Charles Blow, tangled up in "woke!"

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2021

What's in a word? It would be hard to make less sense than Charles Blow does in his latest column.

Blow is tangled up in a word. The cobweb in question is "woke."

Blow's column appears beneath this headline:

The War on ‘Wokeness’

That headline may be a bit overwrought, but so far, things seem to make sense. There is, in fact, an ongoing set of disputes about various behaviors, impulses and beliefs which get denigrated as "woke."

Different people think different things about those behaviors, impulses and beliefs. But it's those beliefs and behaviors which are being debated, not the word "woke" itself.

Puzzlingly, Blow seems to think that people are somehow arguing about the word. This peculiar conception first shows up in this somewhat peculiar passage:

BLOW (11/11/21): Perhaps no other word of the moment is so under attack as “woke,” a word born as a simple yet powerful way of saying, be aware of and alert to how racism is systemic and pervasive and suffuses American life. Wake up from the slumber of ignorance and passive acceptance.

But because of its petit power, this small word was a prime candidate for co-option, for being turned against the people who used it. The opponents of wokeness—whether they be conservatives who believe it injures the ideal of America as inherently good, or moderate Democrats worried that it handicaps their electoral prospects—want to kill it.

Republicans want to recast “wokeness” as progressive politics run amok, and many establishment Democrats shrink from the term because they either believe that Republicans have succeeded at the task, or, of even more concern, they agree with those Republicans.

As he continues, Blow gets tangled up in the idea that the word "woke"—the word in itself—is now "under attack." He especially heads down this road as he quotes a statement by James Carville about the (politically unhelpful) use of (certain types of) "woke" language, a comment Blow doesn't seem to understand.

(Rightly or wrongly, Carville has said that liberals and Democrats should stop using the unfamiliar, highfalutin language of the academy.  Rightly or wrongly, he has said that the use of this unfamiliar academic language may tend to alienate average voters. Blow doesn't seem to understand that this is what Carville has said.)

All in all, what Blow seems to be saying is this:

At one time, when people described themselves as "woke," they meant it as a compliment. But now, many people have started using "woke" as term of a denigration. For that reason, people who once would have called themselves "woke" have often stopped using the word.

Those observations may all be accurate. That said, no one is criticizing, attacking or waging war on the word itself. Rightly or wrongly, certain people—and not just Republicans—are criticizing certain impulses, beliefs and behaviors. They aren't attacking a word.

Blow seems confused by this simple distinction. So it goes at our tribe's smartest newspaper as our nation slides toward the sea.

The New York Times has long branded itself as a high end, brainiac-style publication. Blow's column makes almost no sense, even by current Times standards.

We close with a simple suggestion to Blow. You could call it a discourse on method:

Identify some attitude or belief which is being derided as "woke." Proceed to assess the merits of that attitude or that belief. 

Our here in what's left of the rational world, it's really as simple as that. No one is waging war on the word. Amazingly, it may help Blow's future work if he can somehow get clear on that fact.

58 comments:

  1. "So it goes at our tribe's smartest newspaper as our nation slides toward the sea."

    The nation is fine, dear Bob. Not sliding anywhere. And it seems perfectly obvious that your demented cult, your 'tribe', is not going to harm it for too long.

    We'd give it 2-3 years to completely fall apart.

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    Replies
    1. Whoa, such great eloquence! Unmistakably, the oratory style of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We're so humbled by attention from the Great Leader.

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    2. We have nothing to fear but the Right themselves.

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  2. I read the Times. The Op-ed people, with the exception of Krugman, are mediocre. The right wingers are unbearable, pretending to criticize Trump, play word games. Dowd and Brooks are out of their minds.

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  3. But it's long been in the playbook of the Right to co-opt, redefine, and poison terms that the Left use, and just generally being superior at the art of labeling and shifting opinion.

    They started referring to the Democratic party as the Democrat party. The word Socialism was co-opted and redefined. They even tried to make Liberal a bad word.

    And now we see the pattern happening with "woke". When moderate Democrats distance themselves from the word, they are at once aware of the history of this co-opting of words but are also perpetuating it by yielding. The right is very good at this though. So interesting issue.

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    1. "But it's long been in the playbook of the Right to co-opt, redefine, and poison terms that the Left use, and just generally being superior at the art of labeling and shifting opinion."

      You'd think a media criticism blog might point out the assistance the media has given the Right to do so.

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    2. Jeez. Your whining is so incredibly pathetic, we are embarrassed for you, dear 4:13 PM.

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    3. I see Mao thinks 4:13 should have the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination wrapped-up by Super Tuesday.

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  4. "Blow's column appears beneath this headline:

    The War on ‘Wokeness’

    That headline may be a bit overwrought"

    But Somerby's discussion of Maddow's war on The Other is not overwrought?

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  5. https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/please-just-fucking-tell-me-what

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  6. "As he continues, Blow gets tangled up in the idea that the word "woke"—the word in itself—is now "under attack."

    Blow doesn't claim the word is under attack, he claims it has been "co-opted" by the right and redefined, as the right has done with other terms, most recently CRT. The attack language is Somerby's.

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    Replies
    1. So what do you want to call your movement then? What's the acceptable name?

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    2. "You reject every name that organically develops! I’ll use the name you pick, but you have to actually pick one. You can’t just bitch on Twitter every time someone tries to describe your political cohort, which again you yourself say intends to change the world. Name yourself or you will be named."

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    3. here's a novel idea -- why not use woke with its proper meaning?

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    4. What is the name of the movement under which blm, CRT and wokeness reside? When anyone begins to criticize those terms they are accused of co-opting them, making them impossible to criticize in good faith.

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    5. Zombies for humyn rights, eh? Tsk. Oh dear. Now we've seen it all.

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  7. Somerby pretends that Blow is discussing a word and not an idea. That's idiotic. It is Somerby's typical nit-picky strawman, to make Blow sound wrong when he is saying something both true and important.

    Awhile back Somerby mentioned that writers do not necessarily write their own headlines at the NY times. Lately, when he dislikes a headline, he attributes it to the author of the piece, not a headline writer.

    Blow is not confused in his editorial. Somerby is trying to confuse the issue by making a meaningless distinction. Words cannot easily be split from their meanings. They reference things in the world or we wouldn't be using them to communicate. Somerby's distinction is unhelpful and his intent is to disparage Blow, who is right today, while Somerby is wrong.

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    1. What is he saying that is important and that he is right about?

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  8. If the word has been abandoned that is because Blow is correct in his definition of the term (he failed to illustrate it).

    " ..."woke,” a word born as a simple yet powerful way of saying: “Be aware of and alert to how racism is systemic and pervasive and suffuses American life. Wake up from the slumber of ignorance and passive acceptance.”

    Being aware of racism and denouncing the condition simply means you're a non-racist. Now in order to be on the side of the angels, you must be an anti-racist- outwardly involved in fighting institutional racism.

    That means dropping r-bombs like crazy on tv, in tweets, and in articles and blog posts.

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    1. There is no such thing as a non-racist in this society. Racism is inherent to it and one must be anti-racist in order to avoid participating in the racist aspects of our system.

      It doesn't mean dropped r-bombs. It means designing and implementing unbiased hiring, promotion and work practices, examining one's business for systemic bias, making sure there are no practices that systematically disadvantage certain people while showing favoritism to others, and so on.

      If you aren't woke to what systemic racism consists of, how can you fix it? Cecelia thinks it is sufficient to just not be an outright bigot in dealings with other people, but that isn't it. She thus demonstrates that she is not woke (as black people originally defined the word).

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    2. Don't be stupid. It's not designing and implementing unbiased hiring, promotion and work practices, examining one's business for systemic bias, making sure there are no practices that systematically disadvantage certain people while showing favoritism to others, and so on, it's how we go about creating these practices and how they are measured. That's the disconnect that you idiots can't seem to understand.

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    3. In your idiotic universe anyone who opposes practices like these that are just dreamed up by some sociology professor is a racist. How woke of you!

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    4. You can't just bully these practices into our culture. It has to go through the political process. You have to sell it to all of the people not just announce it to the world and then have anyone who questions it be deemed a smelly racist. The stupidity and arrogance of your movement is vast.

      Delete
    5. You're no different than Puritans.

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    6. Discriminations on the basis of national origin, race, color, religion, and sex is against the law, dear dembot.

      If you feel you've been illegally discriminated, go to court. Put up or shut up.

      Delete
    7. Exactly. Send the Trump White House memos to the January 6th Committee. If it's illegal, let whoever cares sue.

      Delete
    8. I've been calling Republicans "racists" since Reagan. I've never been sued because they're afraid of discovery.

      Delete
    9. Hillary Clinton has never been convicted, tried, or even charged with corruption.

      Mao,
      Of Trump's many, many bankruptcies, which one is your favorite, and why?

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    10. “ There is no such thing as a non-racist in this society. Racism is inherent to it and one must be anti-racist in order to avoid participating in the racist aspects of our system.

      It doesn't mean dropped r-bombs. It means designing and implementing unbiased hiring, promotion and work practices, examining one's business for systemic bias, making sure there are no practices that systematically disadvantage certain people while showing favoritism to others, and so on.”

      Is it any wonder that what Anonymouse 8:36pm, is talking about is an 8 billion dollar a year business?

      *“There is no such thing as a non-racist in this society.”*

      Could the mafia have ever had it this good when visiting their neighborhood businesses and making the owners offers of assistance and protection that they couldn’t refuse?

      The Mob would have sold their grandchildren for this sort of racket. If they could have prefaced their…imperative… upon the dogma that business owners and employees irrevocably needed to be saved from themselves, from their own evil nature (rather than from their potential victimhood) the Wise Guys would have had brick-and-mortar franchises all over town with names such as “Legitimate Business”.

      How many academics, nincompoops with degrees in woke esthetics, attorneys, grifters, misfits, marxists, and rabble rousers make a killing off this protection racket? And all predicated upon a debasement of the doctrine of Orginal Sin.

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    11. 7:27,
      Let's just agree that the Right has nothing to sell but white grievance, and leave it at that.

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    12. Anonymouse 7:59am, take a look at this.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/11/young-people-college-grads-wokeness/620674/

      Delete
    13. @7:27 AM
      It's more like hedge funds and global banking, though. Soros&Co. They need all this noisy bullshit to drown out everything else (including dear Bob) and install their liberal puppets.

      You're right, various dembots are paid to do it, but they're just tools.

      Delete
    14. 759 your accusation is a confession. All you have is anti-racism, an amorphous term that you use as a weapon against anyone who doesn't jump to think exactly like you and vote exactly like you all without engaging in the politics of the issues themselves. You've proven yourself to be quite a disingenuous lightweight.

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    15. "anti-racism" is a weapon against racism, not people.

      Delete
    16. 8:56,
      So you are blaming me (and not Republican legislatures) for suppressing the votes of minorities (people they don't agree with)?
      GTFOH with that nonsense.

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    17. "...all without engaging in the politics of the issues themselves."

      The right has no issues to address. All they have is white grievance, and talking points they don't understand.
      How does one engage with people who think "Let's go Brandon" is a public policy statement?

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    18. Heh. Nice to see dembots so butthurt about "Let's go Brandon".

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    19. Mao, I have a name. Just as you have a name.

      Delete
    20. Heh. It's the result of the best economic minds on the Right, coming together to address the rigged economy they pretend trumps white grievance, for the reason the Right votes Republican.

      Delete
    21. It is literally impossible for liberals to condescend to Republican voters more than Republican politicians do.

      Delete
    22. 9:12

      You can't see the bigger framework in which you are mired - you are just a spoke who knows nothing about the wheel's direction or destiny - so your righteous indignation and confusion is expected. The race mongering and bigotry you exhibit is exactly according to plan.

      Delete
    23. 11:17,
      Good to hear from you, again.
      I don't think we've spoken since we were both protesting cops shooting unarmed black men.
      I hope you've been well since then.
      I remember you saying you'd be completely transitioned to a woman by the end of this past Summer.
      I hope it worked out well.

      Delete
  9. Blow, always an obvious lightweight intellectually speaking, is just subtly attacking John McWhorter who has been directly criticizing the left's 'pious, unempirical virtue signaling' which they have been trying to pass off as activism but it's really just an outlet for their feelings of inferiority.

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    1. How do you engage in virtue signaling if you have no virtue?

      Delete
  10. This blog has fed into the hysteria and rather than be honest and say he was fooled by divide and conquer politics, The Daily Howler just doubles down on a nothing point. Thanks for falling for a Koch brothers mind game, boomer! Try not to send any money to Nigerian princes in the near future!

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  11. Somerby's title, Tangled up in Woke, is a play on a Bob Dylan song title, Tangled up in Blue. Bob Dylan does not endorse anything Somerby says, much less his animosity toward Blow. The song itself has nothing to do with Wokeness. There is no reason for Somerby to use such references, which are not clever, nor apt, but weakly attempt to present an unearned liberal facade that camouflages Somerby's essential conservatism. It is dishonest and an abuse of Dylan's work.

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    1. So abusive, immoral, and nefarious, Anonymouse 9:03am.

      Right up there with telling ghost stories or thinking anything that you don’t think.

      Delete
    2. It isn't a matter of any of thinking that ghosts exist or do not exist, it is a matter of science. There is no scientific evidence supporting the existence of ghosts and a great deal of evidence suggesting that not only do they not exist but they cannot.

      This is an extension of the willingness of people to set aside science whenever it conflicts with their own beliefs.

      And, as I made clear, my objection to belief in ghosts rests on the exploitation of the grieving by unscrupulous people who bilk them of money in exchange for a chance to "communicate" with dead loved ones.

      Your glee in reporting Wilfred Owens' brother's ghost sightings suggests that you think death is exciting and fun, not something sad, perhaps tragic, and distressing to the living who have lost family. It is another example of your lack of empathy that you would ignore the content of Wilfred Owens' poem in order to discuss his brother's ghost sightings, on Veteran's day. You are entirely clueless about the feelings of other people and think it is just fine and dandy to trample on them. Because only your feelings matter to you.

      I am not the only one who thinks this -- that's why a day of remembrance named Veteran's Day has been established by our country. Those who care show some respect. That apparently doesn't include you.

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    3. 9:45,
      Triggered, bro?

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    4. Ha ha.
      10:08 totally cancel cultured (i.e. criticized) Cecelia.

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    5. Anonymouse 10:08, your feelings have nothing to do with concern for others. It’s just more of your performative nonsense in order to use anything to chide folks who defend Somerby,

      Otherwise, you’d be at scouting sites condemning campfire ghost stories (and very likely smores).

      Delete
    6. Yeah, 10:08 AM truly is one of funniest clowns we've seen in a while. It's like a whole new genre: dembot parody. Great laughs.

      Delete
    7. Cecelia,
      Have you ever explained why you hate yourself so much?
      Don't get me wrong. I hate you too, just not as much as you do, and I was wondering why.

      Delete
    8. They call that projecting, Anonymouse 12:15am, and you’re doing it towards me AND yourself.

      Delete
    9. Re: projecting

      Every Right-wing accusations is really a confession.

      Delete