What comes now to the Kingdom of Woke in the wake of Twitter’s sale to Elon Musk?
As one who has long viewed Twitter as the cesspool of intelligent thought, it is hard to ignore his assessment that the social media platform came to promote a “wokeness (that) is divisive, exclusionary and hateful. It basically gives mean people a shield to be cruel, armored in false virtue.”
Others obviously see things differently.
“….Outspoken progressives see a white nationalist-sympathizing, tax-dodging, anti-union, anti-free speech, ‘dystopian neo-colonialist’ plutocrat tainted by his family’s background in apartheid South Africa, where Musk was born in 1971.”
All of which is perfectly woke. Instead of debating whether Musk can clean up the Twitter cesspool, better to attack his character with the aid of various strawpeople or what were once called strawmen.
And lo be the heretics who question the wisdom. Vicious attacks are certain to be lashed upon both their character and their compassion because it is not the tribe’s role to question the chief’s thoughts but to instead follow them blindly.
Yes, this is crazy.
The right has Q-Anon born of a bizarre belief the government is controlled by a gang of pedophiles, and the left has woke driven by the beliefs the sins of the mothers and fathers, and of the grandfathers and grandmothers, should be visited upon their daughters and sons, and that the inherently imperfect world should be made perfect for certain minorities without regard for fairness to all.
Admittedly, woke can be sometimes hard to sort out as to specifics because like most other religions, it is based not in reason or logic, but on the dictates of its anointed high priests.
Thus while young, black men kill each other at a rate three- to four times higher than that of young American males in general, woke is focused on defunding police forces created to try to protect the citizenry in general, including young, black men. And yes, individual law enforcement officers have and still do in some cases abuse their power as many who have power abuse it.
Power and abuse of power sort of go hand in hand.
Discriminatory policing is part of the problem facing black America, too, but only part as social epidemiologist Sharon Jones-Eversley from Towson University and colleagues observed in a 2020 paper in the Journal of Black Studies that examined “Premature Deaths of Young Black Males in the United States.”
“The mass suicide-homicide killings, premature deaths, and death disparities among
young black males, ages 15 to 24, in the United States is not a paranoid propaganda,” they wrote. “It is undeniably a disturbing public health crisis that requires an urgent national response to reverse and ultimately eradicate the premature death of young black males.”
Scholars have been saying this for decades now, but instead of focusing on the social and economic issues driving the problem, the woke-us (as in focus) is on getting rid of cops – good or bad. And yes, there are bad cops, but there are bigger problems in the black community than just bad cops.
“In 2021 there were 797 homicides in Chicago,” according to the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Although black residents represent approximately 30 percent of Chicago’s population, 81.4% of homicide victims in 2021 were black….
Most of them were killed by other blacks. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data shows that nationally about 90 percent of blacks are killed by blacks just as about 80 percent of whites are killed by whites.
In America, whites murder whites and blacks murder blacks, but the latter die at a sadly disproportionate rate.
And this wasn’t because cops were randomly and wantonly killing blacks.
In all of Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago and 133 other municipalities, the website Mapping Police Violence reports law enforcement officers killed 13 people of all races in 2021 or about 1/50th the number of blacks killed in Chicago alone.
The disconnect between reality and what some want to believe is classic woke. Woke is about righteous opinions, not gray and complicated facts.
And though the world of woke is near opposite the world of science, the pandemic had the woke chanting “listen to the scientists” as if science was some sort of error-free, black-and-white business and scientists a class of people somehow without human flaws and thus above reproach.
Anyone who knows anything about science knows that is nonsense. Science is more about questions than about answers, and it is inhabited by very opinionated people. The good and the bad as a result of this is that science is always evolving and thus some or much of what we know today is likely to be discovered wrong tomorrow in ways big or small.
In a society governed by science, scientists would have had a big, messy debate about how to confront the new SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 instead of allowing those preoccupied with the belief that saving even one life for even one day trumped everything.
We are only beginning to see the consequences of that focus. Some mental health professionals are expressing fears that the negative, psychological impacts of lockdowns, distancing, masking and plain, old fear “could last a generation,” as CNBC put it.
There were those warning of this and trying to create a more targeted approach to pandemic responses from the start.
Dr. David Katz, the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a past president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, early on suggested the country accept the age-related dangers of COVID-19 and respond accordingly by protecting the most vulnerable Americans and letting everyone else go back to work.
Only nine days after writing a commentary for the New York Times (NYT) outlining this idea, Katz appeared on CNN with NYT Science and Health writer Donald McNeil who, filled with the power of woke, demanded the doctor “take that paper back and apologize for it because I think it provided a scientific underpinning for (President) Donald Trump to say things like the cure is worse than the disease.”
Only time will tell whether the cure was indeed worse than the disease. The jury is still out on this subject although Sweden, which was vilified by almost everyone (including Trump), for its less onerous approach to viral control is looking better and better.
In terms of excess deaths from March 2020 to March of 2021, Sweden ranked 59th in the world in a data set compiled by The Economist. Excess deaths, the number of deaths over what would normally be expected in any given year, is the best way to tabulate the consequences of the pandemic because the data can capture deaths not just from Covid-19 but from other pandemic fallout such as suicides and drug overdoses.
The U.S. saw far more deaths per capita than Sweden, putting it 28th on the list. Two of the countries that cracked down the heaviest at the start of the pandemic – Italy and Spain – in hopes of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 were 31 and 37 respectively. And Israel, which has generally been given high marks for its handling of the pandemic, was 63rd – only slightly better than Sweden.
A small group of countries did manage to make it through the first years of the pandemic with fewer deaths than would be expected. They were mainly island nations – Iceland, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia and Cuba.
And the count of the number of pandemic-related deaths and mental-health disorders is far from over. They may come out winners or not. There is no obvious, straight-line connection between pandemic policies and pandemic success.
China, cheered for its early and seemingly successful response to the virus, now has a mess on its hands.
Twenty-one million residents of Bejing are now being ordered to get in line for mandatory testing for SARS-CoV-2 to avoid, as Aljazeera reported this week, “the kind of spiraling outbreak that has plunged the commercial hub of Shanghai into a strict lockdown for weeks.
“Residents in the southern city – which recorded 1,600 new cases and 52 deaths on Tuesday – have become increasingly frustrated with the authorities’ inability to meet their basic needs during the shutdown.
“Videos on social media showed people leaning out of Shanghai windows to beat pots and pans in anger, or play ‘Do you hear the people sing?,’ a protest anthem from the musical ‘Les Miserables’, on flutes and trumpets.”
China’s official death count remains low, but given that China, a totalitarian country governed by overseers who sometimes care more about their international image than their people, is doing the counting, it’s only reasonable to wonder about the official tally.
“Two years ago, China’s lockdown strategy was being held up as the model to follow by scientists who toured BBC studios giving interviews without serious challenge,” science writer Matt Ridley observed a month ago. “We heard plenty from SAGE (the United Kingdoms’ Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) members like Professor Susan Michie and Professor Neil Ferguson. Dr. Michie, a card-carrying member of the Communist party of Britain, wrote early in the pandemic that: ‘China has a socialist collective system (whatever criticisms people may have), not an individualistic, consumer-oriented, profit-driven society badly damaged by 20 years of failed neo-liberal economic policies.’ When not attending zero-Covid rallies as a keynote speaker, Dr. Michie officially advised the government on ‘behavioral compliance’….
“Prof Ferguson…said that the ‘effective policy’ in China – locking down entire communities in their homes – opened his eyes. ‘It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realized we could. If China had not done it, the year would have been very different.’”
Ridley went on to note the “Beijing-style agitprop used by the UK government with SAGE advising that: ‘The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.’ The fear campaign began.”
A widely published author, the founder of the Mind and Matter column in the Wall Street Journal more than a decade ago and a member of the British Academy of Medical Sciences, Ridley was writing primarily about the situation in the UK where he lives, but it wasn’t much different in the U.S.
Perfectly Trumpish behavior
It has now been documented that Anthony Fauci, the face of the pandemic response in the U.S.; Francis Collins, the then director of the National Institute of Health; and others who basically comprised a U.S. version of SAGE acted aggressively to shut down any sort of scientific debate in the U.S.
Their tool was a woke-heavy, “progressive,” U.S. media even more invested in the “if it saves even one life” dogma than the medical community. This was a media committed to the prime directive of the progressive movement:
“We know better than any of you do.”
Lest anyone forget, well-meaning Progressives wrapped in the cloak of “moral reform” helped usher in Prohibition, one of the biggest if not the biggest mistake in U.S. history, and set the stage for the damming of Western rivers for cheap power to the great detriment of Pacific salmon.
Granted, there was good done as well, most notably in helping secure women the right to vote and breaking up trusts to restore a competitive marketplace beneficial to consumers, but as with most movements of righteousness, plenty of bad slipped in with the good.
You can invariably find both in anything if you look hard enough.
Hell, there are those who can see positives in The Inquisition. Journalist Cullen Murphy a decade ago, when he was still editor of Vanity Fair magazine, credited The Inquisition with establishing the foundation on which the modern world was built.
That Catholic Church led assault on heretics, he argued, revolutionized record-keeping and policing and in the process established the tools required to hold large governments together. But in an NPR interview, he also warned that those tools make it all too easy for a society to regress to the dark side of that dark period in human history.
“In order for an inquisition to succeed, he says, there must be an individual or a group of people who believe they are in the right and want everyone else to toe the line.
‘”But that moral certainty isn’t enough,’ Murphy says. There must also be a bureaucracy and methods of surveillance to sustain the persecution.
“‘All of those things are much more advanced right now by an order of magnitude than they were centuries ago,’ Murphy says. ‘Nowadays [surveillance] is done almost automatically – every time you hit the keyboard on your computer or every time you walk by a camera on the street.'”
Twitter, adopted early and then taken over by progressives who thought nothing of banning a former president of the United States because they didn’t like what he was saying, became its own little surveillance network for the woke while at the same time Trump derangement syndrome helped to hugely boost the number of those who “believe they are in the right and want everyone else to toe the line.”
For the record, I’ve always thought much of what came out of Trump’s mouth was nonsense, and that the late Charles Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist, pretty much nailed Trump in 2016 when he observed that the then-candidate for the presidency was “beyond narcissism. I used to think Trump was an 11-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value – indeed exists – only insofar as it sustains and inflates him.
“Most politicians seek approval. But Trump lives for the adoration. He doesn’t even try to hide it, boasting incessantly about his crowds, his standing ovations, his TV ratings, his poll numbers, his primary victories. The latter are most prized because they offer empirical evidence of how loved and admired he is.”
My only disagreement with Krauthammer’s assessment is minor; he underestimates the chaos that can be caused by powerful people suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.
Trump had an inflated view of himself before it was reinforced in the 2000s by his getting to play god on one of the country’s top television shows, The Apprentice, where he got to judge the fate of dozens and dismiss the unworthy with the bluntly direct “you’re fired.”
His narcissism only got worse as president, and so too wokism. For every action, there is a reaction. And this country has been caught in a sociopolitical chain reaction that can be traced back at least to the point where former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the failed Republican candidate for vice-president, went rogue.
In a nuclear sense, she split the atom. Trump took it to the molecular stage. And the explosion has only been growing ever since.
Tolerance and compromise have paid the price.
I now know one former journalist who appears to believe that anyone with political views different from his own is a Nazi. This would be funny if it was funny, given that he’s one of the few normal people I’ve ever met with a personality that would make it possible to have worked in a Nazi death camp.
Not because he is inherently bad, but because he is, as one former reporter described him, “the most self-involved person I’ve ever met,” and a master at rationalization. A death camp job promising money and power would easily tempt him, and he would just as easily be able to justify it with the belief that “these people are destined to die anyway and with me in the job, I can ensure they don’t suffer for long.”
People are twisted animals.
Social media in general, and Twitter in particular, brings out the worst in a lot of them. I doubt Musk can fix it, but it’s hard to believe he can make it any worse. And it is kind of interesting to watch the woke sweating the possibility that Musk might, as they say, “cancel” them the way they have so aggressively tried to cancel anyone with views of which they disapprove.