Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

The weakest part of this fact-free speculation about "linguistic kill shots" is that "politically correct" has followed the same pattern as "woke." It started out being used unironically among the left, then became identified with intra-left snark, and then conservatives picked up on the snarky usage, which blew it up into the mainstream. Using "woke" as a pejorative is already starting to fall out of favor on the far-left now that conservative legislators and think tank flacks are using it to describe things like minimum wage hikes and free child care.

Expand full comment

What do conservatives mean when they complain about someone or some institution being woke? I haven’t been able to nail it down.

Some object to the idea that any but a tiny minority are racist. I note Tim Scott being pulled over 7 times in six years, being detained for impersonating a US Senator, etc. and they agree that happens. So it’s more than a tiny minority? No and they get all huffy. I don’t really understand where they are coming from.

Expand full comment

can you label those charts y axis?

Expand full comment

It seems strange to me that the biggest success of the feminist moment, the #metoo movement, occurred *after* it had already been replaced by race in this story.

Also, I feel like the discourse around trans issues has been heating up in recent years, much more so than it ever was in the Gamergate era (even if the Rationalist community was already becoming aware of a growing trans population at the time - I think Rationalists have been ahead of the curve on several of these things, because I remember distinctly in 2016, when Clinton made her speech about the alt right, thinking "Rationalists are taking over so much that even their bad guys are becoming the real world bad guys").

Expand full comment

Also, I seem to recall that when that chart of NYTimes mention charts first came out, there was some important discussion about whether the data it contained were accurate, or whether someone with a grudge manufactured a bunch of data. But after staring at it for a few minutes I couldn't find whatever the things were that had been mentioned as red flags when it came out a few years ago.

Expand full comment

My general feeling is this essay is too optimistic

There's a fashion element to it yes, but unlike fashion these belief systems come with associated demands. Atheism has demands, new atheism has demands, feminism has demands, critical race theory has demands. How often and to what extent these movements have their demands met. What does it mean to meet their demands? When the fashionable thought changes what will the new demands mean?

Expand full comment

Nice to get a long culturewar post from scott again

Expand full comment

"It was really hard to say "I don’t like feminists", because the invariable retort was "feminism is just the belief that women are people, how can you be against that?". It was even harder to say something like "I'm against the vague category of thing including feminism, anti-racism, and LGBT activism" Remember that at this point all of this was internal to geeky internet culture, and everyone involved was more or less a liberal Democrat who agreed that all those concepts were in theory good. "

"Feminism and anti-racism had always been lumped together as "social justice", but for the first few years feminism was the big sister and anti-racism the tag-along little brother. "

I know this is a post-mortem of the recent internet phenomena but I really find lines like these jarring given the history of the last idk 150-200 or so years

Expand full comment

Regarding 4chan's tonal shift, 4chan's userbase shifted dramatically and often based on news cycle spikes. Big jumps occurred with Gamergate and the Trump campaign. Both brought a permanent and substantial increase in usership, and also contained far more mobile users than desktop, which most consider to be a sign of a newer and less tech-savvy browsers. While the tone of older users may have shifted a large amount of credit goes to newfriends who simply overshadowed the old userbase rather than lurking and assimilating.

Google images "4chan traffic history" for graphs, don't know how to include images in a substack reply.

Expand full comment

All those words, and yet nothing about New Transgenderism. Nothing about the push for "Black Trans Lives Matter" as a new slogan. Nothing about the linguistic contortions of "People Who Give Birth Day".

Of course, that phenomenon is still in progress, so it may be one of those Things You Can't Say ( http://paulgraham.com/say.html ).

Expand full comment

It tells us - if the above evidence is any guide - that once you've hit 'peak' something the Overton Window is already shifted significantly enough that the elite subset creating 'peak' something have already moved much further down the path. Purity spirals gonna purity spiral.

Expand full comment

So as someone who's been around for pretty much ALL of this, (No seriously, I was commenting on Pandagon way back when, although I always thought Shakesville was too socially political for my tastes) my argument is that we're due for what I'm calling a "Clearpilling" event. That's my argument. I've seen it before in individuals, where they realize that the Woke/SJW/Progressive/Whatever stuff for whatever reason really isn't all it's cracked up to be, and certainly it's not what they support.

The one thing that I feel is missing from this mostly accurate historical record on this, is the WHY. Or at least, I think it's missing a big part of the picture. To put it bluntly, I think it all revolves around social status competitions and hierarchy. I think that was the whole thing behind the Internet Feminism stuff talked about, yeah, low status men DON'T get to do the same things everybody else can do. That's just the way it is and people need to learn their place. (Not healthy at all). But even more so, I do think that the pivotal moments were surrounding Atheism+ and GamerGate, where social status hierarchy was directly threatened in reverse: Both, to a degree, had an element of do high-status people get held to the same rules as everybody else? And the high-status people, in both cases, lost their crap in the face of this.

But moving forward, I think there's a certain point where the SJW/Woke/Progressive culture is going to start demanding that people actually give up status. It's one thing to demand people to donate or say the right thing or whatever. It's another thing when they start asking for people to give up their jobs/material status symbols (houses)/etc. Even if it's not on an individual basis, I could see for example a sort of anti-NIMBY law working in this way. (Even though frankly this is something I, as a liberal critic of Pop Progressivism as I call it, support) That I think is what is going to make this stuff fall apart. People as a rule don't set themselves on fire to keep other people warm, and one of the strengths of that Pop Progressive culture is that it doesn't ask the in-group to. The costs are relegated to outsiders. But I don't think that strength can last forever. And the second the Clearpill starts to spread, and clear divisions pop up between this Pop Progressivism and more traditional Liberalism, I think it's over for the Pop Progressives. They almost instantly lose the moral authority, those ideas and concepts come up for scrutiny, and I don't think it survives that.

Expand full comment

Something that occurred to me recently: after "political correctness" ran its course, we got lots of mainstream things that were openly anti-PC.

Bill Maher had a TV show called *Politically Incorrect*, of course, but there were lots of other things like this. South Park, Eric Cartman, Sonic the Hedgehog, and others were "cool but rude." People made fun of earnestly PC habits (e.g. this song - https://genius.com/The-toasters-modern-world-america-lyrics).

So will we get that this time around? We probably have it already with some comedians. But how about anti-woke cartoon characters?

Expand full comment

"and anybody who did was a fedora-wearing euphoric loser"

Euphoric? Think this may be a typo? This image makes total sense to me except for the "euphoric" part. Am I missing something?

Expand full comment

Short-time reader, first time commenter here. I really like this. I'm 23 years old, but I was a precocious enough pre-teen to be into Dawkins and co. while they were still cool. But I would actually say my real political awakening was with feminism and today I'm a white man who sometimes writes about white people. So I've been invested in the three of the progressive-leaning trends you write above, and I have to say I think I come out with a more positive view of all of them than you do.

Maybe this is a product of only really joining the blogosphere in the last year, but my experience is that the real impact of these movements comes from their compassionate, empathetic spokespeople and not from their more puritanical bases. Political change is obviously very hard, but in general I think people are more skeptical, more respectful, and more self-aware than they were when I was growing up, and it's hard not to thank these people for it. Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Caitlin Moran, Roxane Gay, and Natalie Wynn are all both more admirable and more consequential than most of their fans. Maybe you can say the same about Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, I don't know.

I don't want to say that online hate mobs don't do damage, but it seems pretty apparent to me that a lot of good has come from reading these things with charity. If you're a blogger you see the blogosphere, so you get exposed to the worst parts of every movement you oppose. But do we really want to go back to Ahmed the Dead Terrorist or whatever? I don't think so.

Expand full comment

This stuff reminds me of the 'generator/filter' pattern, with the american left acting as a 'cultural generator' and the american right acting as a 'cultural filter' - the left spits out tons of ideas, and the right accepts some of these, quietly, while complaining all the way.

Perhaps effective challenges to new ideas can't come from the filter, because the filter reject everything; effective challenges to new ideas have to come from _even newer_ ideas.

And, because people gonna people, what you "can't' do is say 'gee wouldn't any sane person have some combination of a generator and a filter? Aren't both of these necessary for healthy cognition." - because to the filter people you look like you've bought into the insane new ideas. And to the generator people, you look like you're judgemental, which is the _worst_ thing you can be.

Expand full comment

I think you need to add in something else to your analysis here. The culture wars are a subset of the overall attention economy, and that explains perfectly why one culture war topic would be replaced by another. Attention is a finite resource, and there are only so many clicks or minutes available to apply to it. We are already seeing many publications which wouldn't vary from Woke for a hot second in 2020 while staring down Trump flip over to testing the waters with anti-woke editorials to see if they get clicks. (even Vox) The question I see is twofold.

(1) Will a version of Anti-Woke crystalize that has a coherent message and a brand? I think this is quite possible, and there's good science saying that it's happening right now:


(2) Will something else come along to impact the overall portion of the attention economy that's devoted to culture war? I think Fortnite gave them a run for their money, and whatever follows it may carry Gen Z into a place where culture war is simply not as important in the overall media metabrain.


Expand full comment

Great post. Two comments

1) I think the main reason young people didn't go right wing, as you were predicting in 2014, was internet censorship. Before 2016, the internet was basically a free market of ideas. I once put together data on prominent twitter bans, not very scientific but I'm sure the story is correct. I couldn't find anything before 2015, and then there was an avalanche of bannings after Trump's election.


People like Stefan Molyneux and Alex Jones used to be huge on YouTube. Now they're both gone, as is Milo himself. Often, the most extreme figures serve as a kind of vanguard and give energy to a movement. If the far right gets its most extreme elements purged every once in a while, the natural process from which you go "edgy -> slightly less edgy -> mainstream -> lame" gets interrupted. If you look at the most shared posts on Facebook today, data that's collected on a daily basis, it's dominated by Ben Shapiro, who is pretty much the edgiest right wing person allowed a Facebook account. And Ben Shapiro can never be cool.

2) I also think it's important to consider real world events. The decline of socialism seems intimately related to the fact that Bernie Sanders lost to Biden, and Biden ended up beating Trump. Not only that, but Biden beat Sanders with overwhelming black support; in a time of fanatical anti-racism, that took the wind out of the sails of the socialists. As for New Atheists, they need to be understood as a reaction to the politics of the Bush era. Republicans nominating the irreligious McCain in 2008, and the Mormon Romney in 2012, changed popular perceptions of what Republicans were. This was also the time of the Tea Party movement, which focused on economic rather than social issues, and the decade after 9/11. So New Atheism fell as the religious right declined and memories of 9/11 faded (the rise of ISIS briefly brought terrorism back into the headlines, but by then the decline was well on its way). So the new atheists didn't really have much to rail against by 2012, and eventually went away.

Expand full comment

> "Did anyone ever figure out a nonthreatening way to ask women out? Is it just "swipe right on Tinder"? Was that the solution this whole time?"

Yes, and yes. I'm probably exactly the right age for this to be the case, and to have narrowly escaped the awful period. But I have never asked out a woman I didn't know without very strong prior context. The reason is exactly because I internalized all of this "creepiness" messaging, heard all the stories from my female friends about guys hitting on them when it was unwanted and it making them feel uncomfortable, and never wanted to do that. Prior to 2016 I had only ever gotten into relationships with people I had known for more than a year, and probably had spent hours talking to.

After 2016 (when my gf of 4 years and I broke up), I exclusively went on dates using dating apps. I have never asked out a coworker, a girl at a bar, or a girl at the gym, and I don't know a single couple in my peer group who met that way either. For some reason, portrayal of dating in the media has yet to catch up. Dating apps are a godsend, because you don't have to worry about whether or not a girl who also swiped right on you is maybe interested in going on a date, or at least getting to know you with that context in mind. They are, and it's in the subcontext.

Dating apps have their own slew of problems, but at least as far as I can see in my social bubble, asking out randos in bars or clubs, or other public spaces is deader than dead. Long live Tinder.

Expand full comment

The rise of the “IDW” and long form podcasting is probably significant enough to get a section - Joe Rogan in particular as the archetype non-woke everyman liberal. Also the center-left flight to Substack is an interesting trend. It definitely feels like something significant is happening around all of that, with rejection of new Leftist orthodoxy as a unifying theme

Expand full comment

Nitpick re. this: "For whatever reason, the early Internet was a place for polite but insistent debate, and early websites centered around the needs of a debating community. The most obvious example was TalkOrigins' massive alphabetized database of arguments against creationist claims, with the explicit goal of helping people win debates with creationists." What you call the most-obvious example of debate culture is an obvious example of echo culture. Otherwise, it would have also listed creationist arguments against evolutionist claims.

Expand full comment

Correction--McCain made the comment in 2000, not 2008 as you imply. See: https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/McCain-Criticized-for-Slur-He-says-he-ll-keep-3304741.php

Expand full comment

The New York Times usage graphs represent what is being pushed on the public by the mainstream news media's apex predator, while the Google Trends graphs represent what is being pulled by the public in Google Searches.

By the way, Google's Ngram database of word usage in books has recently been updated through 2019. Keep in mind that there is often a lag of a few years between word usage in newspapers and word usage in published books. My Ngram preference is to set "smoothing" to zero when examining the Great Awokening since it is so recent.

Expand full comment

It seems there is a leftward movement that results a more general acceptance of progressive moral foundations of harm reduction and equality. We move away from tradition and norms around sexuality/romance toward individualism, equality, tolerance and so forth. There are fluctuations in what is considered a hot topic but new issues surrounding sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry will arise. The left tends to win and the conservatives tend to concede territory as we move left. Will conservatives ever publicly be anti-gay marriage and will it ever be a cool stance to take? I am doubtful.

We will not return to this LBGTQ+ issue because the conservatives lost ground. We will return to LGBTQ+ issues when transgenderism is the focus. Then we will return to feminism and then to race or the other way around or some other issue. The instituted measures cannot and will not fully solve the issue at hand so the focus will return to it. For example, did anything that happened as a result of protests for George Floyd prevent another person from being killed in a similar manner as George Floyd or in some other egregious and upsetting way? I don't believe so. Even if policing improved significantly, most people's complaints with policing are not tethered to statistical reality but a narrative and an upsetting video.

Due to women and men's differences in temperament, there will never be parity in things like the wage gap or CEO positions and dating will always be non-egalitarian in nature. Intellectual energy will be redirected to these things when there is not something else going on.

Expand full comment

Cancel Culture recently (as in, this Saturday) razed through a perfectly mundane online collectible game I play (so simple it barely deserves the name 'game'), with the site admins completely removing game content made by a previous staff member without any prior warning to the users, and aggressively shutting down conversation about it, forbidding all conversation. The change by itself isn't a big deal (I mean, if I'd have been viewing it in isolation, I would have been angry at the destroyed content on a private site that I have no control over, but moved on), but it also legit terrified me - if *this* kind of site is now willing to cancel people, no matter the fallout (which in this case hurt the people who were playing much more than the ex-staff member who hadn't even been active there in nearly a decade), what does that mean about its proliferation through society? It just had this... ashen taste of book burning to me. I realise there are differences, but I find it difficult to emotionally separate it from book burning enough not to be terrified for the future of society.

(The good news is that other players of the site I've been speaking to in private all at least understand the fear or outright share it. Several of these people I haven't had prior contact to, so it's not even my pre-selected social bubble. That gives me some hope.)

Anyway, there's no real telling if it's a symptom of a greater problem from my very limited point of view, as my fears suggest. But even if it is - I hope it's just a cycle.

Expand full comment

Does anyone have a good sense of how the rolling average google trends data works? I have not read any documentation but have always been curious. Like is it calculating deltas based on the number of searches per period? or is calculating delta based on the percentage of all searches that a term is per period. I.e., does it adjust for the growth in total search quantity through time?

Expand full comment

That's not what I thought "cancel culture" meant. I thought it referred to the cancellation of _people_.

Expand full comment

> SJWs aren't bad because they get basic facts wrong, quash free speech, bully their opponents, or make unfair generalizations across diverse groups. They're bad because sometimes they get your favorite TV show cancelled.

I think there is a sense in which this represents a good dynamic (at least, in some cases): People object to an ideology or cultural movement when it harms them personally, not when it bothers them ideologically.

To defend why this is a good thing - ideologies are often messed-up or wrong about important things, which is why people follow them off a cliff. people objecting to things that bother them personally has a lot of inadequate equilibria, but it at least has the basic thing right that people will argue against things that bother them personally (so it can't be too misaligned with them), and will argue harder against things that bother them more (so there's some proportionality).

The main downside of this is that it's moderated by status. You can complain about your favourite TV show being cancelled, because everyone watched TV and it's not low status to admit to liking the Mandalorian. If you complain about being bullied by an SJW there's an implication there that you're low status enough for someone disagreeing with you to shut you down, so both your argument becomes low-status, and you're more likely to make it if you're genuinely low-status, so this argument is unlikely to gain traction.

I think the "men hitting on women" scenario is the worst of all worlds for this: In person, a lot of women I know have told me how they wish more men would approach them. But they'd never say this in public (it comes off as low-status), and if they did not many people would listen. Meanwhile if you're the type of super-attractive woman that gets hit on all the time, you're a lot more likely to be high-status and have a lot of people listen to your complaint. And the same thing happens with men - if you're a man who complains about it being hard to approach women, you're broadcasting low status, and high-status men are much less likely to have this problem in the first place.

Expand full comment

This looks like a decent place to flog my pet dead horse: things can feel more intense now than ever before because more people now care about [things we care about now] than ever before. People used to care less about [things we care about now], so past times feel like they were less intense. But actually, people used to care *a whole lot* about [things people used to care about], which we don't care nearly as much about now. So people back then would have felt like things were uniquely intense, and would look at modern disagreements about [things we care about now] and not really get it.

This is all very tautological and makes the very dry statistical bias obvious, but requires confronting that things we used to care about aren't the things we care about now, and almost certainly won't be the things we care about in the future. It is not easy to accept that the answer to "who will win this culture war?" will very possibly be "you won't care". Oh, you'll still have an opinion all right, but *this* fire in your belly will fade faster than you thought possible. As it will for nearly everyone else. This too shall pass.

Expand full comment

" If I had to guess, I’d say wokeness outgrew the Internet fashion cycle. Unlike its predecessors, it took over mainstream institutions."

Or you could cite the thing you actually did cite... I.e. the video of George Floyd being murdered by a cop. That was international news. It was unambiguous. Now the death of one person from police violence in the abstract is not a worse problem than the deaths of hundreds from inadequate access to healthcare, for example, but socialist causes didn't have a viral video.

Expand full comment

I think Scott is a bit too pessimistic about Socialism as the ascendant invasive ideology. Sure, CTH isn't so trendy these days, and the appeal of Sanders and Corbyn has dimmed. But pretty much every cool 18-21 year old student in my classes these days expresses some variant of 'fuck capitalism' every fourth sentence.

This is a fairly new phenomenon for me (last five years) and I think we're still in its early stages. Even if socialism (in the co-ops, unions, ownership of the means of production sense) has peaked in the current meme cycle, I think more general anti-capitalism is probably ascendant in trendy spaces. I don't know what form it'll take. Probably something that mentions socialism but is deliberately vaguer and more viral in its focus.

I doubt this will be anti-woke per se; if anything probably the opposite (perhaps something like "capitalism is cis culture" could be a suitable slogan?). But despite being nominally pro-woke, it'll shift the center of narrative gravity from race and gender to the dream of wholesale reform of institutions and our way of life.

That'll helpfully dovetail with the persistence of racial and gender gaps and inequalities even in the face of the current aggressive political and institutional efforts to reduce them. "We were right to identify racism and sexism are serious problems," the new creed will intone, "But we can't tackle them head on, as is evident from the persistence of social inequalities. Clearly, these issues are too hopelessly deep and bound up with our modern capitalism consumerist society to be tractable without root-and-branch reform of our institutions."

There won't be many practical remedies suggested by the new anti-capitalist faith, let alone any that involve the wholesale destruction of capitalism. It'll mostly be signaling, as usual. But there might be some interesting conversations to be had in this space, e.g., ways in which capitalist systems create 'problematic choice architectures', which is just another way of saying inadequate equilibria, except for conventionally cool people.

Expand full comment

A couple people mentioned this above, but in what sounded to me like a very take-sides sort of way, so let me say as neutrally as possible: it would be interesting to add the rise of intense debates over trans issues to this analysis. (While Scott said "gender" issues, he didn't mean trans issues, but sexism issues; trans issues are a different set, as far as culture-wars goes.) My no-N-grams-to-back-it-up sense is that World War T has been heating up for several years with no signs of a slowdown. But it'd be interesting to see some real numbers on this if anyone has the chops. And then to figure out how this integrates, or doesn't, into the above analysis.

Expand full comment

I must question your Google Trends methodology. The decreasing frequency of the word "feminism" doesn't imply decreasing obsession with the cause of feminism; it just reflects changes in what terminology is in fashion. Today, they are more likely to use the words "misogyny" and "patriarchy" than "feminism" or "sexism." And of course the word "intersectional" bundles grievances alleging both racism and sexism and various other isms into one toxic brew.

Expand full comment

Re. this: "A lot of early feminist culture centered around various terms and concepts and witty in-jokes that basically boiled down to "annoying people sometimes come into our spaces and argue with us, and we hate it".

Fan-fiction contains some fandoms where the fics are written almost entirely by women (Trek, Twilight, most TV shows for adults, everything on Archive Of Our Own, which was explicitly feminist in inception), and a few where they're written almost entirely by men (Naruto, My Little Pony, Transformers). (I'll note in passing that it seems women like shows for adults, and men like shows for children.)

All of the fan-fiction communities dominated by women are extremely critical of criticism. None of them provide any means of downvoting or disliking a fic, and people in those cultures were outraged when academics began writing about fan-fiction and critiquing it. They wrote, IIRC, that fanfics were personal expressions, not public property; and that holding them to someone's (arbitrary) standards of Art was a kind of personal violence. Whereas the My Little Pony fanfic community, dominated by men, was the first fanfic community to allow downvotes or numeric ratings on fics, and has a culture in which expectation of constructive criticism is the default, and anyone who complains about reasoned criticism is looked down on. Equestria Daily, the top-tier publication site, was infamous for the brutality of its story critiques. Long critiques are commonplace and institutionalized (there are several MLP-fic critiquing organizations that are large enough, old enough, and respected enough by fanfic standards to be called institutions, eg., the Royal Canterlot Library, Seattle's Angels, the Vault, some now-defunct criticism group on some website like 4chan, and https://writeoff.me, a website for story competitions, which is nearly dead now but used to routinely get a hundred entries per competition). MLP fic fans often hold fic competitions with prizes, sponsored by websites or by individuals. Whereas female-dominated fandoms find the concept of fic competitions offensive.

Not proof of anything, but suggestive.

Expand full comment

Somewhere here the by-now-old observation needs to be made that American institutions -- which is to say, all who are invested in the corporate economy -- have a lot to potentially lose from socialism but not so much to lose from repeating Woke (read: trendy socially leftist) shibboleths. The megacorps are happy to speak the shibboleths, and to give their megabucks to people who repeat the shibboleths, but not so happy to give megabucks and attention to people who talk about constraining the wealth and power of the megacorps.

One viral and memetic moment that didn't get brought up in Scott's survey: Occupy Wall Street. What happened to them? How come JP Morgan didn't have a pavilion supporting them but it does field a gay pride float every year?

One way to model the change here is that the left had gained too much memetic/cultural power by 2008, for a lot of reasons, and so the establishment somewhat chose and was somewhat compelled to take a hard turn left, and by joining the left it was better able to steer the left. Since rightists and Republicans are still actual things that exist, they provide useful enemies and foils that put a damper on leftist infighting and allow the more powerful and better funded party, the anti-socialists, to largely steer the ship, if only by vetoing one particular line of discourse while allowing pretty much any other new idea to fly.

Expand full comment

I am certain that New Feminism was also partially undone by another splintering you seem to have overlooked: the end of "vanilla"-feminism's uneasy alliance with queerdom.

In fact, I think may in fact be the new underdog on the rise. Consider: when I came to the part of your essay concerning the rise of the "white feminist" meme, I was puzzled at not recognising the stereotype by that name, but it sounded very, very familiar from the discourse *I* am involved in. But the hip name for the same broad archetype is no longer "white feminist": it is "TERF".

I can even go one meta-level above: the up-and-coming social-justice meme these days, on Tumblr and the like, is "trans women of colour". Is this New Anti-Racism coopting queerdom? While I can imagine someone thinking so, I think it might be the opposite. After all, anti-racism predated widespread Internet interest in the trans experience.

What seems to be going on is that "mainstream" intersectionality is now too uncool, and the hip new thing to show you *really* care, is to focus not only on women or on POCs, not only on women of colour, but on *trans* women of colour. I would go further: I would say that queerdom is in the process of trying to infiltrate and ultimately take over "New Anti-Racism". Note how the latest lasting outrage in leftist Twitter has been over that anti-transgender Texas bill: "a law passed in Texas provokes widespread outrage from Blue Tribe types", three years ago, would have been guaranteed to concern a law accused of being thinly-veiled institutional racism, or something of the sort. Now it's trans kids who are the victims; the story's remained the same, the concern has changed.

I should highlight that, as a queer person with a trans sibling, I am not particularly unhappy with this development. Less selfishly, I think SJWs moving on to trans and otherwise-queer people as their preferred victims-to-be-defended, should be a cause for optimism among the crowd of people whom wokeness annoys. Unlike women or POCs, trans people do not actually comprise a significant percentage of the world's population. A world where SJWs spend their time defending trans folks is a world where trans folks will get nice things, and the overwhelming majority of "normies" can largely move on with their lives as normal without much fear of accidentally becoming a target for the SJWs for the simple reason that most people do not meet trans people.

Another interesting feature of New Queer Advocacy is that, as a relatively new social phenomenon, transgender-ness doesn't come with as many preexisting opinions as "women" or "non-white people" or "the existence of God". Most people as yet untouched by queerdom do not have any biases or opinions on the subject of trans people because they are likely not really aware that they exist. Again, my experience is different, but I have the hope that for ordinary cis people, being told about the new party line by the queer-advocate SJWs will be an experience along the lines of strange people telling you what opinion it is moral to have about the struggles of mauve zogleblicks. You will shrug, say "sure, I guess if mauve zogleblicks exist then I sympathise with their suffering from the strange condition known as dysphgerrgregrefligia", and that will be that.

Expand full comment

"Start with Quentin Bell's theory of fashion-as-signaling. Bell says: cool people keep trying to come up with some external signal they can use to identify themselves as cool. Uncool people keep trying to copy the signal so they can look cool too. After a while, so many uncool people are using the signal that it's no longer a good identifier of coolness, and so cool people need to switch to a new signal. Thus the fashion cycle and its constant changes."

...This is nothing less that the abbreviated version of the core argument in Norbert Elias' (1897-1990) treatise "The civilizing process": the part of the book that deals with the never-ending signals-arms-race between the old aristocracy and the upcoming bourgeoisie. (The side-effect of this arms race is ever-more refined tastes, intellectual as well as sensual.) The internet has put this signalling-logic on steroids, but the logic itself is recognizable. The book is worth a review, if there is a "classics" section.


....Norbert Elias is number four in the social science pantheon of elder-Gods by the way; he is sort-of what Maria Magdalena is to the trinity (Marx, Weber and Durkheim).

Apart from that: Impressive cultural Fingerspitsengefühl in this blog post.

If "the new-1970s" is what's in store, it would be...interesting.

Expand full comment

I think this vastly undervalues the demise of Gawker after being taken out by Peter Thiel in 2016. Gawker was not just one site, but many sites cross referencing each other in a hipster cacophony of pseudo-anti-capitalist ilk that only Ivy league educations can provide. The main beneficiary for all of the years leading up to 2016 was Jezebel, the feminist(ish) newsblog, that is one of the few remaining veterans of the Nic Denton side of the war. They were amplified by all the other Gawker sites fighting the man (I guess) and mentioning each other's stories, all in the heart of the NYC in a news world that was still reeling from the fact that online blogs were actually competing and putting out new content (gasp) hourly, not just daily. They clearly didn't care about fact checking that much, and had no qualms about being two-faced; so scruples were right out the window. And for all of the preceding years this article mentions, not coincidentally around the same time as Gawker's supremacy, gender as a topic, indeed, did rule the roost.

But Gawker was soundly defeated in March of 2016, and the writing was on the wall months and months before that. So the entire organization was already crumbling with the reporting jumping ship long before the final verdict of 100 kagillion in damages (might as well have been) actually came down. Jezebel was in disarray; defanged, declawed, and completely neutered. There was much less cross-referencing, much less money to go after even basic stories, a new implementation of selling face creams or some other product after every 2 articles for some reason, and less competent reporters to do write ups.

But more than all of that, the defeat of Gawker was the end of a kind of boldness. Denton had a massive fund to pay the legal bills and the first amendment to help him out. His basic strategy was to run up your legal bills while running out the clock. It's no wonder it took another billionaire to defeat him. The giant, slain, nobody is willing to go out on a limb like that anymore, not that that's a bad thing. It's much like being amazed at the crazy stuff your alcoholic friend gets up to and what a life of the party he is until he inevitably dies in the car crash.

The media landscape still hasn't recovered. Go look at Jezebel now. It's just sad. You want to pinch one of the writers' cheeks and say, "Aw, yes you are. You're a good little journalist, aren't you? You're not just a child blogger with a total at 18 semester hours in women's studies." And people figured out that Marcotte's anger is a schtick, cause a huge amount of your posts should be joyous and celebrations. And on and on. There's just no infrastructure today to amplify those voices like their was for those brief Gawker years. And I think that can't be overstated when considering why gender, at such a monumental time of a possible female presidency, failed to materialize as a genuine factor and gave way to race as the ascendant obsession.

Expand full comment

"I have not heard anything from the manosphere in like five years."

Here you go: http://theredquest.wordpress.com. A book, too!

Expand full comment

Minor, uncertain nitpick:

"And although early internet feminists had been limited to gnashing their teeth, once your movement controls the New York Times it turns out you can just arrange for things you don't like to disappear. 'Cancel culture' entered the vocabulary."

Google Trends seems to say it didn't become a part of the lexicon until 2019, which more closely matches my memory: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=cancel%20culture (Or maybe it was a more niche term that's only blown up recently and that swamps the pre-2019 data?)

Expand full comment

CORRECTION: "very serious movement white supremacist" should be "very serious white supremacist movement"

Expand full comment

are google trends results over time complicated by increased use of social media platforms ovr search engines?

Expand full comment

Generally this focuses on trends online and ignores broader societal context.

Also, trying to define socialists as anti-SJW is completely wrong because while some are, SJW thinkers (the ones who actually produce the ideas) are to a person anti-capitalist.

Expand full comment

So it has come to it.

Expand full comment

The waves may come and go, but the ground keeps rotting. I'd worry less about the current ideological mascots of the day staying on their pedestals for too long (it seems trans is already on its way out in Europe; I suspect this will take some 5 more years in the US), and more about the perspective that new pieties will emerge every five years, with an ever-worsening political climate, an ever-lessening tolerance for dissent and ever-progressing institutional corruption.

As an academic, I'm worried about campus in particular, and things like https://www.thefire.org/largest-ever-free-speech-survey-of-college-students-ranks-top-campuses-for-expression/ are making me sit on suitcases. It's not like academia is otherwise in good shape: what is the last innovation you can attribute to a university? (My previous one recently got into the news for pushing badly concealed security holes into Linux, for science of course.) No one believes in journalism any more (the opinion columns have moved to Substack, but that's the easy part); the FDA and the CDC have become laughing stocks; the CIA has decided that the C stands for Cringe (I know, a lot of you never trusted it in the first place, but quite a few people in the Russian intelligentsia were hoping for some institutional support); the kayfabe of American elections has been shattered (arguably a bipartisan success). If 10 years from now, the cool kids decide that black lives don't actually matter lol, the damage from years of authoritarian praxis won't magically disappear. The based right wing winning the conversation won't automatically fix our democratic institutions either, at least not by intention.

Culturally, the anti-elite movement does seem to be regaining steam -- that, or the progressives are losing theirs. The most intellectually satisfying thing I've seen on the internet in the last year was Niccolo Saldo's gonzo interview with Anna Khachiyan. Curtis Yarvin might have been the best writer in the last couple years. I don't take the policy ideas of either of these authors seriously and neither do they -- which is itself a political idea, perhaps one of their best. Almost every mainstream media outlet, while diligently policing the opinions of Twitter randos with 5 followers, can't help methodically destroying progressive holy cows in articles that end up among their most shared ( https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/24/us/smith-college-race.html , https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/05/liberals-covid-19-science-denial-lockdown/618780/ just to mention the first two that came to my mind). Hard to argue with click rates, it seems. This all doesn't compare remotely to the cultural explosion of the 60s, but is anything moving at all on the other side?

Of course, cultural renaissance does not guarantee political power in the future (otherwise, Weimar Germany would have become a liberal utopia), and it is more likely to give our existing institutions a coup de grace than to save them; but beggars can't be choosers and it's not like there's much to choose from these days...

Expand full comment

wokeness strength is its usefulness in office politics

feminism took over the government and the corporations through the HR departments

wokeness is using the DIE officer to do the same

and like prohibition and communism it is here to stay until it runs out of other peoples money

Expand full comment

"The second milestone was Jordan Peterson, who was an obvious step up in respectability beyond Milo. There was a really interesting period in 2016 when the media was trying to decide whether to unite in character-assassinating Peterson the same way it had character-assassinated all previous people in this space, or treat him as some sort of interesting and potentially sympathetic phenomenon, and it decided on the interesting phenomenon angle. After that, being anti-SJW lost about 90% of its stigma, to the point where people would roll their eyes instead of freaking out."

Reading this makes me feel like I fractured off into a different world than Scott around this time.

Expand full comment

The reference to John McCain is factually incorrect. He said it in 2000, not 2008. Second, he also made it very clear he was referring solely to the prison guards.

Expand full comment

The other big phenomenon to watch right now in terms of class overtaking race is the turn of a lot of centrist Democratic thinkers away from centering race based on political expediency - see David Shor, Matt Yglesias, Jonathan Chait etc

Expand full comment

The only thing this piece is missing is the rise of transgender ideology since 2013.

Expand full comment

This analysis doesn't fit the data.

You could approach this in one of two totally distinct ways, which Scott hasn't specified.

1. The total society-wide amount of internet conversation on these topics.

2. The internal conversations of a small subset of those people, the "vanguard' of internet conversation.

Scott's describing a bulk shift in conversation from atheism, to sexism, to racism. This is the society-wide version of a dinner table conversation changing topics. Each topic gets about the same volume of conversation at its peak, then gives way to some other subject.

However, Scott hasn't actually shown us that data. He shows us the way these topics build and peak within themselves, but doesn't compare their total volume.

If he did, it would show that racism > feminism > atheism, virtually always, since 2004. These proportions are mimicked in the number of NY Times articles mentioning these words from 2010-present (~13,000, 4,500, and 500, respectively).

"LGBTQ" was less popular than "feminism" until 2019, and has been significantly more popular since then.

"Transgender" has been more popular than all of these since 2014, with the exception of the Trump-Biden race era when racism was far and away the most popular.

Source: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=racism,feminism,atheism,transgender,LGBTQ

What I see isn't a shift in conversation topic. It's a permanent interest in racism and sexual orientation/gender issues. Google Trends can't capture any such shift among the internet vanguard (which seems like an outdated concept now).

From this perspective, New Atheism and feminism look like they just found a moment in the spotlight because they tied themselves to those persistent issues (New Atheism by beating up on Islam, feminism by offering a political theory to sort-of explain LGBTQ issues). They're weird anomalies, not at all comparable in terms of scale or persistence of societal interest.

Juxtaposing the tiny scale of atheism with Scott's huge interest in it makes me think that he's mostly interested in the shifting interests of his niche internet communities. This is fine, it just makes me think that Google Trends isn't a good way to study or interpret those changes.

Expand full comment

As someone who wasn't on the internet until 2016, this was a useful framing of the culture war thankyou :)

Also I would have imagined this being written for a left or apolitical audience, but it doesn't seem to be coded with those tribe signals. Was this a deliberate choice?

Expand full comment

Perhaps I'm not cool enough to have noticed the change in usage, but complaining about "cancel culture" is still coded unambiguously right-wing as far as I can tell. That is, raging about cancel culture seems to be something conservatives love to do, and I don't think I've encountered any examples of someone on the left sneering at woke people for "cancel culture." (Quite the contrary, it seems that many on the left are scared to call out "cancel culture," and that whenever they do so, they make sure to call it by a different name and clarify that they're not obsessed with "cancel culture" like those low-status reds.)

Was that a trend that was starting in 2019 when Scott first drafted the post, but which has since been derailed? I'm feeling pretty perplexed.

(The same mostly goes for "woke" -- looking up the term on Twitter, the complaints about woke people seem to come almost exclusively from the right. But I've indeed seen a few examples of people on the left using "woke" critically, so I could more easily imagine that there's a trend here I haven't picked up on.)

Expand full comment

I just hope the next cultural obsession is NOT psychedelics. We don't need another Timothy Leary ruining everything.

Expand full comment

The Alt Right didn’t organically die. It was decapitated from the top down, by powers much stronger than it. All of its leading figures were banned, deplatformed, or outright politically persecuted by the media and legal systems.

Expand full comment

For having sat on this for a year I'd hope you had have caught all the typos! But of course this is a longer one so fine, I forgive you.

>While this angle wasn't exactly ignored, it took obvious back burner to a massive and coverage-dominating debate over the possibility that Trump might be racist, based mostly on his position about immigration plus a few ambiguous remarks that he later denied _meaning_.

Think you mean that he later denied 'saying' or maybe denied the meaning behind the literal words that he said but the current phrasing is, ironically, ambiguous.

>I think if it fails, it will be because _every_ time they open their mouths, younger and cooler people will just roll their eyes and say "Woke!"

That word's just missing, I would also suggest deleting the comma after 'fails'

>I think "woke" and "cancel culture" encode ideas that have been _presence_ in anti-social-justice discourse from the beginning.

'present', obv.

Expand full comment

Scott, what do you think will happen when everyone has access to polygenic scores that accurately predict their educational achievement and other socioeconomic outcomes? When everyone can see that it’s not privilege or oppression that determined their outcomes, but innate genetic factors that affect intelligence and personality traits? And that “bad environments” are just places filled by people with unfavorable polygenic scores? I know you can already glean that from heritability data, but that's not very digestible for most people.

Expand full comment

This is an early take before I've read other people's comments.

Is it possible that a significant number of people are getting bored and/or tired of Social Justice? The emotional demands are considerable. Also, a new thing is fresh when it's new, and then it gets sedimented and repetitive.

One other possible angle is that more Social Justice people are realizing that taking the brakes off anger and malice wasn't actually a good idea. I haven't seen anyone frame it that way, but some of them are coming to realize that they've got a problem with twitter mobs and such.

There might be some Chesterton's Fence involved.

I'm pleased to see that "Helicopter Story" (previously "I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter") is on the Hugo Ballot, but there are probably people who have given up on writing fiction and/or publishing it because they don't want to face harassment.


For what it's worth, RaceFail (when Social Justice came to sf fandom in 2009) started out being about race with feminism added later.

Expand full comment

Re: PUA's - I don't think they actually disappeared, but rather that culture transitioned to Tinder in such a way that it became mainstream and accepted practice. Modern swiping dating apps enable everyone to take that sort of numbers/rejection driven approach to dating that the PUA scene were initially proponents of.

Expand full comment

One elephant in the room here is that most of the things described in this post have also happened to "Internet rationalism".

I don't consider that an indictment of rationalism, though. As the post implies, it seems like the Internet has become less hospitable to serious talk in general (civil or not, though the civil stuff was the first to go). Most of the memetic bandwidth these days goes toward irony, in the form of either performative silliness ("gamestonks!") or overt consumerist artificiality ("please like and subscribe!").

Expand full comment

My perspective is more top down: that the Great Awokening emerged out of the strategic needs of the Democratic Party (and its allied media) to assemble and keep together a "Coalition of the Margins" who personally identify with the marginalized of historical America, as opposed to the Republican Party, which tends to represent voters who identify with the "Core" of American history such as married straight white men (e.g., the more you are like George Washington, the more likely you are to be a Republican).

The obvious problem with the Democratic strategy is the likelihood of the disparate Coalition of the Fringes turning on each other in internecine strife, which can explain why the Democratic-aligned media stokes so much hatred against straight white men as the one unifying thing the Democratic coalition can agree upon.

Spotted Toad coined the term "The Great Awokening" around 2016 for the late Obama age development. It's a clever play on the "The Great Awakening," a religious revival among American colonist Protestants in the 1730s-40s.

The main fronts of the The Great Awokening have been feminism, racism, and transgenderism, with transgenderism eventually undermining feminism.

The first three years of the Obama Administration were largely quiet on these fronts, with the court push for gay marriage being the main activity.

Obama, personally, is not enthusiastic about feminism: his big complaints about his life are that he didn't have his dad around and that his single mother chose to emphasize her career over caring for him. In the 150,000

In early 2012 the Obama Administration revived feminism, which had been largely dormant since feminist organizations stood by Bill Clinton during his sexual harassment scandal, as part of its re-election campaign (e.g., The Life of Julia).

Black anger at whites re-emerged about the same time with the first of the BLM martyrs, Trayvon Martin, which Obama then chose to validate with his "son I never had" comment. (Of course, it turned out that George Zimmerman was a tri-racial Hispanic who looked rather like the son Obama might have had with his half-white / half-Japanese 1980s girlfriend if she hadn't twice turned down his proposals.)

I didn't see transgenderism coming until May 2013, when I first noticed the mounting drumbeat of New York Times articles pushing transgender rights, such as the right of MMA fighter Fallon Foxx to beat up women for money.

Eventually, from Ferguson onward, blacks pushed women out of the starring role in the Great Awokening, while transgenders undermined lesbian feminists.

#MeToo, with its Clintonite arch-villain Harvey Weinstein, was due to Hillary losing in 2016. But most of the #MeToo bad guys have turned out to be Democrats, which isn't good for the Democrats, so the narrative has sputtered. In contrast, cops are assumed to be straight white men (even when they aren't), so BLM's narrative has been valued for its on-the-noseness.

On the other hand, the huge increase in murders and looting during the racial reckoning since George Floyd's death is alienating components of the Democratic coalition, such as Hispanics and urban gay male shop owners. After Biden's huge success with white suburban parents fall, the transgender movement is perhaps beginning to pose problems for soccer moms and dads, although that is more speculative.

In general, politics tends toward 50-50 splits (with contemporary Israel, where perhaps more talent goes into electoral politics than in any other country, being an amusing example: four elections in a row without a clear winner). So, the Democratic strategy, while it has enjoyed some successes, is also generating its own downsides.

Expand full comment

Also, I find it ridiculous how you chalk 4Chan becoming right wing to “irony gone wrong”. What actually happened is that our society has become openly and rabidly anti-White, pro-LGBT, and pro-feminism. 4Chan was the board where people could discuss this openly and without censorship. Thus, it became right wing.

Any place that isn’t censored will become right wing on race and gender issues, because we’re RIGHT.

Expand full comment

>Maybe it was even partly due to naivete - a lot of people hadn't really met anyone who thought differently from them before, and assumed that changing people’s minds would be really easy.

cf. Demosthenes & Locke

Expand full comment

"the New Atheists probably could have done without the Malachi 2:3-related-merchandise"

Shoulda gone with Ezekiel 23:20 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ezekiel%2023&version=ESV

"It also tracks whether you like NASCAR, football, SUVs, meth, and country music, vs. Broadway musicals, artisanal cupcakes, Priuses, marijuana, and local journalism."

But what if I dislike all these, or at least most of them? I don't much like country music but I also don't much like Broadway musicals. NASCAR, SUVs and meth? No, but equally artisanal cupcakes, Priuses and marijuana no.

"A naive prediction: our cultural obsession with race has a time limit. At some point, like our obsessions with religion and gender before it, it will become so overdone and pathetic that people will switch to a new hobbyhorse."

This makes sense for me of the new emphasis on trans activism/trans rights/trans issues. We've had sex (feminism, men vs. women) and class and race, now the new cycle is going to be about gender, from "please put your preferred pronouns in this email signature line" to "banning puberty blockers for minors" and trans athletes (mostly trans women competing in women's sports at the moment, but I'm sure there are trans men athletes out there as well and I expect to hear more about them). The trend(iness) is the one thing that explains to me "how the heck did we get here from there in so short a time?" about these issues.

Expand full comment

I've written extensively about the Death of Atheism - see here https://skepticink.com/prussian/2018/12/08/the-death-of-atheism/ - and it's dispiriting that Scott still seems Not To Get It.

Don't get me wrong - he's not wrong about this trajectory of fashion. What he keeps leaving out is that there are things that simply aren't affected by fashion, have no interest in it. Here's the thing that really, truly killed New Atheism:


"What's the motto of the American Atheist? There is no god but Allah." Hip, posturing young people discovered that if they wanted to stand against religion, they might actually have to take some risk, do something that wasn't signaling. And that was the end of that.

(Poor Christopher Hitchens. He actually thought all that stuff about solidarity and internationalism was believed. He really thought his audience was capable of standing for something.)

This article treats the subject of Islam as though it's another trend - people can talk about it or not, whatever. Tell it to the Yazidi. Tell it to the Nigerian Christians who were subject to another massacre two days ago. Tell it to the UK teacher who is now under fear of his life for showing a cartoon of you-know-who.

So there is an oppressive orthodoxy on the rise that will take over most or all of the cultural institutions you know - and it won't be mocked or shamed out of power, because anyone who tries has a good chance of a cut throat.

There really are forces in this world that are unaffected by fashion or trends.

Expand full comment

You can make anything appear like a trend by selectively citing examples. Your Google Trend data isn't this and is worth discussing on its own terms, but a lot of this post is just you overweighing on your personal experiences, whatever caught your interest at the time, etc.

A bunch of people have already pointed out your date error on McCain. George Allen's "macaca" comment got lot of attention in his 2006 Senate race so it wasn't that the media was just uninterested in racist comments around this time. There were specific reasons "gook" wasn't a big issue for McCain in 2008.

As for the IDW and anti-sjws: you cite one article from 2014 and one article from 2018 on a completely different topic (are any of the IDWers even members of the manosphere?) and say there's been some major change. I don't buy it. The core idea of the NYT IDW article--that liberals are suppressing discussion of important ideas by invoking social justice concerns--has been a common one in the media for as long as I can remember. Here's a NYT anti-sjw article from 2014 to pick just one of many examples: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/opinion/egan-the-commencement-bigots.html

Expand full comment

This view of "wokeness as fashion" would explain the otherwise non-obvious role of Hollywood in the wokeness and feminism trends. If anything, the job of Hollywood actors is to be "cool".

Expand full comment

Interesting to note that of the movements you mention, only new atheism has failed to garner corporate endorsement.

Expand full comment

Zach Goldberg does a lot of quantitative studies of word usage during the Great Awokening:


The New York Times usage graphs in this article come from another scholar, but I'm not sure if he wants a high profile or not at the present.

Expand full comment

why was 10 months chosen?

Expand full comment

New Atheism had a lot to do with the born-again George W. Bush's victories in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Also, after 9/11 it was a way to be anti-Islam while claiming to be anti-religion or anti-Christian.

Expand full comment

I was very interested and involved with Israel advocacy/politics during the late oughts. I feel like I observed the seeds of what became the "great awokening" much earlier than it entered most people's world. Frankly, I feel like opposition to Israel was one of the first flash points for this development. Fortunately, I believe (likely with 2016 creating new battle grounds) Israel lost its salience in the "anti-Western" fight.

From a similar time period, I really thought the mindset behind the Occupy Wall Street would be more enduring and it really fizzled out. When I think of the people I know who were sympathetic to the movement, in 2021 - I think they would all hold similar views, but the priority has definitely been overtaken by an infinite number of woke-related causes. Of course, the great post-recession economic growth likely had a lot to do with this.

For what it's worth - I think we've already reached peak "woke". I think people often look at recent trends and extrapolate too quickly. I believe we are in the process of starting a new equilibrium on these issues. The spread of a lot of this rhetoric could only grow when people weren't familiar with it. To be specific, nobody wants to be seen an soft on racism or injustice, so there was a long period of time where those unacquainted with the movement would be silent or go along with it because they thought it was innocuous. By 2021, every single person, no matter how "online" they are, is familiar with wokism. I am not trying to express my personal thoughts - I truly believe most people in the West do not support most of the popular Woke talking points and have started responding accordingly.

Expand full comment

Very interesting but I think I disagree with the final section. Social fashion doesn't work like the mechanism of a clock and things like covid, Floyd and measurement issues as young and old use different social media (and we are no longer young).

As far as invading traditional institutions, that mostly misses the point. It's not about the people. The NYT reporting staff hasn't turned over thaf much in the past 15 years and I bet the new hires for feminism are now reporting on racial issues. I don't know what the next fashion will be but I'm skeptical you retain cultural dominance just because you got some people in a few positions of leadership places. They were never loyal to the idea anyway and will change allegiance with the next big thing.

Expand full comment

Your point on 4chan feels spot on to me. My gut is that we underweight the impact that the ooze of 4chan memes and ideas has had on the last decade of geopolitics. I really don't think we get a Trump victory without 4chan.

Expand full comment

I've always thought the perfect example of the so-called "power" of internet feminism was Donglegate. A woman at a tech conference got annoyed with the guys in front of her constantly making dick jokes (during a presentation at a professional conference), and used the method established by the convention to ask for help (the convention, for some godforsaken reason, had made the ONLY way of doing this was to send them a tweet). Other people saw this tweet, starting mocking the men, and they basically became the whipping boys of the internet for a few weeks. Almost certainly made them miserable for a while, but they also had thousands of people commiserating and supporting them, and they suffered absolutely zero real-world consequences because of it. Their companies proudly came out and said they stood behind their employees.

The woman who started all this with that original tweet, though? She was fired, explicitly because of this, and nobody would hire her again, because she was too 'controversial'. Remember, all she did was follow the explicitly laid out rules of the convention, and her life was utterly ruined. Not just that, the whole incident was used, for YEARS, as proof of how ridiculous internet feminists were, how they were mad with power. Scott himself even used it in his old blog as an example of how they used internet outrage to solve their problems and try to get other people fired, a pretty prime case of irony, since this was almost the exact opposite of that, in every respect.

Expand full comment

Among other things, this post really clarified for me the character arc of Stormfront in the TV show The Boys. (Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the show, though how spoilery can it really be when a character is literally named STORMFRONT?) I was initially confused about why the show introduced a hip, ultra-woke young feminist (we like those, right...?) but then made her not only the number one bad guy but an actual 100% swastikas-and-great-race-theory Nazi! But that choice makes so much sense in the context of the shift in Internet attention/obsession from feminism to “white feminism” to racism. My guess is this makes perfect sense to an audience of a certain age/cultural affiliation in today’s time, but will be unintelligible to audiences in 10-20 years. And now I’m wondering if I’ve seen other character portrayals in popular media from other eras that reveal analogous cultural norm shifts and just completely missed the context...

Expand full comment

The internet and mainstream are more mixed up now. The mainstream absorbs internet culture much faster, and also tries to control and influence it (through pressure on companies that centralize the discourse). So something has to give. Either the mainstream starts to change faster and also follows the next trend away from wokeness, or people flock away from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and all of these "platforms" that mainstream controls more and more and thinks of them as representative of internet culture. Or not. Meh

Expand full comment

Alternatively, maybe new atheism, new feminism, new socialism, new anti racism actually won?

Not won in the sense that they demolished their enemy and drove them to the hills, that obviously hasn't happened. But won in the sense that they managed to shift social norms considerably and ran against diminishing returns. I remember Dawkins arguing that being an atheist was considered a greater fault than just about anything else. That isn't the case anymore. The wage gap certainly exists, but cat calling mostly does not, neither does slut shaming. UBI is seriously talked about in political and economical circles. And, you know, a cop actually got convicted of killing someone on the job.

Expand full comment

Re: 4chan, I never have really bought the "ironic racism -> true racism" pipeline, and have been thinking about it a bit. I do post on forums with actual, sincere racists, and ironic racist jokes, and there are two major factors here that lead me to believe that this is not the actual effect in play:

1. If you post on these kinds of boards, you can *very very easily* tell the difference between the ironic racism and the regular racism. I post regularly on a fairly high-traffic, very low-moderation board with an active userbase (as in, users online at any one time) in the hundreds. Some people make racist posts that are unironic (I remember vividly one Australian complaining about aboriginals huffing gas fumes causing them to change the mix and raise gas prices) and some people make "racist" posts that are clearly not representing any actual racial animus (referring to an upper manager praising their "heroic" finance department as a "chinese jew woman boss"). If you have experience with these posts, it is very very easy to differentiate the person lolling at a trans man who, post-HRT, can no longer bear to ask his female friends "is your sister coming" and getting a ten minute rambling digression that doesn't answer the question, and the person who is saying "I want to slam a pickaxe into a woman's head".

2. I *have* seen a similar infection play its course in communities that very clearly are not about ironic racism: r/stupidpol is literally a left-wing Marxist sub for people who are basically anti-SJW, and it has a major right wing infection that they try to compensate for but continues because it's one of the few subreddits where you can talk about culture war issues without the subreddit being shut down or being banned by mods for wrongthink.

I think the *actual* effect mechanism is a long-term witch refugee crisis. If you like forums which are low moderation environments, where you can pretty much shoot the shit without worrying about the moderators coming in because you call the route to properly take valuable materials in a video game the "Jewperhighway", then you will inevitably have the lunatic right wingers ("gas the Jews" types, as you put it elsewhere) come in because they have been banned from every other fucking website on the internet, and even if they are on those other websites, they will not post about being lunatic right wingers on them (because it is against the rules), only on your website (because, even if you don't like racists, you think it is more important to maintain the low moderation environment than to get rid of the racists).

4chan, also, isn't *that* right wing. /pol/ is, but people on the other boards hate them. For example, on /tg/, the term "/pol/tard" gets used about twice as often as the term libtard, and at a quick skim of recent posts via desuarchive (compare https://desuarchive.org/tg/search/text/%2Fpol%2Ftard/ and https://desuarchive.org/tg/search/text/libtard), the uses of /pol/tard are much more hostile than libtard.

Expand full comment

Maybe if being old was cooler than being young, the cycles would stop. Now, the new cooler young people adopt whatever ideas and causes to signal their coolness. But after some years, the ideas get sticky and become part of identities, and brains harden. If being older was the cooler thing to be, older people still wouldn't be constantly changing, and younger people would catch up (instead of saying stuff like "ok, boomer" to signal that older people know nothing because they are old or something).

Humm, isn't it cooler to be older at least the many first years of school? I wonder if anything would be significantly different if kids thought the older kids were less cool than themselves, and the kids one year below were cooler.

Expand full comment

"Nowadays, with the media controlled by a clone army of Ivy Leaguers whose brains have been processed into excellence-flavored mush"

It's weird that you would say this when just a week or so ago you were complaining about David Harvey using "dramatic adjectives". Can you give a reason why you have completely reversed your position on dramatic descriptions, Scott?

Expand full comment

I do need to say this about Richard Spencer - he and his collection of tiki-torch carrying nitwits aren't scary, not to anyone who's seen the real thing. Real Nazis - yes, they are still around, please google "Herbert Schweiger" - would eat this guy for breakfast.

Expand full comment

Did you consider that another reason why a particular issue might fall out of fashion is because one side obtains total victory? Female suffrage is no longer a remotely salient `culture war' issue. Nor is gay marriage. Might some of your examples fall in this category?

Expand full comment

So, you're basically saying that the only ones who can put us out of SJW misery are socialists?

*proceeds to scream incoherently for ten minutes*

Expand full comment

Re argument culture versus echo culture, something was lost in the transition. I remember forums before then, where atheists and Christians could argue over politics in one thread and then bond over their shared love for whatever hobby or cultural artifact in another. Despite all the viciousness you could still see people on the other side as human beings.

Now echo culture is universal, and if someone disagrees with you on an important issue they're irredeemably evil and should be banned. And this applies even to groups discussing apolitical topics. SSC/ACX is one of the few places where diverse views are welcome, and you can talk to someone on the other side of the divide at all. (At least, someone who admits to being on the other side... there are probably a lot of problematic people hiding their views to stay in the good graces of their hosts elsewhere.)

Maybe social media platforms where your account follows you around everywhere accelerated this shift from the days of independent forums, although LiveJournal was around in those days and it wasn't this bad.

Expand full comment

I think you're right about half of this: the left is trying to outcompete itself on adopting the most extreme views to signal the most care for the most marginalized people. I don't entirely hate this: there are worse things to compete about than empathy. But like with all cliques it becomes more and more exclusionary until it's no longer about whatever it's about, it's just about keeping up with the Joneses. counter-signaling becomes valuable.

The part where I think you're wrong - dangerously so, is in the response. It's not that MRAs appeared to combat feminism, the whole thing culminated in Gamergate, and when feminism lost mainstream credibility, MRAs faded too.

It's that there is a group of disaffected, idle, unemployable (or at least un-advanceable), unmarriageable young men in this country. They flit from reactionary ideology to reactionary ideology, searching for a way to give their lives meaning. They mainly want to get a rise, or at least get *noticed* by mainstream culture.

So they join MRA/PUA groups - until 90% of them realize that the leadership of those groups just truly, deeply hates women and literally wants them to die. They don't want to be part of that so they go on to join Gamergate. When the doxxing and the threats start having significant consequences, 90% of them eff off. Then they move on to Milo and his shared appearances with Spencer. They think it's fun to get a rise out of the overly sanctimonious by appropriating nazi symbolism. Then Charlottesville happens and they suddenly realize that they've joined an actual white supremacist movement. They leave in droves: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/12/brotherhood-of-losers/544158/

They support Trump because he angers people but then people storm the Capitol and the boys back off. But every day some of them become radicalized - by Q, or by Spencer before him, or by redpill before that.

Internet culture is two groups - one looking to control all discourse, and the other looking to be heard by any means necessary. And more and more this fight isn't taking place online.

Expand full comment

Sounds like one way to tone down the current discourse around race would be to give black people worse Internet connections.

Expand full comment

I really don't think that the emergent "dirtbag left" group is going to have much influence or staying power. On the outside looking in, they all seem to effectively be liberals who are also leftists. They don't FOCUS on what we see as more purely liberal topics, but they tow the line in accordance with the liberals they claim to hate, or at least they will if they're confronted. Woke opinions are the anchor when determining if someone is left or right, roughly speaking. A guy who thinks "the gays" are annoying and thinks blacks are a little too uppity but has memorized the communist manifesto immediately is viewed as right, not left.

Expand full comment

I buy entirely the notion that these waves follow the same laws as fashion in clothing. In his novel, "The Joke", Milan Kundera describes the passion for socialism among youth in Czechoslovakia as having been nothing more than the fashion of the times. Eventually, the fad passes, and people who used to care passionately about socialism no longer do because it falls out of fashion.

But if political fashions follow the same psychological laws, so to speak, as for fashion in clothes, shouldn't we give up on trying to predict what's next? The trendsetters will set the trends, but those trendsetters will be young people we haven't heard of yet. Seems the best we could do is spot the next trend early in its development, as opposed to predicting it before it starts.

Expand full comment

I've discovered this blog quite recently so missed your writing on these subjects before, but I really find your summary of the feminist blogs of that time seems to not really get where they were even coming from.

Virtually all of your summaries of their points seem loaded and not really accurate (for instance, I see "Sealioning" as having more to do with relentlessly and tediously pursing an unwelcome argument and feeling that your civil tone entitles you to do that, and JAQing off as the bad faith tactic of packaging opinions you don't want to outright defend in questions).

I also don't think the concept of creepy sexual approaches is that hard to understand even if it's hard to articulate concrete rules, and it mostly just has to do with making an effort to and being able to gauge when a woman will welcome it. Which is hard for some men, and that sucks, but I guess most dating is on apps now that make it much simpler.

There may have been lots wrong with those blogs and lots of overreaching as there tends to be on the internet, but this post reads like you got so invested in these arguments you're not able to even present the other side in a way that it would recognize as an accurate depiction of its views, which seems like a real departure from your usual style. Either that or you and they were really talking past each other and you don't get their point of view at all.

Expand full comment

"How did the counterculture eventually win, and the patriotic/Christian amalgam civil religion of the 1950s - 1990s eventually collapse?"

French intellectuals mostly believe the counterculture won the culture war way back in 1968 and what has followed is a working out of the implications of 1968. For example, in America, feminism was reborn in 1969, as was gay liberation, environmentalism, affirmative action and much else.

But then, what caused 1968?

The most striking suggestion I've seen is that it was the result of Vatican II in the early 1960s. In 1960, the Catholic Church was riding high doing what it had long done, with an Irish Catholic even being elected President of the United States. Suddenly, the new Pope launched a conclave to modernize the Church, what my correspondent labeled in tennis terminology an "unforced error" on the part of the Vatican.

By removing the chief institutional weight in favor of reaction, Vatican II shifted the balance point of everything to the left. For example, Hollywood had long been intimidated by the power of the Catholic clergy to order their parishioners to boycott movies of which they disapproved: thus the saying that American movies of the mid-20th Century were made by Jews about Protestants for Catholics.

Catholic censorship soon vanished after Vatican II and movies had changed dramatically by the end of the 1960s.

Expand full comment

"I'm not sure when racial issues completely eclipsed gender-related ones, but it must have happened by 2016."

The 2017 Women's march was the largest single day protest in US history. It seems weird to not even mention it here and doesn't fit this timeline very well. I do think that by the end of the Trump admin the 'torch had been passed', but I think the early Trump era was still very much about gender issues.

Expand full comment

My brief history of Feminism's rise and fall and rise etc etc.

Feminism was a powerful force in the English-speaking Protestant world 110 years ago, winning two huge triumphs right after WWI: women's suffrage and prohibition. The former didn't have much immediate effect, but the latter was seen as a huge mistake, especially artists, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews. The culturally dominant intellectuals and entertainers of the mid-20th Century, such as H.L. Mencken, blamed women for prohibition, so feminism became unfashionable for about a half century.

Finally, feminism came roaring back in 1969 along with so many other post-1968 movements. This time it was hugely and rapidly successful at opening up jobs to women, so much so that by the late 1970s it had largely won.

At that point, feminism slowly, quietly declined in fashion, until it was revived in October 1991 by Democrats to keep Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court in the Anita Hill brouhaha.

But as I pointed out in December 1992, if sexual harassment is to be defined as making any unwanted advances, surely President Elect Bill Clinton will eventually run into a sexual harassment scandal even though, from all I've heard from people in Arkansas, a strikingly high percentage of his advances turned out to be wanted.

Indeed, Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against Clinton led him to lie under oath about Monica Lewinsky (for which he was disbarred), which led to his impeachment. At that point, organized feminism backed Clinton for reasons. But it was all pretty humiliating to feminists and they were not very fashionable up through 2011, especially under Obama, who resented his single mother choosing her career over taking care of him. In general, the first three years of Obama's first term were rather conservative, other than the gay marriage push. As I predicted in my 2008 book on Obama, he would play it safe on social issues until his second term.

But then in early 2012, the Obama re-election campaign re-launched feminism, arguing that Republicans would ban contraception and promoting their Life of Julia ad about how being a single mother married to the state was cool.

With Obama safely re-elected and Democrats feeling triumphalist over how the growth of diversity would permanently crush Republicans, the Obama Administration and the prestige press launched various Great Awokening campaigns. For example, in 2013 the White House, Democrats in Congress, and the New York Times worked together to promote a moral panic over Rape on Campus. This led, among much else, to the 2014 Rolling Stone hate hoax about fraternity initiation ritual gang rape on broken glass, because who could possibly doubt such a story that confirmed everything we'd been hearing from the White House and the press for the last two years?

But feminism got squeezed by BLM wanting blacks to be the undisputed top dog among the diverse. And while #MeToo was big for awhile, eventually it was noticed that most of the bad guys it was exposing, like Harvey Weinstein, were Democrats.

And transgenderism emerged from 2013 onward and undercut traditional lesbian feminism, telling tomboys that the problem was less that men were unfair to women than that they were really men.

So, feminism has gone thru a rough patch recently. But now the Democrats have control of the White House again and the media is more party lineish than ever. So it would hardly be surprising if feminism makes yet another comeback, probably under black female leadership.

Expand full comment

Feminist groups online have generally pivoted to focus on trans issues. I think this is the missing part of the analysis. I was a reader of the feminist website The Toast until it was shut down. The commentariat migrated to a group Slack. The Slack focused on all women's issues at first, but, as time went on, it became more and more focused on trans issues. Eventually, it got to the point where members were forbidden from using terms as trivial as "lady parts" to refer to their own body parts, to saying more weighty things such as "cis women are oppressed differently from trans women, and their experiences are not always equivalent." A lot of women fled the group. It eventually tore itself to pieces over moderation disputes. I have not found any feminist spaces in the last few years that do not center trans issues. Groups that do focus on cis women's issues are often banned from their platforms. I think this is why you see the decline in the use of feminism terms.

Expand full comment

I admire your stamina in attempting to analyze each of these rage-fads on its own merits. I certainly wouldn't have that energy. These all strike me as epiphenomena, sparks thrown off by our millenarial culture -- we're *always* discovering some new epic urgent Manichaen struggle and flinging ourselves into it. It's been going on for 2+ centuries. Once we burn a few witches we get over it (until the next burningly urgent crusade presents itself).

Expand full comment

What your describing sounds a lot like the premise of the book The Rebel Sell. Back then the big thing was corporate globalism rather than racism, but I'm sure that will come back eventually too.


Expand full comment

(This part is wild speculation)

I think the reason we aren't seeing a new movement replacing New Racism is because the energy that would have gone to New Replacement is instead going to corona virus related battles. Since everybody from the left believes it is a temporary thing, it isn't able to replace New Racism. But it can suck some of the energy from it and it's replacements. But I think it can count as a cultural war since it shows the same dogmaism the other cultural wars have. It seems it is not enough to follow just the letter and spirit of the rules from health officials, but you need to default to liking the lockdown as well. You can get away from it with a well-crafted post that shows you're still on the right team, but forgetting to do that is going to draw criticism.

I noticed in Canada that the left jumped immediately criticizing the right for refusing to wear masks, thinking it's a hoax, thinking it is an elaborate scheme to implement socialism. I also noticed, that this happened before the Canadian right adopted the ideas. They did get there a month or two later, but initially the Canadian right did go along with government guidance. It was only after it was clear that this was going to be a political issue in Canada two that they began denying it.

That looks like culture war to me.

(Less speculative stuff)

> And so I predicted that hip young people would go far-right

> ...

> But overall I was wrong.

Jonathan Haidt's moral foundations which he talks about in The Righteous Mind has become my hammer to all political nails.

I think it should have led this prediction to seem unlikely since hip young people would still prioritize the care/harm moral and thus you should expect them to come up with some new leftist thing. Of course, I never came to that conclusion when reading your Right is the New Left post. I think I was just hopeful it could be true and that some sort of bleeding-heart-libertarian thing could be next.

I wonder if this cycle of culture wars is due to how singly focus the US left is on care/harm. This might be a surprise to those who haven't read the book (it was a surprise to me) but Haidt states that the US left is the most extreme rhetorically: they focus on care/harm to the exclusion of other values moreso than the left in the rest of The West. I wonder if they are pushing so hard on just care/harm that things start to get weird. I think this is similar to how if you pushed on just utilitarianism, things start to get weird.

Expand full comment

Thank you for being civil on the internet since at least 2010.

But as for the alleged rise and fall of online culture, or the Social Justice manifestation thereof, I don't see how you can do this sort of analysis without also including LGBT activism. The simple model is that LG activism had its own time in the sun, as big in its day as atheism and not too far behind feminism and antiracism, and than now transgender activism is working up steam to become the Next Big Socially Just Thing when antiracism runs its course. Transgender activism gives Social Justice another four years as Champions of the Oppressed, which should be enough time to figure out what comes next. I can only guess as to what that will be.

The simple model is almost certainly wrong, but it also almost certainly isn't made up out of thin air and to be ignored as irrelevant. It has certainly played a significant role in the recent past of Social Justice, and may play a role in its future, so I want to think some more about that before I just write off Social Justice on the grounds that people have gotten bored with atheism and feminism and are getting bored with antiracism so that's the end of it. And, being selfish and lazy, "I want to think some more" comes with a big side order of "I want you to think some more and write it up".

Expand full comment

I think "woke" might be nearing the end of its lifespan. I see it in the Wall Street Journal almost every day, usually by middle-aged conservatives griping about some trivial culture war issue. It's gotten to the point where I reflexively roll my eyes every time I see or hear the word.

Expand full comment

Well, I tried to read all the comments but at a certain point I can use the time to finish reading them or write a response. So apologies if someone mentioned this (Steve didn't, which surprised me).

So first--and this is probably obvious, but no one has mentioned it--there's a whole hell of a lot to online culture, and this is just a tiny piece of it. It's a tiny piece that now has taken over elite discourse, which for years it hadn't, but it's still a tiny bit.

I've been online for 24 years, and for most of that time I was blissfully unaware of all of this. I was in Political Internet, and there was almost no overlap. You could be happily in political internet and never know about gamergate, atheism, or all the various histories mentioned here. Hell, you could be in Knitter Internet or Cat Video Internet or Adopting Korean Children Internet and you wouldn't have to care the tiniest bit about any of this. I've been reading Steve Sailer for years with all the HBD stuff and we never touched any of this crap. Kevin Drum. National Review. Salon and Slate, back when they existed. In fact, the reason that a lot of newspaper media sites ended comments was because people segmented the threads into what they were interested in, and there were approximately a billion sites that were blissfully clueless about all this crap.

I don't have a narrow focus. I read a lot of random stuff even if I don't converse on it. And yet I didn't learn of many of the things here until relatively recently. (It is utterly hysterical, not in a good way, that Scott Aaronson wrote all that nonsense, that Marcotte savaged him, that Aaronson then went in and edited his nonsense endlessly, and that Scott Alexander is still pissed off about it years later. My god, people.) All throughout the Internet were tons of people discussing things that had nothing to do with this. The stuff mentioned here wasn't central, wasn't more important. It was just your stuff.

What changed recently, of course, is that the elite media has become obsessed with it too, and the asymmetrical nature of cancellations is forcing other areas to follow suit. So now it's hard in certain venues to talk politics or knitting or cat videos without some idiot coming in and making it all about transgender or race. There's been plenty of talk about this switch and I won't belabor it.

But I will mention the fact that it's only certain venues.

Because for all that Scott used the word "race" a zillion times, he neglects to mention that every single issue he wrote about is a White People Thang. Yes, even race.

All of this debate is taking place entirely within the media world, and that's mostly white world. This site is an overwhelmingly white site.

At the same time, you ignore the fact that if you take out non-whites from your data, it turns out you were right. 53% of white kids 18-29 voted for Trump. And when you consider that there is next to no overlap in "cool" by race (some by class, but not much), it *did* become "hip" for the young in the only audience Scott writes for to become Republican.

Take the "no Hispanics think of themselves as Latinx" datapoint and multiply it by a million. Everything under discussion here is of primary interest to white people. They are, still, the ones who set the discourse in America.

So debating things in terms of woke and not-woke is a white people thing. Ask blacks about issues, and they're more likely to be "George Floyd was killed" majority vs "It's time these knuckleheads stopped resisting arrest" skeptics and "close down Stuyvesant because it's all for Asians" vs "kids should do their damn homework" and there's just no big conversation about transgender. I really wish there was more talk among African Americans about immigration, because they are hurt badly by it, but oh well.

Ask Asians about issues and the longer they've been in the US the more they'll track like whites. Same with Hispanics. Both groups are too large to capture in a few debates (South Asians are almost entirely ignored, really, in comparison to East Asians, while we really don't yet know the full impact of all the South Americans coming here as opposed to Central as opposed to Mexico)l.

Anyway. No real point to make other than that most of you are so.....white. And that's so true of most people right and left in this debate. They all live and think in whitey mcwhite world, marshmallow land. Even when presumably they have some, you know, nonwhites they go to lunch with and stuff.

Expand full comment

4chan is more pluralistic than I think most people give it credit for. I think it’s weird to treat it like a monoculture the same way it would be weird to treat twitter or reddit that way. My understanding is that the *really* edgy trolls and alt-right thinking is mostly isolated to the /b/ and /pol/ boards.

Expand full comment

I think that, with enough charity, this post is pretty fair to all the sides involved. However, the tone clearly shows that Scott identifies with the New Atheism faction and not with the New Feminism or New Antiracism factions. That's not a bad thing, and almost every critique in the article of New Feminism or New Antiracism I agree with.

But a lot of introspection on my part has resulted in my realization that there's a lot of good in these movements, and I hope that we can take a lot from them even as fashion discards them. Society isn't nearly as secular as I would like it to be in the wake of New Atheism, and I doubt society will be as feminist as I would like it to be in the wake of New Feminism, and while it's too soon to tell for New Antiracism, I doubt that will fix our problems either.

The other side of it is that of course these movements are filled with bullies. New Atheism was probably also filled with bullies, but I don't remember them because those bullies never targeted me. I never saw their behavior. I never was part of forums where their behavior was discussed.

I think that taking the outside view here is important. We -- rationalists -- may not always be a part of the dominant social movement. We may even be the targets of it. But being a rationalist means being able to look at the person screaming at you for being a creep hitting on girls and think, "What is the strongest form of their argument? Huh, maybe there is a societal problem where women cannot determine whether or not a stranger hitting on them is a threat, and that it might be rational to be afraid of being hit on even if there's only a 1 in 100 chance of suffering reprisal."

I'm still working through that with New Antiracism. The stuff they say seems obviously, crazily wrong. But I will try to understand their perspective before dismissing their conclusions.

Expand full comment

"Watch this YouTuber DESTROY SJWs using FACTS and LOGIC". Once the very idea of trying to use facts or logic to disprove a movement becomes cringeworthy, how can it fail?

Well, Wokism really does reject facts and logic. The essay "No, the Woke Won’t Debate You. Here’s Why" explains why.

Bailey’s point is clear: the usual tools by which we identify provisional truths and settle scholarly disagreements are part of the hegemonically dominant system that, by definition, cannot be sufficiently radical to create real revolutionary change (a “third-order” change, as Dotson has it). That is, they can’t reorder society in the radical way they deem necessary. The belief, as both scholars explain in different ways, is that to play by the existing rules (like conversation and debate as a means to better understand society and advance truth) is to automatically be co-opted by those rules and to support their legitimacy, beside one deeper problem that’s even more significant.

The deeper, more significant aspect of this problem is that by participating in something like conversation or debate about scholarly, ethical, or other disagreements, not only do the radical Critical Social Justice scholars have to tacitly endorse the existing system, they also have to be willing to agree to participate in a system in which they truly believe they cannot win. This isn’t the same as saying they know they’d lose the debate because they know their methods are weak. It’s saying that they believe their tools are extremely good but not welcome in the currently dominant system, which is a different belief based on different assumptions. Again, their game is not our game, and they don’t want to play our game at all; they want to disrupt and dismantle it.

Their analysis would insist that their methods aren’t weak; it’s that the dominant system treats them unfairly. By being forced to participate in the dominant system, they therefore believe, they’re being cheated of the full force of their cause. To them, if we set the legitimization of the system part aside, to engage in scholarly conversation or debate is like a boxer stepping into an MMA match in which kicks, punches, throwing, and grappling are all on the table for the MMA fighter whereas gloved punches are the only thing the boxer is allowed to use, only far worse.

Debate and conversation, especially when they rely upon reason, rationality, science, evidence, epistemic adequacy, and other Enlightenment-based tools of persuasion are the very thing they think produced injustice in the world in the first place. Those are not their methods and they reject them. Their methods are, instead, storytelling and counter-storytelling, appealing to emotions and subjectively interpreted lived experience, and problematizing arguments morally, on their moral terms. Because they know the dominant liberal order values those things sense far less than rigor, evidence, and reasoned argument, they believe the whole conversation and debate game is intrinsically rigged against them in a way that not only leads to their certain loss but also that props up the existing system and then further delegitimizes the approaches they advance in their place. Critical Social Justice Theorists genuinely believe getting away from the “master’s tools” is necessary to break the hegemony of the dominant modes of thought. Debate is a no-win for them.

Therefore, you’ll find them resistant to engaging in debate because they fully believe that engaging in debate or other kinds of conversation forces them to do their work in a system that has been rigged so that they cannot possibly win, no matter how well they do. They literally believe, in some sense, that the system itself hates people like them and has always been rigged to keep them and their views out. Even the concepts of civil debate (instead of screaming, reeeee!) and methodological rigor (instead of appealing to subjective claims and emotions) are considered this way, as approaches that only have superiority within the dominant paradigm, which was in turn illegitimately installed through political processes designed to advance the interests of powerful white, Western men (especially rich ones) through the exclusion of all others. And, yes, they really think this way.

For adherents to Critical Social Justice Theory, then, there’s just no point to engaging in conversation or debate with people with whom they disagree. They reject the premise that such a thing is possible at all, because what is discussed or debated are, if changeable, in some sense matters of opinion. They don’t see the world this way at all, though. “Racism is not a matter of opinion” is, after all, one of their thought-stopping mantras. For them, disagreements across a stratifying axis of social power are a matter of being, experience, reality, and even life and death. These are not matters to be debated; they’re far too important for that.


Please share the link.

Expand full comment

Good essay- a few minor quibbles

"The other relevant phrase is "cancel culture". SJWs aren't bad because they get basic facts wrong, quash free speech, bully their opponents, or make unfair generalizations across diverse groups. They're bad because sometimes they get your favorite TV show cancelled."

- In its best forms (e.g. Elizabeth Bruenig at her best), objection to cancel culture is, above all, objection to the idea of cancelling *people*. This is the kind of opposition to cancel culture I'm most interested in. When CC does, for example, what it did to Scott A, that really accepts me- and not even on a political level, just on a fundamental human level. When I say I'm against cancel culture I'm primarily against cancelling people. I believe you are the same in this regard.

"Why did the hope that New Socialism would slay wokeness fail? If I had to guess, I’d say wokeness outgrew the Internet fashion cycle. Unlike its predecessors, it took over mainstream institutions. Mainstream institutions are sticky. You can take control of them by being cool. But once you have control of them, you don’t need to stay cool."

I have a different hypothesis. Socialism wasn't allowed to beat wokeness, like feminism beat atheism and anti-racism beat feminism, because unlike the latter conflicts, the powers that be actually had a stake, and they used their control over things like legacy publications, news media etc. to pump up wokeness as a shield against socialism.

Forgive me if I now sound bitter. I shouldn't, of course, be bitter, since it's exactly what I would expect to happen based on my broadly Marxist outlook. Why get angry at the object falling under the power of gravity, as it always had to?

Expand full comment

Re. '"Woke" was originally a black slang term for an independent thinker aware of the world around them.': The 18th-century Puritans had Great Awakenings. The Nazis used the slogan "Deutschland, erwachen!" (Germany, awakening!). But the Buddha one is still oldest and best.

Expand full comment

"Feminist bloggers talked about how they didn't like being approached in a sexual way (eg asked on dates) by creepy guys, and tried to make this a shameful sort of thing to do. Some men countered that in order for the human race to continue to a new generation, presumably some men had to ask some women on some dates sometime, and the feminists were condemning basically every possible way of approaching a woman as creepy, without giving any suggestions for alternate non-creepy ways to do this."

This is not a good-faith description of what actually happened. There is a difference in how men and women experience the same situation. Women started writing about this difference, and explained that being proposed to have sex when stuck in an elevator, alone, with a man, can be a scary situation for women. Instead of just acknowledging this simple reality, and changing their behaviors, many men instead decided that women's recounting of their subjective experience was not true.

"This intensified because a lot of feminists seemed to focus on nerdy guys or nerdy activities in particular"

A lot of the women who initially started writing about this were nerdy women themselves, which is how they came to write blogs in the first place. They wrote about their own experiences.

Expand full comment

In some ways our conversations have evolved. In other ways, we just keep repeating the same process, in some sort of Sisyphean torment. https://changeculture.substack.com/p/liberals-have-civil-unioned-the-race

Expand full comment

I like this and feel the same way about most of it.

But there's a critical mistake embedded in this analysis. The analysis seems to imagine "trends" against... some kind of blank slate backdrop, as if the author were a quant working for JP Morgan in a world of unlimited money printing and GME memes. Like there are no fundamentals. Like the Internet is the real thing, and all the little people are there to make it run. Like gender and race and socialism are fungible "cool" things that could have equally trended in any order--like trends of this type are universal to all nations and peoples throughout history.

We're not living in a video game made to teach children data analytics. This stuff is real. If someone predicted that young people would go far right in 2014, I'd have loved to take whatever betting odds they were offering at the time.

People ride trends just to have a cause. But it's the facts of the cause that determine what happens.

Let's look at New Atheism. The writeup describes New Atheism as "failing" or going out of style. New Atheism did not fail. I deconverted from evangelical Christianity during New Atheism--it might've been destined to happen eventually, but it happened at that time because the climate made it impossible to stop thinking about the issues until they were resolved. Christianity has been in catastrophic free-fall in America since then. When you say it failed, you mean "it stopped being a hot Internet topic," which happened because it succeeded, which made it no longer necessary. And it succeeded because Christianity is (on any factually-based reading of the term) not true.

New Atheism was also not an "Internet" thing. Talkorigins.org was online since 1998, almost 10 years before I got on the bus and saw ads by Richard Dawkins telling me not to believe in God.

What about New Feminism? Anyone who watched it like a meme stock, wondering if it would go up forever or crash, was not living in the real world. New Feminism had to crash (and it still has more crash to go), because it was impossible. It had scientifically false beliefs, mutually exclusive goals, no way of winning by demographics since half the population is always born male, anti-correlated with fertility, and more. An enduring animosity between the sexes is absurd. It only seems possible to detached and non-heteronormative people.

Race and socialism are not the same kind of thing. Those can keep trending up forever, until the circumstances are altered such that you won't be around to whimsically blog about it.

Expand full comment

Do these things really run in clean, reversible cycles, or is society irrevocably changed with each cycle ? From what I see right now, it seems like wokeness has won; we do live in a world where "a repressive orthodoxy has taken over the government, the media, and big business, and set itself up as the arbiter of morality".

Currently, all new media in any format (movies, video games, books, etc.) has to include some woke elements -- the more the better, but at least enough to get past the censors. A purge against old and therefore un-woke cultural touchstones is gaining speed. Saying un-woke things is grounds for cancellation (and, if you're employed, possible termination), and is becoming fairly routine (to the point where it hardly makes the news). Major financial institutions and hosting providers have implemented at some form of woke gatekeeping policy.

Sure, in about 30..40 years, we might see a partial reversal, but I don't think it's happening anytime soon; nor do I think that any active opposition has a chance of victory. Shoveling back the tide might be fun, but it's not generally productive.

Expand full comment

What I find fascinating in all this is the total absence of the center right. I'm not sure if it's just Scott's well known filter bubble against normie conservatives, or if it just is the case that due to age polarization the center right played no major role in defining the culture wars of the 2010s.

Would love discussion of this.

Expand full comment

The thing I don't understand ...not just about you specifically, but about the general category of "people who are EA and rationalist and agree with me on pretty much everything except on whether social justice is good or bad"... is why you are able to feel so benevolent towards new atheism and are willing to say "okay it has its pointy edges and bad personalities, but overall, they were good"...but you're not willing to extend the same kind of mindset to feminism, anti-racism, etc.

Even though the central message is just as important than the message of atheism. Why not?

Why when talking about new atheism type stuff, does it feel important to defend the right of being able to have your lovable weirdos warts and all as long as the central message is correct, but when talking about social justice, you are mostly motivated to focus on the potential harms and overreaches?

To me, the new atheists were the people who said that it's okay to admit that religion is insane, and that I didn't need to keep making excuses for them. It sounds like that's what they are to you too.

To me the social justice warriors were the only people with the moral clarity to say that when I got bullied physically by my teachers and other kids and pushed around in a hundred subtler ways, it was in fact wrong and bad, and that I didn't need to keep making excuses for them. I guess they can't be that to you. But is that really not a reason to see the good in it?

Outside of the bay area bubble, racism and sexism was the norm, you know. We actually got beaten. This next generation never gets beaten. I went to my old middle school, my sister goes there now. I asked the kids. No one gets beaten up anymore.

So, I don't care how uncool it makes me in my rationalist/EA social circle. I'm glad that someone was shrill about it. I think they should be more shrill about it. Three cheers for shrill social justice warriors.

Expand full comment

Alex G17 min ago

here are some more optimistic takes

on social justice culture in general

- I think a good deal of the dysfunction of left-wing culture is a mixture of lots of people being vaguely on board with the project of "make the culture nicer for people from X demographic" with utter cluelessness on what the new norms should be, and a small minority of people from X demographic being crazy; I expect conflict to die down as the new norms get hammered out

on feminism/TERFism

- I think trans rights being a scissor statement among feminists and feminism being associated with transphobia is kind of a factor in the decline in the relevance of feminism.

one is reminded of the wars among atheism around e.g. feminism and islamophobia.

some of this is people directing the same misandric rhetoric against trans women as was done against men in the mid 2010s and promptly finding themselves persona non grata, which is both kinda sad and kinda amusing

and some of it is that something like 60% of trans people are uncomfortable with 2010s era feminist spaces which do these very unnuanced and negative generalisations about men, which is kinda tricky to square with inclusivity

on "cancel culture"

- isn't "cancelling" someone supposed to be a synonym for an online campaign to ostracise/harass someone famous for being insufficiently woke? it's good that opposition to this is what's killing the crazier side of left wing culture.

Expand full comment

Linguistic Kill Shots, huh? Is the usage here the same as the term coined by Scott Adams?

Expand full comment

When I was an edgy teen I was really into the New Atheism scene, especially on YouTube. I watched people like Thunderf00t, Amazing Atheist and Rapz0rian (? i couldn't find that last one anymore). I remember in around 2012/2013 there being a noticeable shift away from these YouTubers as they hyper-focused on anti-feminist rhetoric. The whole FACTS and LOGIC thing got played out and it seemed uncool. What is interesting in retrospect is that it felt like there was a hole in this particular YouTube subculture until the rise of "Leftist YouTube" with people like ContraPoints, Lindsay Ellis, Philosophy Tube and others. This kind of cultural hole of waiting for the next thing seems to be rare.

Expand full comment

I found one aspect of this interesting and thought-provoking post irritating. It's a particular bugbear of mine and this essay has the irritant in spades. It's the common conflation of American culture and English speaking internet culture.

More than 50 countries in the world have English as an official language and barely a quarter of English speakers are American. But this article seemingly treats all internet culture as if it only pertains to culture in the US, which is bizarre. It starts off with a graph about word usage in an American newspaper and the second sentence says ".. America is becoming increasingly obsessed with racism and sexism." So one might expect the post to be about American culture and the 'current cultural moment' of the subtitle to be a moment in America.

But the very next paragraph asks "What does google trends have to say?", as if that referred to American culture. It doesn't - it refers to anyone in the world using the internet in English. So you have trends influenced by usage in Wales, Australia, New Zealand, England (etc etc etc) and yet the impression given is that it only has to do with one country where 4% of the worlds population live.

The post really is about America - a paragraph beginning "After Ferguson.. " simply won't make any sense to people living anywhere else in the world - in the UK most people would think it referred to the ex football manager Alex Ferguson. But the references to the internet phenomena are obviously to the whole English speaking world, and to me this is painfully jarring. It's as if Scott thinks anyone writing on the internet in English must be American and that internet culture is somehow subsumed within the wider culture of America. And this is most odd because Scott is an American who actually has a passport and has seen some of the 96% of the world that is not America.

Expand full comment

If Scott's hypothesis was wrong, how would things look any differently? (Or rather, if some particular hypothesis of the many that are in this post were wrong, how would thins look any different?)

Suppose that shifting from the word "SJW" to "woke" was just linguistic drift and had no significance whatsoever in terms of people's beliefs. How would you tell the difference between that scenario and this one? In other words, is this evidence, or is it a just-so story?

Also, the reason people complain prominently about the woke getting TV shows cancelled is that a *lot* of people watch a particular TV show and even a relatively low anger rate can result in enough complaints to be prominent.

Expand full comment

First of all, great essay. Psychiatry and culture war posts are I think my favorite here. I have an idea to add though:

I think that it makes less sense for socialism to go mainstream because in contrast to feminism and race issues which can be stripped of all their economic facets (which is the part that really matter) and mainstream-ed as woke capitalism. Socialism on the other hand, is nearly all economic and no product-selling-aesthetics. Yes there are Che Guevara t-shirts or red star caps or whatever but there won't be a Fortune 500 company trying to sell products via socialism (or I'm not imaginative enough). Will Coca Cola advertise they decided they'll make every employee a shareholder or something? That doesn't make sense.

I'm not from USA so maybe the culture I'm in are following things from a bit behind (I wasn't this much aware of feminism becoming the little sister of the woke siblings); but from what I see it's the LGBTIQ+ that's next. Them having a beef with feminists is also an indicator of this I guess?

I don't want to make a definitive point because I'm not in a place to do so, but socialism going mainstream doesn't make much sense to me, and the new elites that's running the show would also prefer the discussions about prepuberty gender change operations etc to keep the masses busy rather than, you know, a socialist revolt or something.

Expand full comment

Bowie put it nicely... "Fashion, turn to the left / Fashion, turn to the right / Ooh-bop, fashion / We are the goon squad and we're coming to town / Beep-beep... beep-beep."

Expand full comment

thinking to the start of george floyd protests, its crazy how rapidly watered down the discourse grew among the protests. A socialist-anarchist trend containing both hyper race and class awareness demanding the dismantling of the state's monopoly on violence faded into institutions pledging support for diversity and removing signs and symbols historically associated with racism. A burgeoning link between this socialist-anarchist movement and 2nd amendment libertarian activists essentially demanding the same thing, dismantling the state, was relentlessly sabotaged by the same institutions that co-opted the narrative into a woke capitalist one of diversity. Mainstream institutions co-opted what they could live with into a new liberal consensus and the countercultural trends that seemed so close to linking up into something quite large and tangible have again shattered. There was always tension between internet socialists over how much focus race should get vs class. Chapo is now uncool for being too annoying and being too class reductionist. Socialist groups equally contemptuous of woke capitalism and yet equally as entranced by race as it have reached a point of self-parody with groups like Black Hammer Org. The 2nd amendment activists have gone back to being primarily associated with nazis, especially after January 6th.

If you want to look for where a new cool trend might arise from; I'd say look for Accelerationism. It's misunderstood by the general populace, has an obscure pantheon of modern philosophers behind the theory, and proports to explain all the malaise found in left wing circles about the total inability to stop capitalism's relentless march and subversion of the left despite the left's string of cultural victories. In other words its a good foundation for trendsetters to spread from.

Expand full comment

> When was the last time you heard people argue about "creeps", "nice guys", or "friendzoning"?

Well, technically #meetoo went viral in late 2017, and has a wikipedia page more than twice the length than the one on philosophy, as far as that counts for anything.

Expand full comment

If I were to lamely throw a critique in there, the role of 'events' is a little mysterious (Adams is slightly unclear as to whether 'events' stand out in the public consciousness *because* of the atmosphere created by fashion, or whether it causes the shift in fashion).

Speaking of events (and a huge one, at that), I think the covid situation has helped a newish concept to emerge that has a slippery quality to it (not quite a 'left signal'?) - 'Safety'. Everyone wants to be safe, right? I think you can easily get from 'safety' to all of the major woke talking points and arrive at 'safety socialism' where the government is now responsible for our safety and immediately guilty if unsafe events occur to anyone at any time.

Expand full comment

You and I remember the 2016 election runup quite differently. I'd personally have characterized criticism of Trump as something like 80% mysoginy based and 20% racist based.

Expand full comment

Fukuyama is a hilarious character to bring up, because he himself more or less denounced his own work - so the evidence for why he (might) have been wrong seems hard to ignore. The kernel of all these struggles older folks have in trying to understand internet culture and what it means for building future ideal systems can be more or less explained by the exact people you make fun of, the SJWs et al, but most of them are terrible at explaining, and most other people don't want to listen.

Expand full comment

I think this misses a bit that the transgender topic rose around the time where feminism interest declined, and feminism does have a bit of a actual philosophical conflict with some of the ideas of that movement.

Expand full comment

It's worth looking at how tolerant of strange bedfellows these different alliances are.

AFAICT conservatives will happily use terf talking points (not sure if vice versa?) like 'protecting [cis] women'. Once could argue that New Atheism was an alliance between people who dislike Islam and people who dislike Christianity.

There are also accusations that the other sides alliances are hypoctitical, like when socialists talk about 'woke capital' or the right talks about gender roles in Islam.

Expand full comment

Patiently waiting for the Turchin cycle to reverse so that we can go back to being angry about AI and deontology instead.

Expand full comment

When in doubt, look to New York Times management and workers--especially when they conflict. The focus on feminism coincided with Jill Abramson's reign.

Dean Baquet is black but also an old school liberal. 24/7 anti-Trump was a marketing decision disguised as principle.

He has said with Trump out, the new ficus is race. But they also hired a bunch of "nontraditional" ie digital young journalists who are overthrowing classic journalism.

They got James Bennet fired be saying Cotton's op ed was a physical threat to their personal safety. Donald O'Neil was hosed for using the n-word in a discussion about the n-word.

The claim was no white person should ever use the n-word--as demanded by NYT staff. The reality was he was an cranky old boomer up for the Pulitzer for his covid coverage.

This young staff has a bunch of demands about racial hiring/management/assignment quotas. That's the core.

Expand full comment

This book is a an excellent consideration of all this: "Why Fish Don't Exist" by Miller

Expand full comment

The rise of 4chan is actually an interesting story of its own. A large chunk of the early user base came from another site called somethingawful.com. As you may expect from the name, somethingawful was a place where a mixture of ironic and maybe-not-ironic terrible things could be said for comedy sake. If you're immature and like edgy humor, it was a great place to be. (The site probably exists still, but as a shadow of it's former edge hilarity, as internet culture caught up with it's redeemable qualities and it became a cesspool).

Up until 2008, there was a strong mix of both left and right posters, and the site didn't have much of an ideological slant. It was happy to make fun of the failings of both left and right culture. The Obama/McCain election ended up breaking that down, because a significant number of posters bet that they would accept permanent banning from the site if their candidate lost. Since Obama won, a big chunk of the conservative/right posters were banned. Many/most ended up on 4chan and set the seed for more right-leaning ironic humor, which is what the site became known for.

Somethingawful's forums instantly became more left-leaning and folded into a lot of the left blogging culture.

Expand full comment

So I was wondering, what are possible contenders for the next big trends, once the current ones are at least as thoroughly over as atheism vs religion is?

I feel like two future candidates are intelligence (how relevant is it for life outcomes and should we make it matter less?) and attractiveness (ditto).

I can certainly imagine lots of heated debates. But maybe it's just too much part of the human condition and elephant in the room?

Would love to hear your speculations

Expand full comment

' once your movement controls the New York Times it turns out you can just arrange for things you don't like to disappear.'

Quick sanity check on this: The following people write for the NYT: LePen endorsing, conservative Catholic Ross Douthat (I think his general politeness and personal niceness seems to confuse people about how reactionary he actually is, since people assume reactionaries must be haters), old-style moderate country club Republican Bret Stephens, vaguely right-coded former Repub centrist David Brooks (or is he still a never Trump Repub?), and pro-life Catholic socialist Liz Breunig, who reliably drives the sort of feminist who you don't like nuts more than anyone else on Earth (heretics being more offensive than people who are far group, to put it in the terminology of this blog.) If Social Justice Feminist control is or has been so total, how come all these people have never been purged? Hell, I know Weiss left, and probably isn't that hostile to feminism anyway, but she wrote her positive stuff about the Intellectual Dark Web *for the NYT*.

It is undoubtedly true that the NYT is a liberal paper, where social justice/woke ideas have a lot of influence, and effect how it reports the news. But the idea that there's some kind of total rigid control is wide of the mark I think.

Expand full comment

Oy. These long threads that stem from a deleted post give me a headache!

Expand full comment

I would say that the mainstreaming of online dating was what killed the nerds vs feminism discourse. People who couldn't pick up on social cues got a very clear means of asking women to date them where they knew in advance that the women were willing to be asked.

Expand full comment

If we ever get around to making fun of New Socialism, I think the term 'radicalized' will be the new 'woke'.

Expand full comment

I think this articles misses some key points.

The biggest one is it positions bloggers and regular peoples tastes as the driving factors rather then powerful moneyed interests.

What would Ferguson be, for instance if there was not funded black groups organizing the protests, and a sympathetic institutional media collecting the facts about the story? Wouldnt the alt-right be more powerful if they weren’t banned from almost every platform? Would Bernies movement have petered out of the DNC was not hugely opposed to him? More tenuously, did #metoo lose momentum once it started taking out some very rich and well connected men?

This isn’t to say that the bloggers and regular people don’t matter, but clearly there is a huge institutional component in these movements rise and fall. The article goes into this a little at the end with the woke stuff, but it is missing elsewhere.

Another point that I think it missed is LGBT and especially trans stuff. That has been a massive component of the culture war as well, but is missing here.

Expand full comment

My own life has improved immeasurably since I stopped giving a shit about any of this. Meaning not policy and ideology or even things like theism, but these meta-discussions around “are atheists/feminists/[any other involved group] annoying/evil/etc?”

This is downstream of technology. I’m glad socialism (and for that matter plenty of things under the tremendously unhelpful “woke” label) are getting more popular, but they’re going to be intellectually and morally hamstrung to the extent that public thinking takes place through the worst medium ever invented, Twitter. I’ve seen so many people of many different ideologies who are thoughtful and kind in a slower medium degenerate into their worst selves when they enter that space. The conversation will improve when people move on from it and no sooner, I’m pretty convinced.

Expand full comment

"who was caught on tape saying he liked to "grab [women] by the pussy"

This is the inaccurate spin that some media put on it, but the actual tape doesn't say that. It's phrased in the imperative as a hyperbole and not as a preference, not as a description of any actual past or future events. I'd rate the claim 3 pinnochios out of 5.

Another one that got lied about a lot was the one where he allegedly claimed "all mexicans are rapists", which deserves about 4 pinnochios since there was no "all" and it was referring to people who leave mexico for the US, not all mexicans.

Expand full comment

I think this entire piece reflects a very particular series of internet social bubbles, some of which I myself was barely aware of, but there’s nothing wrong with Scott speaking from personal experience. But I had to look up several references here and I’m about the same age he is.

Apropos our ages, one possible conclusion about why things changed that I think deserved more weight is that the user base in question simply *got older*. We may not have changed personally in any fundamental way, but life experiences and priorities quietly shift as you move from 20 to 30 and beyond. My more intense feminist friends aren’t any less feminist, but they’re no longer interested in spending their time flogging the same points they did a decade ago. Been there, done that. And, frankly, we’re just not getting unwanted male attention at 35+ the way we did at 22. And of course if we’re still single and looking the men we encounter are older and wiser, too. Sexism as we used to experience it maybe didn’t change or fizzle but merely sank below our own personal horizons.

No doubt younger people face their own issues when it comes to attraction and dating, but they grew up with a different internet and different rules IRL. How much of a ~40 year old’s experiences online or off still apply to them at all is speculative. Neither of us is going to engage the way people did in 2010, and I suspect for the older people whatever younger folks are dealing with is partially unintelligible, while the old issues we dealt with have largely become out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

Expand full comment

I think there's an elephant in the room here: sex versus gender. Feminism became uncool when transgender started to become cool, because at least the radfem side kept pointing out that women had traditionally been oppressed on the basis of sex and no-one ever asked them how they identified. Michfest and bathroom bills fit into this somewhere, I'm sure. I get the impression that apart from race, people are still talking about trans issues a lot online? It seems that nowadays, being a feminist but not publicly declaring how trans-inclusive your feminism is makes you almost as unwelcome as an anti-feminist, at least in universities.

Expand full comment

A big difference in the current situation is how wokeness has captured the educational establishments all the way down to elementary schools in many places. How children will carry this into their lives--or resist it as teenagers--will decide the direction of future electorates.

Expand full comment

Scott, basically everything you wrote about the "feminist era" drips with contempt for all feminist concerns everywhere. You don't have to like Amanda Marcotte to acknowledge that a lot of women were targeted for a massive wave of harassment and abuse during GamerGate. You don't have to forgive Gawker to understand the concept of privilege, or the value of self-care. I had to stop reading after that section; it demonstrates far too clearly that your analysis in this post is based on your personal history and emotional affinity and haven't done the work to ground it out empirically.

Expand full comment

My company wants us to print out a Woke slogan, take a selfie with it, and post it to our internal social media account. There is a preprinted "I pledge to: " section and room to write.

I briefly considered writing "Judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin" but quickly decided I would get canceled as racist.

Expand full comment

Thanks for the overview of internet culture. As someone who gets exposed to a lot of discourse nowadays about how wokeism is bad and it's going to take over our institutions forever, I appreciate the outside view (as both internet atheism and internet feminism both kind-of-died in their own turns).

Also internet culture history is a *very* under-explored area (it doesn't even have a section in Wikipedia that gives an overview). I'm a Wikipedia contributor, so if someone can point out some less-blatantly-COI-y sources that also go over this I'll probably write about it somewhere there.

Expand full comment

> When was the last time you heard people argue about "creeps", "nice guys", or "friendzoning"? Mansplaining? #NotAllMen? MRAs and PUAs?

Swing and a miss. It was last month, on Hacker News, which is not exactly devoted to the topic.

Expand full comment

I had the inside view of this as a racially-aware influencer that peaked in high 4-figure twitter followers before being banned. (they didn't specify any particular post, so I guess it was that the entire enterprise of promoting hatefacts was misconstrued as promoting hatred.)

Originally circa 2015 the alt-right was a much broader label with a few genuinely bad apples using it (1% nazi larpers and klantards) and then it got Worst Argument In The Worlded by HC and the media in similar fashion to New Atheists talking about Westboro Baptist Church a lot. (Richard Spencer was unheard of among us until after corporate media chose him to be the face of the movement). So then there was a cycle of more moderate types dropping the label until the stigmatization became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the movement fizzled. Its former inhabitants tried various other labels to distance itself from spencer types, but none of them really stuck.

It was also unfortunate that we (insert label for loose, diverse movement that no longer has a name) had such poor political representation in Trump. It put us in the position of needing to defend the indefensible (ala Weak Men are Superweapons), while getting almost nothing from Trump in terms of substantive immigration policy. The system is still dispossessing us of our ancestral homeland as fast as ever. Trumpism was also premature. We had a lot of work to do in changing minds before reaching for real political representation that would put a targe