Now that the Woke have achieved ascendency in the current public discourse – and topped itself off by joining in with the ‘cancel culture’ – the time has come for those of us who’ve yet to convert to their new orthodoxy to develop strategies to survive this neo-Torquemada regime. I am myself tenured, financially secure, in the twilight of my career, and impervious to the disapproval of my colleagues. So this advice, for what it may be worth, is directed at those who are not so privileged. And it’s three-fold.
First, keep in mind that any disciplinary action short of dismissal requires uptake. Whose uptake? Yours. Uptake is one of those things that belongs to you. As such it’s yours to give or withhold. You are not answerable to these people. If you answer to them you’ve given uptake to their right to demand you do so. And once you’ve answered, bethinking that should satisfy them, you’ve taken the hook and there’s no shaking yourself off it. If you’ve done something wrong apologise. If you haven’t, then remain silent and be thought the devil rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Second, take a lesson from Donald Trump. If silence isn’t possible, then rather than appease double down. This is war, and in war the best defence is a robust offence, the more vicious the better. You need to make the enemy turn tail and run. And the way to do that, especially in academia, is to ruin her day.
If you’re not practised in this tactic – and you’re probably not – think about how you’ve made someone’s day. For example, one day a man was walking in my direction and, still about twenty yards away, he commented on how much he liked my tie. By the time we were side by side, without breaking stride nor looking back, I had it off and draped over his shoulder. That’s a moment that’ll stay with him for years.
So how do you ruin someone’s day? By making her feel threatened without actually threatening her. Fear is the easiest emotion to trigger. If this be doubted, think of how you feel when you see the flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror. The mind doesn’t evaluate the direness of the threat. It reacts first, and only trivialises later. Be the flashing red lights! And keep it flashing until she pulls off to the side of the road as you pass her by without so much as a glance.
And third, as Thomas Hobbes reminds us, force and fraud are the two cardinal virtues of war. So when your colleagues come after you, pick out one or two of them and, inadvertently hitting reply-all, send them an email thanking them for their support, in a completely sincere rather than sarcastic tone. How are they then going to explain to their fellow pitchforkers that they have not broken ranks? The more they protest their innocence the more ‘methinks thou doth protest too much’. The mob will then turn on the traitor. And as they do, they’ll wonder whether there might be more traitors in their midst. Think about it. Isn’t this precisely how the Resistance has always provoked the oppressor to eat its own?
In following this advice the trick of course is not to let on you’re doing so. You can, however, feel free to comment on this entry, because the best thing about my blog is that, for the reason just given, no one who’s woke can be caught reading it.