have evolved as she learned more about different cultures.

“I realize how little I know and how I need to be more careful about what I say and how I pigeonhole people because of how they look,” she said, indicating a sense of cultural awareness you hear more often voiced by white liberals in recent years.

The “moral buttons” are being pushed

One possible explanation for the dramatic shift in racial attitudes in the last decade is that white Democrats who disagreed with the party’s embrace of diversity have just abandoned the party altogether. But even though the makeup of the parties has fluctuated, that’s not the only explanation; Researchers point to a genuine shift among the white liberals who have remained in the party.

“Whites’ identification as Democrats and Republicans is motivating them to hold different attitudes about people of color in the United States,” said Engelhardt.

Goldberg says he noticed an abrupt change around the time mainstream news outlets started picking up on social media accounts of fatal police shootings of black men.

“[White liberals’] exposure to injustice inequality has been heightened because of the internet,” said Goldberg. “The moral buttons of white liberals are being more frequently pressed.”

Engelhardt agrees, and pointed to one specific incident as a potential catalyst — when a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

“This kind of renewed attention to discrimination is new and novel for white liberals,” he said, explaining why there has not been as large of a shift among people of color on these survey questions, in part because they didn’t need social media videos to know what was already happening in their communities.

Source: How White Liberals Became ‘Woke,’ Radically Changing Their Outlook On Race

The Problem With Wokeness: David Brooks

Valid, and good recognition that this is an issue for both the right and left, as are labels such as snowflake and virtue signalling:

A few weeks ago, I mentioned on “Meet the Press” that for all the horror of the recent school shootings, we shouldn’t be scaremongering. There’s much less gun violence over all in schools today than in the early 1990s. Four times as many students were killed per year back then than in recent years.

This comment elicited a lot of hatred on social media, of a very interesting kind. The general diagnosis was that I was doing something wrong by not maximizing the size of the problem. I was draining moral urgency and providing comfort to the status quo.

This mental habit is closely related to what we now call “wokeness.” In an older frame of mind, you try to perceive the size of a problem objectively, and then you propose a solution, which might either be radical or moderate, conservative or liberal. You were judged primarily by the nature of your proposal.

But wokeness jams together the perceiving and the proposing. In fact, wokeness puts more emphasis on how you perceive a situation — how woke you are to what is wrong — than what exactly you plan to do about it. To be woke is to understand the full injustice.

There is no measure or moderation to wokeness. It’s always good to be more woke. It’s always good to see injustice in maximalist terms. To point to any mitigating factors in the environment is to be naïve, childish, a co-opted part of the status quo.

The word wokeness is new, but the mental habits it describes are old. A few decades ago, there was a small strain of Jewish radicals who believed that rabid anti-Semitism was at the core of Christian culture. Any attempt to live in mixed societies would always lead to Auschwitz. Segregation and moving to Israel was the only safe strategy, and anybody who didn’t see this reality was, in today’s language, insufficiently woke.

This attitude led to Meir Kahane and a very ugly strain of militancy.

In 1952 Reinhold Niebuhr complained that many of his fellow anti-communists were constantly requiring “that the foe is hated with sufficient vigor.” This led to “apoplectic rigidity.” Screaming about the imminent communist menace became a sort of display art for politicians.

These days we think of wokeness as a left-wing phenomenon. But it is an iron law of politics that every mental habit conservatives fault in liberals is one they also practice themselves.

The modern right has its own trigger words (diversity, dialogue, social justice, community organizer), its own safe spaces (Fox News) and its own wokeness. Michael Anton’s essay “The Flight 93 Election” is only one example of the common apocalyptic view: Modern liberals are hate-filled nihilists who will destroy the nation if given power. Anybody who doesn’t understand this reality is not conservatively woke.

The problem with wokeness is that it doesn’t inspire action; it freezes it. To be woke is first and foremost to put yourself on display. To make a problem seem massively intractable is to inspire separation — building a wall between you and the problem — not a solution.

There’s a debate on precisely this point now surrounding the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is, of course, well known for seeing the problem of racism in maximalist terms. The entire American story was and continues to be based on “plunder,” the violent crushing of minority bodies. Even today, “Gentrification is white supremacy.”

Coates is very honest about his pessimism and his hopeless view of the situation. But a number of writers have criticized his stance. Cornel West has argued that it’s all words; it doesn’t lead to collective action. In The New York Review of Books, Darryl Pinckney argues, “Afro-pessimism threatens no one, and white audiences confuse having been chastised with learning.”

I’d add that it’s a blunt fact that most great social reforms have happened in moments of optimism, not moments of pessimism, in moments of encouraging progress, not in moments of perceived threat.

The greatest danger of extreme wokeness is that it makes it harder to practice the necessary skill of public life, the ability to see two contradictory truths at the same time. For example, it is certainly true that racism is the great sin of American history, that it is an ongoing sin and the sin from which many of our other sins flow. It is also true that throughout history and today, millions of people have tried to combat that sin and have made progress against it.

The confrontation with this sin or any sin is not just a protest but a struggle. Generalship in that or any struggle is seeing where the forces of progress are swelling and where the forces of reaction are marching. It is seeing opportunities as well as threats. It is being dispassionate in one’s perception of the situation and then passionate in one’s assault on it.

Indignation is often deserved and always makes for a great media strategy. But in its extreme form, whether on left or right, wokeness leads to a one-sided depiction of the present and an unsophisticated strategy for a future offensive.

via Opinion | The Problem With Wokeness – The New York Times