Ellie Mae O’Hagan writes about the “anti-woke backlash”. She argues that in the 1990s and 2000s socially liberal values became the “new normal”, with even the Conservative party becoming nicer and introducing legislation such as equal marriage. It seemed unimaginable at the time, but that consensus is unravelling very quickly.
…as the tide of 90s social liberalism has ebbed, it has also revealed another group of people (primarily older, white homeowners and pensioners) who had never bought into the consensus in the first place, and are aggressively hostile to its newer, more radical iteration.
We all know a member of this demographic: alienated by the modern world and displeased by change, they are fond of complaining that “You can’t say anything any more!” – even as their opinions are widely reproduced in the nation’s print media.
And the nation’s print media are happy to pander to them, not least because they’re the demographic that still buys the nation’s print media and that advertisers most want to reach.
Having spent so long feeling silenced by the liberal consensus, people in this group have been given a new lease of life by the right’s new insurgents. Not only were they correct all along; they were actually victims, zealously persecuted by an oversensitive and censorious society. It is this righteous indignation that lends their antipathy to wokeness a defiant and almost celebratory quality. As a friend of mine puts it, we are living in “bigot Christmas”.
As O’Hagan points out, if this group’s claims of persecution were really true the country and the world would look very different. But just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean people don’t believe it.
O’Hagan’s piece isn’t an attack on those people. It’s a warning to the rest of us, because the so-called anti-woke are often “parroting arguments that are largely advanced by the far right”. And they’re winning.
Progressives need to wise up to the fact that they are losing this argument and decide what they are going to do in response. If they don’t, they may soon find that the future they always assumed was theirs is being made without them.