How to Spot Wokecraft before It's Too Late

In my last post I assembled woke tactics into three general categories: subterfuge, exaggerating support and quelling dissent. The categories, in this order, were described as being associated with an increasing entrenchment of the Critical Social Justice (CSJ) perspective and the increasing forcefulness of tactics used. This post begins a series of posts on how to counter woke advances and tactics. Before being able to counter wokecraft, it's necessary to know how to spot it. That is the goal of this post.

Take it Seriously

Many professors, while conscious of some of the most egregious results of the Critical Social Justice perspective, do not take it seriously, and don't think it can affect them. This is most common among professors in disciplines and departments in which the CSJ perspective is not entrenched. It can be observed most often in engineering, and sciences without an environmental vocation. For the most part, these professors know nothing of the CSJ perspective and are thus uninitiated. They might sardonically associate woke unrest with disciplines exhibiting little gravitas such as those in fine arts, the humanities and most of the social sciences. They might also consider the unrest to border on the comical and be thankful that their disciplines are not affected.

It is not, however, only the uninitiated who fail to take the CSJ perspective seriously. Woke dissidents can be dismissive, scornful and contemptuous of CSJ. Since they know something about the perspective, they can lull themselves into believing that the absurdity and obvious contradictions of the perspective mean that serious people can't possibly succumb to it. As a result, they can conclude that it represents little threat to them or their discipline. This, of course, has now been proven at best naive and at worst simply false.

The truth is that the number of disciplines where the CSJ perspective is not entrenched and where there is little threat of entrenchment is decreasing rapidly. It is now clear that STEM fields are the new front line in the Critical Social Justice struggle (see e.g. Abbot 2021, Domingos 2021, Kay 2020) in the domination of universities. Also, the situation in any discipline, department, university, etc. can change very quickly, often with (seemingly) no warning, and often with no way to turn back. As a result, the CSJ perspective and its ability to expand into any and all disciplines must not be underestimated. Professors in all disciplines need to be on the lookout for signs of the advance of this movement, and importantly, take it very seriously.

Be as Familiar with the CSJ Perspective as Possible

The better you understand the CSJ perspective, the more effective you can be at spotting it, and countering its advance in universities. This is not to say that you shouldn't attempt to counter it unless you have read every last article in "Gender, Place & Culture." While the CSJ literature is vast and for the most part inaccessible to uninitiated readers, this does not mean you can't understand the basics. This is partly due to the fact that increasingly there are sources that can be understood by non-specialists. The best single source to understand the Critical Social Justice perspective available now is Pluckrose & Lindsay's Cynical Theories. Allan Bloom (2012) and Stephen Hicks (2018) provide excellent descriptions of the long historical roots and development of the perspective. James Lindsay's website "New Discourses" is also excellent and it includes an "encyclopedia" of CSJ terminology.

It's also partly because the perspective and its related phenomena can be surprisingly effectively reduced to, and understood by, three principles. The three principles are the knowledge principle, the political principle and the subject principle. (The former two were introduced by Pluckrose & Lindsay and the latter by me.) If you know these principles, just about any CSJ term, sub-discipline, phenomenon and tactic can be understood. As a result, a little time devoted to understanding the perspective can be surprisingly fruitful. This can help to understand, spot, explain to others, and counter CSJ advances in universities.

Be Vigilant

As discussed before, dissident professors need to be aware that the woke ethos exhorts adherents to always try to make advances for CSJ goals in universities. They also need to be aware that always trying to make an advance is a key principle of wokecraft. As a result, it is necessary for dissidents to continually be on the lookout for signs of woke advances. In mid- to late-entrenchment, this is not difficult since woke advances will be obvious and vocal. Before entrenchment, however, or in early-stage entrenchment, advances will tend to be subtle. It is for this reason, however, that it is particularly important to be vigilant before entrenchment or during early-entrenchment; the CSJ perspective can gather momentum quickly. Once it has momentum, it can be very difficult to stop.

Watch for Woke Words

The best way to be vigilant is to watch for woke words. There are two types of words to watch for: woke crossover and overt woke words and expressions. As described in my post on the subject, woke crossover words are simple words with commonplace, well-understood meanings, but which also have a radical CSJ meanings. Crossover words are used as dogwhistles so that woke participants can identify and signal to each other. Woke participants identify allies to find common cause and to unite so they can exaggerate support for woke advances. Crossover words are also used to covertly inject CSJ concepts into all aspects of university intellectual infrastructure; from course outlines to webpages to professor job descriptions for recruitment to university-wide policies, etc.

At critical moments, the woke meaning of previously injected crossover words will be insisted upon to advance CSJ goals. This is known as the Reverse Motte & Bailey Trojan Horse tactic. The list of crossover words is not as long as that of overt woke words, but it is important to be aware of them; partly because of how they are used covertly and partly because of what a successful tactic the injection of woke concepts is by using them. Here is a list of the most common woke crossover words: decolonization, discourse, diversity, equity, empowerment, inclusion, intersection, justice, liberation, knowledge(s), narrative, perspective(s), privilege, race/racism, resistance. If you see or hear any of these words, especially if someone tries to insist on them (e.g. add them to a document, course description, website, etc.) recognize that this is likely a woke advance. I will continue to assemble a list of crossover words and put them in the glossary. These words evolve pretty quickly so I will try to keep the glossary up-to-date.

Covert woke words and expressions are easier to spot, but are less likely to be used before entrenchment, or in early-stage entrenchment. It's worth being aware of them all the same, since they can appear before or in early-stage entrenchment. They're easy to spot because they stand out. Below is an almost exhaustive list of categories. The best source to find such words is the New Discourses Social Justice Encyclopedia.

  1. Words that appear highly technical and that often originate in philosophy. Typical words in this category are words like dialectic, epistemology, hegemony.
  2. Words that appear to combine multiple words that are not normally associated. They often appear unintuitive as well. Typical words and expressions in this category are binary privilege, colorstruck, compulsory heterosexuality, epistemic exploitation, cultural competence, meta-narrative, etc.
  3. Words that appear to have been made up. This category includes words like autosexuality, colorism, deadname, episteme, cisgender, heteronormativity, minoritize.
  4. Words that are spelled differently than they normally are, often with strange letters, particularly "x." Examples of these words are latinx, mathematx, womon, wimmin, xdisciplinary.
  5. Words that describe Western society, but which are used in a decidedly negative sense. Common words in this category are the West, liberalism, capitalism, modern, modernity.
  6. Words traditionally with a positive association in common language, but which are used negatively or derogatorily, particularly those relating to the Western philosophical tradition. Examples of these are logic, reason, argument, Enlightenment, freedom, free will, choice, individuality, etc.
  7. Words and expressions that explicitly contain references to group identity, while also seeming invented. This includes words like blackness, whiteness, white privilege, white adjacency, fat shaming, ableism, gender traitor.
  8. Words and expressions that sound decidedly bad or evil. They are often antonyms to positive-sounding crossover words (e.g. exclusion vs. inclusion). Common words like this are: colonialism, conflict, oppression, bias, false consciousness, struggle.

If you hear any of these words, it is an indicator that the person using them, or advocating their use, adheres to the CSJ perspective. You should also expect that its use is part of a woke advance. If you hear any words that you've never heard before, but could fall into these categories, you should look them up in the Social Justice Encyclopedia.

References

Abbot, Dorian S. "More Weight": An Academic's Guide to Surviving Campus Witch Hunts. The Quillette. 5 February 2021. Accessed online 9 February 2021 at: https://quillette.com/2021/02/05/more-weight-an-academics-guide-to-surviving-campus-witch-hunts/

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. 25th Anniversary Edition. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, New York, New York, 2012.

Domingos, Pedro. Beating Back Cancel Culture: A Case Study from the Field of Artificial Intelligence. The Quillette. 27 January 2021. Accessed online 4 February 2021 at: https://quillette.com/2021/01/27/beating-back-cancel-culture-a-case-study-from-the-field-of-artificial-intelligence/.

Hicks, Stephen Ronald Craig. Explaining postmodernism: Skepticism and socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Expanded edition. Ockham's Razor Publishing, 2018.

Kay, Barbara. Learn from the best while you can. National Post, 25 June 2020. Accessed online on 4 February 2021 at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/barbara-kay-learn-from-the-best-while-you-can.

Pluckrose, Helen and James A. Lindsay. Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody. Pitchstone Publishing, Durham, North Carolina, 2020.

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