Is “woke” just a re-labeling of “politically correct?”
I would say the answer is “yes,” with only a couple of caveats.
“Politically correct,” of course, was a term which in its derisive and ironic sense was invented at the beginning of the 1990s by conservatives.
It meant a number of things, but conservatives, along with countless Even the Liberal reactionary centrist types — thank God we don’t have those any more! — were using the phrase to mean that:
(1) Liberals/leftists were turning into authoritarian language police, who were eager to punish anyone for deviating, however innocently, from appropriately sensitive — meaning absurdly hyper-sensitive — language use in regard to race/class/sex etc. identity issues.
(2) Liberals/leftists were radical egalitarians, who were trying to destroy a merit-based capitalist society, and turn it into a socialist/communist hellscape.
This is almost exactly what the use of “woke” is now supposed to signal as well. For example, when Bethany Mandel flubbed her lines earlier this week, her co-guest Robbie Soave stepped into the rhetorical breach:
“I would say it’s the tendency to punish people formally or often informally for expressing ideas using language specifically that is very new, that no one would have objected to like five seconds ago,” Soave said.
“It’s easier to come up with examples, like you know punishing people for using the wrong pronouns or identifying structures of that kind,” he added.
That’s simply the first definition of PC, repackaged under a new name. (Note how this definition basically never includes an example of
the Yeti someone actually having been punished for using the wrong pronoun).
As for the second definition, a lawyer for Ron DeSantis, when asked by a federal judge to define “woke,” said this:
The belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.
In other words, “woke” is just another name for literally everybody who is to the left of the Republican party, which again is exactly what “politically correct” meant. This definition turns support for mildly progressive taxation into something that inevitably puts us on the Slippery Slope to Maoism, which is how Joe Biden ends up being a “radical leftist,” aka “woke.”
So “woke” is simply the new word for “politically correct,” subject to two addenda.
The first is that “woke” has its roots in African American Vernacular, which makes the derisive use of the term a racist dogwhistle — oops, I’m being PC! — in a way that PC never was.
The second is that the derisive use of “woke” includes a special obsession with non-standard gender identity. Here’s Mandel after she had a chance to collect her thoughts on the question of how to define a term that she had just written an entire book about:
“In that moment I was human, and I screwed up,” she said. “But I need to explain that, and I think people are owed that explanation if I’m going to be taken seriously as someone who has written a bestselling book on the subject, which I have.”
Mandel said so-called “wokeness” is “reimagining the world” for children in a way that puts a sharp focus on equity and race, while also redefining gender.
“There’s a lot of academic definitions of woke that are constantly changing, and I don’t think that they’re super pertinent to our audience. I think the reality and what’s important is that this is a radical reorganization of our society that is detrimental and disorienting for children,” she said.
“You know it when you see it,” she added. “You know, when we see young men competing in women’s swimming competitions, that is wokeness personified.”
“You know it when you see it” is generally shorthand for “no further thought is required on this subject,” which in turn ought to be the motto, suitably translated into a dead language, of the University of Austin, Trump University, Hillsdale College, Liberty University, etc. etc.