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The Ruling Class Promotes Identity Politics And ‘Anti-Wokeism’ For The Exact Same Reasons

Caitlin Johnstone

Dec 27, 2022

It’s an interesting time for culture war red herrings in the shadow of the empire. There are no major electoral races currently underway. Government Covid regulations have been mostly rolled back. The empire is waging an extremely dangerous and continually escalating proxy war with Russia that should be getting a lot of scrutiny. If one didn’t know better one might expect this to be a time when the rank-and-file public would be doing a bit less barking and snarling at one another and a bit more at the people in charge.

But if one is reading this, one probably knows better.

The world is roaring toward multipolarity and the empire is doing everything it can to slam on the brakes, up to and including ramping up for a global confrontation with noncompliant nuclear-armed powers, and meanwhile the public is growing more and more disaffected with stagnant wages and soaring inequality even as concerns grow that we are headed toward environmental collapse.

So of course, at this crucial point in history, they’ve got everyone arguing about “wokeness”.

What “woke” means depends on who you ask. According to the original AAVE definition, it means “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”. If you ask Ron DeSantis’ lawyers when they were made to define the term in court, it means “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Both of which sound entirely reasonable.

If you ask members of the rank-and-file right wing, though, the answers range from the incoherent to the insanely bigoted to the profoundly stupid. You’ll hear gibberish about “Cultural Marxism” (not a real thing), about communist conspiracies to give your child puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery, about a liberal plot to normalize child molestation and erase women as a gender, and about the agenda to deteriorate society and plunge western culture into chaos and disorder because it makes Satan happy. In my experience the arguments are often intensely emotional — hysterical, even— yet entirely lacking in substance.

You’ll also run into the occasional good faith actor who sincerely believes “wokeism” needs to be aggressively opposed because the obsession with racial and sexual justice is sucking all the oxygen out of the room for more important matters and being used as a weapon to ram through pernicious power-serving agendas. It’s this category that I am mainly addressing here, because I view the previous category as generally beyond redemption.

It is entirely true that identity politics are being used to ram through establishment-serving agendas and subvert real dissent. We saw a very in-your-face example of this in 2016 with the extremely aggressive push to elect America’s first woman president, when anyone who pointed out her horrifyingly awful track record on things like war and militarism was shouted down as a misogynist. The entire Democratic Party is essentially one big psyop designed to kill any attempt to redress income and wealth inequality, poverty, wars, militarism, money in politics, surveillance, government secrecy, police militarization and every other control mechanism designed to hold the status quo in place, while herding any revolutionary zeitgeist back toward establishment loyalism with false promises to make life better for women and marginalized groups.

But it is also true that pouring your energy into “anti-wokeism” serves the establishment in the exact same way as pouring your energy into identity politics.

Anti-wokeism — if you will permit me a somewhat counterintuitive turn of phrase— is identity politics dressed in drag. Fixation on fighting “wokeness” corrals people into mainstream establishment-serving frameworks in exactly the same way identity politics corrals people into mainstream establishment-serving frameworks. It makes sure the rank-and-file public stays busy barking and snarling at one another instead of the people in charge.

Does it not seem odd to you that half of the ruling class has been getting half of the population to fixate on identity politics while the other half has been getting half the population increasingly panicked about “wokeness”? Does it not seem a little too convenient how all the mainstream right-wing politicians are making anti-wokeism a major part of their platforms, how all the mainstream right-wing pundits are doing everything they can to make their audiences more panicked about how “woke” everything is getting, and how you’ve got Elon Musk talking about “the woke mind virus” in exactly the same way more liberal-aligned oligarchs champion social justice issues?

This is because both anti-wokeism and identity politics serve the same establishment agendas, entirely by design. The more people are fixated on the mainstream culture war, the less likely they are to decide they want to do things like defund the Pentagon or take back everything the rich have stolen from them. Time you’re spending yelling at the other side of the cultural divide is time you’re not spending eating your landlord as God and nature intended.

And of course by saying these things are used in the same way I do not mean to imply that “anti-wokeism” is equal in value to the struggle for social justice. It absolutely is the case that there are disadvantaged groups in our society who do need to be uplifted from where they’re at, and anyone who tries to stop that from happening is plainly in the wrong. What I’m pointing at here, rather, is the way lip service to racial and sexual justice is used to get people supporting a mainstream political faction that never does anything other than facilitate oligarchy, exploitation and imperialism, in precisely the same way right-wing hysteria about “wokeness” is used to do precisely the same thing.

So what is to be done about the culture war we’re being pushed into fighting with greater and greater force?

Well this is just my opinion, but the answer can perhaps be found in the famous line from the movie WarGames: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

That’s been my approach, anyway. I’ve found that getting too wrapped up in pushing or pulling any part of that debate does nothing but feed into it by increasing opposition (which is why this is likely the only article I’ll ever write on the subject), so I’m better off just focusing on attacking the actual power structure that our rulers are trying to divert us from attacking. If they’re pouring all this energy into sucking us into a culture war, the most inconvenient thing we can do to them is to keep our eyes on the prize and keep doing everything we can to hurt the agendas of the empire.

I see too many people getting drawn into this power-serving manipulation; there are indie media personalities who were calling themselves leftists not long ago but are now so fixated on fighting “the woke mind virus” that they’re becoming increasingly indistinguishable from conservative talk radio hosts on more and more subjects. It would be good if everyone whose heart is in the right place made sure there actions are, too.

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