As the slow-motion coup goosesteps through its second hundred days, don’t think this is just about Donald Trump or that “the resistance” would end with his impeachment.
The left’s efforts to overturn a democratic election are just a piece of its permanent campaign to silence dissent from its orthodoxy.
They have even coined a euphemism to make their groupthink sound hip: being “woke.”
Culturally appropriated from the Black Lives Matter movement by the bien-pensant elites of every pallor, to be woke means you “get it” – with “it” being how corrupt, racist, sexist (so on and so forth) America is.
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An article in last week’s New York Times about “woke TV” informed readers that the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” qualifies because it describes a future of “female subjugation and male hegemony.” So does the NBC series “This Is Us,” which according to the Los Angeles Times, “captures the simmering rage of a successful black man in white America.” Newsweek has declared Jimmy Fallon “late night’s least-woke comedian” because, unlike Stephen Colbert, he hasn’t turned his program into an anti-Trump hate fest.
Not yet, anyway. Responding to falling ratings and a barrage of attacks on social media, Fallon has now apologized for mussing Trump’s hair during an October segment instead of, presumably, punching him in the face.
North Carolina is also becoming woke. Yearbooks at a Hamlet high school were pulled after administrators deemed some student-selected quotes inappropriate. These included Trump’s quote, “Build that wall.”
This is not just a frightening precedent but another sign of incipient fascism. It teaches students that America’s robust tradition of free speech must bow to the notion that you can’t say anything that someone else might find offensive. It’s not an absolute standard; you can still launch vicious attacks on the “powerful,” especially white people. But be careful. It’s always open season on white men, but white women – because they are women – enjoy some protection in the hierarchy of victimology that is replacing the First Amendment.
This indoctrination is taking root in the classroom. Consider the student-written play, “We the People,” recently performed at Enloe High School in Raleigh. One scene cuts between white students reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” and students of color saying: “I will not pledge allegiance to the flag of the shattered states of America and to the corruption where the wicked stand, a divided nation built over blood divisible with incarceration and prejudice for the oppressed.”
At another point, two white students say: “We are, I am, privileged and we benefit from that everyday unfairly. We never have to feel underestimated, undermined, ridiculed, laughed at, ignored, trampled, stepped on or pushed around because of our race.”
Of course I am troubled that these students have such a dark, and to my mind distorted, view of our country – and that school board member Jim Martin saw fit only to praise them for leading “us in courageous conversations that we don’t know how to have.”
My larger concern is that these sentiments are connected to a growing intolerance among students. About 71 percent of college freshmen – the highest number in decades – believe “colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus,” according to a survey published last year by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. About 43 percent of freshmen agreed that “colleges have the right to ban an extreme speaker from campus.”
This authoritarian groupthink informs the ongoing assaults on free speech at bastions of “woke” such as Berkeley, Middlebury, Yale, Wesleyan, Oberlin and the University of Missouri.
Let’s recall that we need near absolute free speech protection because restrictions too often become a coercive cudgel. A professor at the Duke Divinity School, Paul Griffiths, discovered this when he urged his colleagues not to attend two days of diversity training.
“It’ll be,” he emailed colleagues, “I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show.”
Within hours the school’s dean, Elaine Heath, sent an email to colleagues instructing that “the use of mass emails to express racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry is offensive and unacceptable, especially in a Christian institution.”
Griffiths claims that other forms were exerted upon him, leading to his resignation, effective in June 2018.
When a scholar such as Griffiths warns of illiberal and totalitarian tendencies on campus and his mild dissent is dismissed as hate speech, it’s long past time for all of us to wake up and resist the left’s permanent campaign to impose its will by any means necessary.
Contributing columnist J. Peder Zane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org