Why woke? What to do about it?
Reviews of Hanania's and Rufo's anti-Woke books
I am a little late to the party, but I too want to post my reviews of 2 recently high grade books on the woke phenomenon and what to do about it:
Christopher Rufo. America's Cultural Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything. 2023.
Richard Hanania. The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law, Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics. 2023.
Both books have a certain "If the only tool you have is a hammer" feel to them. Rufo prefers stories about this or that communist infiltrated the system from within, how this or that person's ideas connects to this or that other person. Hanania has a background in law, so he sees the methods (tools) of woke, namely, civil rights law. I consider them complimentary. In fact, we might draw ourselves a simple causal diagram to illustrate this:
In statistical terms, the origin is Woke people and their ideas, which get implemented partially via Woke laws, and both result in a Woke society.
As others have pointed out, Hanania's book is more of a guidebook to getting rid of Wokeness, rather than its title suggests, a study of the origins. Rufo's book is truly a study of the origins. Hanania has a nice overview about the major targets for law makers:
Why did Hanania write the book? Well, it's common knowledge that Hanania thinks conservatives are stupid. He is right in one sense and wrong in another. On average, there's not much difference in intelligence on average. On the other hand, the average supporter's intelligence may not matter so much if the intelligentsia of society leans strongly one way. That is of course what we see, among the intellectual elites of Western society -- the priest class --, conservatives are hard to find. This is an application of smart fraction theory to politics and it's probably largely correct. Hanania explicitly dislikes the culturalist approach:
Intellectuals tend to put a great deal of faith in the importance of ideas. If something has gone wrong, it is often said to be because society decided to listen to Philosopher A instead of Philosopher B. It is therefore unsurprising that opponents of wokeness will often trace its rise to individuals like Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Herbert Marcuse, or—in the case of the really intellectually ambitious—Martin Luther. If only the United States had rejected the ideas of a few European intellectuals instead of letting them “march through the institutions,” or all of Christendom was still under the jurisdiction of the pope, none of this would have happened. Similarly, those who call themselves classical liberals, often from within academy, talk about society moving away from the principles of tolerance and free speech as if it is simply a matter of individuals exchanging one philosophy for another.
For example, in The Diversity Myth, originally published in 1995, David Sacks and Peter Thiel saw the switch from the classics to so-called multicultural education at Stanford as a microcosm of what was happening to higher education and the rest of society. More recently Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay argue that social justice ideology can be traced to postmodern philosophy, which at first “developed in relatively obscure corners of academia” and now “has spread to other parts of the academy, into activism, throughout bureaucracies, and to the heart of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education.”6 They contend that postmodernism “co-opted the notion of social justice from the civil rights movements and other liberal and progressive theories,” and that this began “just as legal equality had largely been achieved.” When discussing the negative societal effects of the Frankfurt School, Pluckrose and Lindsay echo socially conservative thinkers like Pat Buchanan and Michael Lind, who conceptualize their opponents as “cultural Marxists.” Professor Paul Gottfried finds roots that are even deeper, arguing that political correctness is a kind of “secular theocracy” and emphasizing the “fit between the current state of Protestant Germanic religious consciousness and the politics of guilt.”7
A historical perspective, however, provides many reasons to doubt theories that blame any particular philosophy or religion for what has happened. Wokeness resembles civil rights law more than it does Protestantism or the writings of any postmodern philosopher, and we can look at the historical and legal record to understand the motivations of those who made that law. Pluckrose and Lindsay are mistaken when they say that legal equality was achieved in the 1960s. Within just a few years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the government was mandating that employers divide people by race and sex, giving preference to supposedly disadvantaged groups, and even drawing congressional districts in ways that legitimized tribalism, under the assumption that the right to vote wasn’t enough, and that American citizens of certain backgrounds could only be adequately represented by members of their own race.8 A particular problem for the idea that wokeness came from the university is the fact that identity politics had to originally be forced upon much of higher education by Washington, with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare originally coercing schools like Columbia and UC Berkeley to adopt quota-based faculty hiring during the early 1970s.9 The government mandates came first, and the ideology later.
On the other hand, there is no particular way to explain the origins of woke ideas without, well, considering their origins. Laws don't get made without reason most of the time. Someone pushed for their implementation based on some ideas. Tracing those ideas is historically illuminating, even if it doesn't offer much in terms of practical advice, at least, not directly. Both books are very readable and sometimes disturbing, or funny, depending on your mindset. As usual, I will have long quotes with commentary. While some people don't like this approach, it is to prevent any accusations of quoting things out of context. Such quote mining attacks are the norm in politics, and given my own experience with this at the hands of online stalkers, it is not something I wish to do to others.
The Origins of Woke
Perhaps the clearest example of an intellectual concept being used as a post-hoc justification for a political compromise that was historically contingent can be seen in the rise of the idea of “diversity.” Throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s, Americans debated whether there should be racial preferences for black Americans. Conservatives argued that the law should be color-blind, while liberals wanted racial balancing in order to undo the effects of past discrimination. In University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court was bitterly divided on the issue. Four justices would have allowed the quota system at the Medical School of the University of California at Davis to stand, while four others would have simply struck it down. The case thus ultimately came down to the opinion of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., who held that while quotas were illegal, the Fourteenth Amendment did allow government institutions to consider race in the interest of seeking a diverse student body.
Because it ultimately decided the case, Powell’s opinion was the most influential on the Court, but it was also the least coherent. The four liberal justices pointed out that a system that gives bonus points based on race operates in pretty much the same way as a quota system, the only real difference being that the former is less honest and therefore more politically palatable. The Powell view—that it was acceptable to consider race as one factor in order to achieve diversity, but quotas were illegal—was confirmed by majorities in the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger cases twenty-five years later. Once again, there was more intellectual honesty on both the right and the left than there was in the center. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in a dissent signed on to by other conservatives in Grutter, provided data proving that the University of Michigan was engaging in racial balancing. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent in Gratz, wrote of the strangeness of banning quotas but being able to reach the same ends “through winks, nods, and disguises.”
Despite the ad hoc nature of the diversity rationale and the logical incoherence of the position that considering race is acceptable but quotas are not, we can see how Justice Powell’s opinion in Bakke became official ideology throughout American elite institutions. Peter Wood, in Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, searches major newspapers and court decisions before Bakke and finds almost no mention of the benefits of diversity in higher education.12 The University of California did not even put much emphasis on diversity in the arguments it presented to the Supreme Court, and the idea was barely mentioned in the original opinion of the California Supreme Court.
In the years after the decision, all this changes. The number of newspaper articles mentioning diversity in higher education goes from a trickle to a flood, as it becomes the standard justification for affirmative action policies. We can see the invention of a concept in real time. While “diversity” is certainly an idea, it is not one that can claim any kind of intellectual depth or historical pedigree. It was basically the creation of one judge acting out of either political timidity or intellectual laziness.
At its root, the original push for quotas was based on sympathy for the situation of African Americans as they began to advocate for equal rights, white guilt over their plight, and a desire to make things better. Before the Civil Rights Act, the entirety of the civil rights lobby was united in consistently calling for racially neutral anti-discrimination laws.13 Soon, however, there was a realization among elite institutions that, under a color-blind system of college admissions, there might not be many more blacks in positions of power and authority than there were before the Civil Rights Act.
In other words, the American Supreme Court (SCOTUS) basically makes stuff up and then society follows along. In fact, it gets worse, once SCOTUS makes up something, the intellectuals who like that outcome start mass producing writings in its favor. There's probably 10000s of academic articles trying to show the benefits of diversity. The slogan is now found in all countries, so what Hanania really is saying is that Greeks, Poles, and Koreans have to listen to "diversity is our strength" because one judge made it up 50 years ago in a different country.
A related case is the original desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 1954, which relied on:
In answer, the Court held that it did. The Court ruled that state-mandated segregation, even if implemented in schools of otherwise equal quality, is inherently unequal because of its psychological impact upon the segregated children.
To separate [black children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.
— Brown, 347 U.S. at 494.
The Court supported this conclusion with citations—in a footnote, not the main text of the opinion—to several psychological studies purporting to show that segregating black children made them feel inferior and interfered with their learning. These studies included those of Kenneth and Mamie Clark, whose experiments in the 1940s had suggested that black American children from segregated environments preferred white dolls over black dolls.
Thus, the case Hanania discusses is in fact not the first one to invoke diversity as a benefit, it was done 24 years before, but without that specific term or phrasing. In this case, it's clear that the court is being influenced by poorly done social psychology, not the other way around. For good measure, it is false that Black children suffer from low self-esteem, which is what the doll study was supposed to show:
Blacks have the highest self-esteem. Blacks slightly increase their self-esteem through the school years, and the difference is also seen for adults:
The self-esteem hierarchy curiously follows the Rushton pattern: Black > Hispanic > White > Asian. One might wonder if it's slightly negatively related to intelligence so as to give rise to this pattern. One could object that these data are from recent years, not the 1950s, so maybe the differences are due to efforts of desegregation. Well, that would one of the first times such laws would work. Alas, I wasn't able to find an actual quantitative study from the 1950s on the matter, so my guess is that we don't know for sure.
No one in American society thought that Congress was in the process of creating an open-ended and indefinite commitment to achieving equality between various groups. Between 1940 and 1972, the New York Times reported on 3,800 demonstrations in favor of civil rights, of which 95 percent were in relation to discrimination against African Americans.4 One analysis shows sixty-nine instances of representatives for black organizations testifying before Congress in civil rights hearings between 1940 and 1972, compared to two for all other races, and nine for any national origins group.5 When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he only mentioned discrimination based on race and color. The first annual report from the EEOC, released in 1966, stated plainly that “the chief thrust of the statute was, of course, aimed at discrimination against the Negro.”6
The federal government has not only interpreted the CRA in ways that Congress could not have foreseen. In some ways, its interpretations have directly contradicted what legislators promised and agreed to. In his opening statement in the debate over the bill, Sen. Hubert Humphrey told fellow legislators that there was no chance that it would lead to reverse discrimination.7
That bugaboo has been brought up a dozen times: but it is nonexistent. In fact, the very opposite is true. Title VII prohibits discrimination. In effect, it says that race, religion, and national origin are not to be used as the basis for hiring and firing.
Further emphasizing the point, the future vice president told a skeptical colleague that if he could find “any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color . . . I will start eating the pages.” Yet Congress wasn’t satisfied with such assurances. So the following text was also added to the bill:
Nothing contained in this title shall be interpreted to require any [employer or labor union] to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the race, color, religion, sex, or national origin of such individual or group on account of an imbalance which may exist . . .
The text of the document and the legislative history agree on this point. Yet ultimately none of this would matter, and it would be used to justify proportional hiring by race and sex. In 1968, Clifford Alexander, the director of the EEOC, declared, “Our most valid standard is in numbers . . . The only accomplishment is when we look at all those numbers and see a vast improvement in the picture.”8 A few years later, a Labor Department official would explain requirements for government contractors by saying that “affirmative action is anything you have to do to get results.”9
So, as a matter of fact, civil rights laws were often implemented exactly as legal meritocrats/colorblind advocates would like. But somehow the legal system still found ways to use the laws in the exact opposite way of their written explicit purpose. It's a particular pathology of the American legal system that laws can be misused in this way. Legal activism as a system basically means that the practical applications of laws depend on the attitudes of the courts to a very large extent, so even if the voters want X, they don't generally get X if the courts don't want X. Truly a sick system. Since many American readers are unfamiliar with how it works in other countries, let me give my native example. In Denmark, we too have a Supreme Court (Højesteret, the highest court). Denmark has had its modern constitution since 1849. How many laws has the Danish highest court annulled for violating the constitution? One. Uno. En. It is simply not activistic in the way the American one is. Unfortunately, this American system has been spreading. For instance, Europeans have a sort of super-national version called the European Court of Human Rights. Founded in 1959, it works about the same way as the American one, and it sort of has the right to tell individual countries how human rights are to be understood, akin to the American federal system. It too is extremely activist, constantly making up new interpretations of human rights to circumvent democracy. It's a rather recent phenomenon:
Before 2000, there were hardly any cases being decided and compliance was very high. After 2000, the court has pontificated on all manners of laws forcing 'member countries' (it is apart from the EU) to do whatever its judges make up. In this way, Europe increasingly has a sick legal system like the USA.
Ironically, by being concerned with unintentional discrimination against certain “protected” groups, disparate impact doctrine requires intentional discrimination against others. An employer who wants to use intelligence tests to hire is potentially barred from doing so because whites could do too well. He must make a conscious decision to pick a hiring practice that guarantees fewer white people, in order to avoid one that has a disparate impact against blacks. Griggs, therefore, diverges from the original intent of the Civil Rights Act in two ways, both expanding the definition of what counts as “discrimination” when it comes to women and minorities, and by necessity therefore giving whites and men less protection than Congress thought it was providing them.
When faced with undeniable evidence in the plain text of the law and historical record, judges have appealed to the higher purpose of the statute. By passing the Civil Rights Act, Congress meant to help black people, so the “purpose” of the law can supposedly allow disparate treatment by race in order to achieve equal results. An unusually honest opinion was the concurrence by Justice Harry Blackmun in United Steelworkers v. Weber (1979). In that case, the Labor Department had forced a quota system onto a contractor and the labor union it worked with, requiring that half of new positions in a program to train skilled craftsmen go to blacks. A white employee filed a class action lawsuit on the grounds that he and others of his race had been discriminated against under Title VII.
The case thus forced the Supreme Court to address the contradiction between affirmative action requirements placed on government contractors, which were explicitly geared toward achieving racial balance, and the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination against individuals. Justice Blackmun signed on to the 5–2 decision authorizing reverse discrimination even though, in his concurrence, he agreed with the dissent that “the Congress that passed Title VII probably thought it was adopting a principle of nondiscrimination that would apply to blacks and whites alike.” Nonetheless, he decided that allowing preferences in favor of blacks—in this case with government encouragement through the Labor Department—should be allowed for reasons he called “practical and equitable.”
If this sounds like a judge making up the law to fit his own political preference, that is because that is exactly what it is. At the very least, Justice Blackmun should be credited for his candor. But to appeal to the purpose of a statute to contradict its plain text is to nullify the bargain that Congress ultimately arrived at. Yes, the Civil Rights Act was meant to improve the condition of black people. But that goal was to be balanced against concerns of individual liberty, economic freedom, federalism, and the principle that nobody—including whites—should be discriminated against on account of their race.
Laws are not supposed to be blank checks for courts and bureaucrats to seek out their preferred policy outcomes. Alfred Blumrosen, an official who worked for the EEOC in its early days, wrote with unusual candor about how the agency sought to get around the plain meaning of the law, as he and his allies preferred to see civil rights statutes more as broad “charters for equality” than explicit rules about what government can and cannot do.32
Thus, even if you tell the court "hey, you are doing X thing with this law, but if you read it and the related writings by the very people who implemented it, they say not to use it that way". The court then goes "LOL, watch me". In USA, the law of the land is whatever the judges make it to be. One might wonder why they even bother with a 3-way power split if the legislating power doesn't matter.
While the 1970s saw the solidification of Hispanics as a unified category for purposes of government record keeping, activists still had a lot of work to do in the cultural realm. Lobbying ensured that there would be a question about Spanish speakers on all census forms in 1980.27 Showing how controversial this was even a few years before that change, the New York Times in May 1978 ran a front-page story critical of the new Hispanic category, sympathetically quoting demographers who saw its creation as a response to political pressure rather than as a classification that captured anything worth measuring.28
In the end, the Census Bureau went with a Hispanic “ethnicity” question instead of a race question, chiefly because of worries that if it allowed respondents to say that they were part of a Hispanic “race,” it could reduce the number of Americans identifying as black or African American.29 Census officials even met with black organizations to reassure them that the new Hispanic question would not dilute the numbers of their own group. Thus the arrival of an Afro-Cuban would increase both the number of “blacks” and “Hispanics” in the United States. This is why today, when they fill out forms, Americans are usually asked to choose a “race” and an “ethnicity,” with Hispanic or Latino being the only kind of “ethnicity” officially recognized.
Even as of 2012, 51 percent of people of “Hispanic” descent preferred to refer to their country of origin to describe their identity.30 Just under one-quarter (24 percent) chose “Hispanic” or “Latino,” and “American” (21 percent) was just behind that. In other words, close to three-quarters of the “Hispanic” category either preferred an assimilationist label that embraced their American identity, or saw themselves as people coming from a certain country, not part of a loosely defined collective created for reasons having to do with political activism and bureaucratic convenience. In the same poll, seven in ten said that American Hispanics did not share a culture. Yet in elite political discourse and institutions, alternative conceptions of identity are all but ruled out. For ethnic activists to have a purpose, they need to claim to represent a group that is distinct from the population, but not so distinct that it can be ignored as irrelevant to national politics.
To most people of Latin American descent, ethnic politics is an abstract issue with little relevance to their social, economic, or political lives. When prompted to name the most important leader of their community, the vast majority of Hispanics say they cannot think of one.31 The disconnect between elites and the masses was demonstrated in the debate over the term “Latinx” that emerged after the 2020 election, in which an unexpectedly high number of Hispanics voted Republican. Polls showed that few Hispanics had even heard of the word, and an even tinier minority used it, with that minority being vastly outnumbered by those who found it offensive.32 Nonetheless, the androgynous term continues to be used in the worlds of politics, academia, entertainment, and ethnic activism. The irony of this debate is that even the non-androgynous concept “Latino” itself was a government creation that to this day has limited traction among the wider public.
In other words, activists invented this identity to try to solidify the Hispanic block against the Europeans. This process continues to this way, here's a recent race-ethnicity form:
While my son was doing his UC application we discovered their ridiculously granular racial checkbox page. My goodness, so many choices! One per country basically. Except for, er, this one small minority group that's not worth categorizing further. See if you can spot it!
In other words, the White people are all the same, even the Jews, and everybody else is very, very diverse. It's called outgroup homogeneity in stereotype studies. One key move in propaganda is to make all members of the target group seem the same and equally unlikable. (And there's even some extra check boxes for those who are still not properly categorized.)
The failure of conservatives to arrest the progress of civil rights law was not completely Nixon’s fault. He made the judiciary a central issue in the 1968 campaign, but once he got into office he had trouble finding qualified Republican judges. There were simply few conservatives within the federal judiciary who could be realistic candidates for the Supreme Court. As of 1969, there were only four Republicans under sixty serving on any US court of appeals.18 Similarly, conservatives were so underrepresented in elite circles that the Nixon administration in many cases didn’t even understand the implications of what it was doing. Title IX would become one of the most potent weapons in the hands of government social engineers. But in 1972, supporters of the provision consciously adopted a strategy of trying to publicize it as little as possible so as to not stir up opposition. It was added to the Education Amendments Act of 1972 by voice vote, and when Nixon signed the bill he released a statement that made no mention of what would become one of his most lasting domestic policy changes.19
Thus while Nixon the man was the personification of the backlash to the 1960s, Nixon in power represented the continuation of the revolution that had been started under Johnson. On many issues, his administration went further than the executive branch had ever gone before. Nixon signed Executive Order 11478, which established affirmative action in the federal government; before, similar regulations were forced only on the private sector. In the Philadelphia Plan, government construction contractors were first held to a “goals-and-timetables requirement” to hire more minorities, with Nixon having personally lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the policy in December 1969 as a way to pit civil rights organizations and labor unions against one another and split the Democratic coalition.20
A few months later, the OFCC expanded affirmative action in contracting beyond construction to all industries, a development of which the president may have been unaware. The Nixon administration also pioneered the practice of the federal government giving contracting preferences to female- and minority-owned businesses, as well as using Title VI to pressure universities to consider race and sex in hiring.21 Finally, the president signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which increased the enforcement power of the EEOC.
It was not only on civil rights that Nixon championed or helped facilitate a liberal shift in policy. He also presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and a major expansion of government. Nixon was not alone in supporting policies that were, to conservative intellectuals and ideologues like Goldwater, examples of government overreach or even steps toward tyranny, as bills that represented the expansion of the Great Society received bipartisan support in Congress. Between 1940 and 1976, every Republican platform except those of 1964 and 1968 endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have enshrined in the Constitution what would surely have been a feminist ideal of gender equality.22
Even Nixon’s judicial appointments did not overwhelmingly reflect a conservative philosophical orientation, or at least not to the same extent as would those selected by later Republican presidents, although, as mentioned above, this was not entirely his fault. The conservative legal movement, which for all practical purposes did not exist during the Nixon administration, would pressure future Republican presidents to appoint judges that would reflect its worldview and understanding of the law.23
File under "conservatives are incompetent once they are in power". America needs someone like Margaret Thatcher.
Trump, like other Republicans since the 1960s, was elected largely because people vote on cultural issues, not economics.53 Nonetheless, at the national level Republicans have proved better at accomplishing foreign policy and economic policy goals than they have at doing anything regarding civil rights law. Perhaps the main reason is that courts have assumed an unusually large role on social issues, as has the federal bureaucracy. Still, decades of Republican power, and the conservative influence within the GOP, have meant that the judiciary in particular has moved to the right. This gives conservatives more of a chance to have an influence on cultural and social issues.
Despite only serving one term, President Trump was able to put three new justices on the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans serving during his administration, though lacking much of a legislative agenda, worked hard on pushing judges through the Senate. Trump appointed fifty-four appellate court judges in four years, just one shy of how many Obama was able to appoint through his eight.
Trump not entirely useless on that front. It looks like he will win in 2024, and if so, then perhaps he can get lucky again with the "appoint judges" game. Some of the SCOTUS members are quite old, so if Trump 2.0 can replace these with conservative hard-liners, then perhaps there is some hope for American conservatism:
Justice Thomas, 75.
Justice Alito, 73.
Justice Sotomayor, 69.
Chief Justice Roberts, 68.
Justice Kagan, 63.
Justice Kavanaugh, 58.
Justice Gorsuch, 56.
Justice Jackson, 53.
Here's their ideological positions:
Sotomayor is the worst (she's a diversity hire), and at age 69, perhaps she will have some health issues during 2024-2028, but probably not (Hispanic women's life expectancy is one of the highest). The judges have been retiring increasingly late over time:
There might be errors as AI extracted it, but the pattern is clear enough. The expected age of retirement or death is over 80 years old now. Grandparents are deciding how the law works, and thus how the country works. Gerontocracy is increasingly a feature of Western countries as the populations age and fertility is low. Of course, some of this is expected due to the increase in lifespan, but not that large of an effect is my guess.
America's Cultural Revolution
The Weathermen printed forty thousand copies of Prairie Fire and surreptitiously organized a national conference that was to augur their rightful return as the vanguard of the activist Left.19 They assembled the entire spectrum of radicals on the University of Illinois campus in Chicago and planned for a unity summit. But the conference, despite the high-minded rhetoric about “cultural identity,” “anti-racism,” and “white privilege,” turned into a farce. The black radicals feuded with the white radicals. The women denounced the men. The vegetarians revolted against the cafeteria chicken. Accusations of racism ricocheted across the floor.
Later that year, the Weathermen splintered for the last time. Dohrn, subjecting herself to punishing criticism/self-criticism sessions, finally broke. “I am making this tape to acknowledge, repudiate, and denounce the counter-revolutionary politics and direction of the Weather Underground Organization,” she said in a rambling audiotape confession. “We followed the classic path of white so-called revolutionaries who sold out the revolution.” She was guilty of “naked white supremacy, white superiority, and chauvinist arrogance”—and, with this final admission, the Weather Underground was done.20
Not a new thing that ideologies built on victimization identities tend to splinter. Tiny Denmark used to have not 1, not 2, or even 3, but 12 different communist parties. All of these eventually consolidated into the currently existing Enhedslisten (The Unity List), the current semi-covert communist party.
The Weathermen, in spite of their participation in political terror campaigns, found a welcome home in the academy, too. Dohrn, who had promised to “lead white kids into armed revolution,”26 became a professor at Northwestern. Ayers, who had laid bombs at the Pentagon and the US Capitol, became a professor at the University of Illinois. Even Kathy Boudin, who served a long prison sentence for her involvement in an armored car robbery that left one Brinks guard and two police officers dead, became a professor at Columbia. In total, approximately half of the most active Weathermen managed to secure positions in the education field, from prestigious appointments at Duke, Fordham, and Columbia to more modest sinecures in the public school systems of Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, where the old revolutionary cells had been most prominent.27
No past is too extreme for academia, as long as it's on the left side of the spectrum. Imagine having professors on campus with a prior history of Nazistic terrorism. Unthinkable.
Marcuse theorized about the black revolution. Davis embodied it. She marshalled her own identity—the authority of the black woman, the drama of the fugitive, the small acts of defiance against her enemies—in service of her revolutionary politics.
And it worked. In the months after her capture, Angela Davis transformed herself from a small-time student radical into an international cause célèbre. Left-wing activists established dozens of Committees to Free Angela Davis to agitate on her behalf. The Communist Party, which Davis had joined in 1968, held a press conference announcing “the largest, broadest, most all-encompassing people’s movement the country has ever seen to free [their] comrade, Angela Davis.”9 Five thousand people attended a fund-raiser on her birthday at the Manhattan Center in New York City. John Lennon and the Rolling Stones both penned songs of tribute to Davis, “Angela” and “Sweet Black Angel,”10 calling her a “political prisoner” and demanding her release.
The international Left also rose to her defense. The Soviet Union’s political commissars, seeing the persecution of a black female communist as a propaganda opportunity, instructed schoolchildren throughout the empire to flood the United States with letters of support. The messages combined a sense of childhood innocence with the content of state propaganda: “We Soviet students are proud of your struggle for civil rights, of your resilience, and are certain that victory will come for your people”; “We want for you to again fight for the rights of black people, so that people in your country could live the same way we do”; “It is winter here and it snows a lot. The weather is cold and we go to school.” The citizens of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan sent hundreds of thousands of additional letters and the East German government organized an illustrated-postcard-writing campaign to send “a million roses for Angela” on her twenty-seventh birthday.11
Always ready to start a PR campaign for a criminal. The main change since then is that these days they simply choose garden variety criminals like George Floyd as their heroes.
The defense enlisted a team of prestigious attorneys, psychiatrists, psychologists, and a handwriting expert to aid in jury selection, and called in a procession of left-wing activists and Communist Party members to provide alibis for Davis during key moments. These alibis were flimsy—they were from dedicated political allies, often in private spaces that were impossible to corroborate—but ultimately, along with the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s evidence and the political valence of the proceeding, it was enough.
Davis and her attorneys had beguiled the all-white jury, persuading them that the Marin courthouse revolt was a “slave insurrection” and that Angela was a “symbol of resistance.”56 They turned the tables, identifying the state as the victimizer and Davis as the victim. During thirteen hours of jury deliberation, the facts of the case seemed to melt away and the political narrative took hold.
When the judge welcomed the jury back into the courtroom, the clerk read the verdict for each of the three charges. “We, the jury in the above-entitled cause, find the defendant, Angela Y. Davis, not guilty of kidnapping . . . not guilty of murder . . . not guilty of conspiracy.”57
The courthouse erupted in cheers. One juror flashed the Black Power salute to the audience outside the courtroom and told reporters: “I did it because I wanted to show I felt an identity with the oppressed people in the crowd. All through the trial, they thought we were just a white, middle-class jury. I wanted to express my sympathy with their struggle.”58 Later that evening, a majority of the jurors attended a rock-and-roll festival in celebration of Davis’s acquittal.
Courthouse tricks are not a new thing either. There seems to be no particular way to avoid this meddling if one isn't allowed to have anonymous jurors who cannot be pressured. Or even anonymous judges.
Decades later, after earning his PhD from Harvard and becoming a whiteness studies professor, Ignatiev founded the magazine Race Traitor and intensified his rhetoric: “abolish the white race”; “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity”; “we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as ‘the white race’ is destroyed—not ‘deconstructed’ but destroyed.”22 As one of Ignatiev’s collaborators put it, the new radicals must see “the attack against white supremacy as the key to strategy in the struggle for socialism in the United States.”23
Ignatiev’s worldview, as radical as it was, was not limited to the confines of academia. His concepts and rhetoric, which serve as the crucial link between individual and collective action, have made their way into the public education system.
At the East Side Community School in New York City, for example, principal Mark Federman sent a letter encouraging white parents to become “white traitors” and advocate for “white abolition”—the precise terminology developed by Ignatiev decades prior. The letter included a graphic outlining eight stages of white identity development—from the lowest form, “white supremacist,” to the intermediate forms of “white confessional” and “white traitor,” to the highest form, “white abolitionist.”24
The goal of this process, according to the graphic’s creator, Northwestern University professor Barnor Hesse, is to challenge the “regime of whiteness” and eventually to “subvert white authority” and “not [allow] whiteness to reassert itself.”25 For Hesse, the Western concepts of “‘rationality,’ ‘liberalism,’ ‘capitalism,’ ‘secularism,’ [and] ‘rule of law’” are “white mythologies” that are used to justify, extend, and perpetuate white domination.26 Hesse’s theoretical work buries itself in dense critiques of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Weber, and Foucault, but his “8 white identities” schematic is easily digested by schoolteachers and left-wing activists. Hesse describes his method as creating a “shock to the system” that can begin to prepare the grounds for “abolishing white institutions that rest on the authority of structural racism and white supremacy.”27
The ambition of the pedagogy of whiteness is sweeping: from the initial changes to “white identity,” to the condemnation of “white mythologies,” to the subversion of the entire “regime of whiteness,” the critical pedagogists see the manipulation of racial identity as a key mechanism for advancing the left-wing revolution. American parents might wince at submitting their children to “white privilege” exercises, but they are often reassured by the soft, therapeutic language of many educators. “It’s just acknowledging that some people start life with more advantages than others,” a teacher might say. Or, if there is resistance, school officials can use harder tactics of guilt and shame: as the East Side Community School told parents, white people who hesitate in “owning [their] privilege” are upholding white supremacy itself. “Racism and hate [are] the underlying cause fueling their beliefs.”28
Many of the leaders of the "anti-racist" racist groups have quite explicit communist agendas. Nothing new here either. Works like a charm too.
And this is the problem. The pedagogy of liberation in America functions about as well as Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed in Guinea-Bissau—that is to say, not much at all. Buffalo Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia have annual budgets of more than $30,000 per child,49 significantly higher than the average educational expenditure of every other nation on earth, including rich countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.50 Yet the results are dismal. In Buffalo, only 18 percent of black students reach basic proficiency in English and 13 percent reach basic proficiency in math.51 In Philadelphia, only 27 percent of black students reach basic proficiency in English and 11 percent reach basic proficiency in math.52 In other words, the majority of these children enter the modern world functionally illiterate and innumerate.
They are condemned: not by “Western nuclear family dynamics” and “heteronormative thinking,” but by the heartbreaking pathologies in their communities and the immense failures of the institutions that are supposed to serve them. The gap between rhetoric and reality is almost beyond comprehension. The ten- and eleven-year-olds at William D. Kelley march for the utopia of “black communism,” but they are unable to read and write. School officials promise to transform society, but they can barely teach rudimentary skills.
There's a long list of such projects. Even amusing ones. Take for instance Mark Zuckerberg's 100M dollars investment in schools, and he's not even a communist:
[Derrick Bell] was, by his own admission, unqualified according to traditional standards. “When in the Spring of 1969 I accepted the Harvard Law School’s offer to join its faculty, both the school and I had reason to recognize that mine was a pioneering appointment, a mission really, that would mark a turning point in the school’s history,” he wrote in his memoirs. “The break in tradition was twofold. First, I would become the first full-time black teacher in Harvard’s one-hundred-fifty year history. Second, unlike virtually all of the faculty at that time, my qualifications did not include either graduation with distinction from a prestigious law school or a judicial clerkship on the Supreme Court. I had not, moreover, practiced with a major law firm where a well-known partner, himself a Harvard alumnus, was urging my appointment.”27
Bell understood the politics of racial hiring in elite institutions—a kind of proto–affirmative action—and saw it without illusion. “We must not forget, particularly those of us who are ‘first blacks,’ that our elections, appointments, and promotions were not based solely on our credentials, ability, or experience,” he said. “As important—likely more important—than merit is the fact that we came along at just the right time.”28
At Harvard, Bell worked to transform his disillusionment with the civil rights movement into a cohesive theory of race and power.
In 1973, he published his landmark casebook, Race, Racism, and American Law. The political orientation of the book was unmistakable: on the opening page, Bell reproduced the famous photograph of the two black sprinters raising the Black Power fist at the 1968 Olympics. The book, originally published for a limited audience of legal scholars, contained the entire seed of what would become known as “critical race theory.” Bell argued that race is “an indeterminate social construct that is continually reinvented and manipulated to maintain domination and enhance white privilege.” His goal was to examine “the law’s role in concretizing racial differences, maintaining racial inequality, and reifying the status quo”—and then to change it through the application of political power.29
Harvard president Claudine Gay has problems. Touted as the first black woman to run the nation’s most prestigious university, she assumed leadership with high expectations, but her tenure, which began this summer, has been mired in scandal. As dean and then president, Gay has been accused of bullying colleagues, suppressing free speech, overseeing a racist admissions program, and, following the Hamas terror campaign against Israel, failing to stand up to rampant anti-Semitism on campus.
We have obtained exclusive documentation demonstrating that President Gay may face yet another problem: plagiarism of sections of her Ph.D. dissertation, which would violate Harvard’s own stated policies on academic integrity. (We reached out to President Gay for comment, but received no response.)
Gay published her dissertation, “Taking Charge: Black Electoral Success and the Redefinition of American Policies,” in 1997, as part of her doctorate in political science from Harvard. The paper deals with white-black political representation and racial attitudes. As evaluated under the university’s plagiarism policy, the paper contains at least three problematic patterns of usage and citation.
Not to mention that she was somehow hired as a university president despite having published only 11 papers. Hilariously low standards. A White man can't even get a low ranking faculty position at a mediocre university with such a publication record.
In 1987, Bell announced a four-day sit-in to support two critical race scholars who had been denied tenure. Then, three years later, he took his strategy to the brink, writing a letter to the administration and the faculty announcing that he was going on strike until the law school hired and tenured a black woman. He worked with student activists to organize rallies and negotiate exclusive coverage in the New York Times.
Bell and his students demanded that the university hire visiting professor Regina Austin, a critical race theorist who was known for writing inflammatory polemics, denouncing the “white man’s racist, sexist comic imagination,” celebrating the stereotype of the “Black Bitch,” and telling her black female colleagues that “the time has come for us to get truly hysterical.”11
These qualities were rare among legal scholars, but they made Austin the perfect candidate for Bell’s activism. Austin brought with her a reputation of being a strict enforcer of racial politics. She knew how to wield the concept of “diversity” as both a shield and a sword, coming down hard on colleagues and students who dissented from her views. “The problem is, you can’t tell the truth around here anymore without being accused of being a racist,” one of her students told the Times.12
Naturally, the first thing such people do is make sure to hire more incompetent, but politically aligned friends.
Cole, on the other hand, is a Marxist “scholar-activist” with a distinguished pedigree in black militancy. In the 1970s, Cole was a leader in multiple communist-supported organizations, including the pro-Castro Venceremos Brigade,27 the Marxist-Leninist Angola Support Conference,28 a Soviet front group called the US Peace Council,29 and the Weather Underground–aligned July 4 Coalition.30 She repeatedly denounced the United States for “genocidal practices against peoples of color around the world” and the desire to “destroy all enemies of corporate America.” Cole celebrated the communist victory in Vietnam, even endorsing the new government’s “reeducation camps,” and argued that the Castro regime could provide the model for “eliminating institutional racism”31 in the United States. As the revolution faded, Cole continued to work in academia as a professor and college administrator, then began to join corporate boards and consulting firms, including Cook Ross Inc., led by her co-lecturer Howard Ross.
At this point, there must be 100s if not 1000s of such parasites in American academia.
In terms of what to do about Woke, reading these books gives one the following ideas:
McCarthy style blocking of anti-American and communist members of academia. This infringes upon academic freedom, but what freedom is really left anyway? Professors are fired left and right already. What use is academic freedom if academia is run by communists who undermine the country? It's the paradox of tolerance.
Defunding universities. At least this way, the taxpayers don't have to fund their own demise. The defunding should target the main fields that breed communism, so anything *studies, most of language departments, most of sociology etc. I like this approach on libertarian grounds. If some people want to promote communism, that's sad, but ultimately that's their own business and it doesn't belong in academia. There is a certain irony in protecting the enlightenment by defunding universities.
Appoint a ton of non-woke judges and prosecutors. This might happen if Trump wins again. Hopefully this time he will get rid of his cronyism and nepotism and get some smart advisers. One might even imagine both of these authors getting a role. They surely should.
Repeal the various civil rights laws that underpin the regime. This is the most straightforward but probably most difficult approach. I imagine politicians don't have enough balls to do this, so it will probably end up like the prior Republican administrations' failed reform attempts. The problem must be removed at its core.
Non-communist take-over of academia. Maybe state governments can use their political force to appoint presidents of universities and these can remove the worst offenders and the local laws. Removing the DEI bureaucracy is key, as this is quite literally a communist front. Ron DeSantis apparently has some success with this approach, so perhaps this can be copied around the country. Of course, the impact is limited by the fact that the top universities with the most influence are in solid Democrat states. The federal government would have to come up with some tricks, presumably linked to public funding. Ironically, these will probably have to be based on civil rights law too, as in, you can't discriminate by race, sex, or politics in hiring.
Wait it out? The fertility of communists is quite low, so one can wait it out. In theory. Recent arrivals from other countries make this process slower. This is the Ed Dutton Byzantium approach.