What Is “Woke?”

Has something in the world has changed?

Douglas Giles, PhD

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(Source: Yayimages)

The words “woke” and “wokeness” have recently entered the political lexicon. Right-wing politicians like Ron DeSantis are absolutely obsessed with “wokeness.” They claim we need a “war on wokeness.”

These words puzzle me as to what they mean and why people use them. “Woke” and “wokeness” are used mostly, if not exclusively, as an insult. They are used mostly, if not exclusively, by the Right. In our current memeocene epoch, the “woke” insult is often attached to an attack meme, whining about an alleged “wokeness.”

The right-wing “anti-woke” memes are usually directed at people seldom specifically named. The “woke crowd” is mentioned with great derision, whoever they are. Occasionally, a particular person is insulted as being “woke,” with a connotation that the accused is on the value scale somewhere between dried cow dung and week-old sushi.

What are right-wingers hating when they whine about “wokeness?”

What “woke” means is less than clear. Sometimes it seems to be a new slang term for “liberal,” and its use as an insult is usually directed at ambiguous conspiracies and groups. Definitely, “woke” appears to signify something hated by right-wingers, though that doesn’t narrow it down much because right-wingers hate so many things.

Anger and insults are often attempts to cover up one’s fear and inability to cope. This fits with how right-wingers use their angry “anti-woke” memes. Their accusations of “wokeness” are flailings at an unknown enemy, lashing out at an ethereal foe. These memes are mostly inside jokes mocking the mysterious “woke crowd.” The talk of “wokeness” seems mostly a type of internal propaganda disseminated among the right-wing to stoke fear and create unity against an enemy.

The Right has been doing this for a very long time. It is as if the Right, in order to keep existing, needs to constantly talk about enemies. And “wokeness” is their new term for the…

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Douglas Giles, PhD

Philosopher by trade & temperament, professor for 21 years, bringing philosophy out of its ivory tower and into everyday life. https://linktr.ee/dgilesphd