Political correctness, under various names and forms, thrives in a wealthy society, while class war and outright terrorism return in times of real economic hardship.
In political ecology, the left-wing movements of the cultural elite develop in times of relative prosperity and economic security. Political correctness in its various contemporary forms is a response to the overproduction of the elite as too many children clustered in the same elite institutions and then pursue careers with a limited number of top positions. Surprise a few of them with an unannounced viral video moment in the park, or take a screenshot of your chat history and watch leftist political terror unfold.
Forcing conformism rewards mediocrity. Along with the usual leftist agendas, political correctness and the cancellation of culture are ideal weapons for the elite who feel threatened by the social mobility of others. Unable to compete on their merits, they embrace leftist politics, recruit Black Lives Matter activists, and demand that the system become less academically rigorous and objectively competitive.
Recessions limit this fraud by disrupting intellectual supply chains. In a growing economy, one can afford to get upset about microaggression. People who don’t have real problems have to invent them. And inventing artificial problems and moral panic becomes a spectacular sport. In the Times of Prosperity, viewers tune in to see which elite member has been fired, charged with #MeToo crimes, or paraded for making clumsy statements on a topic this week. But when the belt tightens, the audience loses its patience with imaginary problems. The overproduction of elites no longer requires artificial control when natural constraints emerge.
Bombs replaced virtue
This means there will be fewer suburban eateries and book clubs with Black Lives Matter activists or Ibram X. Kendi treatises in the future. Leonard Bernstein hosted the infamous Black Panther Night in 1970 (the star conductor threw a party to raise money for a violent terrorist group, though their concerns apparently contradicted a note from editor Bernstein.). While inflation continued to rise, the economy remained solid. Nixon ran for re-election fueled by what even most media outlets described as an economic boom.
Before long, the decade was marked by staggering inflation, leftist violence and a social collapse. True radicalism has replaced radical chic, and bombs have replaced the display of virtue. The already established conservative and leftist movements began to take over the republican and democratic parties. The troubled elite re-consolidated as moderate, while the democratic establishment and the RINO (“lounge republicans”) fought to control and protect their political fiefs.
The elite are consolidating again and opposition to “awakening” becomes mainstream. There’s a lot less room for fun cultural diversion on Netflix as the company’s stock plummets. The signaling of virtue ceases when the party ends and then the struggle for survival begins.
Alliance with communists against social democrats
Companies that have recently scolded and threatened the states – from transgender toilet laws to voting rules – have suddenly decided to shut down over abortion rights. Gov. DeSantis’s plans to strip Disney World of its right to self-government in Orlando have helped, but meeting rooms are getting less fun anyway as officials confront economic instability and the fragility of their positions. As in the 1970s, frivolous awakening is likely to give way to genuine violence.
The Woke era divided the American left into the so-called neo-liberal, cultural left that promoted capitalism as progressive through identity politics and environmental protection, and the hard-left that advocated class struggle and socialist revolution. Some conservatives have allied with the hard left in opposing the awakening and annulment of culture, but will soon find out that it was an alliance with the communists against the social democrats.
Political correctness, under various names and forms, thrives in a wealthy society, while class war and outright terrorism return in times of real economic hardship. If the economy goes silent, what comes in its place – Marxist revolutionists, terrorists and sect leaders – will be even worse. What comes next depends on the economy and country.
Making politics, the second oldest profession in the world
The two faces of the left are ugly and specialized in political terror. They coexist, but rarely grow at the same time. The rise of one usually heralds the fall of the other. The scale of the Black Lives Matter riots heralded a radical change. Growing opposition to the “awakening” centered around an alliance of conservatives, liberals, apoliticians and hard-leftists suddenly found backwinds and the backing of many tech billionaires, from Elon Musk to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The change was announced. But most of all, instability.
Society is increasingly burned out from an era of incessant new moral projects. Showing one’s virtue has become an important identity trait in times of prosperity, but now comes as an empty answer to suspicions of insincerity. Huge distrust of institutions is a failure not only to their credibility, but also to their functions. People who used to like to tweet are angry and bitter over the lack of results. And they are more and more willing to consider possibilities that might have been unthinkable before.
Politicality, the world’s second oldest profession, will not disappear, but will pursue authenticity by taking more active measures. The squeaky intimidation of the cancellation culture, naughty girls’ favorite sport that feeds on hashtags and victim videos is unlikely to satisfy that appetite. Like bumper stickers, hashtags have long been dismissed as useless, and trying to revive their relevance to astroturf Facebook groups and social media influencers is well on its way to hitting the wall.
Is technological totalitarianism ending?
Rounds of doxxing and cancellation, alternate reality games that turn online games into political wars, advertised by memes and bots and captured by analysts, is a style that symbolizes the forced maturation of this generation of rich kids who have isolated themselves in their online environments from the reality that created this form of life, probably will not survive.
The chaos of the web 3.0 will shake both platform domination and elite control over discourse. The ferocity of the era that is likely to follow the coup of the big tech companies that used to define acceptable cultural boundaries may turn out to be as explosive as it was in the 1970s. Cryptocurrency is nothing compared to the shock of a generation that has defined itself by exploiting loopholes in the closed Internet and suddenly found that the barriers no longer matter.
Web 2.0 has become the antiquated Eastern European Soviet bloc country that Big Brother is looking at, nothing really works under the hood and everything looks the same. Big tech companies, like communists, have their utopian visions, but all they really have to offer is a broken internet defined by algorithmic conformism and only the illusion of opposition. Awakening was the perfect cultural complement to social engineering totalitarianism. This allowed the narrative to be monitored in a way that fit perfectly with the technocratic mission of the mainstream platforms, which both developed and suppressed user-generated content. The dominance of big platforms like Facebook, fueled by well-funded, optimistic investors, is likely to collapse as the economy topples the decadent technocracy that spawned it.
Doubling up on political terrorism
The near future will probably be ugly, but much less awake. The elites – corporations and individuals – will withdraw from the devastation they have helped create in the face of economic collapse, increasing street violence and social collapse, while nonchalantly defending a renewed liberal consensus. Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo and Ta-Nehisi Coates, “white allies” and “white privilege” questionnaires will follow Leonard Bernstein’s Black Panther Dinner and will be laughed at as the naivety and decadence of an unprepared elite to accept or give up their privileges.
When the economy suffers, both politics and culture will lag behind the economy. The Left, aggressively revived and freed from its institutional shackles, will double political terrorism. At least until the economy recovers and former terrorists find jobs in universities and companies that turn them awake. Only next time we will call Wokesein differently.
Daniel Greenfield is the Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared in Front Page magazine.