Anti-Woke Book Author Bethany Mandel Blindsided By Liberal Trick Question, 'What Is Woke?'
Republicans and rightwing pundits won't shut up about the supposed scourge of "wokeness," but they've never bothered to actually define what "woke" means. This reached a new level of absurdity over the weekend when they started blaming the Silicon Valley Bank collapse on "wokeness." How?
LORD KNOWS WHAT KIND OF WOKE ROMPINGS WENT ON IN THAT BANK!
What Caused The SVB Collapse? Could It Be ... WOKENESS?
Comic book writer Dan Slott tweeted Sunday, "The Far Right is starting to use 'woke' in the all purpose way that Smurfs say 'smurf.'" He asked that news show hosts don't just sit there and let politicians ramble on about an "enemy" it can't clearly identify.
Conservative columnist Bethany Mandel was a guest on The Hill's web series "Rising," where she planned to promote her new book, Stolen Youth, and rant about the terrible influence the Left has on innocent babies. Host Briahna Joy Gray, who's usually pretty supportive of bullshit, asked Mandel at one point what she meant by "woke." Mandel was seemingly not prepared for this GED portion of the interview.
"We hope that parents of all political stripes will pick up the book," Mandel said. "This is sort of a woke reimagining that is very, very, very far-Left." This wasn't the first time she'd used the phrase "woke reimagining," so it was reasonable to wonder what the hell she was talking about.
"Only seven percent of Americans consider themselves very liberal," she said. (This is not entirely true.) "And probably fewer of them consider themselves to be woke." The "probably" there is how you know she's just making up shit, unless you consider "a majority" to be "fewer than seven percent." Conservatives thrive on a victim mentality, so they insist they are "outnumbered" while simultaneously claiming they represent the majority of "normal Americans."
Gray interrupted Mandel's spiel and asked what "woke" meant to her, specifically. "It's come up a couple times and I want to make sure we're on the same page."
This is a reasonable request and hardly a "gotcha" question. It's not like when Ali G asked Richard Thornburgh "what is legal."
Conservatives use "woke" as a catch-all for everything they don't like. They zero in on something absurd, like, say, a progressive prosecutor offering free puppies to pedophiles, and label that "woke." But they also include history courses that suggest slavery was bad or a bank's relatively banal diversity, equity, and inclusion statements. Please note that Democrats rarely if ever do this. Even the most liberal politician will go out of their way to make a distinction between Marjorie Taylor Greene's racist secession fantasies and boilerplate "conservative" policies, such as low marginal tax rates. The Right boasts no such intellectual honesty and shamelessly labels President Joe Biden's mainstream liberal policies as "woke."
Mandel sensed how fucked she was before she even started answering Gray: "So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that ... this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral."
"Woke is something that is very hard to define and [in the book] we have spent an entire chapter defining it."
Yes, nothing makes me want to pick up a book more than the author having a public brain fart while trying to explain its core concept. Hamlet was slightly more eloquent when explaining the premise of his book To Be Or Not To Be.
"It is the sort of understanding that we need to totally reimagine and reduce society in order to create hierarchies of oppression." Seriously, the lady was drowning. "Sorry, it is hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite."
As Dame Magazine's Kaitlin Byrd explained (in less than 15 seconds), "'Woke' is awareness of systemic inequalities. It is an understanding of the ways in which our society is organized to deny people rights and perpetuate injustice."
Mandel's flailing definition does reveal the conservative ideology that oppression and discrimination are just imaginary concepts whiners invented to make people feel sorry for them. However, in reality, most conservatives are also "woke." They just consider themselves the truly "oppressed" and "marginalized." Mandel's goofy-ass book argues that the Left is indoctrinating American youth through politics, education, mental health, and entertainment.
Predictably, New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait defended Mandel after the resulting (and well-deserved) social media ridicule: "I find the pile on about this clip kind of gross. She may be wrong, but she's not an idiot. She just froze up on TV. It happens."
She didn't "freeze up." She literally couldn't define the entire point of the book she's shilling. Perhaps I'm just too damn "woke" but my sympathies aren't with the white lady running a truly gross smear campaign against educators. While trying to explain her simpleminded bigotry, Bethany Mandel might look like an idiot and talk like an idiot but don't let that fool you. She really is an idiot.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."