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How do we think about the "woke" debate? Show more Show less

Proponents of so-called "woke culture" describe the term as having an awareness of inequalities, social issues and injustices. Yet, others are less convinced - suggesting that it has a more sinister undertone. These critics draw crude parallels between its values and those of authoritarianism, which have allegedly turned it into what President Trump calls "childlike fascism". Should we be woke to the pitfalls of this ideological movement?

"Wokeness has gone too far on the left" Show more Show less

The term is now used by left-leaning activists to abuse those who do not agree with them.
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Woke is a dangerous form of censorship

As commentator Toby Young suggests, the greatest impact of woke culture is in silencing the masses. It advocates for "woke programs" which leave no space for disagreement. It instills a culture of fear, politicizing each area of our society. It could also create a surveillance culture we would do best to avoid.
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Context

The Argument

A primary quality of woke culture is its censorship of discussion. Heterodoxy and debate have become difficult, if not impossible on college campuses, and now, the corporate world. Wokeness silences ideas and positions that are adverse to social justice. The issue here is that it also silences discussion. Whatever is accepted as the woke paradigm is truly immune to critique and debate. This has been present in recent years on college campuses, with fracas over speech at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.[1] But it has now grown beyond the university bubble. This was on full display at Google, one of the largest companies in the world, where engineer Jamie Damore circulated a memo titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber." In the memo, Damore suggested that the ratio of men to women at the company was so high due to differences in academic and professional interest, among other things. The memo ultimately signed Damore's release from the company, and his questioning of the company's ideological structure was silenced. [2] These are far from isolated cases, as many schools and companies have now adopted policies and procedures that could easily be deemed as capitulating to wokeness. This trend towards censorship sets dangerous precedents for free speech.

Counter arguments

The right unfairly accuses woke culture of silencing dissenting opinion by watering down the offensive statements made by critics. Furthermore, many of the dissenting opinions are nothing more than attempts to discredit social justice movements and perpetuate the status quo. If the right was actually being censored, then why are their opinions allowed to enter the discourse? Critics of wokeness are still able to fill their pockets through their misrepresentations of the cause, with no censors to be found. They simply cannot deal with their monopoly on privilege being challenged by activism.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Wokeness, in its current form, silences dissent. [P2] This silencing makes discussion of complex issues difficult, if not impossible. [P3] These barriers to discourse resemble censorship of opinion.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Being woke doesn't silence dissent, but rejects ideas that perpetuate bigotry and oppression. [Rejecting P2] Discussion over systemic racism is often just a veiled defense of the structures that keep the privileged in power. [Rejecting P3] The right acts as if they cannot air their opinions, whilst airing their opinions freely.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/the-peril-of-writing-a-provocative-email-at-yale/484418/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/business/google-women-engineer-fired-memo.html

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This page was last edited on Monday, 15 Jun 2020 at 17:18 UTC