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I wanted to echo something Katherine brought up at the end about people searching for structure. I think this is the driving force behind almost every cultural phenomenon of the past decade and probably will be for the coming decade as well.

I grew up in a secular, relatively liberal family that never really put any constraints on my behavior beyond very basic things like "don't get arrested." There was flexibility around gender roles, hobbies, academic interests, extracurriculars, college choices, career paths, sexuality, religion, politics and even drug and alcohol use. I say this not to blame my parents for my problems as an adult but only to illustrate the kind of environment a lot of upper middle class American kids have grown up in since the 90s.

After you finish the race to get into an elite college there is no predefined life path to take if you're inclined to conformity and no predefined life path to reject if you're inclined to rebellion. This leaves the high achievers flailing once they graduate and have no more brass ring to grasp for and the outcasts making increasingly extreme choices - like gender transition and willingly pursuing sex work - in a desperate bid to shock the normies, for whom tattoos and piercings and weird hair colors and starting a punk band and doing drugs are now utterly routine. This state of affairs is not liberatory but paralyzing. You have too many choices for how to live your life and the stakes of those choices are terrifyingly high because if you make the wrong one and fuck it all up you have only yourself to blame (and you have no easy alternative path if you decide you fucked up and want to change).

This is a particularly upper middle class western phenomenon because it's a struggle that takes place within the top layers of Maslow's pyramid; you can't really have these problems when you don't have physical and psychological safety and a relatively stable home life. But at the same time, these problems aren't trivial or stupid - they're very deeply embedded in the human psyche. It's not really possible to be above this kind of search for meaning. Even the self-styled millennial Marxists who pride themselves on their "materialism" are acting out this very immaterial impulse towards self-actualization.

It just so happens that the same people who are the most likely to end up in this situation are also the most likely to end up in the "cultural class" that sets the tone for the discourse in our society. They look insane to people who grew up differently: the working class with their actual material problems, the children of immigrants with their strict rules and very specific parental expectations, people from conservative religious communities with their predefined gender roles and overarching belief systems. Structurelessness seems like paradise when you feel like you don’t have enough choices, but in many ways it’s its own special kind of hell that’s hard to understand until you’ve lived it.

I don't really know where I'm going with this except that I'm a young-ish person who's had a pretty objectively good life and yet I struggle every day with the tyranny of structurelessness. I know there's more meaning, more value, more SOMETHING to be found in this life but I just don't know where to find it. I completely understand why so many millennials and gen z'ers are becoming nuns and following Jordan Peterson and dedicating their life to stanning Taylor Swift and declaring themselves communists and self-diagnosing with chronic lyme disease and pursuing gender transition and making their choice not to have children their entire identity and living the #vanlife and going vegan etc etc etc.

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>After you finish the race to get into an elite college there is no predefined life path to take if you're inclined to conformity and no predefined life path to reject if you're inclined to rebellion.

I think there's something to this. I've from time-to-time mused to myself that it sure was nice for me that my "rebellion" was being a woman with a career in computational science (evangelical background that was all about the gender roles and said women should be stay-at-home moms and not work outside the home), rather than drugs/sex work. The imposed structure was definitely a bad one for me, but reverse-psychology'd me into working hard for something lucrative and stable?

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Excellent post. There must be a cyclical nature to these cultural shifts. I went through a phase where all I would listen to was Ram Dass lectures, and so much of what you said resonates with what he was talking about in the 80s. I dunno if you're familiar with him at all, but his arc was essentially: Be a Harvard professor in the 60s, be friends with Timothy Leary and then get fired for doing too many psychedelics with students, spend the 70s in India meditating, come back to the US and be on the lecture circuit. I think there were likely some similar "directionless" feelings in the 60s/70s as people came out of the drug stupor that they put themselves in. Ram Dass definitely came back from India questioning what the value is of all of the so-called freedom that we have here in this country. He calls it "throwing the baby out with the bath water" -- you're free to shop 7 days of the week, no one expects you to go to church on Sundays, but has that freedom really freed us?

He definitely gets a little too spiritual for me during some talks, but, if you can get past that I think his points hit home, even by today's standards. He has a talk called "Becoming Impeccable" that I think is a good one if you're interested in listening.

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I think you're right about college being one of the only secular rituals to mark the passage into adulthood. This also makes me think about how a number of my friends graduated college and immediately became obsessed with getting married. There's definitely still a bit of a rush to get married by 30, even among the educated liberal people I'm surrounded by, but the funny thing is that my friends who got married from 26-28 haven't really changed anything about their lifestyles and haven't started having kids yet (we are in our early 30s now). They lived with their partners before marriage so almost nothing about their lives changed in any material way after getting married, except maybe health insurance and taxes. I'm only just now realizing that the obsession with getting married might be because that's the most obvious lifecycle ritual that comes after graduating college? Like people are looking for some way to mark the passing of time and getting married is one of the only ways our culture offers to do that? Because my friends who got married in their mid 20s certainly didn't need to do it in order to move in with their partners like someone from a strict religious background would have, and none of them seem to be in any rush to have kids...they just really felt the need to get married before 30 and have the bachelorette and the big party etc.

Interesting thought. You're onto something with this ritual thing.

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It's interesting to hear your perspective on this issue, because I haven't noticed much of a rush to get married among my own friends (similarly educated and liberal). My wife and I did get married years before we planned to have kids, but that was partly motivated by wanting our families to take our relationship more seriously, and we had recently bought a home together. It actually worked pretty well; while neither set of parents is exactly thrilled to have a daughter-in-law where they expected a son-in-law, both sets are much nicer about the relationship than they used to be.

I can see that marriage might be marker of adulthood for some people, but I think its most useful non-material purpose from a social perspective is to get one's community to see one's relationship more seriously.

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OK, as someone who never got the hang of Tumblr, I could be totally off base here. But the dismissal of postmodernism as the source of "wokeness" reminds me of the left's dismissal of concerns about CRT in schools. "This is an obscure theory that's taught only in post-graduate courses. No one's teaching it to your children!" No, but the teachers who were exposed to these theories then develop curricula and activities that focus on racial differences among the children they teach.

To say that "woke" concepts arose independently on Tumblr waaay back in 2013 ignores the fact that critical theory had been percolating for decades in the academy. There's no reason to think that Tumblr would have been so isolated from the real world as to be immune to this influence. In fact, a Google search for "foucault" on pre-2013 Tumblr turns up hundreds of results. And as Dee's article states, "Tumblr’s user interface made it very difficult to avoid certain topics without serious curation."

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Nov 19, 2022·edited Nov 19, 2022

I think it's true that wokeness originated in academia. However, woke academics are always very serious, stodgy, and studious. They work hard to make sure their theories have enough evidence to back them up. Their work can also be very hard to read and understand sometimes, which is fine. It's not for everyone.

But with Tumblr, you have a lab leak in action. So instead of the careful, buttressed-with-evidence version, you just get the dumbass version of "marginalized people are always right! Whoever is offended is always right!" And that's what happened here I think.

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Ehhh. At this point woke theory in academia - I am not sure they even need much evidence. For example. Back in 2018 or so. Maybe 2019. I was reading in Quillette about Robin D'Angelo's White Fragility. And one of the interesting things is that in her book she cites various research. But the research was...nonsense. And peer reviewed by people who were experts in...nonsense.

Basically at this point, it is a circle jerk of nonsense

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Nov 19, 2022·edited Nov 19, 2022

DiAngelo's academic training is in rhet/comp (the same field as Freddie DeBoer's). I've read a bit of rhet/comp work by friends in the field, and there is good stuff there. BUT your characterization would indeed apply to much of the work produced, IMHO. I think DeBoer's critique is very fair: https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/pity-writing-studies-the-field-that

I'm from a related but not quite identical field (English literary studies, often housed in the same department as rhet/comp). To be frank, I think you could say the same of the mix of work published in my field: Good work exists, but a lot of BS gets published, too. I do think the ideological similarities of the majority of people in these fields, together with the too frequent abandonment of evidentiary rigor, contribute to the weaker aspects of the published work.

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I'm an ex-English lit professor, and I think the problem simply is that the vast majority of the field itself is simply too easy. I studied and taught medieval literature; there are many linguistic hurdles (middle English, the heavy French influence, and of course Latin) as well as historical. This meant a lot of training and context was needed even to start.

But, like, Robinson Crusoe or Jane Eyre...that's not hard. Anyone who speaks English can jump in and know what's going on, which then leads to the question, "well, what makes someone an expert in this and what are the barriers to entry?" In the past (i.e. pre-Leavis), the barrier was that of the critic; a good critic was one who studied the history, the language, and the context of the book and then used his/her judgment to declare it good or bad. In the pomo world of individual aesthetics, the critic is out of a job. So this was replaced by politics.

It didn't have to be. The New Historicists, while certainly politically motivated, did suggest an empirical and materialist approach using cultural history as the anchor to analysis. That is hard, however. Being a political firebrand is easy; plus, it feels good and there's a low barrier of entry for students. So, in theory, everyone wins.

At least inside the walled garden of academia. The problem is four years of applying critical theory to Jane Austen has a very, very low economic value (and this is coming from a medievalist!). So English departments saw a massive attrition of students, first in 2008 when economic concerns slapped everyone in the face, and then steadily over time due to brain drain from the field both at the teacher and student levels.

Which I'm fine with. They're reaping what they sow. Not like we need English literature departments anyway.

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Yeah, don't even get me started about academia! There's a weird courtesy among academics to treat all subjects as equally demanding in rigor when that's really not the case. Things like the sciences, mathematics, and philosophy are genuinely hard in a way that something like art history really isn't. And I'm certainly not saying people shouldn't study art history!

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

I agree with almost all of what you say, including the relative difficulty of medieval studies. (The difficulty, coupled with its uncool reputation, hurts recruitment into courses and the subfield, alas. I think many English-dept medievalists know they owe the few students they have to Tolkien's continued following.)

I used to work as a contingent faculty member in an English dept in which the chair and tenure-track faculty all agreed that the post-2008 attrition of English students was inevitable. As someone who had attended an undergrad institution at which fully 10% of our students were English majors or minors AND many pre-med and other majors fulfilled their humanities requirements via English courses, I deeply disagreed. We should have been fighting to be the second major for the >50% of students at our institution who double majored, and we should have been recruiting every non-major to our courses that fulfilled elective/breadth/humanities requirements. We had another contingent faculty member who proved you could do this by offering a "baseball literature" course that was fully enrolled with non-majors who'd otherwise never have set foot in our dept. But our chair didn't want to hear from non-tenure-track faculty, so the dept threw up its hands and let itself shrink.

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On the necessity of English depts: It surprises me that we've failed to show the relevance of studying English in a world in which jobs increasingly require email and other writing abilities. I think both English and rhet/comp ceded a lot of our claims to relevance when we leaned into teaching Foucault and doing "discourse analysis" instead of doing the unsexy work of teaching students to write clear sentences and read with care and charity.

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The medieval Lit course I studied at the time the Lord of the Rings films were in the cinema has subsequently been rebranded to reference Tolkien. It’s all the same stuff - they just made the explicit connections in the course description that we would mention in seminars as an amusing side-point.

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It’s a shame because Studying medieval lit is brilliant preparation for many careers though - the rigour and discipline you need to apply really transfers well to other disciplines in the workplace. It’s just good brain training.

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"However, woke academics are always very serious, stodgy, and studious."

Absolutely not true in my experience. I left academia a long, long time ago but back then the woke ones weren't studious (they read little, and what they did read was very easy to understand, even the critical theory they employed tended to be the more simplistic stuff), they weren't stodgy (the whole point was to "democratize" and shock, like the woman at Oxford who gives speeches naked for social justice), or serious (I mean wokeness is unserious by nature, but the hardcore feminist lecturers I knew would openly talk about their love of reading Cosmo on airplanes for fun).

You're right that they make their work intentionally hard to read and understand, which is why Tumblr et al. were filters to dumb down and proliferate the woke religion. Which is why the argument Dee makes is based on a false premise: it didn't come from Tumblr instead of academia, it came from academia via Tumblr.

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Co-sign. It's a lot easier to say that the academics who've preceded you are "problematic" because they don't "attend to X" [your pet issue] than to make an original contribution to knowledge in your field.

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Nov 19, 2022·edited Nov 19, 2022

I think the point isn't to say that the phenomenons are mutually exclusive. The point was that the ideas were ALSO percolating on Tumblr, and kids are predisposed and pre-conditioned to think in the simple, dumbed down Tumblrized version of postmodernism without actually having humanities degrees.

From personal experience, I was in college at the same time that I was on Tumblr, came out as gay, and started realizing that I could actually take elective classes like womens' studies. When it was still called womens' studies, that is. Anyway, I felt that the combination of Tumblr and a college class that did not challenge any of the things that I was exposed to online created a flywheel of sorts. It's not a one or the other observation, just that Tumblr is the true beginning of these thoughts, not by picking up Foucalt at the library.

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There's also the issue of what the source of more institutionalized woke thinking is. These are the materials, ideas, and preconceptions that inform a lot of modern DEI training. I think the claim that that stuff is highly influenced by the academic approach, and specifically the derivatives of postmodernism, is pretty strong.

I appreciate Katherine's research into how Tumblr etc. fed its own stream of wokeness among young people. But I think a lot of why it's a social problem now, and not just a curiosity ("kids these days!") is the institutional buy-in. We now have a perfect storm of identity politics taking over institutions such as (some) schools and (some of) medicine, combined with the really wacky versions of what "identity" should mean coming from Tumblr.

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That is exactly what I meant, BCL! Ty for helping me clarify.

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Or as Marshall McLuhan said in Annie Hall: "You know nothing of my work! " ;)

So essentially it's the same as the CRT scenario: People aren't learning it directly from courses on critical theory, but that doesn't mean their thinking isn't influenced by it, if only indirectly.

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Ah, I gotcha! For me, I was first exposed to these ideas on tumblr-precursor LiveJournal… but they were reenforced shortly thereafter in a Critical Theory seminar I had to take for my major (English) during my junior year of college. The idea of it working like a flywheel effect makes sense to me.

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I think at some point in the 2000s, the academic leftists, or at least the younger crazier ones, decided that they could use their above average intellectual and artistic abilities to basically turn their academic theories into propaganda using social media. It worked pretty well. One no longer needed lengthy nuanced analysis to espouse radical ideas; now one just needed slogans. There was one helping phrase included to indicate that there was a profound analysis backing up the slogans, but we don’t have to give it to you (or even know it ourselves!): “It’s not my job to educate you.” IMHO the biggest problem is that once any semblance of intellectual rigor faded away, the slogans and style became dangerous in the hands of those inclined to take part in power struggles but disinclined to think critically. That’s where you get, for example, people like Dylan Mulvaney just promoting hateful tropes about women in the name of trans-ness, or perhaps Hispanic Americans disparaging other ethnic groups, or Black Power types hating on Jews, and feeling justified in being chauvinist because “as an X” they are entitled to any feelings that are ostensibly pro-X, if that X holds an appropriate position on the totem pole. It would be great, IMHO, if we could just reintroduce the idea of rigor into the mainstream of political discourse. Or at least, if you don’t want to be rigorous, then just don’t make sweeping statements and instead stick to normal cultural things like how you feel about this or that fashion or music.

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The above was pretty ranty. Of course the example of antisemitism in the black community isn't very good because that's been around for a long while, but I do believe that contemporary identity politics on social media hasn't made it better.

Also I should have restricted the "academic leftists" category to the identity politics sort. I didn't see, for instance, socialist economic analysis get infected with epistemic positionality; poor people weren't considered more insightful about macroeconomics on account of being poor, and as far as I have seen, the socialists have continued to consider it their job to educate people and provide arguments.

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One of the most woke things I ever heard was that one should never use the word "handy" to describe useful as it is offensive to people without arms. This was my English lit theory professor in 2001. Definitely predates Tumblr. A lot.

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Yep. It hangs on something. I was "in college and woke in the '90s" which is what today is known as "being a TERF" and the whole justification for any grievance lay in these postmodern mental gymnastics. I've said it on here before but I remember falling all over myself working at Barnes & Noble in '99 because I accidentally typed a Black guy's first name into a book order with a lowercase letter and he went off on me about how racist it was. At that time we had AOL but it was mostly for Star Trek nerding-out and porn.

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It's a pretty convoluted path from Foucault to wokeness, though. I agree that there's some bastardized academic discourse within the woke left, but I don't think the whole thing can be placed at the feet of a single academic theory. I've been around leftist culture for a long time, and there's long been an unhealthy culture of political correctness there, but what's PC and what theories are empasized change dramatically.

Cases in point - if you were politically correct in the 60s or 70s, you were a solid third-worldist and probably Marxist-Leninist of some sort, or at least broadly sympathetic with Marxism. In the 80s, antiporn (and often antitrans) radical feminism (the forerunner of todays 'gender critical' movement) was very much the poltically correct ideology and in fact, the culture of second wave feminsm did a lot to pioneer what we today call 'cancel culture'. (Check out Dorothy Allison's essay "The Women Who Hate Me" about her cancellation by the radical feminists of that era.) Later still, there was a shift more toward 'queer' perspectives. Opposition to US/western imperialism and the military used to be a key part of left wing activism from the 60s to the 2000s, and that's all but disappeared - now there are 'woke CIA' recruiting efforts! But in all cases, the left has had issues with an unhealthy, dogmatic culture that demands adherence to causes and ideologies that are fashionable at the moment and does not allow for internal dissent. It's unfortunate that the left has never really been able to shed that and it's even worse that this is now mainstream culture.

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

The current orthodoxy on the left—what some call 'wokeness'—is based almost entirely in identity politics, as seen in the promotion of gender ideology and the racialization of everything. It started its rise to prominence in the 1990s, heavily influenced, I think, by the work of Judith Butler, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and others who emphasize identity, performativity, and lived experience over objective reality. That's the postmodern-ish influence that I think has been inescapable both online and IRL for the last 20 years.

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I'm not so sure. For starters, postmodernism is relativistic to the point of absurdity, whereas 'wokeness' makes truth-claims in highly categorical ways. They'll employ postmodernist, standpoint-theory kinds of arguments in the service of their perspecitve, true, but I don't think postmodernism is very central to so-called 'woke' ideology. I think that really what 'woke' ideology is a set of existing identity politics ideologies (including feminism) pushed to the point of absurdity.

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But why should it be democratized while dumbing-down of the content?

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deletedNov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022
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I expect them to master graduate-level mathematics before pontificating on the human condition!

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Then I don’t want it.

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I'm guessing this episode will get fewer listens than the more culture-warring ones, but I really enjoyed the sane, unheated discussion with Katherine Dee. I'm going to check out her writing.

On the question Katherine and Jesse briefly asked at the end—whether IRL social settings such as small-town church life can be every bit as toxic as online culture—I think not. (People here will disagree with me; feel free to tell me why I'm wrong!) It is definitely true that culture wars get into real churches on Sunday mornings and cause trouble. People like Tim Alberta (see link), David French, and Peter Wehner have written eloquently about how much politics have poisoned everyday churchgoing culture, in many cases getting pastors fired from their jobs, in the past 6–7 years: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/06/evangelical-church-pastors-political-radicalization/629631/. I could offer examples from churches my extended family and I attend, and you could probably get a good earful if you walked into your nearest neighborhood church and asked the pastor to tell you whether cultural or interpersonal infighting has been a challenge for him/her.

I could also offer examples of giant fights and congregational/denominational splits over esoteric theological issues most people have never heard of, such as whether baptized but unconfirmed young children can take communion or the implications of translation of the Greek phrase "dikaiosune theou" for Christian salvation.

That said, my experience as someone who's attended hundreds of churches, both as a visitor and long-term member, over nearly 40 years has been that IRL interactions are always, always less poisonous than internet fights. Even if there's a churchgoer who brings their online fighting to church—and this definitely happens sometimes—there are multiple other people at church who are there to coordinate meals for funerals, make sure the church is opened at the correct time for the AA meeting in the fellowship hall, take communion or healing prayer (depending on the denomination) to people who are hospitalized or ill at home, or just ask you if you're doing OK because they didn't see you for several Sundays and heard you were home sick with your kids. (This last one is simple but a big deal for me!)

When my dad got a very bad cancer diagnosis and had to have surgery right away to remove the tumor and confirm the diagnosis, his pastor, some elders, and their wives all showed up at the hospital and just hung around with my mom and siblings and me while we were stuck in the family waiting area during the surgery. The church was in the middle of falling apart over dumb political disputes, and it was not my theological cup of tea to begin with, but what mattered a lot more to me was the huge group of people who took care of my parents while my dad was sick and kept showing up at the house for my mom after he died.

People are complicated and often badly behaved. (The Christian writer Francis Spufford suggests we can think of that weird theological word "sin" as "the human propensity to fuck things up.") I have definitely seen a lot of churchgoers fuck things up, and I won't pretend I'm not a fuckup myself. But the great thing about IRL communities is that you have those real-life connections that often, somehow, despite all the fuckups around, manage to give people comfort and encouragement. Or at least a little coffee and "How are you? I haven't seen you in a while" on Sunday morning.

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I had never seen such animosity, bitterness, and destruction of decades-long relationships as I did when my mother's church broke apart 30 years ago. People from the two sides of that chasm now go to separate churches and never speak to each other. This rift involved very personal issues, which I think made it more toxic than an online dispute where you don't actually know the people involved. When I get online hate, it doesn't bother me for very long because those people were never my friends.

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I think the IRL versus online discourse can go one of two ways. It can be: you are hurt by the people you know and the damage is irreparable. You aren't hurt by random people on the internet. Or. It can be: you know these people in real life and care about them. While online you can be as vicious as possible. It goes both ways

I think what can alsp happen now is online and offline really gel together, especially since the pandemic. Like. Would you have talked to your fellow church member in that same way irl?

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The IRL situation is a little different in that much of the vitriol can happen behind your back: Someone tells someone else what an asshole you are, and after a while pretty much the whole group has disowned you. Online, more of the conversation is public and therefore more transparent but also maybe more destructive.

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"People like Tim Alberta (see link), David French, and Peter Wehner have written eloquently about how much politics have poisoned everyday churchgoing culture, in many cases getting pastors fired from their jobs, in the past 6–7 years"

Like that wasn't the case during the religiour right's heyday?

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Yes, and before. I just didn't want to make my post even longer by being thorough. ;-)

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I was a goth in 2003 and remain a goth now, AMA!

Jokes aside, I’m enjoying this episode so far. I was unfamiliar with Katherine Dee and look forward to reading her Substack (especially as someone who somehow missed tumblr).

I do worry about kids who are identifying as asexual, trans, etc. too young. A brief fling with alternative culture is one thing, but claiming a fundamental part of your being before you’ve experienced much of life as it pertains to those identities is a recipe for a brutal identity crisis. I don’t envy how weighty walking back gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. will likely be for a not insignificant number of kids in a few years time.

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Congrats on your engagement! I found you a bit ago around when Marcus Andressen was on your show. Then again when some guy named Gio was on your show to promote a writing contest and I always check back. Been very impressed by the depths of your tumblr lore, and I always imagine you in some dark library like Gandalf but trying to read about all the new genders instead of the One Ring (what is the one gender to rule them all?). Great interview and I hope you are back on again to explore the ramifications of everyone being a disembodied soul now.

I would totally subscribe to your substack if my wife were not already wondering how the hell I am already subscribed to so many.

Also the lowest tier of internet life is commenter (slinks into cave to eat raw fish).

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I’m 15 minutes in and dear God I hope that we’re done talking about Aella now - there’s only so much respect I can lose for you, Jesse.

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds her distasteful. I am normie enough for a hard pass

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Setting aside pornography, I don't get how people don't see the ageism at play here. Culture goes through "intelligent, witty pornstars" like a baby through bottles. Before Aella, there was Stoya, and Siri, and doubtlessly many others before whom I can't recall, or never knew about. Aella's 15 minutes are very probably close to up.

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I thoroughly enjoy Katherine’s substack, podcast and twitter! Lovely to hear her on the B&R feed.

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Like my friend Jane (below) intimated, thanks for introducing me to Katherine Dee. I was completely unfamiliar with her and her work. Great conversation, Jesse. I'm looking forward to reading Katherine and following her on Twitter. She seems a very reasonable thinker-journalist and I'd like more of them in my intellectual life. Thank BAR!

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Thank you, Ray!

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Enjoyed the episode, but I have to say Indiana is not a total wasteland:).

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

I agree! The Dunes are lovely, the factories around Gary are pretty amazing to look at, Bloomington is beautiful, etc. And isn't the wonderful Corinna Cohn from Indiana?

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The dunes are lovely but the sandworms are a bit much.

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The Spice must flow!

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Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

It also has this place:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Meinrad_Archabbey

One of only two archabbeys in the US and beautiful. I felt like I walked straight from the interstate into Europe.

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Yes! Glad I'm not the only one who's discovered that treasure

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

My husband's from Evansville. I'm admittedly a midwest skeptic/east coast snob, but I was surprised and very impressed when he showed me that place.

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And me!! I'm from Indiana and a Midwest apologist. Hills are the worst

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If the punchline of your argument revolves around clapping, it’s 👏 not 👏 an argument 👏!

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But 👏 it's 👏a👏fun👏 preschool 👏song!

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Last night I listened to Katherine Dee’s ‘The Ghost of Adam Lanza’. It was totally fascinating. One of the best things I’ve heard on a podcast. I can’t find Part 2.

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Nov 19, 2022·edited Nov 19, 2022

I really enjoyed this conversation and thought that Kathryn was very insightful. One thing I have noticed about Blocked and Reported is that I think that similar to some other heterodox thinkers, they tend to be really dismissive of asexuality. I totally agree with Jesse on the fact that declaring it early in life is a problem. But I also think that they don’t necessarily validate it for adults either and I think it’s a useful way to talk about real differences in sexual desire that has an effect on sexual relationships. I think it’s a way of being seen. I know that identities are very rigid right now but if there was a way for us to really talk about these things in an nonpathologizing way, it would be really helpful. I also think it would be good to talk about in a way that the answer isn’t automatically, how you feel is exactly how I feel or something like that. Anyway I think if we could talk about it in a less stigmatizing way, maybe people wouldn’t have to describe themselves so clearly as an identity label as a way to kind of protect the self.

 I guess there’s also stuff around gender nonconforming stuff that also could really be discussed in probably a better way. I have a lot more thoughts about how rigid gender and sexuality expectations are even now and they’re actually exacerbated, rather than ameliorated by labels. However, people against labels are also not doing anything to help it. I think we need like an alternate structure and not just a deconstruction of wokeism.

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I think it's a bit pointless as an identity. Like calling yourself a non-sports fan and asking for validation from people who do or like sports. The Demi-sex identity is even less meaningful. They are oppressed by nobody and have no real reason to group together.

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I agree! My work had a (stonewall inspired) asexual / Demi-sexual awareness week. It was basically pointless. There is no work context that I care if you like shagging or not.

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Why though? If someone wants to talk about who you are into, it’d be helpful to Have a way of talking about it and then feel like other people also feel that way. Identities are not just about oppression; It’s about normalizing things and letting people feel like they aren’t alone.

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I gotta say. I have no doubt asexuality is real. What blows my mind is how A got added to LGBTQ when not even 10 years agp people were really offended at the comparison between asexuality and hompsexuality. Like. No one discriminates against "ace" people

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Sure. I mean if somebody is not into sex, that’s not like normative according to society. It’s that it’s not like they are actively discriminated against but it’s kind of marginalized and it just be useful to have language for it. I guess I sometimes think that people who are against these labels go far too far in the other direction and don’t think about ways that it might actually be helpful for some people.

I also think that identities aren’t about just being oppressed. I wish there was a way to discuss it without it going to that. Sometimes identities are more about feeling like people aren’t alone.

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It is not that they are not into sex. It is that they feel no sexual attraction. (Like I think you can feel sexual attraction and npt enjoy sex, for whatever resson).

And I think organizing is important, so as not to feel alone.

I guess I see how that is similar to say a gay person, whose sexual interest is not like most peoole. But LGBTQIA was about creating community and fighting discrimination.

I think being asexual might be more akin to like a woman who is only sexually attracted to very fat men. It is different from most people and one might feel alone due tp that. But there is no societal discrimination, like for LGBT people.

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Not every single private detail of someone's life needs to be shared and turned into a public identity.

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Oh thank goodness, I’m not the only one ;)

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Trust me very few people on this website agree with me so I think pretty much everyone agrees with you

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So what would it mean if I agree with this comment? So confused!

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But it’s not really private. If somebody is just not getting into relationships because they’re not sexually attracted to anybody, at some point it can be useful to be honest about who you are and then be able to find other people who share your identity.



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I agree. It must be very lonely and isolating to be asexual in such a sex saturated culture as this one. Making it an identity might be the only way for people to know it's ok. It doesn't have to be a political thing

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Maybe? When you're young for sure.

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

I guess we just differ about what’s private, maybe. I don’t think anyone needs to know why someone isn’t dating or in a relationship. Also- having no interest in sex- is that an “identity” ? It’s making something that you aren’t interested in your defining characteristic. That seems like a terrible way to frame something to yourself.

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

I think it’s part of your identity. I guess I see that people might want to identified about themselves but it’s not like all of their identities. It’s just a way of describing them and maybe finding other people who have stuff in common. People don’t want to feel alone and when you deviate from the norm, that’s always a risk.  I guess one thing I should be more specific about is that I see it more as an identity trait, rather than an identity but I also think that we can have it be part of the discourse. No aspect of us should be the defining feature as human beings even though I think a lot of people do that. That could be something to talk about, basically that there’s a difference between identity and identity trait.

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What about swapping out the word identity for personality trait?

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It might make some more sense maybe to say it’s a personality trait

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It probably would be a lot closer to what I mean. I mean I don’t believe in any identity being a totalizing thing. 

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

It’s also weirdly social justicey how much people are saying that you shouldn’t about any of your experience unless you are oppressed. That strikes me some real Robin DiAngelo shit.

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deletedNov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022
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I think you're on to something there. OP definitely has a point in that asexuality can probably function as a very real self-organizing identity characteristic for some people, but for many (many) others, the way it plays out comes off as stolen valor, trying to glom onto the LGBTQ+ acronym for oppression cachet. Same thing with "demisexuality" and "she/they" or "he/they" pronoun usage. Amid a cultural fetishization of individuality as a principle mode of self-justification in a secular context, people so desire 'nonconformity' in all its guises, and no way's cheaper to distinguish yourself than a relatively empty label that doesn't change anything about how one lives or presents themselves.

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Right!

The eagerness to be marginalized is quite off putting to me.

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WAIT—Julie Bindel?!! When? We want Julie Bindel! We want Julie Bindel! Could you ask her—press her—on the seeming legions of pro-sex-work prostitutes? I know she says that ultimately, based on her hundreds (or more?) interviews they are all oppressed, but I’d like to hear more about that and whether she’s interviewed the North American Sex-Work Activists. I want to be with her on this, but I’m unsure.

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I gotta say, I really like Julie Bindel but her thing about equating prostitution with rape was just ..wrong. And I am someone who never liked the pro sex work feminism thing

Also. I fucking HATE the obfuscatory language of referring to prostitution as sex work. I get thr goal is to decrease stigma. But. Sorry. Strippers are not generally at risk of getting a STD from the inherent nature of their work. Serial killers do not stalk cam girls.

Having said that. I think the pro sex work prostitutes are generally highly educated and from upper middle class families, usually white, sometimes Asian. They generally work as escorts.

I once saw some Vice or maybe Buzzfeed video about legalizing prostitution, and it showed a black trans woman speaking in favor of legalization. The camera focused on her. But of you looked, literally every other person there was a white woman.

The upper class women often work as work as escorts because they like sex and the pay is good and they can screen out dangerous men.

On the other hand. Black, Hispanic, and indigenous and poor white abd Asian prostitutes, they are doing it on the streets and it is dangerous. And often are abuse survivors.

There is very little, if any, overlap between the two groups. I just dont know what percentage of prostitutes fall into which category.

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

Oh, so not buying the whole "Sex workers who support decrim are all privileged" canard. And so much to unpack about your claims about the term "sex worker".

First off, the pro-decrim movement is not all simply well-off escorts, even if some of them are more visible, particularly online. There are large numbers of poor and developing-world prostitutes involved in that movement as well. Look into organizations like La Strada International or other orgs that make up the GAATW. Predominantly from the poorer parts of the world. I remember specifically a sex worker activist, Tracy Quan, who was one of the 'privileged' ones you're talking about who originally was only for legalizing indoor escorting, and it was the activism of street-based sex workers that she said persuaded her take a broader position on decriminalization.

Second, the term sex worker was coined by sex worker activist Carol Queen precisely to emphasize the solidarity between workers between different sectors of the sex industry, that is, escorts, street prostitutes, porn performers, strippers, and the rest. Admitedly, there was a terminiological drift that made the term "sex worker" less decriptive of the overall class and more of a rebranding of "prostitute", but nevertheless the reasoning for the idea of "sex work" is very sound and maybe you should actually learn about and engage with the ideas behind it. Otherwise, you're just strawmanning rather than steelmanning.

On that note, this particularly rubs me the wrong way: "Strippers are not generally at risk of getting a STD from the inherent nature of their work. Serial killers do not stalk cam girls." First off, sometimes sex workers work across multiple sectors, and unless you've done sex work, strippers have done something a lot closer to prostittuion than you have, and yet you arrogantly deem them not qualified to speak on the issue. When I see folks opposed to sex work engage in that kind of rhetoric, I see it for what it is - a divide and conquer strategy.

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Sex workers do get stalked and they also get doxxed whether they’re online, in person, or a combo of both. You are dead wrong in this assumption.

And not all sex workers are prostitutes or escorts. Your understanding of my industry is way off but if you have genuine questions, I’m open to discussing them

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I think there might have been a miscommunication. Yes. Sex work involves all kinds of work. I thought I was clear on that. It is just that at this point, when people say sex work" they usually mean it to specifically refer to prostitutes, not all forms of sex work. Which just obfuscates certain issues.

To be specific. If someone says - that man killed 7 sex workers. Well. That could mean he killed 2 strippers and 5 cam girls. It could also mean he killed 7 prostitutes. Why not kist be specific? Or if the news reports the police are targeting sex workers, why not be specific?

And yes. If you do certain types of jobs, you are at increased risk of harassment.

And...you are right. i hadn't thought of doxxing. And in terms of stalking...I guess it gets complicated. Someone could figure out who a cam girl is, she might get doxxed, and then stalked.

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"on the seeming legions of pro-sex-work prostitutes" Bindel will simply dismiss them as being either tools of a shadowy "pimp lobby" (something that sounds pretty QAnonish to me) or too "privileged" to speak on the issue. Bindel would claim that she speaks for an 'overwhelming majority' without offering any real evidence that support of the Nordic model is anywhere close to a majority position among sex workers.

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Maybe you shd offer to debate Bindel on her podcast//or some other.

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I think there are sex worker activists or people in that sphere who would be way more qualified. Elizabeth Nolan Brown comes to mind.

In general, if Jesse and Katie are going to wade into this debate, I kind of wish they'd get up to speed on it, and not just frame it as Julie Bindel "human rights activist" vs Aella, high-end escort and internet weirdo. I doubt Jesse had ever waded into the social science around this - he'd find quite quickly that this is an area with research that's every bit as contested as the science around trans medicine, and that the antiporn/antiprostitution scholars in particular have been churning out some questionable and agenda-driven 'research' for 40 years now.

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

Aaaaand then I listened to Episode 44. (I think Katie liked Jesse more then.) Interview with Aella the Rationalist sex worker with Julie Bindel quoted. Great episode. I still don’t know what to think re sex work of the middle-class opt-in nature.

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

I’m really interested in the Julie Bindel interview. My take is that prostitution is overall a net bad for women. The fact that some women are fine doesn’t balance out the violence, rape, human trafficking / slavery and exploitation of poor, migrant, drug-addict and generally f*d over women. And European experience suggests that areas that decriminalise don’t actually improve the safety of these women. For example trafficking women into the sex trade in Germany is pretty horrific.

Also, I hate the phrase “sex work is work”. It’s not. The state can oblige people to take a job by withdrawing benefits if they refuse (in the UK at least). Imagine that being applied to prostitution.

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I think you're going on an extremely biased framing of the 'facts' about prostitution in Europe, based on exclusively listening to the framing of people like Julie Bindel. The so-called evidence that anywhere near a majority of sex work is coerced, or women who are so desperate that they are in essence coerced, is based on a handful of extremely biased studies. (Melissa Farley in particular comes to mind.) In fact, the very kinds of studies twisted by an activist agenda that Jesse Singal writes about so often.

And the whole nonsense about women being rejected for benefits if they don't take a job in prostitution. Pure myth: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/hot-jobs/ Similarly, claims that there's a 'spike in himan trafficking' during the World Cup/Superbowl/other major event; "the average age of entry into prostitution is 13", and so on. All long debunked, and yet still circulated by anti-prostitution activists.

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And it was for that reason that I really disliked the framing of the Aella/Bindel "debate". It frames sex workers who support decrim as elite sex workers like Aella, whereas Bindel is supposedly speaking for a silent majority of poor sex workers. Neither of which is really the case.

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For sure, that's what popular media outlets function to do, which is more my problem with Dee's confused and only partly accurate history of the ascension of wokeness. Pretty much always it goes like this:

radical idea starts in academia > gets taught to students, a minority of whom embrace it > a minority of those students flock to media outlet popular with kids to spread the ideology > ideology is spread.

I mean, this is how queer theory went from the Sorbonne to American sitcoms. Dee seems blissfully unaware of any history at all, it seems. Idk, I don't understand her appeal both with her lack of historical knowledge, insight, and humor or entertainment value.

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It's more about spread than origin-- you should read the TAC piece!

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Ouch, brutal... But I pretty much have to agree.

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One of the things that is driving me crazy is the use of political Left and Right to describe one’s stance on identity politics, and, even worse, the commentary that The Most Egregiously Woke = Far Left = Marxist. For the record, Marx and Marxists are far left because they believe in the destruction of the Capitalist system and the redistribution of wealth to the masses. There were no Identity politics in Marx’s time, and self-defined Marxists today still couldn’t give a shit about it—hell, they don’t even give a shit about women.

The Far Right stance is broader: also socioeconomic, believing in pure Capitalism, unrestrained by the State, and the total lack of responsibility by the state for the poor; as well as strong Nationalism and protectionism, as well as cultural puritanism (which in the West reads as white supremacy); and finally, a tendency to be highly patriarchal.

Identity Politics ranges from Woke (translated roughly as “The more Oppressed you are the more Society should make accommodations for you” (but with a prescriptive idea of Oppression that doesn’t seem to include women) — to — Egalitarian (“Everyone should be treated equally”) — to — White Supremacy/Naziism (“Only White able-bodied people are worthwhile and everyone else should be exterminated”) which IS Far Right Fascist.

The vast majority of people (I hope) are in the middle—Egalitarian—but socioeconomically/politically they are split Left/Right.

SO, when Katherine Dee identifies more Right, I have to wonder what that means.

HOW do we come up with new terms for the Woke/Egalitarian/Nazi divide?

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I think it is a little bit more complicated in that I think the woke identity politics stems from Marxism, even if it veers very far off its path. Also. While identity politics peoole do not care about class, some tend to ve very anti capitalist. It is a strange mix

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Sorry, but Identity politics does not stem from Marxism. Marxism is All about Class. If Identity politics comes from anywhere (other than the internet) it’s from Intersectional Feminism and Race issues. It is complicated of course, and the Center-Left as we know it are the main spouters of Woke, but they are not Marxists. They’re not even Socialists. The leftest people I know (VERY Left by American standards, but not Marxists) don’t even *believe* in the Wokeism that’s happening—they think it’s all right-wing propeganda making a mountain out of an internet molehill in order to a) alienate people from the left and b) distract from the Truly Important issues like Climate Change, the expanding divide between Rich and Poor, and the rise of Surveillance Capitalism.

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"Sorry, but Identity politics does not stem from Marxism. Marxism is All about Class. If Identity politics comes from anywhere (other than the internet) it’s from Intersectional Feminism and Race issues."

You're mostly right here - idpol is definitely not Marxism, but identitly politics is WAY older than the modern internet, dating back into the 60s, with proto-intersectionality being articulated in the early 70s by writers like Barbara Smith. Identity politics and feminism (which is actually a subset of identity politics) arose partly in reaction to Marxism's perceived overemphasis on class and often absorbed a certain amount of Marxism in the process. In some cases it's a pretty vulgar kind of grafting, such as when Catherine MacKinnon basically takes the Marxist dialectical framework, but then simply replaces 'bourgeoisie' and 'proletariat' with 'men' and 'women'.

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I am pretty dure they DID study Marxism but they think race or sex is the core issue not capitalism. Everything for them revolves around race or other identity markers and not capitalism.

I definitely think though that there are a lot of woke capitalists.

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Well, first I’m not sure about this monolithic “they”, unless you mean one they and not many theys (DC[TM]), but people [who study] study all sorts of things but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the origin or perspective of their points of view. If anything, What we term Wokeism has more in common with Fascism in that their view is protectionist of a loosely identified group (much as a Nation is a loosely identified group) and holds that group triumphant over all others. Plus control of free speech and a generally dictatorial view of how the world should be run according to their tenets only. In this sense they are distinctly anti-democratic and, seemingly, militaristic. In that Wokeism is like a religion, as oft noted, this is also classically right wing, and to top it all off, it’s a celebration of individualism and hedonism (anti-Marxist!).

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On this episode and at least one other recent episode, the idea of solving internet conflicts IRL came up - the oversimplified "if you have a problem with someone, TALK to them about it." (E.g., Katherine Dee's wedding invitee story). But, this is hard! And also applies to non-internet conflicts. I'm going to possibly veer into advice seeking here, as I have been in two situations this past year that I feel I *should* talk about but the awkwardness, the burned bridges, the confrontation, ahhh!

About a year ago, I became victim of a friend who keeps very close tabs on others' internet behavior (person A didn't like her Insta post oh no!, person B commented but omg what does he mean by that, unfriending person C on Facebook because he didn't text her back in 3 days, etc.) and sometimes posts pointed videos directed at certain people. We had "afternoon" plans one day, so I scheduled a date at 8pm. When she asked me to meet her at 8 instead of the afternoon (in my head, ~3-5pm), I said I couldn't. Later I see she's posted a TikTok saying "don't you all have that one friend who always ditches you cus she has to see her booboo..." Yup, I knew that was about me. I noticed she unfriended me on all social media platforms on which we were connected, and I haven't spoken to her since.

IRL, another friend aggressively screamed at me in the public pool's locker room showers over pool lane availability (which I have no control over, was just communicating what the pool manager told me). I have since cut off all social engagement with her beyond niceties on the pool deck, though we used to be closer friends. Her aggression and tone of voice seemed unforgiveable to me.

In my mind, these "friends" should be coming to me if they want to repair our relationships, as they were the ones who initiated the problems. Yet, I've received no word, no apology. Are these situations similar to those the pod references? Should I initiate any contact? Where's the line when things are only IRL, or IRL and spillover online? What if both people think the other is in the wrong? Etc etc etc.

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The first person here, I could see washing hands over. Seems like a bit of a pattern, the behavior itself is overweening, and if she's initiating with such relative ease, it seems simpler to just be done with it. And it does seem like she's initiating, with a pattern of subtweeting friends for at worst minor social faux pas.

The second, if it were me, I think I would have tried to push to resolve quicker. The incident sounds one-time, and the stresses in the situation aren't clear. Perhaps she just was having a bad day for no reason you ought have known. And from her perspective looking at interactions, *if* she was unaware how she came off, your cutting things off would be seen as the initial aggression. If too much time has passed, maybe that changes it. But I think if I were seeing and interacting with her with some regularity (as I was, in the incident I vaguely describe in the other comment), I'd give a go at trying to resolve it still.

But then, I don't necessarily see being yelled at once as necessarily momentous, and my inclination is to be more forgiving of any one bad incident, as a general rule. And I don't think that's some ironclad requirement of interactions, even if it happens to be how I (at least try to) roll.

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

It's somewhat overstated, but there's definitely a species of conflict where people just sitting down and talking about it would be better than one side just giving the other a sort of spontaneous, never-explained cold shoulder.

I had one of these happen to me a few years ago. I'd spoken up in a large-group setting, I believed for important and necessary reasons, in a way I knew would unfortunately ruffle some feathers. I was later told "ten" people (may or may not be an exact number) had gotten upset at me for my comments. Many months later, I stumbled upon someone having blocked me on Twitter, after having previously followed me (and vice versa). Given we were interacting in various ways other than on Twitter, I made the effort to...well, "confront" is too forceful a term, but I arranged to talk directly with him about it, tried to be at extreme pains to communicate that if it was a Twitter block to not see e.g. my dumb political opinions then I'd laugh and be glad to have cleared it up, then asked what was up. Because I thought *something* was festering, and we would probably interact in the future, and it was better to have some vague clarity than to just let it sit there, now that I'd stumbled onto it. The ensuing conversation confirmed that my guess at the reason was correct, we had a relatively cordial (if sometimes animated) discussion, and neither of us having persuaded the other on the underlying disagreement but at least we understood each other a little better, I left it at that. Better to have clarity with somewhat uneasy lingering disagreement, than total uncertainty without any resolution.

(At a later date, I discovered he had removed the block. I don't know when he did it, or why. Might have been just after the conversation, or much later, for all I know. I don't see a reason to go out of my way to ask.)

Somehow, I get the sense that approach is mostly rare any more. (It probably doesn't help that some spheres I move in are profoundly international, and so different cultural norms about how to resolve conflict present additional complexities here.)

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These don’t sound like very nice people. More’s the merry you for being free of them both.

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Thanks all for the support and comments! Jeff, I did leave a bit out about the swimmer - that incident was the most recent in a series of lesser yet also disrespect behavior. I sent a text after and incident last year inviting her to talk to me about anything going on in her life at the time and she responded, "I don't know what your talking about." I know, better to be done with these kinds of people, but it make my mind spin over adult friendship, the digital divide, etc. Again, thanks for reading!

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Yeah, I think that changes things substantially. Perfectly fair and justified to wash your hands of it, having made an effort once.

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Just saw this Substack in my email that you might be interested in. https://erinetheridge.substack.com/p/less-skin-smoothing-filter-more-dont

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Thanks! The first friend def used a lot of the author's first list of pro-social filters in ways that rubbed me the wrong way. I always thought I was in the clear having known her IRL since college, but...nope.

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