Why is anyone still listening to the Wokesters? They’re not a majority — or even close to being one. They have no Army, Navy or Air Force. They don’t even matter in the marketplace. The only power they enjoy is the power the rest of us have chosen to give them.
We should stop.
As the events of the last six months have neatly demonstrated, almost everything that the woke demand can be dismissed with a single word: “No.” To be effective, wokeness requires its targets to fold at the first hurdle. If we refuse to acquiesce, there’s no Plan B.
For years now, non-woke Americans have chosen to cower beneath their desks when presented with an ever-more-absurd set of demands, unaware that we could have lopped off the belligerents’ knees with a single, well-timed demurral. At long last, that seems to be changing.
Take J.K. Rowling, who has been lambasted for claiming that biological women and trans women are not exactly the same. A steadfast holdout against Internet bullies, the author has not merely refused to bow to the loudest voices within transgender movement; she has begun to make hay out of their attempts to cancel her. Rowling’s latest novel, “The Ink Black Heart,” is a murder mystery about an artist who is “persecuted by a mysterious online figure” for being a transphobe (sound familiar?). Upon release, the book went straight to the top of the best-seller list.
Or take comedian Dave Chappelle, who also ruffled feathers with his jokes about transgender people in his Netflix show “The Closer.” At no point since the online mob began its relentless assault against him has he elected to apologize. Instead, he has said, “I don’t give a f–k, because Twitter is not a real place.” Which, of course, is correct.
Online, Chappelle is a bête noire. In the “real place” — i.e., in the real world — Chappelle’s supposedly “controversial” shows have been such a smash hit that Netflix has just picked up four more of them. “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth,” Netflix wrote in a recent memo to staff, “Netflix may not be the best place for you.”
Another point scored for the real world.
Slowly, but surely, “No” seems to be catching on. Among the other institutions that have recently learned to push back is George Washington University, which told students who called for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be fired from his lecturer position that the college supports “the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation” and that “debate is an essential part of our university’s academic and educational mission.” The Dallas Cowboys flatly refused to back down from a partnership with Black Rifle Coffee Company, which uses gun names in its products. And Spotify successfully resisted a month-long, all-hands on deck attempt to defenestrate its star podcaster, Joe Rogan.
How weak is Big Woke becoming? Consider that Larry David — the least politically correct man in America — has been nominated for one of this year’s Emmys. Earlier this year, David was asked why he hadn’t been canceled yet. “I don’t know,” he replied. “It’s a very good question.”
At this rate, he’ll never find out.
At times, it has been tempting for Americans who have grown exhausted by the woke onslaught to conclude that the best way to fight back against the trend was to produce content that is explicitly anti-woke. That conclusion was wrong. Charles Krauthammer once quipped that Fox News had “discovered a niche market in American broadcasting: half the American people.”
So it is with mass entertainment. Most consumers like choice more than scarcity, prefer quality to political correctness, and dislike being told what they can and can’t enjoy based on nothing more noble than what a handful of self-appointed tastemakers currently happen to be “offended” by. It is no accident that the biggest movie of this year — indeed, of the last few years — “Top Gun: Maverick” is fun, patriotic, and apolitical. That’s the sweet spot at the box office.
And, with woke increasingly going broke, it’s the future.
Charles C. W. Cooke is a senior writer at National Review.