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1. Thread: Revisiting "The Preachers of the Great Awokening," my attempt with my brother @BenWinegard to understand the rise and spread of the quasi-religion of wokeness and why the preachers of the movement, the intelligentsia who spreads the gospel.

quillette.com/2018/09/21/the…
2. The aptly named "Great Awokening" has been discussed much since this piece came out, including brilliantly by @ZachG932...but also by leftists such as Matt Yglesias tabletmag.com/sections/news/…

vox.com/2019/3/22/1825…
3. So what is this wokeness that is being righteously spread from coast to coast across the United States and beyond? It is, we argue, a quasi-religious narrative that consists of a number of dogmas that adherents hold with sacred fervor.
4. The consequences of these dogmas are rather profound. For example, because of the third dogma, almost any social disparity is used as an example of pervasive bigotry. If women are underrepresented in STEM, then the cause must be sexism, not natural differences in preferences.
5. Most broadly, wokism is an apocalyptic faith that asserts that victims (generally, minority groups) are righteous and that the powerful (white people) are inherently flawed, marked from the beginning with the original sin of "whiteness." BUT...there is an important caveat!
6. The woke elite, the educated intellectuals who adhere to the dogmas of the woke, are actually generally the most elevated on this hierarchy and wokism appears to function more as a system of discourse that distinguishes white elites from the masses.

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/…
7. We think, along with many others, including the brilliant @robkhenderson, that wokeness can profitably be understood therefore as a signaling system that delineates status relations among people.
nypost.com/2019/08/17/lux…
8. We think that the signaling perspective can shed light on otherwise puzzling features of wokism and by doing so can allow us better to understand it. Importantly, though, this doesn't mean that people who are seeking justice are all dishonest singalers! Quite the contrary.
9. Signaling is a way of communicating, of course, but there is a problem with communication: It can be used to lie. Now, sometimes this isn't much of a worry. If I tell my brother to meet me at the store, then I'm probably not lying because we share interests...et cetera.
10. But, it's a big worry when people are trying to communicate the possession of coveted underlying traits such as education, intelligence, sophistication, and moral righteousness. So, people need a signaling system that allows them honestly communicate traits to others.
11. Luxury beliefs (as Rob calls them) or the argot of wokeness provide such a signals. Using the complicated language of critical theorists requires years of study (even if it is largely used incoherently!).
12. Furthermore, professions of belief in things that are absurd (biological sex doesn't exist) or that might be harmful to poor/middle-class whites (open borders or generous affirmative action policies) are also effective signals. They say: I am an educated elite.
13. Note that the signaling perspective illuminates the puzzling features of wokism raised above. Why do woke norms about language et cetera change so quickly, alienating many who would otherwise support the cause? Because that helps distinguish educated elites from hoi polloi.
14. Why do the woke thrash many people who make small mistakes or fail purity tests? Because, they need the palace of righteousness to be an exclusive palace. If just anybody is allowed in, then it no longer functions as an appropriate signaling system.
15. Perhaps perversely, this also leads to an ever accelerating "call out" game in which those who strive to be woke call out others for vanishingly small violations of the dogmas. After all, how can one who calls Gerber baby food sexist be sexist himself??
16. So who are the preachers of this Great Awokening, and why do they get so much status? They are the intellectuals, the media mavens, the television pundits who preach the woke narrative and patrol its boundaries.
17. The preachers serve a crucial role in the woke status-signaling system: They justify the resulting disparities in status. They provide a "legitimizing" narrative that explains the righteousness of the hierarchy.
18. Status hierarchies often cause hostility--an ever simmering tension between those on the top and those on the bottom. Furthermore, they also likely cause guilt in *some* of those on the top, perhaps especially if those on the top are dedicated egalitarians.
19. The preachers declare that the hierarchy is morally just, not because god approves of it, but rather because those on the top are morally enlightened, whereas those on the bottom are benighted, wallowing in ignorance, bigotry, and backwardness.
20. The good news of the preachers is that the hierarchy is righteous and therefore those on the bottom should accept their lot or atone for their myriad sins and attempt to enlighten themselves; and those on the top can enjoy the voluptuous fruits of the good life without guilt.
21. The problem, as we see it, is not that signaling is bad. In fact, signaling might lead to acts of moral altruism and brilliant art and architecture, but rather than Wokism's dogmas are wrong and its signaling functions have overwhelmed its justice functions.
22. The best way to promote lasting justice, we think, is to appeal to broad coalitions of people, not to divide people with alienating tactics and dishonest narratives. We should all agree that justice is a great social virtue and strive for an ever better society.
23. But, we can do that without appealing to transparently false ideas about human sameness et cetera. And, again, just because we think a signaling approach to wokeness is illuminating, it doesn't mean we think all those who espouse "woke views" are dishonest or charlatans.
24. Most people, I think, are earnest and strive to make the world better. That doesn't mean that they are right. After all, I have little doubt that Robespierre thought he was doing the right thing. In some sense, conscious motives are almost irrelevant.
25. We should judge a system, a narrative, an ideology by its fruits. And the fruits of wokism appear seductive but ultimately poisonous and therefore ruinous to many of the norms that have allowed the West to flourish. But that's another thread!
26. *Many might object that conservatism or whatever can also be analyzed as a signaling system. I have no doubt. And you are welcome to do such an analysis. Humans are the signaling creature. It would be surprising if most of their narratives weren't rife with signaling.
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