‘A 12-Point Plan for Rolling Back Progressive Extremism’

By WND Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: “The Third Awokening: A 12-Point Plan for Rolling Back Progressive Extremism,” by Eric Kaufmann, is both a “what” and a “now what?” look at the wokification of America. In the book, Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, explains the short but damaging history of the current cultural revolution and cites what specifically can be done to reverse it.

Here is an exclusive excerpt from the book’s Introduction, “Woke is Not Dead.”

In 2015, a video of students shouting at Yale professor, Nicholas Christakis, went viral on social media. His crime? Being married to a woman who questioned whether Yale diversity administrators should be telling students what to wear on Halloween. This episode was mocked, yet it marked the beginning—not the end—of a cultural revolution that has since swamped the West. Just as political correctness was written off as a fad in the early ’90s, we should be skeptical of optimists who assert that woke illiberalism is exiting stage left. When Robert MacNeil declared to a young Dinesh D’Souza on the “MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour” in June 1991 that political correctness “has already begun to pass” due to its excesses being ridiculed in the press, D’Souza wisely replied that while it was “somewhat on the defensive,” the proponents of PC were “not a handful of radicals” but rather “institutionalized … [representing the] establishment.”

Yale’s Halloween embarrassment was followed by Bret Weinstein being chased off Evergreen State College’s campus for questioning a one-day “no-white-people-allowed” edict, Black Lives Matter costing thousands of Black lives, and the #MeToo movement defaming numerous innocent men. The number of professors being disciplined or fired soared, establishment papers like the New York Times indulged in a moral panic over White supremacy, and the entire Canadian establishment fell for the delusion that hundreds of murdered or abused native children lay buried in “mass graves” at residential schools. DEI bureaucracies mushroomed and grew more strident in both government and corporations—even the military. The energy of this cultural wave seemed unstoppable.

I should know, as I felt its full force. As a Canadian professor of political science who had lived in Britain for two decades, I had assumed the country was a skeptical, eccentric haven from the blizzards of Canadian political correctness. This was not to be. While I had been wary of PC since the late ’80s, I came to be more openly critical of the cultural left in the 2010s. It was banging the same “racist, sexist, anti-gay” drum that I recalled from my undergraduate days in the late ’80s and early ’90s, only louder—and with a trans twist. Perhaps my newfound willingness to call it out stemmed from a deep-seated reflex to recoil when being forced to genuflect in front of sanctimonious moralizers who use emotional blackmail rather than evidence and logic to make their case.

I’ll never forget my first Twitter mobbing and internal investigation as an academic, the first of several I experienced during what has come to be known as the Great Awokening. My sins include: showing insufficient respect to Black Lives Matter, retweeting a video of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mispronouncing “LGBTQ,” and honestly asking an empirical question of my Twitter followers as to whether a plus-size model in a fitness magazine could best be explained by the leftist desire to tackle oppression or the modernist quest to shock. My prodding of the woke bear may have been more brazen because I had reached a more secure point in my academic career.

Regardless, I soon became a target. Watching the “likes” pour in for an attack tweet from student union radicals was electrifying—and not in a good way. I will never forget the morning an email from my superiors landed in my inbox, claiming I had breached policies around respect and harassment and ordering me to attend a tribunal where my fate would hang in the balance. As administrators sat in judgment, the accusations became increasingly bizarre. For instance, I was charged with metaphorically wishing to kill a colleague when I used the term “slay the dragon” in a 2019 review of Douglas Murray’s book “The Madness of Crowds” for the Financial Times. (Murray had used the metaphor of a knight swinging at phantom enemies.)

The succession of unspecified punishments and bad faith accusations soon had me worried about the prospect of losing my job, knowing full well that it is virtually impossible for a cancelled professor to reenter academia. Between 2018 and 2022, I weathered four investigations and numerous social media attacks—all for mocking what I term cultural socialism, the hegemonic ideology of Western elite culture.

After 2021, however, the online attacks began to ebb, and those who tried—such as student union activists—got badly ratioed to the point that their faculty allies—some of whom were colleagues I had sat next to in administrative meetings—leapt to their defense, portraying them as emotionally-fragile victims. New collegiate associations like the Free Speech Union and Academic Freedom Alliance sprung up to defend those like myself who were accused of wrongspeak. I no longer worried about losing my job. A growing number of articles critical of progressive illiberalism appeared in the press.

While the British media, across most of the political spectrum, had opposed cancel culture from its earliest days, the so-called Harper’s Letter of July 2020 was the first major blow against the practice from within the liberal American press. Editorials in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic followed in 2022−2023. Many articles warned of the takeover of American media and publishing by young woke activists—graduates of Ivy League universities and expensive liberal arts colleges—who imposed a new race- and gender-based regime of ideological orthodoxy around what could be written and published. Others lamented the transformation of medical and legal education by a social justice agenda that privileged race and gender over facts and logic. …

While culture is partly downstream of politics, lasting change can only come from the battle of ideas. The lineaments of the culture complex that nourishes both left-liberals and radicals must, to paraphrase postmodernists, be decentered. So long as our value system is based around the “minorities good, majority bad” reflex, a catastrophizing “fascist scare” approach to cultural conservatism, and race, sex, and LGBT taboos, nothing will change. We must return to where it all began, planing our totalizing taboos down to proportional norms like any other.

This will allow a new, resilient, post-woke society to arise that will lift majority and minority alike. The push for more equal results and better harm protection for minorities has brought considerable benefit to our world. But it has overreached, damaging human flourishing. Just as we defeated communism but absorbed some of its insights to forge a mixed welfare-state form of capitalism, our task today is to defeat cultural socialism and restore cultural wealth while accepting that some attention to equal outcomes and psychological harm protection for minorities is part of the good society.

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