I’d love to credit this cartoon I share in the piece but I found it uncredited. If you know who created the art let me know so I can give credit where it’s due.
I’ve found writing has been a challenge for me lately. I’ve tried on and discarded several potential causes ranging from existential worry due to Covid19 to having too much on my plate right now to perimenopause (turning 50 will do that to you).
This morning I woke up at 4am at long last fathoming what my problem is. It’s that up until very recently, I put a lot of faith in the notion that people are convincible. By a lot of faith I mean that one of the core tenets of my personal philosophy is that people are reasonable and can be talked into doing the right thing. Because people are both reasonable and convincible, therefore you don’t need to use government force to make them do stuff. You just explain your position until they get it, and if they don’t get it, you explain better.
But I’m not sure I believe that any more. Because there are two parties in a speaker-listener relationship, and the motives of the listener matter far more than I ever realized. If the person receiving your message doesn’t have good intentions, it doesn’t matter how brilliantly you make your case. They’ll never hear it, not really, even if your words reach their eardrums.
Convincing people who don’t want to be convinced is impossible.
In 2016 when I started this blog whilst under the influence of too much Freddie deBoer (just kidding, there is no such thing as too much Freddie deBoer), I thought I could help people understand some stuff about the world that they didn’t seem to, like why Donald Trump was elected and that there was nothing wrong with Princess Leia’s gold bikini. After four years of doing that – many times at the expense of my family and my sanity – it has gradually dawned on me that I have changed precisely no minds. People do like some stuff I’ve written and I am so grateful for that, but it’s been people who were inclined to agree with me anyway. Simultaneously I’ve watched with dismay as person after person, many of whom I like and respect, and even a few I love, have fallen under the control of a philosophy that is both dangerous and nonsensical. Some of them have even been espousing beliefs that are polar opposite to views they held just a few years ago. How polar opposite? Well, the term “Pod People” comes to mind.
Thus I have had to conclude that while people evidently are convincible, they are apparently not reasonable. People can be persuaded, clearly they can, because I know of several people who believe things they never believed in the past. But apparently it’s possible for decent folks to be persuaded to believe heinous things not by reasoned arguments because there are no reasoned arguments for Cancel Culture, but by rhetorical gimmicks. Rhetorical gimmicks like the motte and bailey, the straw man, the bandwagon, and everybody’s favorite of late, the ad hominem attack. People ARE being persuaded, persuaded to accept a political philosophy that hinges on a Kafka Trap. People are being persuaded to accept this political philosophy against their own best interests and even against things they used to believe quite recently.
What’s a Kafka Trap, you ask? It’s a no-win scenario imagined by the writer Franz Kafka, in which a person is accused of something and there’s no way for them to prove their innocence. The modern day example, of course, involves unproven accusations of Badthink (insert your fave flavor of Badthink here). If you ignore the accusations, you’re clearly guilty because you refuse to care enough to try to clear your name, and if you protest the charges that is also proof of guilt because of course a guilty person would say they’re innocent. There’s no way to win if you’re caught in a Kafka Trap, because everyone is guilty until proven innocent, and there’s no way to prove your innocence because trying to clear your name is taken as evidence of guilt. So you better put your head down and toe the line and keep your mouth shut and go along with the mob, lest you be the next one accused.
The only way to avoid guilt in a culture based around a Kafka Trap is to never be accused of anything. Of course, that hands over a terrible amount of power into the hands of people willing to make accusations, and the way folks are bestowing upon accusers special privileges nowadays ends up making accusations even more attractive.
It’s a no-brainer – if you design a culture where people are rewarded for making wild accusations and face no punishment for doing so, you’re going to have more and more people making wild accusations.
We’re dealing with straight up Salem Witch Trial mentality here, and even though it hasn’t gotten to that level yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. If you’re one of those people who will now be all like “faugh, you’re making a Slippery Slope argument here atomic, because things are nowhere near that bad, after all JK Rowling is a billionaire!”, I would just like to humbly submit that the time to stop the witch hunt is when people start saying “dude I think there be witches about, hast thou seen my blighted crops” rather than while the inquisitor is setting the torch to the wood piled up round someone’s feet.
There are no witches about, just a free society, free-ish anyway, for now, if you have the luxury of not being easily fired, but it’s getting a lot less free every day that passes. I know you know it deep down inside even though many of you refuse to acknowledge it openly.
My old buddy liberalism is succumbing to fascism.
Now some would say that it’s impossible for left-wingers to be fascist because fascism is a right wing philosophy, yadda yadda. But I think that’s semantics and silliness. So I’ll lay out the case for Woke Fascism and then you can decide for yourself.
1) What fascism is, at its core, is a movement that is nationalistic and xenophobic – which Wokeness absolutely is. It may not be nationalistic towards a specific country, but it is nationalistic towards its own movement – highly nationalistic, patriotic even. And the Woke Movement is basically trying to take over several countries of the world right now. A Fascist movement in search of a country to rule is still a Fascist movement even if it doesn’t yet have the country to rule. Woke Fascism, like other Fascist movements, is also extremely intolerant, even xenophobic, of other viewpoints, of other intellectual schools of thought. This includes freely using moral terms like “evil” to describe their “enemies”, by which I mean anyone who has a slightly different take on just about anything not officially approved by Woke, Inc. Like other Fascist movements, Woke Fascists regularly call their political foes unclean and compare them to vermin and garbage and filth*.
(Look at her using her free speech to decry that her free speech is under assault, I hear some of you saying, but I reiterate – the time to stop the witch hunt is at the beginning rather than once it’s well underway and anyone disingenuously trying to make me look like a paranoid weirdo for doing so simply confirms to me that I’m on the right track here. You don’t wait till your house is engulfed in flames before you try to put it out, and a person criticizing the chick with the fire extinguisher wants to see the house burn.)
2)Fascism is obsessed with symbols – both their own and other people’s. If millions of people were to go out on the streets simultaneously wearing a matching hat, for instance (not just individuals acting on their own wearing a hat similar to the hats of others – imposing an anti-hat ban would actually be very fascist, of course – but going out and marching in those hats to prove a political point and intimidate opponents) there’s something kinda fascist-y about that, IMVVVVHO.
The only thing Fascists love better than their own symbols is destroying other people’s.
I’ll just leave this here.
3)In a Fascist system, violence is seen as a means to an end, and it’s inarguable that violence has become more and more acceptable amongst the Wokes over the course of the past decade or so. All these trends – the violence, the lies, the hate speech – started long before Donald Trump even if you personally didn’t happen to be paying attention till 2016. Donald Trump was the Molotov cocktail people threw to try to stop Woke Fascism – a terrible, destructive solution but many felt it was the only way. If you’re one of those naive, good-hearted folks who believes the unrest in our nation is a Donald Trump problem and everything will just go back to normal if you vote for Biden, with all due respect, you are wrong, and you need to start operating in the world that IS rather than the world you might like to exist. I know we grew up being taught that there are two parties and they work together peacefully towards a mutually acceptable outcome. But Woke Fascism will be satisfied by nothing short of complete victory.
4) Just as all Fascist systems do, the Wokes have created a handy set of scapegoats to blame for all the woes and troubles in the world. Whether you call them conservatives, Republicans, Christians, Wypipo, racists, Karens, TERFS, Pochos, Uncle Toms, etc these identifiers are being used in the service of creating several groups of scapegoats who it is seen as ok to hate. Many Woke Fascists call openly for punitive measures to be imposed upon these scapegoats, up to and including violence. Fascists will often state that if not for these scapegoats who are ruining everything, we would have paradise on Earth, and that is a sentiment I’ve heard expressed again and again – that if not for those standing in the way of the Woke wishlist we’d have utopia.
5)Fascism involves a high level of control of national institutions such as the media, the school system, the tech industry, medicine, education, most major corporations, etc. And fascists want to destroy any institutions they cannot control. Black Lives Matter states openly that one of its goals is the dissolution of one of the most important human institutions of all – the family.
6)One of the defining characteristics of fascism is that those in power control the media and use it as a mouthpiece. Fascists use all possible forms of manipulation of people’s beliefs – not only the media, religious institutions, art, fiction and entertainment – in our culture these things are fully under the control of the Wokes now and it is undeniable they are using every one of these spheres of influence to promote their worldview whenever possible. Censorship, which presently abounds, is one of the most common ways that fascists use to manipulate people’s beliefs – even extending into attempts to silence formerly acceptable, even commonplace viewpoints.
One of the funnier debates I’ve gotten into recently was with a self-professed Marxist who found it very important to come to the defense of the New York Times, which is a massive corporation worth billions of dollars. A Marxist defending a corporation? Kind of an odd move, wouldn’t you say? A little off brand, really. But the New York Times is the modern day equivalent of Leni Riefenstahl – constructing plausible, and to some, even beautiful lies to promote Woke Fascist Utopia. These Woke Fascists are not leftists at all. Leftists call for the destruction of corporations and more power granted the individual, and the collective individual aka the government. But the Woke LOVE their corporations because the corporations are pushing their nationalist agenda.
The Woke Movement is Fascism, plain and simple, dressed up in bohemian clothes to make it more palatable to a modern day audience that likes cosplaying.
Remember, Hitler also called his fascist movement socialism.
No matter what you want to call yourselves, you’re Fascists, you Fascists.
I could go on here listing example after example after example of Woke Fascism but this is getting too long as it is. Besides, this isn’t an essay about Fascism on the left, this is an essay about people being convincible, but irrational, and how depressing it is.
So if all I’m doing is preaching to the already-convinced, am I accomplishing anything really? Is all my writing just a waste of time I could be spending on weeding my garden and reading to my children, because to be honest with you those things are far more enjoyable than screaming pointlessly into the void, even though I’m superduperly awesome at screaming pointlessly into the void.
Is persuasion lost on the mind of a person who is unreasonable?
I know a lot of folks on the right believe that. Many believe that we must stop persuading and start playing by the same rules Woke Fascism follows – cancelling people, playing dirty, name calling, demonizing our opponents, using sophistry and fallacy instead of reasoned arguments – focusing our energies on concocting some other rotten fascist mythology to appeal to the hearts and minds of the far-too-many people who are sadly so easily swayed by rotten fascist mythology.
And I have to admit I am closer to believing that than I’ve ever been before. Because as I’ve written about in the past, the Woke Fascists are operating under an entirely different set of facts – alternative facts, as Kellyanne Conway once said. I’m not sure that reason could possibly work on someone who has been taught from the nursery that the sky is green, down is up, that the word “cosmopolitan” has a sinister meaning, and that calls for a smaller government are tantamount to killing people.
I no longer believe it is possible to convince the unreasonable by reasonable means. That leaves unreasonable means, and unreasonable means have never been what I’m all about. While I’ve speculated in the past about Good Fascism – fascism in the service of Mom, Apple Pie, freedom, and the heritage of the Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, pro-reason tradition that has brought all of us around the world a standard of living that is inarguably the best the world has ever known, I don’t want that. I want no fascism, even if the fascism in question agrees with my personal values.
It’s no wonder I’m suffering from a lack of motivation.
Even as recently as the start of this year I could sit down and bust out an essay, a great essay because all my best essays come from when I write something from start to finish over the course of a morning, and I can’t do that now. I get distracted, anxious, bored, scatterbrained; I find even the most tedious household chores preferable to writing, which is my normally most favorite-est thing in the whole wide world. I start projects with so much promise only to stop them when they’re nearly complete. Because what’s the fucking point, really? I no longer believe in what I’m doing, or more that I still believe in it, but I know it’s useless. I know in my gut that even though I am right, I cannot convince the unreasonable through reasonable means. Believing otherwise is tantamount to believing in Santa Claus.
It’s sucked the wind right out of me. My self-imposed standards are too high to resort to unreasonable means for more than a snarky quip or two, and even though sometimes I do fall short of my lofty goals I’ll never be able to delight wallowing in the mud. It is daunting to learn that all along it was the charlatans willing to resort to appealing to the worst elements of humankind who were somehow the most able to convince people. That’s a revelation I would have preferred not to have had.
I don’t know what I’m asking of my readers. This isn’t a request for encouragement, it’s an explanation, and it’s not really for you as much as it is for me. Yesterday I couldn’t understand why I had been doing so much writing for the past four years but lately I haven’t been able to string words together at all, let alone so effortlessly the way I used to. And this morning I woke up and I understood the reason why. So I set out to process it via writing because this is how I best think.
To my surprise, it flowed perfectly, the words came when the words hadn’t been coming, and I suppose it’s because I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here. I’m just revealing the heartbreaking truth I’ve learned, which is that people are not so rational as I had once believed, and it may be that because of this, the person who appeals to their irrationality has a leg up on the one who attempts to reason.
Boom. There it is. Kinda hard to ignore once you’ve seen it.
So, People of Reason, my beloved tribe, scarce as we are, let’s not forget that when we look at the Woke Fascists, we’re looking at a group of people in the grip of something that is not sane, something that is driving them to dispense with the rules of liberalism and become something else entirely, something dishonest, something sinister, something that doesn’t respond to reason because it chooses not to.
And we cannot convince the unreasonable by reasonable means.
*Now, if you’d like to point out that it’s really or also conservatives who are saying stuff like this, have at it, and you’ll find numerous examples to your credit. That is also wrong. But the difference between Woke Fascism and conservatism is that Woke Fascists have made a movement based on demonizing and othering vast swaths of people and even those in their own movement who only just slightly disagree with the minutest of details in the Woke Wish List. Whereas conservatives and centrists have plenty of people like me among our ranks, who stand up against the fascist xenophobic cranks and the greedy Chamber of Commerce Republicans and sometimes even Jesse Kelly, who decry the idiots on our own side. Yet we aren’t demonized or cancelled for it – and in many cases are highly respected. Conservatives aren’t in lockstep, not even a little. There’s not even any pressure on us to BE in lockstep.
Can you say the same, Woke friends? Because it flat out amazes me how the same people who can argue with a straight face “this isn’t a witch hunt because not even a single solitary witch has been drowned yet” can equate the vitriol of a crank – even a crank as predominant as Donald Trump – with an entire movement acting with a hive mind. If you’re telling me that the cranks on your side are indicative of nothing, I’ll believe you, provided that you grant my side the same premise.
But I know that you won’t, you Woke Fascist Pigs, so I’ll leave you with one more thought.
The difference between conservativism and Woke Fascism is this: conservativism is a movement of individuals some of whom are at times entirely wrong and awful, and Woke Fascism is a movement of people who are at times entirely wrong and awful acting under the influence of mobthought. Liberals used to be their own best inner critics and it was their very finest quality, but they’ve pulled that weed out by its roots (except for Bill Maher, occasionally, but I’m sure they’ll get his annoying smug ass cancelled soon enough). From the top down to the bottom Woke Fascists are walking in lockstep in a lot of really ugly ways, and just to spring a Kafka trap on y’all here for a change – whether you ignore it or you deny it, you only convince me more that this phenomenon exists.
Your collective is guilty.