The problem with being anti-woke

I’m going to do something that will likely annoy you, dear reader: I am going to make an argument about a certain class of people without naming names. If I do name names, any response will devolve into a debate over whether I am unfairly tarring the individuals in question. That’s beside the point, because the phenomenon in question is undoubtedly real. That phenomenon is anti-wokeness curdling into reactionary crankery. Don’t get me wrong: as I’ve previously written, I think there’s a moral panic afoot in many liberal institutions. Whether you want to call it ‘wokeness’ or something else, it seems undeniably the case that a culture of illiberalism has corroded

Julie Burchill has found a new way to provoke: she’s turned sincere

The greatest ever social media spat took place before the first tweet was sent, and was conducted via fax, which was like email but with the satisfyingly tangible tear of a fresh missive just arrived from across the planet. It was early 1993 and Julie Burchill, then of the Modern Review, was locked in a war with Camille Paglia, then of any US talk show you cared to tune into. The conflict began with a disobliging review Burchill filed of Paglia’s Sexual Personae, before shifting to the Xerox front, where Paglia made the mistake of questioning her interlocutor’s working-class credentials. Burchill brought hostilities to an abrupt close with her final

‘Wokeness’ and the collapse of intellectual freedom in the West

When observing the state of our academic life and public culture, I have an uneasy feeling of déjà vu. When I started life as a historian, going to France to do a PhD in the 1970s, French universities were held in a tight ideological grip. The subject I was working on — the Paris Commune of 1871 — turned out, to my naïve surprise, to be a hot topic. Two older French academics who became my mentors were both convinced (I think with reason) that their careers had been blighted because they had written things that the then mighty French Communist party disapproved of. The Commune was the party’s pride