The problem with the liberal critiques of the Left is the familiar problem that bedeviled the campaign against Communism. Liberals can roughly be divided into two categories.
1. Those who are sympathetic to the aims and ambitions of the Left, but are concerned about their tactics.
2. Those who acknowledge that the Left’s illiberalism is a serious threat, but view the phenomenon through the lens of liberalism.
Jonathan Haidt, an otherwise innovative thinker, has a perfectly nice essay critiquing wokeness from a liberal standpoint. Getting as many people as possible to fight back against the Left is important, and yet the essay suffers from the same missing link as the old liberal critiques of Communism. Wokeness, in Haidt’s essay, spreads through mysterious social shifts rather than an actual agenda and a plan.
What happened in departments that emphasized activism had little effect on the physics department, or on the president of the university. But those walls collapsed around 2015. I have argued elsewhere that the collapse was brought about by changes to social media that began in 2009 and, by 2012, had created a universal outrage machine. This machine then dissolved the long-standing and essential walls around professions within which a sense of disciplinary standards and duties had, in prior decades and centuries, been formed and passed on.
Without these professional boundaries, every place became like every other place, influenced by the anger expressed on Twitter and other platforms.
There’s no “machine” of course.
The Left seized operative control of Silicon Valley and biased platforms, particularly those aimed at younger and more influential audiences, most notoriously Twitter, and used them as outrage machines. The technology does shape the culture and there’s little doubt that social media has proven to be quite disruptive, but wokeness is not a passive phenomenon arising from active technology, it’s a program.
The platforms are being used to implement the familiar leftist cells, horizontal networking, vertical consolidation, shaming, bombing, purges, and cultural revolutions that were being conducted back during the days of radio.
Any critique that fails to grasp that what we are seeing is a recurring phenomenon that is the result of a program, call it a plot or a conspiracy, or simply an established means of seizing control of institutions and then societies and nations, is ultimately blind.