Showing posts with label POLITICS.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label POLITICS.. Show all posts

Friday, March 15, 2024

Why Andrew Is Still Writing About Why Andrew Is Still Not Writing About Politics

"Don't be mean with the beans, Mum. Beanz meanz Heinz."

1: Oh, adult human female who has procreated or adopted! Be more generous when distributing the edible seeds of climbing plants! Unrelatedly, "Edible seed of climbing plant" is synonymous with a German name meaning "Ruler of the House"!

2: Mother: Give us generous portions of cooked haricot beans in tomato sauce, because the words "cooked haricot beans in tomato sauce" mean the same as the words "Heinz canning company."

3: Although many varieties of canned baked bean are available, if you mention canned baked beans, people automatically assume you mean the variety manufactured by Heinz, because the quality is so high. So if you have children, you ought to give them large portions.

4: If you buy Heinz baked beans rather than any other kind, your children will be pleased.

5: The kinds of people who like Heinz baked beans are the kinds of people who would notice that the name of the product and the name of the manufacturer assonate. That's because they are a fun, informal product to be enjoyed on fun, informal occasions

6: Buy our product.

What does woke mean?

What, indeed, does anything mean? Even the most innocent expressions are fraught with ambiguity. We learned this last year when trying to translate some of the more gnomic Thoughts of Chairman Musk. 

For some time now, my working hypothesis has been that the word woke is synonymous with ethnic (and minority representation): it is used primarily by people who believe that ethnic representation is an unreservedly bad thing or (to translate that into plain English) racists. 

"Doctor Who is woke" (on this theory) translates as "Black characters appear in Doctor Who, and this is bad", or alternatively "Only white characters ought to appear in Doctor Who."

I decided to unscientifically test this hypothesis.

This afternoon, I looked up the twenty most recent pejorative usages of the W-word on the right wing hate site formerly known as Twitter. I ignored non-English messages, messages from people who include "Woke" in their user names but not in the tweet and messages which only contained links.

I don't think the results were especially surprising. Obviously one would need a larger sample to prove the hypothesis. But I think they are worth recording.

The Experiment

About fourteen of the posts related primarily or secondarily to race, religion or immigration. The tweets that I saw did not contain hateful tropes or slurs about black people or Jewish people: but they did complain obsessively (in both England and the UK) about "immigration" and (less frequently) "Islam".

Five or six of the posts used "woke" generically to refer to liberal or left wing viewpoints; 5% used the slogan "go woke, go broke". Racial, religious and political definitions were frequently conflated. Two or three used "woke" unintelligibly to refer to "bad thing" or "thing I dislike". Two or three used the word primarily to mean "Islamic" or "pro-Islamic". I saw only a couple of specific references to gender. 

I spotted no positive or neutral uses of the word -- no posts where black people or liberals exhorted each other to be more "woke". There were some ironic usages ("I suppose people will say that such-and-such is too woke...") and some critical usages ("Someone silly has implausibly claimed that such-and-such a thing is woke.") One hopeful sign is that "anti-woke" may be passing into the lingo as a synonym for "silly right wing person."

In the 80s and 90s, when the "PC gone mad" panic was at its height, "political correctness" was still occasionally used in a neutral or descriptive way. ("The Spastics Society is now called Scope because this is felt to be more politically correct"). No equivalent usage of the w-word shows up on my radar.

I didn't see much sign of a consistent conspiracy theory; but the posts seemed to take for granted the existence of a malevolent third party pulling the strings. The US Army is run by "brainwashed socialists"; and the UK immigration system is "overseen by the woke". 

There is a strong implication of weakness, hypocrisy and insincerity in accusations of wokeness. 

On the basis of this very small sample, it seems clear that "woke" does not refer to any one group or belief-system; nor does it precisely scapegoat any particular minority, although it is overwhelmingly hostile to what it calls "immigrants". But it pretty consistently speaks to an inchoate ambience:

1: Everything is terrible

2: Someone is to blame for everything being terrible.

3: The people who are to blame for everything being terrible are a malevolent third party who insincerely advance the interests of black people, immigrants, trans people and Muslims for unspecified nefarious purposes.

4: In so far as this group has any specific characteristics, it can be said to be weak and hypocritical.

Who is woke?

Show Your Working

Text of Tweet

Proposed Definition of Woke

Blogger Commentary

We granted citizenship to 202,000 people in 2023. The success rate for citizenship applications for the UK is 99%. One of the highest rates in the world. Our citizenship tests are weak and overseen by the woke. Then need to be fixed by @reformparty_uk

Woke: [1] Insufficiently Hostile to Immigrants

The Citizenship test has always been a formality in which people who have already been given the right to remain answer questions about where they would find Big Ben and which poems William Wordsworth wrote: you would expect the pass rate to be close to 100%. But the poster imagines it to be a system for preventing undesirable foreigners remaining in the UK, which is not being applied with sufficient rigour. 

Cuban says winning arguments with young adults on Instagram and TikTok is so much easier than X. Mark Cuban was handed his head by @TheRabbitHole84 and @elonmusk repeatedly when he said stupid woke S$#% while virtue signalling.

Woke: [1] Liberal views, insincere 
[2]Insufficiently right wing. 
[3] Insufficiently supportive of Elon Musk.

Obscure: so far as I can tell this refers to Mark Cuban, generally thought to be an objectivist/libertarian. "Virtue signalling" almost always refers to insincerely held liberal values, so I take it that he is being blamed for being insufficiently right wing. (One of my former Labour friends regards the Green Party as virtue signallers by definition.)

It’s the woke white folk who feel they have to stand up for the appressed [sic] and be the voice to make them feel like they are the true humanitarian.. Horse Stuff! [Poo Emoji]

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to racial minorities 
[2] Disapproval of derogatory imagery, insincere. 

This Tweet refers to campaigns to remove stereotypical imagery of Native Americans from football logos. The specific issue may be nuanced, if as one contributor says, the logos were often originally created by or in consultation with native Americans. "It's only white people complaining, the black people don't really mind" is a common trope used to close down any criticism of racial content whatsoever. 

The only thing you're sorry about is that you have been exposed by the Angiolini Inquiry
Sarah and many others would be alive today if you people had done your jobs
Suella Braverman was right
The Met surrendered to woke and Sarah Everard died because of it

Woke: [1] Bad Thing 
[2] ??Insufficiently racist 

Very Obscure. The tweet refers to a report into the shocking murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer who haad a history of committing sexual offences. 

The Metropolitan police have often been accused of systemic racism and misogyny; it is alleged that in this case they ignored "red flags" about the officer because they didn't take sexism seriously enough. The implication that they didn't identify the murderer in their ranks because they were too liberal or left wing is rather hard to make sense of; but it is very hard to suppose that the Tweeter understands "surrendering to the woke" to mean "being sexist and misogynic."

When I first wrote about Political Correctness, I noticed that some of the main vectors of the conspiracy theory used the McPherson Report as their primary example of political-correctness-gone-mad. So the thought here may be:

  • MrPherson told the police to be less racist
  • Being less racist is woke
  • Twenty seven years after being told to be less racist (=more woke) a police officer commits a terrible murder
  • Therefore, the murder was caused by wokeness

Ahh you got your words mixed up: damn sure it should say woke cun.... !

Woke:  [1] Disapproval of bad taste jokes, insincere
[2] Insufficiently hostile to Palestinians
[3] Insufficiently hostile to Muslims
[3] Bad Thing 

The context here is that one Tweeter had made an offensively bad-taste joke about the protestor who set fire to himself outside the Israeli embassy, and implied that the people who attended his vigil had bad or insincere motives. There followed the kind of witty, Socratic debate for which Twitter is justly famous. Well, hardly anyone would come if they held a vigil for you / At least they would be sane rather than indoctrinated into a vile religion or woke cult / Better a woke cult than a bigoted cunt/Damn sure it should say woke cunt.

"It was a prostitute on the altar the first time around; today it’s a funeral for a male prostitute, laid out just feet from the Tabernacle and hailed as the “Mother of All Whores”. ~Michael J. Matt, "Woke Catholicism and the New Reign of Terror"

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to transexual people
[2] Dogmatism 
[3] Bad thing 

A barking mad hyper-catholic who doesn't accept the papacy of Pope Francis maintains that because the funeral of a trans man took place in a Catholic cathedral, the Church is now in thrall to a new French Revolutionary Terror, a new Whore of Babylon, and a new Abomination of Desolation. Note, again, that the ostensible target is not trans people themselves, but a conspiratorial "woke catholicism" which supports them and forces other people to support them. 

Sign the petition to stop the censorship so you are not charged for “ having feelings” that don’t align with woke ideology! New federal bill attempts to censor your feelings! What the hell.

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to minorities 
[2] Not a free speech absolutist

This refers to Canadian legislation that might give financial compensation to victims of hate speech. 

I think it is quite unlikely that the feelings themselves (as opposed to the public expression or publication of such feelings)  are to be criminalised, but I am neither a Canadian nor a lawyer. The feelings in question are presumably feelings of hatred towards Muslims, black people or gay people. Note that although the specific complaint is about the state limiting free speech,  "woke ideology" appears to refer to the belief that racist and homophobic ideas are bad in themselves.

…and it will be half full.
When it is , without fanfare, this will be dropped. Not because of any outcry but because it doesn’t make money.
Go woke, go broke.

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to black people. 
[2] Belief in white privilege, insincere. 
[3] Belief in affirmative action, insincere. 

This is slightly nuanced. 

A new London play about slaves, imaginatively called Slave Play, has advertised "black only" evenings -- for the benefit of people of colour who would not feel comfortable watching a racially charged play alongside white people. I reserve judgement on whether or not this is a good idea, and whether it would even be legal in the UK. If your reaction is but-what-would-you-say-about-a-WHITE-only-performance then you haven't understood the question. 

The strong implication of the Tweet is that no-one will attend the production (people of colour don't really want this) and that the theatre's motivation is insincere (they don't really care about the racial issue and will drop it if it fails to make them money).

No more irresponsible than you stirring up the idea any criticism of Islam is phobic you woke grifting low life

Woke [1] Insufficiently hostile to Islam 
[2] Contemptible person, bad thing.

Unable to rebut a previous poster's allegation (that claims about the Mayor of London being operated by a shadowy cabal of Islamists is inflammatory) the Tweet resorts to the rhetorical technique known as  whataboutery

It may be true that some people unfairly claim that any criticism of the Muslim faith is Islamophobic (and, similarly, that any criticism of the modern Israeli state is anti-semitic). On the other hand "not all legitimate criticism of Islam is necessarily Islamophobic" very often means "all Islamophobic remarks are to be regarded as legitimate criticism of Islam." 

Perhaps this writer is making a legitimate distinction between nuanced religious and cultural criticism and racist abuse; and limits the term "woke grifting lowlife" to those who mistake the former for the latter. Or perhaps he isn't. 


The #USA is fn screwed!!
I'm afraid the military is to woke, undisciplined (CLEARLY), brainwashed socialists, n fn drag queens! Ha!

Woke: [1] Bad thing 
[2] Liberal 
[3] Insufficiently hostile to trans (or gender non-conforming) people. 


The reference point is a film of service-men engaging in what appears to be an activity part way between a raucous play-fight and a riot. Which I would have thought would be exactly the sort of thing that you would expect "single men in uniform" to engage in.

Is the speaker seriously arguing that "a belief in higher taxation and improved public services" (=socialism) and "a taste for gender-non-conforming clothes" (=drag) necessarily causes macho horse-play to get out of hand? And does he seriously think that most US soldiers, or their officers, hold left-wing political views and wear frocks? It is pretty clear that "socialist" and "drag queen" (like "woke') are here simply synonyms for "naughty".

Go woke go broke … fuck em

Woke: [1] Ethical consumption 
[2] Liberal

The Body Shop cosmetic chain is going into receivership. The writer hates the chain because they believe in ethical consumerism and the humane treatment of animals. He believes they only acquired those characteristics recently; and as a result have got into financial difficulties. The fact that the Body Shop failed after only forty seven years proves that running a business on liberal or ethical principles will invariably lead to commercial failure.

Okay, and I am surprisingly tired of this kind of criticism. Which is not to say there is a bunch of a**holes that will label anything that breathes as woke, but it's pretty obvious when "inclusion" is written as a selling point rather than a tridimensional character.

Woke: [1] Inclusivity 
[2] Insufficiently hostile to minorities. 

Another nuanced Tweet: the writer even admits that the term "woke" is overused. 

However she puts scare quotes around the word "inclusion", so she apparently thinks that at least some "inclusivity" is "woke". This really only makes sense if you think that non-white (or non straight, or female, or minority religion) characters are deviations from the norm and that the existence of black people has to be justified as a special case.

It would be interesting to hear which black characters she regards as "three dimensional" and which as "selling points". My guess would be "none" and "all" but I would be perfectly happy to be proven wrong.

Keep in mind this girl was extremely woke, and went to a woke university. Her professors are literally defending the killer and saying it’s racist to blame her death on illegal immigration. Low sympathy for people like Lwken. She’s just another Molly Tibbs.

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to immigrants. 

"Molly Tibbs" refers to Mollie Tibbets, a twenty year old student who was murdered in 2018. "Lwken" refers to Laken Riley, a twenty-two year old student murdered earlier this month. In both cases the apparent murderer was a person of foreign origin, in the USA illegally. The argument has been made, in both cases, that their deaths were therefore caused by lax immigration policies. This Tweet engages in particularly despicable victim-blaming: the young woman (to some extent) deserved to be murdered by an immigrant, because she had been supportive of immigrants in the past; and because her college was supportive of immigrants. 
"This person was murdered by an immigrant; therefore, we ought not to allow immigration" and "This murderer was an immigrant, therefore, all immigrants are murderers" are both unambiguously racist statements. 

Really? That’s not what they say about guns. When it comes to guns it’s not “that person isn’t dead bc of a gun but because that person ran into a violent person” woke people are seriously dangerous.

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to immigrants 
[2]Insufficiently supportive of gun ownership 

Another nasty tweet about the same tragic case. The twisted argument here is that it is hypocritical to blame a gun-murder on the availability of guns while not blaming a murder committed by an immigrant on the presence of immigrants. Note the othering of "woke people", incidentally. 

So between democrats, woke local governments and sheriffs, victims of the heinous crimes by these illegals - they simply don’t care?!

Seriously, when is someone going be held accountable?

Woke: [1]Insufficiently Hostile to Immigrants 
[2] Liberal

Yet another racist tweet about the Laken Riley case. As I understand it, US immigration authorities can ask (but not require) police forces to detain suspected illegal immigrants for up to 48 hours; and the current sheriff of the county where the murder happened had stated in his election campaign that he would not necessarily cooperate with such requests. This is a rather arcane point of American law. I would only note that "If we had locked all the illegal immigrants up, we would have locked up this illegal immigrant; therefore the policy of not locking up illegal immigrants is the direct cause of this murder; therefore we should lock up all illegal immigrants" is, at best, logically flawed, and at worst, an argument for internment and collective punishment. 

For our purposes, the interesting point is that the writer believes in an indistinct group "woke local governments" who are deliberately or callously allowing bad things to happen. 

If Mason Greenwood returns the media and woke brigade will destroy him. He’s better off abroad

Woke [1] ??Judgemental, self-righteous  
[2] ??Insufficiently tolerant of sexual violence. 

Very obscure. Mason Greenwood is a footballer who was accused, prosecuted, and acquitted of serious sexual offences. The implication is that "the woke brigade" will continue to believe that someone is guilty of a crime even though they have been found innocent in a court of law. 

This seems to be using "woke" to refer to an actual phenomenon: the possibility that someone will be treated as guilty in the court of public opinion despite having been found innocent in a court of law. It is unclear if this is a particularly recent phenomenon; although the internet and social media undoubtedly increase exponentially the speed with which rumours and false accusations can be spread. 

It is interesting that the "media" and the "woke" are here conflated, as if, say, the Daily Mail was well known for its bleeding heart liberalism. (Are the "woke" who tolerated the police officer with the criminal record the same as the "woke" who are going to hound the man who was falsely accused?) 

I wonder if, lying behind this tweet, is a buried assumption that liberals will not accept that someone has been exonerated because they take sexual offences too seriously?

Our military is weak.Anyone who would have entered the past 5 yrs hasn't because of the woke bullshit being pushed into it. They're all at home. Where they need to be. Because shits gonna hit the fan with the illegal immigrants and crazies this summer. Hope not. But seems like it

Woke [1] ?Liberal  
[2] Insufficiently hostile to immigrants 
[3] Bad thing.

Very confused indeed. 

a: No-one has joined the US army since 2019. (Untrue, although there has been a shortfall of recruits.)

b: This is because no-one between the ages 19 and 25 (the famously conservative Generation Z) will join up.

c: This is in turn because, since 2019, the army has acquired an unspecified quality called Woke Bullshit.

d: This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it means that the quarter million people who did not sign up (assuming a target of 50,000 new recruits each year) are available and prepared to participate in a civil war against immigrants in the run-up to the November election. 

This seems 

a: Very unlikely to be true and 

b: Very scary indeed

Homeowners clash with ‘woke’ city that refuses to remove street squatters causing 'disgusting' hazard

Woke: [1] Insufficiently hostile to poor people 
[2] Liberal 

Fairly self-explanatory. Note use of "street squatter" for "homeless person."

London…what a cesspit of nutters. Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion, Free Palestine….left wing, woke, Islamic capital of the World.

Woke [1] Insufficiently hostile to Muslims. 
[2] Liberal 
[3] Bad things

The speaker disapproves of the tactics of environmental protestors. He regards Extinction Rebellion and Free Palestine as essentially the same thing, and conflates "left wing" and "muslim" into a single thing he calls "woke". 

Friday, December 01, 2023

25: Answers To Readers Questions

1: Fascist

Kind of the whole point of this sequence of articles was that words mean different things depending on who you are, where you are, and when you last had lunch with Zaphod Beeblebrox. We are now debating the definition of fascist. I wonder if everyone missed the point; or if in fact they exactly got it.

I agreed with Orwell that "fascist" is frequently nothing more than a term of abuse; but that we generally have a pretty good idea what kind of things the cuss-word could be applied to. I do slightly think that Gavin is more inclined than I would be to use it as a synonym for "bigotry" or "hatefulness". I would prefer definitions around populism, nostalgia, and the back-stab myth.

Some time ago a clip was circulating on the interwebs, possibly from the West Wing, in which three nice American politicians were asked why America was the greatest country in the world, and a liberal sounding chap said, more in sorrow than in anger, that America used to be the greatest country in the world, but due to things which unspecified people had done, it no longer was. The people who were forwarding it to me were largely liberals types, but it felt fascist-adjacent to me.

In practice, it means "Right wing person, and by the way, I think right wing things are generally bad."

Which brings us back to: 

2: Woke

Woke (1) A set of beliefs about how white, male, heterosexual 'Christians' structured language and social structures to make sure that white, male 'Christians" were always in charge.

Woke (2) The theory that wokeness (sense 1) is propagated by a malign entity with a malicious intent -- the Frankfurt Group, the Alien Space Lizards, the SJWs, the Jews etc.

Woke (3) i: Any text or action which shows black, female, gay, non-Christians in a good light 

ii: Any text or action which doesn't treat black, female, gay, non-Christians as a deviation from the norm 

iii: Any text or action which depicts or acknowledges the existence of black, female, gay, non-Christians unnecessarily 

iv: Any movie or comic book with black, gay, non-Christian people in it.

Some people sincerely believe that all instances of woke (sense 3) are caused by woke (sense 1): "The reason Disney made The Marvels is that they wanted to dismantle the white, straight, male, Christian hegemony".

Some people sincerely believe that all instances of woke (sense 3) are caused by woke (sense 2): "Russell T Davies cast Ncuti Gawa as Doctor Who because the BBC is communist and therefore wants to bring down western civilisation."

But very many people use the word in sense 3 without any clear ideas about senses 1 or 2: "woke" is simply the word they use to describe a TV show with a black actor in it or a book written by a gay author. "Apparently there was a gay character in the new Doctor Who. Sounds woke to me."

Andrew's "translation" exercise largely assumed that "woke" was being used in sense (3) ("anything which has a trans person in it or suggests that being trans is okay"). G's translation effectively stone-manned Musk by showing how a sophisticated reading of woke in sense (1) could plausibly lead to some of his conclusions (you could conceivably think that a belief in structural inequality will result in the extermination of the human species.)

Andrew acknowledges that he focussed entirely on the anti-trans element. It would have been better if he had focussed on the racial definition ("If we do not prevent people from thinking that white people have advantages over black people, we will never travel to Mars") or on inequality in general ("Unless people stop looking at the various ways in which society is set up to give certain groups advantages over others, humans will become extinct.") or even economically ("The only important thing is to prevent people believing that resources should be shared out fairly.") He may in fact re-write the passage to reflect this. But G's extensive mini-essays went rather beyond what Andrew's "translations" were intended to be doing.

3: Translation

G correctly spots that Andrew was riffing on the end of Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet in which the Christian philologist has to translate Wellsian philosophy into the language of the angels, so "Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute" comes out as "Living creatures are stronger than the question of whether an act is bent or is better to be alive and bent than dead..." Translation was a thing Lewis was interested in, of course. He saw his job as a Christian writer as translating difficult theological ideas into the language of ordinary people, and has some interesting things to say about how ordinary language differs from that of the academic. ("I do not say that this woman is immoral but I do say that she is a thief" means "She is chaste but dishonest.")

Let's consider a couple of examples.

"He had a strict Calvinist upbringing."

Literal gloss: "His parents were disciples of the sixteenth century Swiss theologian, John Calvin."

Idiomatic gloss: "His parents were devout Christians who believed that God rewards hard work and punishes laziness (and by the way, they were probably Scottish.)"

Explanatory gloss: "Until the 1500s, most Christians believed that you went to heaven by regularly saying sorry for your bad deeds and paying for them with charitable giving or self-imposed punishments, but a Swiss priest started to teach that God knew in advance who was going to heaven. When these ideas spread to Scotland, they gave rise to a culture which was often perceived as joyless, austere and unkind to children..."

"Jeremy Corbyn supports free wi-fi because he is a Trot."

Literal Gloss: "Jeremy Corbyn believes the state should supply free internet access because he is a supporter of the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky."

Idiomatic Gloss: "Jeremy Corbyn believes that the world should consist of single state in which the government owns all the wealth and shares it among the people: this explains why he thinks internet access should be free." 

This would lead to absurd conclusions: "Support for free wi-fi is evidence of support for world-wide communist revolution", "Worldwide communist revolution is undesirable; therefore there must always be a charge for internet use." But in fact, it is clear that "Trot" is being used, not to refer to Trotsky or Trotskyitism, but as a swearword meaning "left-wing", so the accurate translation would be: 

"Jeremy Corbyn's belief in free wi fi is left wing, and therefore bad."

or, if we have to gloss "left wing"

"Excessive sharing of resources is bad; providing citizens with free wi fi would involve the excessive sharing of resources; therefore providing citizens with free wi-fi would be bad."

An explanatory gloss would go on for pages, and go far beyond what I was aiming at in the translation exercise. I'll have a go if you like:

"Trotsky believed in world communist revolution; Lenin and his successors that it could be achieved in the Soviet Union alone. The British Labour Party was an alliance between Trades Unionists, Marxists and Social Democrats. British Marxists who supported Russian and Marxist-Leninism tended to join the British Communist Party; the ones who resigned from Party in 1956 and joined Labour were largely Trotskyites. They were far to the left politically of the Trades Unions and the Social Democrats, so members of the Labour party who were not Marxists tended to use Trotskyite descriptively, and then as a term of abuse. By 2020, "Trot" was simply a word used to denote a left wing party member who the speaker disapproved of. Moderates in the Labour Party felt that Jeremy Corbyn was too left wing, and therefore denoted him as a Trot: the free internet access plan was one example of his supposedly excessive left-wing thinking." 

4: Virus

If someone says that "The drugs trade is Satanic" they might mean different things --

A: "Drugs are very, very, very, very bad"

B: "Drugs are very bad and I believe that bad things are ultimately caused by a malign spiritual power"

C: "Drugs are very bad, and I believe that the perpetrators of this particular bad thing are under the direct control of a malign spiritual force, and that prayer and exorcism could form part of their rehabilitation"

D: "I believe that the big boss of the cartel selling weed in Brixton literally has cloven hooves, a tail and smells of sulphur."

(I understand that when members of the Republican Party say that Hillary Clinton is Satanic, some of them at least are using the term in sense D!)

If your local vicar says the drug trade is Satanic, there is very little point in pretending that you think he is talking in sense D ("No, I've met one of the local dealers and he is definitely a normal human, albeit not a very nice one") when he was obviously using the word in sense A (that he disapproves of drugs very strongly indeed.) 

We have accepted, I think, that Political Correctness sometimes means "A Jewish (cultural Marxist) conspiracy to destroy the West" but very frequently only means "the prevailing orthodoxy". Woke sometimes means "A Jewish (cultural Marxist) conspiracy to destroy the West" but very frequently only means "liberal beliefs" or "beliefs the speaker thinks are too left wing."

Another Christian writer once told C.S Lewis that it was the job of Christian literary critics to reveal the false values underlying much contemporary literature. Lewis asked if that meant "to reveal what the values underlying contemporary literature in fact are (and, by the way, as a Christian, I personally believe those values are false)" or if it meant "to reveal the falsity of the values." Lewis approved the first and disapproved the second, because he felt that critics were experts in showing underlying assumptions in literature, but only amateurs in talking about which values were good and which values were bad.

I have said that Political Correctness may mean nothing more than "prevailing orthodoxy". Similarly, Mind Virus might mean no more than "widespread and prevalent idea". And Woke may mean no more than "liberal ideas {which incidentally I think are bad}". But this creates a problem for the translator. Does "the woke mind virus will destroy civilisation" mean "liberal ideas {which, by the way, are very prevalent} will destroy civilisation". Or does it mean "the widespreadness and prevalence of liberal ideas will destroy civilisation". Or even "any widespread and prevalent idea will destroy civilisation, and at present, liberal ideas happen to be the widespread ones."


“The woke mind virus has thoroughly penetrated entertainment and is pushing civilization towards suicide.”

Many people who make movies have liberal ideas -- which are very widespread and prevalent at present -- and because of this, everyone in the world is likely to kill themselves."


Many people who make movies follow the most widespread and prevalent ideas (which, at the moment, are liberal ones) and as a result, everyone in the world is likely to kill themselves.

“That the mind virus is pushing humanity towards extinction is not hyperbole.”

It would be no exaggeration to say that liberal ideas (which are, at the moment, widespread and prevalent) are likely to result in everyone in the whole world dying.


It would be no exaggeration to say that the widespread prevalence of a particular idea (in this case, liberal ones) are likely to result in everyone in the whole world dying.

“The woke mind virus is either defeated or nothing else matters”

The only thing of importance is that liberal ideas are shown to be wrong, even though they are prevalent and widespread at present.


The only thing of importance is that liberal ideas cease to be prevalent and widespread.

“Unless the woke mind virus, which is fundamentally anti-science, anti-merit, and anti-human in general, is stopped, civilization will never become multi-planetary.”

If you have liberal ideas, then you probably believe that humans can't learn about the world through objective and systematic study, or that even if they can, they shouldn't. If you have liberal ideas, you probably don't think that the cleverest and most talented people should have the most money; you may even think that it's bad to be talented and clever. If you have liberal ideas, you probably don't like people at all and would rather they become extinct. As long as liberal ideas are widespread and prevalent, no-one will ever send a spaceship to Mars.


When a particular idea becomes widespread and prevalent, it becomes impossible to learn about the world through systematic and objective study. When a particular idea becomes widespread and prevalent, the cleverest and most talented people are not given the most money, and perhaps there will be no clever or talented people at all. When a particular idea becomes widespread and prevalent, ??human beings start dying ??there is a risk of human extinction ??it is bad for people in general. If this happens we will never send spaceships to Mars. At the moment, the idea which is widespread and prevalent is liberalism, so we need to talk about conservative ideas instead.

5: Other Things I Learned From This Exercise

Abstract terms like "the human race"; "humanity" and "civilisation" are almost impossible to turn into meaningful concrete ones: once you replace them with "everybody" or "people" you turn out to to be talking nonsense.

"Society" has a meaning in terms of "what sociologists study": the way-that-people-behave-in-groups. You might, of course, think that human beings don't behave in any particular way in groups, and sociology is therefore snake-oil. 

C.S Lewis said he didn't like the term "society", but noted that it mostly just meant "all of us". But when Mrs Thatcher famously said "there is no such thing as society" she didn't, presumably, mean that groups of people didn't exist or that groups of people didn't behave in particular ways and she certainly didn't think that "there is no such thing as all of us." What she was reacting against was the idea of Society as a thing with agency.

"Society is to blame for crime" can easily be translated into statements which are not actually nonsensical although Mrs Thatcher presumably disagreed with them. ("Everyone is to blame for crime, not just the people who actually commit it." "If everyone behaved differently, there would be less crime".) I can't come up with sensible glosses for words like "humanity" and "civilisation" which don't lead to absurd conclusions. 

I think it was Simon Hoggart who said that you should test an advertising or political slogan by asking what the opposite would be. ("It's a pedestrians car: so push it" was a memorable example.)

Woke and Virus equivocate around concepts of agency and intention. Does "the woke mind virus is anti-science" mean "one of the beliefs of people who identify as woke is that science is a bad thing" or "as a matter of fact the belief in woke ideas will have negative consequences for scientific research" or even "people who identify as woke believe in things which cannot be scientifically proven." Does "eradicating the woke mind virus" mean "eradicating all liberal ideas"; or "making liberal ideas less widespread"; or, indeed "killing all the liberals."

I think that when an evangelical clergyman says that the drug trade is satanic, he does in fact have a picture in his head of a fiery, fallen angel directly manipulating criminals to do bad things; but that if challenged, he would readily admit that that picture is a metaphor or a myth, and he really means that crime is sinful and sin is in the long run the result of Satan's power. But the fact that he thinks in terms of that metaphor probably influences the ways in which he thinks the problem might be solved (e.g that exploitation is an inevitable result of fallen human nature and therefore insoluble, as opposed to the result of temporary and alterable social conditions.) Unless, of course, "Satanic" turns out merely to be his word for poor housing, inadequate mental health provision, under-resource education etc etc etc in which case the metaphor is completely empty and the clergyman can probably get a column in the Guardian.

Similarly, it may be that some people who talk about the Woke Mind Virus are perfectly aware that they are using a figure of speech. But the fact that they have chosen that figure of speech is significant; and it will affect how they act. 

There is also the question of how "my daughter believes that some people's gender identity is different from their physical sex at birth, and that she is one of those people" and "my daughter believes that we should share out money and resources more equally and not concentrate them in the hands of a super-rich minority" or even "my daughter believes that all rich people are evil" are in any way iterations of the same thing. You might as well say "Andrew is infected with the liking-folk-music-and-anchovies virus" or "Since he took up jogging, Trevor believes we should defund the police."

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Friday, November 24, 2023

23: Terry Eagleton wrote a clever essay on romantic poetry.

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Terry Eagleton wrote a clever essay on romantic poetry.

I have probably quoted it before. I have probably quoted most things before. He asked how you could justify swooning over Grecian Urns and weeping about Skylarks and writing long addresses to the West Wind in an era when small children were literally being forced to climb up chimneys and used as beasts of burden in coal-mines. He said that writing poetry was itself an act of resistance.

“In the face of such forces, the privilege accorded by the Romantics to the ‘creative imagination’ can be seen as considerably more than idle escapism. On the contrary, ‘literature’ now appears as one of the few enclaves in which the creative values expunged from the face of English society by industrial capitalism can be celebrated and affirmed. ‘Imaginative creation’ can be offered as an image of non-alienated labour; the intuitive, transcendental scope of the poetic mind can provide a living criticism of those rationalist or empiricist ideologies enslaved to ‘fact’.”

I don’t in fact think that writing long essays about Doctor Who and Spider-Man is an act of resistance against the coming Muskocracy. I don’t think that when I write about popular culture I am stepping outside of political discourse and writing about something neutral and therefore real.

I am currently looking at the code-numbers you can sometimes spot in the margins of very old comics. They can give you a clue to when the thing was written. The first Spider-Man story was V-789, since you ask. The first Thor story was V-786. Which makes Stan Lee’s tale about thinking up Thor because a god was the only thing bigger and better than a teenager who could climb up walls look decidedly iffy.

But I don’t think that “The first Thor story was in all probability written slightly before the first Spider-Man story” is a politically neutral statement. I think my beliefs about when Thor was published are bound up with the colour of my skin, my position in the Black/white dichotomy, the configuration of my genitals, my preferred pronouns and my chosen name for God. I think that language and narrative are male/white/’‘Christian’ constructs. 

Unless and until they are not.

But I feel I can write commentary on texts and feel fairly sure that I know what I am writing about. At least texts stay where they are and don’t move about. 

Unless they do.

I wrote a coda to my essay on the Micronauts called “Why Are You Wasting Your Time On This Shit?” I don’t know how I could have explained myself more clearly. When I write about old comics I am not really writing about old comics because I don’t think that old comics are particularly important. No more and no less important than anything else. When I write about old comics I am really writing about me. Because I think that I am very important indeed. As are you. Unless you are just a zombie controlled by a virus, in which case you might as well jump into the incinerator before they push you.

I understand that that essay hurt the feelings of people who rather like the Librarians Are Fucking Awesome posts, and I am sorry about this. But quite gratified a few of them read it.

I was fond of my golly. I have never seen Michelangelo’s David. I go by he/him. I think it is better to keep your pants on in public places. I think Show of Hands are an excellent folk band. Jack Kirby definitely created the Silver Surfer.

There is a monstrous odour…senses transfigures…boarding at that tower window crack and giving way…Ia…ngai…ygg… I see it….coming here…hell-wind…titan blur…black wings…Yog-Sothoth save me…the three lobed burning eye.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

22: I suppose that all groups develop their own patois

 I suppose that all groups develop their own patois.

That might even be what we mean when we say “group”: a set of people who all use words in the same way.

Most schools have slang expressions. But high-status public (i.e private) schools print their slang in little books and make the new boys learn it by heart. Because being an Old Etonian is a lot more important than having been to East Barnet Lower.

If you weren’t in the role-playing club you would probably be baffled when someone claims to have “failed their not-spill-the-coffee roll.” If you weren’t in the Christian Union you might legitimately wonder what the hell a “quiet time” was, let alone a “word of knowledge”.

Dave Sim, sorry, “the shitty aardvark writer”, pinpointed this some years ago. You may know what I mean when I say “Spider-Man” or “Wonder Woman”. But what if I say “Toro” or “William Burnside”? What if I say “Amazing Fantasy #15” or “Action Comics #1”? “Detective Comics #27”? “Incredible Hulk #181”?

The Internet and Streaming TV and those awful mobile phone things have caused the number of groups and the number of idiolects to multiply to the point when no-one is comprehensible to anyone else. How, given that this is the case can I ever write about politics again? How can I write about anything at all?

I could try to write as if I were addressing an intelligent eight year old. I could aspire to turning my prose style into that of Janet and John.

I could define every term. And then define every term in my definition.

I would not describe someone as a fundamentalist. That’s a loaded word; a word that tells you how I feel about the person I an describing and assumes that you feel the same way. But I could say that he’s “a Christian who takes the Bible literally.”

Except that “Christian” and “Bible” and “literally” are scarcely less loaded terms. Okay: a Christian is a person who believes in God; and who believes that God was specially present in an historical figure called Jesus. The Bible is a book which is specially important to Christians. To take something literally is, I suppose, to believe that it really happened, in real life, and not as fable or legend.

But when I tell you that someone is a fundamentalist I am not saying that they are a person who believes that the stories in the book which is special to the people who believe that God was particularly present in a person called Jesus really happened and are not just stories. I am also saying that they have conservative values; that they regard their beliefs as super-important and want to convert other people; that they are probably American, probably from one of the southern states and that they don’t like abortion or homosexuals. And I am almost certainly saying that I don’t approve of them. And this wouldn’t help even a little bit if what I had said was that someone was a free market fundamentalists.

So it might be better, in fact if I was deliberately obscure. If I eschewed words with obvious meanings and generated a kind of Klingon postmodernism."Quasi-scriptural theo-essentialist." "Non-narrative holy-writ absolutist."

Or I could say what I actually mean. American Christian. Bad Christian. Extremist. Bad thing.

All right: but what do you mean by American? And Bad? And Extremist?

Bad man have lots of money. 

Bad man say bad thing. 

Bad man like moon rocket. 

Me no like moon rocket so much.

—Thy reason, man?

—Troth, sir, I can yield you none without words; and words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.

—I warrant thou art a merry fellow and carest for nothing.

Lewis defined Magic as objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed.

This is a magic spinning wheel, and anyone who pricks themselves will sleep for a hundred years.

You can’t ask why: it just is. Lewis was happy to say that the deepest truths of Christianity—the Atonement and the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist—were magical beliefs.

Science is the exact opposite of magic. Everything can be analysed: nothing “just is”.

Before Science everything was Magic: no point in asking why the sun rises or trees fly south in the winter: they just do. Science has spent thousands of years answering the “why” questions and abolishing magic. But sooner or later—probably very much later—it will hit the Grand Unified Theory Of Everything or Fundamental Natural Law and science will be complete.

“But why did those conditions exist at the very beginning of the universe, or of all possible universes?”

“Well, there’s no answer to that, even in principle. They just did.”

“Nothing is magical” may turn out to be the same as everything is magic. Which, I happily concede, is not a very helpful or interesting insight. All places are one place but that place is very big.

Perhaps words are magic in the same way.

You can only ask “what does that mean?” and “what do you mean by that?” so many times. Eventually you hit the undefinable; and the undefinable is what you really mean.

“What do you mean by the Woke Mind Virus?”

“I don’t mean anything by the Woke Mind Virus. The Woke Mind Virus is what I mean. Brexit means Brexit.”

—The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight. Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh. What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by. Richard loves Richard: that is—I am I.

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