Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Woke week

The institutions of civil society are now thoroughly politicized. "Wokeness" is their ideology and religion,  and mastering an ever-changing arcane vocabulary is now the key to access to the elite, as well as making sure you're not the next one sent to the proverbial Gulag. 

I can't keep up with everything in this vein. Still, I've been silent long enough, so I think it's worth passing along interesting tidbits as they come. 

A few items on this theme came across the transom last week, that seem fun to share. The American Medical Association issued an official 54 page document instructing all doctors on proper language. (Twitter source with more commentary.) 

Mind you, as in other cases, this isn't just opinion -- I'm a radical free speech advocate, say and write what you want. It's the official opinion of a scientific professional society, formerly a-political. 

It starts: 

I found this document interesting, among other reasons, because I thought I already spoke woke. I thought the left hand column was already the Proper Terminology. They are, after all, already in the mandatory passive voice. How wrong I was! How many more mouthfuls of word salad it is going to take to get through a sentence. Or.. last point, to get an article accepted in a medical journal. 

This is revealing. Apparently human choice and agency are to be completely ignored. People do not choose to use PPE or avoid the doctor. They have are under-resourced. 

I guess the larger mandate is that passive is not enough. One must allude to a specific causal external channel for every outcome, every time. 

Another capsule. If you thought you were going to get through a faculty meeting using the proper terminology on the left, I have news for you. Again, we add to the passive, with a vague allusion that every ill is "society's" fault a specific  "intentionally." Every time. 

Well, at least the instruction is short and clear. So much for the Declaration of Independence. 

Every problem is an injustice. I've heard "minoritized" cropping up, and actually I sort of like it. It means this is not my identity, it's what you choose to call me. I suppose I would get in huge trouble for asking to be referred to as "whitized." 

The doozy: 

Simple statements of fact are now officially disapproved by the American Mecdical Association. If you were dubious how I could label the effort "political," this puts that doubt to rest. 

It is rather astounding that a medical, scientific, society should now prescribe that a specific causal channel be included for every reference to simple correlations. 


Bari Weiss's substack offers a beautiful essay by Batya Ungar-Sargon. It offers a powerful insight. The  essay is mostly about what in the heck happened to media, but the essay offers a larger point. Batya notices that this is mainly an affectation of wealthy coastal elite white people. Why?  
...Wokeness perpetuates the economic interests of affluent white liberals....perhaps unconsciously, they sought a way to reconcile the inequality that their meritocratic status produces with the compassionate emotions they feel toward the less fortunate. They needed a way to be perpetually on what they saw as the right side of history without having to disrupt what was right for them and their children.
A moral panic around race was the perfect solution...
This is how white liberals arrived at a situation where instead of agitating for a more equal society, they agitated for more diverse elites. Instead of asking why our elites have risen so far above the average American, they asked why the elites are so white. Instead of asking why working-class people of all races are so underrepresented in the halls of power, white liberals called the working class racist for voting for Trump. Instead of asking why New York City’s public school system is more segregated than Alabama’s, white liberals demanded diversity, equity, and inclusion training in their children’s exorbitantly priced prep schools. 
In other words, wokeness provided the perfect ideology for affluent, liberal whites who didn’t truly want systemic change if it meant their children would have to sacrifice their own status, but who still wanted to feel like the heroes of a story about social justice, who still wanted to feel vastly superior to their conservative and even slightly less radical friends. ...
Racism is still a blight on American life. But wokeness is not how we heal; it has simply redefined the problem to the benefit of educated elites. By focusing on immutable characteristics like race, the woke moral panic has allowed economic elites to evade responsibility for their regressive view that elites should not only exist but rule. ...
Notice how "inequality" vanished a while ago? (As did women.) Doing something about that might have been uncomfortable. Wokeness is an excellent and hard-to-master luxury belief, and thus a powerful class signifier. Try getting in to Harvard (or Stanford) if you have not mastered this language.  Wokeness is absolutely not socialist. Marxists are aghast -- they said class matters. Faced with the actual systemic racism of the public schools, it's so much easer to pick up the kids from private schools, go back to the gated community, put on a hair shirt, and read CRT prayers. 


Economics is only a bit late to the party. Our official professional association, the American Economics Association, posts this on its website.

Again, I'm a radical free speech advocate. I have no problem with the authors expressing their opinions. Go for it, write what you want. Write opeds, blog posts, tweets. Add some facts and submit it for peer review at the AER. The way things are going these days, you have a pretty good shot. My complaint is that the American Economic Association, our national professional society, accepts this report, posts it on our website, and thereby endorses these opinions as fact. 

The NBER has a strict policy, that you may not advocate policy, even in your own working papers. In reports written for the institution, and bearing the institution's seal of approval, the prohibition is doubly strong. The AEA might want to consider if political advocacy is in it's long run interest as well. Can an association member disagree with this? Can one write an article in the AEA that presents contrary evidence? It is an official pronouncement of the association.


The AMA’s Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts is so over the top I thought at first it was satire from the BabylonBee. The guide, for example, recommends that instead of talking about poor health among low-income people that physicians should blame “landowners and large corporations” for “increasingly centralizing political and financial power wielded by a few” and limiting “prospects for good health and well-being for many groups.” Put aside that this is at best tendentious and at worst utterly fallacious and just imagine that you are a landowner or work for a large corporation (that’s most of us!). Would you trust a doctor spouting this rhetoric or might you feel that such a doctor doesn’t have your best interests at heart?
Quoting Conor Friedersdor in The Atlantic, 
It’s already hard enough to get my conservative grandfather to heed his doctors about how best to care for a bad back worn down from decades in construction. A new narrative meant to problematize real-estate developers or individualism would not improve his medical condition, but it would inflame his temper. 



  1. Thanks for your comments. Tough time to do it

  2. The Bari Weiss piece is by Batya Ungar-Sargon

  3. "immutable characteristics like race"
    Race is difficult to change but not immutable.

    Easy example is a child of mixed parents, they are essentially able to choose whether to identify as one race or the other, or as mixed; lots of people used to be 'white' and are now 'white plus other' [https://www.npr.org/2021/08/22/1029609786/2020-census-data-results-white-population-shrinking-decline-non-hispanic-race]. Many people identify as something different to what others would describe them as [https://www.sciencenews.org/article/census-2020-race-ethnicity-questions]. Even the official categories change [https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/25/the-changing-categories-the-u-s-has-used-to-measure-race/]. Following Goodhardts law the more race gets used as a measure to decide who gets what the more people are going to choose a race that gets benefits, an egregious example is Rachel Dolezal who was the N.A.A.C.P. president in Spokane, Washington before it came out she was not black but simply italian-american, which is nowadays classed as white [https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/us/rachel-dolezal-welfare-fraud.html]. Already students report lying about race on university and scholarship applications [https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2021/10/25/survey-asks-if-applicants-are-truthful-about-race], in much the same vein as Elizabeth Warrens (unintentional) lie about being native american [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/us/politics/elizabeth-warren-native-american.html].

    1. What a crock!
      Race IS immutable. People can IDENTIFY as whatever they want, but it doesn't change what they ARE. Some mentally ill women identify as men, while some mentally ill men identify as women. They may live in their own mental fantasy land, but they cannot change reality.

      A person with mixed race parents may "pass" as white or as black, they may identify as black or white, but what they pass or identify as does not change what they are. What they are is immutable and does not change.

  4. Woke means weak. They are such cowards. I'll say what I choose. Once one capitulates to this moronic nonsense, they've forfeited dominion and sovereignty over their very person. I will never allow that for myself.

  5. The AEA statement is stunning. In a generation, the AEA has gone from right-wing bullies to left-wing bullies, judging from that statement.

    Another oddity about wokeness: Woke advocates rarely if ever define the US globalist foreign-policy as racist, or wish to discuss the impact of immigration on US wages.

    I suspect this is as John Cochrane says, wokeness is an elite affectation.

  6. 'Unbelievable' is pretty much the only response to this. The only remaining question is whether the AMA is evil or just barking mad.

  7. Just curious ... Black is now typically capitalized, while white is not. When did that start?

    1. National Review solved this by capitalizing White too. Can't beat em, join em, sort of thing.

  8. Lysenko would fare well in today's woke society. Pseudoscience used as a cudgel to revolutionize society. Western societies are committing cultural suicide and will lack the will to defend themselves against the onslaught of totalitarian regimes like China and Iran

  9. I found the "should now prescribe that a specific causal channel be included for every reference to simple correlations." part and examples, simple appalling and unbelievable.

    This is a full new scientific method unfolding in front of our eyes ...

    You have to see “wokeness” as a religious movement to fully understand it: its scope, its lenguage, its imaginery, axiomatic references and shared believes.

    A “religious movement” that, somehow, has managed to go under the radar of the First Amendment.

  10. There is a sort of cultural and economic malaise that has been growing for some time in western countries. There is something to the progressive complaint about stagnating wages and the increased concentration of both income and wealth before taxes and transfers. And there is also a point to be added from conservative voices about family structures being more fragile, for example, or extensive welfare programs introduced since the 1960s failing to redress long standing historical differences in wealth between, say, black and white populations.

    I believe we did bad enough of a job at tackling those questions that we opened the door to a certain kind of intellectualizing demagoguery. It became fashionable lately to adhere to the ideas we would have considered simplistic just a decade or so ago. We are encouraged to write off any and all disparities in outcomes between groups as a matter of discrimination and to assume a heavy handed, top down intervention by the government is the only sensible, caring response one might have. We are encouraged to forget that the conceptual categories we create for thinking are meant to be imperfect tools that overlook the fact that individuals within each of those categories have agency, views and wills of their own. According to this new orthodoxy, there is such a thing as being authentically 'insert race here' which implies judging some people for adopting certain types of cultural norms and values.

    I never thought I would see the day that prominent journalists and politicians in the United States, Canada or much of western Europe would speak openly and candidly about the idea that anything pertaining to performance, efficiency and excellence are to be construed as fundamentally white and that there is something of a lie, even a betrayal, when a Black person or an Hispanic person adopts those norms and values. This sort of discourse is something you would hear in a period movie or television series from a man who is intended to be portrayed in a bad light, as a testimony to the less civilized ideas that occupied the imagination of a past we have outgrown.

    We're supposed to think that Black people are not meant to engage complicated, abstract problem with seriousness and rigor. Because there subsists disparities that cannot be easily justified, at least some of which are both hard to identify and clearly unfair to too broad a class of people, a small group of relatively affluent people are desperately trying to signal their good intention and care. Unfortunately for everyone, this expression of solidarity and empathy requires adopting views and practices that effectively requires throwing Black people under the bus one more time.

    I attended university, graduated and now am working on a PhD thesis in economics. My life has been thus far stacked on the belief that careful analysis and rigorous data analysis can help improve the lives of people. I have been driven by a sincere belief in the power of education to make individuals better at improving their own lot, as well as that of others around them. I cannot say how much seeing this quasi religious movement crawl out of a handful of academic departments and infect everything in broader society is painful to watch, not the least because it is actively seeking to deprive thousands of people who needs education and knowledge the most of true opportunities to make their lives better.

    They're not going to make the world better by scraping the game on account that some people may not have been well equipped to play it well because that is the game that has had the most positive impact on the most people in the history of humankind. If they were not loosing themselves in their religious fervor, they'd be asking how to make people who do not play it well play it better, not pushing to twist the rules so that a handful of pre-selected people can sit on top in spite of not helping others by playing that game poorly.

  11. “But other forms of magical thinking have grown even as religious belief has diminished.” - Niall Ferguson

    Apparently one requires a magical language to go along with magical thinking. Batya Ungar-Sargon does a grand job of explaining the ins, outs, particulars and greater dynamics of magical language.

  12. I work for a federal agency and as soon as the new administration took over three words became very prominent in every area: diversity, equity and inclusion. Often at the expense of science, and we are (or at least were) a science-based agency.

  13. When I fit saw the AMA statement elsewhere, I thought it was a send up! Dropped out of the AEA a year ago after paying dues for nearly fifty years. But now I'm glad to learn from the website how economies grow.

  14. The only grammatical correction in this document I am actually in favor of is dropping the term "Ex-Con" or "Felon". If you have committed a crime and served the time, then I do not believe you should be called the pejorative term for the rest of your days.

  15. Then, the election of November 2 happened. And the collective American upchuck at all this nonsense manifested as votes.

  16. "Wokeness is absolutely not socialist. Marxists are aghast -- they said class matters."

    Yup, and Charlie is spinning in his grave. However, it is neo-marxist, substituting race for class. Now, all of history is a struggle between races!

    Anybody else come to mind who seriously thought this way?

    1. John Maynard Keynes comes to my mind.


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  18. Language guides that bestow even more condescension and pity upon anyone that isn't white. It all smacks of an east coast liberal arts major in a communications department deciding for us all what are the right and wrong terms for literally everyone.

  19. My father who's a psychologist recently received something similar from the APA on guidelines for how to phrase and approach "things" as well. I think part of it is latent guilt, something along the lines that institutions have played a role in the inequities that have plagued the US for some time. However, at a certain point, people have to take responsibility for their actions. If we're really the land of the free and the home of the brave we have to have the collective courage to look at the dark side of society and seek to ensure that all have access to opportunity. Again, institutions matter. ;)

  20. "Whitized" is exactly right. There's no such thing as a white identity (other than among fringe elements) and yet we keep hearing about white people doing or that all the time.


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