World War Woke

French President Emmanuel Macron, backed by French intellectuals, rejects woke culture while in a single week in the United States a journalist is forced out from The New York Times, an actress is fired from Star Wars, and even a contestant on The Bachelor is under attack.  Racism is everywhere in the mind’s of the woke.

Europe has long been considered a progressive model for America.  Socialists in the United States, such as Bernie Sanders, are always clear to point out that, when they say socialism, they don’t mean a Soviet-style totalitarian state.  They mean a social democracy, just like in Europe, one with guaranteed healthcare, paid family leave, etc.  If an article in the New York Times this past week is correct, however, there may be one area where America leads Europe, or at least France in liberalism:  Apparently, we’re more woke and the French don’t like it.

According to Norimitsu Onishi, “The threat is said to be existential. It fuels secessionism. Gnaws at national unity. Abets Islamism. Attacks France’s intellectual and cultural heritage.”  Onishi was summarizing a recent speech by French President Emmanuel Macron on the challenges of rapidly changing French society and coming to grips with the colonial sins of France’s past.  The speech is titled “Fight against separatism: The Republic in action,”  and apparently Macron believes, correctly in my opinion, that wokism is separatism by another name. 

“Many of these topics in which France used to excel academically have been undermined and we have abandoned them. And in so doing, we have left the intellectual debate to others, to those outside of the Republic by ideologizing it, sometimes yielding to other academic traditions. I am thinking of Anglo-Saxon traditions based on a different history, which is not ours. And when I see certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States, with their problems, which I respect and which exist, but which are just added to ours, I say to myself that it is reasonable to make this choice.”

The choice is essentially to not be woke.  President Macron’s Education Minister also warned, “There’s a battle to wage against an intellectual matrix from American universities.”  Much like America, however, not all French people are on the anti-woke bandwagon.  Mr. Onishi describes the struggle as a battle between the old and the new, again much like the United States.

“Prominent intellectuals have banded together against what they regard as contamination by the out-of-control woke leftism of American campuses and its attendant cancel culture.”  He continues, “Pitted against them is a younger, more diverse guard that considers these theories as tools to understanding the willful blind spots of an increasingly diverse nation that still recoils at the mention of race, has yet to come to terms with its colonial past and often waves away the concerns of minorities as identity politics.”

Replace “colonial past” with “slavery and segregation” and you could just as well describe the current state of affairs in the United States of America.  The battle is also waging within France in ways both big and small.  Everything from a kerfuffle over the Paris Opera seeking diversity on it’s staff and banning blackface because the director had “soaked up American culture for 10 years,” to the publication of a book claiming race has become a “bulldozer” to other subjects.

The only major difference appears to be that France, at least currently, has a larger resistance movement against this madness.  American intellectuals and universities are, by and large, driving the woke culture from critical race theory to anti-racism to microaggressions.  The intellectual and other enlightened members of establishment are onboard the train and not heeding the Grateful Dead’s advice to watch their speed down the tracks.

There were three incidents this week alone.

First, another firing, perhaps a forced dismissal would be a better term, at The New York Times.  This time a long-time science reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr. used a racial slur on a trip to Peru in 2019.  Apparently, a discussion occurred over dinner about whether or not it was fair to suspend a 12 year old girl for using the n-word.  McNeil asked how the word was used, was she attacking someone?  Quoting a rap song?  According to his written apology, “To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself.”

One would think the context of the conversation, his intent, and his 47-year history with the newspaper would count for something, but cancel culture might as well be a product of Cobra Kai:  No mercy.  Well, it would be a product of Cobra Kai if the show was woke enough.

Back at the Times, editor-in-chief, Dean Baquet, originally claimed it wasn’t a firing offense, but 150 times staffers signed a letter of protest, suggesting the inmates really do run the asylum.  Baquet then claimed “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent,” only to walk that back just this Thursday saying, “Of course intent matters when we are talking about language in journalism.”

Please keep in mind:  Dean Baquet is the editor-in-chief of one of the most powerful publications in the known universe.  The man is paid to read, write, and exercise judgement about both for a living.  If he can’t choose his words wisely enough to keep the woke crowd happy, who possibly can?

Of course, the story didn’t even end there.  Bret Stephens, a long-standing columnist with the Times, wrote an editorial questioning the decision.  He was concerned about the ramifications of removing “intent” from journalistic and other deliberations.  “This is an argument about three words: ‘Regardless of intent.’ Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.  Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.”

This very idea proved so objectionable the publisher, AG Sulzberger, spiked the column, refusing to publish it.  The word on the newspaper street is that 1619 Project creator and confirmed woke-a-holic, Nikole Hannah-Jones effectively runs the Times.  National Review reports that “this latest embarrassment is perfectly representative of Hannah-Jones’s mendacity, viciousness, as well as the liability she is to the Times,” but “it’s far from the only example.”  She’d previously helped oust opinion editor, James Bennet, for the crime of publishing an op-ed by a sitting Senator.

One wonders why anyone with any sense of fairness would listen to Ms. Hannah-Jones given she can’t even keep her own story straight.  When The 1619 Project was published with much fanfare, her lead essay claimed that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery and that 1619 was our true founding.  Of course, both are outright lies and slanders that were stealth edited, and then memory holed.  She later claimed “the #1619 Project does not argue that 1619 was our true founding.” Only to then claim that critics of the idea that 1619 was the true founding wanted to “cover up” history.  Keep in mind this is the same woman that said it would be an “honor” if she inspired riots that toppled statues and resulted in the mass destruction of property.

The entertainment industry in America also had multiple woke moments this week.

First, Disney fired actress Gina Carano from their hit-show, The Mandalorian.  Her crime?  Comparing being a Republican today to being Jewish during the holocaust.  “The government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”  This was after petitions had been circulating for months to fire her because she had the temerity to mock mask wearing and suggest that voter fraud may have played a role in the 2020 election.  The mask wearing incident was especially rich, given she posted a meme saying, obviously tongue-in-cheek, “Democratic Government Leaders now recommend we all wear blindfolds along with masks so we can’t really see what’s going on.”

Yes, it’s truly offensive stuff, and, while I don’t think being a Republican in the US is equivalent to Jewish in Nazi Germany, since when did Nazi metaphors become forbidden in polite discourse?  Apparently, major publications and enlightened institutions didn’t get the memo yet.  Google “trump is a nazi” and you’ll find everything from academic papers (“An American Fuhrer?  Nazi Analogies and the Struggle to Explain Donald Trump”) to articles in the woke Washington Post.  Are all of them getting cancelled as well?

Elsewhere in the Disney universe, even contestants on The Bachelor must be purged for apparent thought crimes.  The story starts with 23-year old contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, her sin was attending an antebellum themed sorority formal three years ago.  Apparently, she wore a dress inspired by Gone with the Wind and was photographed in it.  Well, that and her parents might be Trump voters, she apparently supports the police, and has worn an Indian costume on Halloween.

It’s shockingly racist stuff, I know, but the story gets stranger from there.  As the controversy was unfolding, Bachelor host Chris Harrison merely suggested that a little grace might be warranted.  “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” Harrison told Rachel Lindsay, the first black contestant on the franchise. “Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing — where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?”

Given the backlash, one might think he offered his statement in a Klan hood in front of a burning cross, more on that in a moment.  Both he and Ms. Kirconnell were promptly forced to issue an apology, for what I am entirely unclear.  Harrison claimed, “I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed.”  Kirconnell used similar language, “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me.”

Does anyone even know what that blather means?  Educate yourself about what?  Is any reference to the South banned now?  What about Renaissance Fairs?  Civil War Reenactments?  Are we allowed to visit actual plantations like Mount Vernon and Monticello?  What about a picture in front of a bust of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson?

Of course, both apologies were immediately rejected by Rachel Lindsay as one of the tenets of woke culture remains nothing can ever be enough.  “I’m exhausted. I have truly had enough,” she dramatically exclaimed.  “But how much more do I want to be affiliated with this? How much more can I take of things like this?” “I can’t take it anymore,” Lindsay continued. “I’m contractually bound in some ways. But when it’s up, I am too. I can’t do it anymore.”

It’s helpful to bear in mind that Ms. Lindsay is a lawyer, the daughter of a Texas judge.  She’s now a correspondent on E! in addition to her lucrative contract with The Bachelor franchise.  In short, she is far more privileged than most people, and yet how dare someone dress as Scarlett.

It’s also worth noting that the sitting Governor of Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam, remains in office after pictures surfaced of him from college, either in actual blackface or with an actual Klan hood.  To this day, we do not know which one he is in the picture, and yet he continues to control the governorship in a critical state.  Likewise, current President, Democrat Joe Biden, has a checkered history on racial issues to say the least, along with credible claims of sexual harassment.

They remain popular in enlightened circles while they seek to cancel a 23-year old woman for innocently playing dress up and an actress for, gasp, being a Republican.  Is it any wonder French President Macron is watching this unfold, week by week, cancellation by cancellation, in abject horror?

Fortunately, Macron is not alone in the struggle in France.  In the French publication, Le Monde, a group of 100 prominent scholars wrote an open letter supporting him and lambasting theories “transferred from North America.”  One of the signatories was Pierre-Andre Taguieff, who said, “The common agenda of these enemies of European civilization can be summed up in three words: decolonize, demasculate, de-Europeanize.  Straight white male — that’s the culprit to condemn and the enemy to eliminate.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  I’ll even add Vive la France! as someone needs to strike back and win this war, fast.

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