Backlash vs. Resistance: The Case of Wokism
By Bryan Caplan
During the last two years, I’ve personally met quite a few people who loathe the woke movement. They complain about it incessantly and see its wicked influence everywhere. If the woke are for it, they’re reflexively against it.
If the woke movement did not exist, all of these people would obviously be doing something else. They’d probably still be obsessive and negative, but they wouldn’t be daydreaming about wiping woke ideology off the surface of the Earth. Should we therefore say that such people constitute a “backlash” to wokism? Should we conclude that the woke movement is sowing the seeds of its own demise? Would the woke movement have been more successful if it had pursued the path of moderation?
My answer: No on all counts. Yes, the woke movement has sparked resistance. Virtually every movement does. But so what? The momentous question is rather: Has the woke movement sparked enough resistance to make the entire movement self-defeating? The answer, of course, is: What used to be called “political correctness” is succeeding by leaps and bounds. Not just on the news; even the most apolitical people I know have been dragooned into cultish on-the-job struggle sessions (via zoom, of course).
Still, there’s a fair follow-up: Has the woke movement sparked enough resistance to even make the movement’s marginal efforts self-defeating? And the answer to this is at most a definite maybe. Yes, going after Dr. Seuss might be a bridge too far; the woke movement is indeed stirring up a hornet’s nest. But even this petty tyranny could well work out for them. Fear is one of the woke movement’s chief weapons – and successfully toppling a harmless and popular cultural icon is a fine way to spread fear. How many people witnessed this moral panic and shivered, “If they can cancel Seuss, they can cancel me“?
While you could just define even the slightest resistance as “backlash,” that makes the whole concept trivial. Alternately, you could equivocate between the trivial and momentous definitions to confuse the weak-minded (possibly yourself included). The wise route, however, is to decide how bad the woke movement really is. And if you think it’s bad enough, strive to transform mere resistance into full-blown backlash.