Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Woke Freeze

The internet is cackling about prominent "anti-woke" conservative Bethany Mandel drawing a complete blank when asked the simple question "what is woke".

Jon Chait objects to the pile on of someone who just "froze" on TV.

At one level, he's probably right that Mandel froze, and freezing could happen to anyone. But that doesn't mean it isn't something she should take her lumps for. The context matters here, given that Mandel holds herself out as a subject-matter expert on this exact issue. If I forget the capital of Ukraine, that's embarrassing. If a guy who just spent 30 minutes engaging in Putin-apologism for Russia's invasion then can't recall the capital of Ukraine, that's, well that's a lot more embarrassing.

But the deeper problem is that while at one level sure, Mandel obviously has an idea of what she means by woke and just froze up in articulating it, at another level Mandel has no idea what she means by woke because her definition is utterly unsuited for the political hackwork she's trying to do.

"Woke" is when a radical belief in absolute endpoint equality, deviations from which can only be the product of discrimination, is violently enforced at mobpoint. Okay, but if that's the definition it doesn't actually capture any meaningful behavior. There's no universe in which Silicon Valley Bank was committed to absolute endpoint equality which it sought to enforce by a violent mob; hence, Silicon Valley Bank cannot possibly be woke. Which is why the argument for SVB being woke doesn't rely on anything like that definition, but rather skips to things like "woke is giving to a charity" or "woke is when any Black person is in the room". Seriously -- has there ever been a more naked motte-and-bailey play than this?

The problem is that when you put the right-wing definition of "woke" (crazed radicals fomenting an angry mob to impose absolute economic equality!) next to the right-wing examples of "woke" (Silicon Valley Bank had a single Black guy on its board!), the mismatch is too evident. And that, I suspect, is the real reason why Mandel froze up -- giving the definition would have ultimately shown how ridiculous her arguments were; and she couldn't hack together a new definition on the fly which would have resolved the dissonance.

UPDATE: Great example of the bait-and-switch. What does Victoria's Secret switching its brand ambassadors from the supermodel "angels" to female "icons" like Megan Rapinoe have to do with Mandel's definition of "woke"?

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