Quillette is a major publication now—deal with it
Quillette has been under fire since it was founded by Claire Lehmann in 2015. The old guard doesn’t like a fresh face, so when Lehmann launched and was then lauded by Jordan Peterson, the media lined up to take shots. Quillette may not have been the birthplace of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web, but it’s been an essential publication for the documenting of free speech concerns and heterodox ideas. It also made space for voices that had been cancelled and writers and intellectuals who had been unpersoned in their communities. Publishing both controversial ideas and controversial people made it a desirable target for take-down artists and hoaxsters alike.
At issue was an article about a construction worker from Queens, a regular Joe who, along with his union buddies, attended a Democratic Socialists of America meeting. The narrative goes that he was horrified to find just how far into academic, privilege theoretical nonsense the socialist movement had drifted. Quillette editors took the man at his word. The story is an interesting one, after all.
Modern media rolls fast, and outlets that run with a lean tight staff are at a disadvantage to the mainstream media outlets until they’re not. Mainstream media is also susceptible to hoaxes. We don’t have to go too far back to find the case of Jayson Blair who duped The New York Times, running plausible, reported pieces from places he didn’t go. This was in 2003, before the proper digital age, and the Times couldn’t take these pieces down, all they could do was retract the print with print.
In 2014, Rolling Stone published a groundbreaking piece that changed the face of rape reporting ever since, despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication. Writer Sabrina Erdley wrote “A Rape on Campus,” detailing some disastrous charges that Rolling Stone eventually had to pay damages in the amount $1.65 million. The outlet didn’t question Erdley, instead, they wanted to believe that frat rape at the University of Virginia was a widespread nightmare. They paid dearly for this libel.
Just last month, The Washington Post ran an article that had 15 separate corrections, making the correction note almost as long as the original article (clocking in at 579 words). After the Steven Galloway debacle, The Globe and Mail ran a feelings-over-facts op-ed that was so bad that the list of corrections was cringey enough to make Jemma Beale blush.
The Quillette hoaxster, who went by the name of Archie Carter, was under the impression that his little trick was somehow the equivalent of the Sokol Squared hoax that exposed the low standards of modern academia by publishing fake social science papers such as rewrites of Mein Kampf as a feminist screed or pontificating about canine rape in dog parks. The equivalence is false. Sokol Squared effectively proved that academia is an ideological monolith that will publish anything as long as it conforms to the woke social justice narrative. In this singular case where Quillette got duped, everything in the piece was entirely plausible. Just take a look at some “best of” clips from the DSA meeting last week.
Everything Carter claimed in his piece was not as bad or equal to as cringey and pathetic as the documentary evidence of the actual event, where entitled, spoiled, woke hipsters whinged about the violence of clapping, gendered pronouns, and the violent use of the word “guys.” Carter wrote:
Do these people really believe that the average person cares what pronoun someone uses? Identifying yourself as a person should be enough to deserve respect, plain and simple—why needlessly divide the working-class into competing identity groups? How is that supposed to produce solidarity?
Performative wokeness is its own satire, and the culture wars of 2019, in general, are full of incoherencies. This is exactly the kind of thing Quillette legitimately exposes, and the hoaxster found their editorial Achilles Heel. Good for him, we guess? But it really doesn’t prove what he thinks it proves.
All of Quillette’s biggest detractors have been alternating between taking victory laps and dunking on the magazine. The fact of the matter is, they just don’t like this upstart publication that can be more relevant with a small staff and compact publication load than many outlets can do with their fully staffed newsrooms.
Quillette exists because there is a need for it in the media landscape. When Lehmann took up the reins of this new publication, with nothing but a URL and a lot of guts, she saw an opening for a free speech oriented publication that would address the kinds of ideas and publish those individuals that needed a place to speak and that people wanted to read. If it weren’t so successful, no one would try to screw them over. That hit pieces on the publication abound is a mark of how essential this publication is. The team of senior editors are diligent and determined. Someone intentionally pranking the outlet is not an indication of a chink in Quillette’s editorial armour, it’s simply a guy pulling a dick move.
Quillette made a mistake and then corrected it within a matter of hours. That’s the extent of it. Should Quillette have held this piece up to more scrutiny? Of course. Mistakes happen. But why should Quillette be held to a higher standard than Rolling Stone or The New York Times? The fact of the matter is that all major publications have retractions, and Quillette is a major publication now. The detractors and trolls are just going to have to suck it up and learn to live with it.
The New York Times endorsement of both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar for president has been lauded and critiqued, but no take is quite as inane and Lauren Duca’s. Writing for The Independent, Duca takes an essential tack linking womanhood with virtuosity, love, nurturing, and maternal values. These are what Duca believes we need in the highest office, and apparently qualities which are the purview of women at large.
Duca believes that women will bring “unconditional love” to the conference table. She thinks women have less greed and avarice, and that while “the divine feminine is beyond that binary, best understood as the force of nurturing,” gender is a social construct.
It’s surprising that both of these views can exist concurrently within one cohesive ethos. Gender isn’t real, apparently, because it’s made up by society to sell us prescribed notions for what men and women are, but femininity brings with it a form of divinity that is localized within women and those who believe they are women, even though womanhood isn’t really anything specific. Are we all clear? No?
Duca opines: “America, as it stands, is not even pretending to be a free country. We are living in an oligarchy structured by the hierarchy of the white, supremacist patriarchy, and this is where toxic masculinity has led us.”
How can a person of such privilege, who gets to write for fancy platforms, teach adjunct classes, and traipse around the world on tour for a book that doesn’t even sell any copies, claim that America is not a free country? How can a person who has benefited so greatly precisely because of her status as an identitarian grievance monger make the assertion that we live in a white supramacist oligarchy? Isn’t this all getting a little old?
Under the guise of elevating women, Duca puts them right back in their place. Probably she thinks she’s lifting women up by saying that they can achieve world peace and stop World War 3 before it’s begun in a way that men, with their penchant toward toxicity, haven’t been able to do. If men aren’t better suited to office on the basis of their sex, then neither are women. Sex isn’t a characteristic upon which votes should be based.
If a woman were elected on the basis of her sex, and she didn’t magically fix all the social ills with one SCOTUS nom and a few passes of her magical bill signing pen under the light of the full moon in the Rose Garden, how could the US ever justify electing another? Women are fallible, not magical. Y’know, just like other people.
Women are people, with aspirations, faults, wishes, wills, and a drive to succeed. To count them as anything other does their humanity a disservice. Duca writes: “I think it makes a difference if the person at the helm of this transformation is a woman, because of the lessons learned by anyone who has a female perspective on our crisis of toxic masculinity.”
But that doesn’t actually mean anything.
Duca, of course, has been a longtime culture warrior on the woke side—a true believer who has offered up hot take after hot take espousing the most incoherent of woke talking points like “Sean Spicer’s Emmys Cameo Wasn’t a Joke—It’s Dangerous,” or “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.”
Duca then had her own turn in the barrel, when her entire NYU class revolted because she was not woke enough. Apparently she hasn’t learned the lessons that you can never be woke enough, and that the woke will devour themselves in the end.
The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.
We live in a politically correct, “woke” time and it doesn’t seem like anyone will let us forget it—not even for a split second, not even for just enough time for us to enjoy our morning cup of coffee.
Douwe Egberts Belgium is a coffee company who just joined the Team Woke.
More and more, companies don’t try to sell us their brand, quality or even their product, but instead they sell us on their “wokeness.”
A recent ad for the coffee shows two young teenagers, one clearly a girl and the other in a hoodie so you can’t discern their gender, kissing on the couch who then get interrupted by the girl’s dad. They run upstairs but the daughter stops to give her father a dirty look.
An obvious, “I hate you. You’ve ruined my life,” teenage-girl look.
Then the dad makes coffee and the two teenagers come down to share a cup. The hooded teen is revealed to be a girl. They all sit around smiling and laughing—with tones of acceptance and growth, which is exactly what you want from your coffee.
The ad ends with the father putting his daughter’s glasses back on her face and smiling. The glasses that the girlfriend took off her earlier while making out on the couch.
Yes, a very wholesome moment, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad this hypothetical dad accepts his hypothetical daughter. That’s the way it should be.
Belgium was even ranked the second-best country in Europe to live for LGBT people, according to Rainbow Europe poll. Belgians already seem to be plenty accepting.
This ad has already been seen over 12 million times on Twitter and has some users in tears.
The 2019 Brussels Pride Parade had around 100,000 marchers. It’s clear Belgians—and most sane people—aren’t homophobic today, so why are these types of commercials pretending we are?
The ad also reminds me of a recent Sprite ad that you needed to watch twice before noticing the Spite logo. The ad showed LGBT members getting ready for the Pride Parade and their family members smiling and accepting them.
Because again, that’s what you need from your drink choice.
Movies, television and branding have become a competition of who is more woke rather than convincing us to consume their products. Everything out there has to have a political message or statement.
The quality of the product doesn’t matter anymore as long as you’re scoring points with the woke crowd.
Pandering to a rather small portion of the population may not seem like the most business-savvy but they may also overlap with another crowd. The cancel culture crowd.
So even though, Dali Research finds that only about 6 percent of people identify as LGBT in all of Europe, companies choose to target a rather small demographic.
Why go after such a small group? Possibly the fear of the backlash of the outrage culture.
It’s possible companies and business think their public relations will go more smoothly if they go with the trends—even if that means ignoring the larger population.
They’re taking the easy way through—pandering and bending the knee for a small but very loud and demanding group. Woke people are hard to please. You can never be woke enough.
For regular people who don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, it gets tiring for them to be constantly lectured about something they already agree with.
You see, us unwoke people, who want our ads to be about the products and our commercials to be selling us something without a moral lesson or a guilt trip attached—we see right through the cynical pandering.
A New York Times book reviewer called herself out as unqualified to review the book she was reviewing, and then said the author shouldn’t have written it. The charge against the author is cultural appropriation, the charge the reviewer levels at herself is the maintenance of the white gaze. The weirdest part? She seems to have liked the book. Lauren Groff wrote about Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, a novel about mother and son refugees from a violent Mexican drug cartel.
It is frankly mind-boggling to see this in print. It should fill us with hope, not anxiety, that the wealth and breadth of human experience allow us to understand the experience of others. People are not as different as we have conditioned ourselves to believe they are. The most imperialist thing of all is to assume that we can’t understand one another because our backgrounds and skin colours are different. The Civil Rights movement fought against objectification based on skin colour, and now The New York Times and their cadre of anxious writers are bringing it back.
Groff found the narrative to be powerful, notes that she felt afraid for the danger the main characters faced but then states this absurd concern:
“But another, different, fear had also crept in as I was reading: I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book. I could never speak to the accuracy of the book’s representation of Mexican culture or the plights of migrants; I have never been Mexican or a migrant. In contemporary literary circles, there is a serious and legitimate sensitivity to people writing about heritages that are not their own because, at its worst, this practice perpetuates the evils of colonization, stealing the stories of oppressed people for the profit of the dominant. I was further sunk into anxiety when I discovered that, although Cummins does have a personal stake in stories of migration, she herself is neither Mexican nor a migrant.”
American Dirt made The New York Times list for highly anticipated books, but even the author questions her own authority to write the book. In the afterword, per a contrasting review from Parul Seghal, Cummins wrote “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” Seghal didn’t like the book, because she didn’t think it achieved its aims. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is judging a work of fiction by the colour of the author’s skin.
It is a nauseating inclination to question her own inspiration. The colour of her skin has nothing to do with the story she felt compelled to write. Once she had the idea, should she have shopped it around to writers who were “slightly browner” to see if they wanted to tell it instead? Writers have their own stories that they want to tell. Cummins had this one. She told it. Groff had a review to write. She wrote it, but she questioned the validity of her voice, and the author’s, the entire time.
Groff ties herself up in knots, chastising herself for liking a book she thinks she shouldn’t have written about because her skin colour doesn’t give her the authority to do so. To put that in perspective, a New York Times writer, an author, an intelligent, educated, intellectual person, believes that there is more authority in the perceived experience of her skin colour than in her own voice.
Cummins did exactly what social justice rhetoric would say she ought to do—use her place of privilege to speak of the social ills affecting underrepresented voices in our culture. In using her voice to elevate the plight of Mexican refugees, she brings Groff, for one, a greater understanding of that horror.
If authors can’t call attention to anything other than their own experience, if authors have to colour within the lines of their own skin tone, then their only other option is to stop writing, to give it up, to do something else. But ideology cannot dictate our life choices, and the odds are that if Cummins didn’t write this book, no one else would have. Is there no value in telling the story of a mother and child forced to flee their home under threat of death? The story itself is more essential than who wrote it. And for sure it gave Groff some new perspective, even if she thinks it’s poisoned by her white gaze.
Cultural appropriation is a term best levelled at basic girls and boys in madras bikinis wearing native headdresses and platform Tevas at Coachella, not well-researched novels that give insight to the plight of refugees traversing America’s southern border.
This hand-wringing over whether or not we can think for ourselves or have to think in accordance with a mob mentality that diminishes our intellect in favour of social justice norms has got to stop. An author’s lived experience is not their only palette. Skin colour is not authoritative.