At the end of 2019, I pondered whether that had been the year woke culture peaked. That was just before the Chinese coronavirus hit, which has accelerated all of the trends we’ve come to hate. Yet, this need not contradict the overall direction of that essay. Michael Wood makes a good case in In Search of the Trojan War that there is one sudden explosion of energy just before the collapse of a culture begins. The fall from the peak is rapid.
Even as wokeness strengthens its grip with the addition of new rituals to its Test Acts: “masking up,” compelled speech in the form of praise for Black Lives Matter, and so on, there are weaknesses which are now so obvious that the Ministry of Truth can no longer cover them up.
The NFL’s ratings have tanked by 28% compared to last year. Other sports which have embraced woke rituals have seen similar declines. Meanwhile, the UFC, which cares about its actual sport and not virtue signaling, is rising in ratings. JK Rowling and other famous authors published the so-called Harper’s Letter in July decrying the rise of “cancel culture,” although as you would expect, they were unable to fully connect the dots. Increasingly woke comics are tanking in sales and bookstores are expanding increasingly popular Japanese manga sections at their expense. Now, Netflix is getting deserved scorn for Cuties, which resembles in more than one way a “moment” that future generations might point to as the high-water mark of a particular social fad.
With the clear financial and other consequences that come with “going woke,” why is the fad still being propagated? The answer is simple – the social networks that empower and propagate these industries is authoritarian. If actors, authors, musicians, athletes, etc. publicly dissent from woke orthodoxy, their careers would be over. They would be banished from the high-status social network. It works exactly the same way that the Test Acts did in Restoration England. Increasingly, it isn’t enough to stay on the sidelines either – the “silence is violence” meme. That’s why reluctant or neutral celebrities like Taylor Swift succumbed in recent years.
The network is what propagates woke dominance in popular culture, not the talent of the producers or the merit of the productions. To the extent that there will be a cultural renaissance, it will come when these woke social networks are broken or there are non-woke alternatives that people feel like they can turn to and still secure career advancement.
If we wish to create a cultural renaissance, we all need to do the work and get it out there, but that isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. The underground talent and productions should easily exceed the whitewashed woke mainstream. As Quintus Curtius just said:
Movie industry, publishing industry: these industries need to be challenged and attacked by underground competitors who can do things better, and deliver products that young men actually want, rather than the garbage they serve up to you. Fuck them.
— QuintusCurtius (@QuintusCurtius) September 11, 2020
The problem is an institutional one. To get more traction, new pop culture movements need institutional support in the form of funding and personnel willing to join and create. The latter includes the giving and getting of recognition. For example, we may scoff at award shows, but they are an important career incentive and booster for the people that take them seriously. Safe to say, anyone that dares dissent against woke orthodoxy in public won’t be eligible for Oscars, Grammys, and so on – or at least it will make attaining those things much harder (don’t even think about it unless you’re a name too big to ignore, like Kanye West). Recognition from peers is an important human desire, especially when monetary incentives are involved.
To get a new counterculture off the ground with enough power to challenge the dominant culture, it isn’t enough to just produce superior work, but we must regain the lost institutions (or at least enough of a voice in them) and build new ones. Not only will this support the work of counterculture producers and give them more opportunity to advance, it will also give bastions to people in the old media and entertainment industries to flee to if need be.
With alternative institutions in place, the woke ideological grip is much easier to break. Many of these celebrities and journalists don’t actually believe this nonsense. See Tucker Carlson’s recent leaked audios about Chris Cuomo, or this clip of a journalist being forced to pull the plug on the Jeffrey Epstein story.
In Stumped, we went over the concept of a preference cascade. If the fear of negative consequences is reduced, those who have been hesitant to express an opinion will be more inclined to. Where once only the brave few spoke an opinion, now more and more people speak it, and the culture is forced to change.
Now you understand why, despite the flops and mediocrity, there is a frustrating inertia of wokeness everywhere.
Lenin may have been a bastard and a thug, but he understood the workings of power, and he spoke of a concept called “Dual Power,” whereby the new culture would create institutions and networks which would gain legitimacy and spread, eventually challenging the old institutions. It would be “creating a new world within the shell of the old,” as he put it. As we come to understand that our force is fundamentally a counterrevolutionary one, we must adopt such tactics.
Return of Kings was a marvelous thing in its heyday. During its 2013-2016 prime, it attracted millions of men with its fearlessness. It was deliberately provocative, with some of the articles being obvious trolls – but the woke crowd fell for it every time. It actually drove news cycles and made important observations which predicted the events we see unfolding before us now.
We need more such institutions, ones which can last, not just in journalism (important on its own), but in the arts and culture. Why not a Shonen Jump type publication to fill the vacuum of a decaying comic industry, for instance – a collective serial of up and coming counterculture comic artists and authors? Why not create more enclaves for hard hitting dissident journalists? Why not do awards for journalists and creators in the counterculture space instead of relying on the old institutions? As the counterculture space is untethered by stifling orthodoxies, there’s a lot of creative energy to make use of which can easily outshine the corrupt mainstream. With the right people sponsoring them to start – big influencers – we can gain ground and build up new people.
Counterculture journalism and arts will need to serve two distinct niches. One is for the more squishy, normie, mainstream crowd that is tired of political correctness but doesn’t have the guts to go to true edgelord material like a Return of Kings. The other is for the aforementioned edgy, hardcore Attitude Era type journalism and culture. Veterans of our space may scoff at the “normies,” but giving them a measured introduction is crucial. Some people just aren’t ready to jump in the deep end. This is the idea behind pacing and leading in hypnosis.
There is great opportunity to be found in this endeavor. The glory is there for the taking if you want to be a part of it. Who would be willing to join? I’m hard at work mapping out potential plans involving a serial and a graphic series, that aforementioned Shonen Jump-style idea.
And hire me if you liked this post.