JOHN DERBYSHIRE: Putin Is Right!—About Wokeness
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[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through]

Earlier, by Steve Sailer: What If Wokeness Is A Russian Conspiracy To Ruin America?

I'm starting to be irritated by the word "Wokeness," I'm not sure why. When "Woke" and "Wokeness" first came up, I thought they were sort of cute.

Since the 1980s, if not earlier, we had been using the cumbersome phrase "Politically Correct" to describe the idiocies of linguistic puritanism about race and sex. "Woke" was a big improvement: it replaced a two-word seven-syllable adjectival phrase with a concise one-syllable adjective. What's not to like?

The derivative terms—"Wokeness," "the Wokerati," "the Great Awokening," et cetera were likewise cute and handy. My favorite derivative is "Wokefishing." That's when cynical young males pretend to be Woke in order to lure Woke young women into sexual engagement. I suspect my 26-year-old son of having practiced Wokefishing, but he denies it.

 It's also been satisfying to know that we stole the word "Woke" from anti-white Progressives. So says Wikipedia, anyway. Quote from it, referring to the phrase "stay Woke":

Following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the phrase was popularized by Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists seeking to raise awareness about police shootings of African Americans [Accessed January 21, 2022]

You can't get much more Woke than Wikipedia, so I'm going to trust it on the origins of the word

Even with all that going for it, though, I can't escape the feeling that the words "Woke" and "Wokeness" have worn out their welcome. Wokeness—Wokeness the thing—is a very serious matter. It's poisoning our culture and destroying our educational system. Yet it sounds kind of frivolous. I dunno, I just wish we had something with a bit more…weight.

I've tried coining replacement words, but haven't come up with anything that works. In Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell called the state ideology "IngSoc," presumably short for "English Socialism." Along those lines I thought of "AuthProg" for our state ideology, short for "Authoritarian Progressivism." Not bad; but I can't get a one-syllable adjective out of it.

Research continues.

After all that commentary on the word, here are three points on the thing suggested by recent news items.

  • First point about Wokeness: It really is killing academe.

I have to confess I am not closely engaged with Jordan Peterson. That's a bit embarrassing for me because I get regular emails from Radio Derb listeners who are thus engaged, and who urge me to watch this or that YouTube clip of Peterson talking about something or other.

Plainly those listeners think that Peterson and I are on the same page somehow. Well, to a degree we are. We both detest, loathe, and deplore Wokeness. We both think it's all a lie, and a huge social and cultural negative.

So far so good; but while I nod along in agreement with much of what Peterson says, we differ on a key point of psychology. Peterson believes in what 19th-century scholar Adolf Bastian called "the psychic unity of mankind." I don't; I think that observed differences in social outcomes between races and sexes arise from innate biological differences.

Since Peterson is a trained academic psychologist and I'm not, I guess this is naively presumptuous of me; but there you are.

All that aside, I applaud and admire Peterson as a fearless warrior against Wokeness. I have been applauding and admiring all the more this week because on Thursday, in Canada's National Post newspaper, he fired off a splendid broadside against the "appalling ideology currently demolishing the universities and, downstream, the general culture" [Jordan Peterson: Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto, January 19, 2022].

Peterson, he tells us, has recently, at the age of 59, retired from his position as full tenured professor at the University of Toronto. What has driven him out is the university's obsession with DIE. That's D-I-E, Peterson's (and Steve Sailer’s) preferred ordering of the Woke Holy Trinity: Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity.

DIE, says Peterson in the National Post Op-Ed, means that

(a) "qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students" stand no chance of getting research positions in the university, while

(b) there aren't enough qualified BIPOC people—that's black, indigenous and people of color—to meet the diversity targets, so the research positions go to people not qualified for them

Peterson’s summary:

That, combined with the death of objective testing, has compromised the universities so badly that it can hardly be overstated. And what happens in the universities eventually colors everything. As we have discovered.

Peterson cites a gem of a comment—quite a long one, over three hundred words—by Vladimir Putin, pouring scorn on Social Justice dogma and comparing it with Bolshevism:

It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already… The destruction of age-old values, religion, and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones—all this was proclaimed progress… By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.
[Russia's New 'Conservative' Ideology To Counter Liberalism,, January 11, 2022]

Commentators in mainland China sometimes express similar thoughts, with Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution in place of Lenin's Bolshevism. You may have heard about the Chinese expression báizuŏ, "the White Left," used scornfully to refer to white Wokesters in the West striving to destroy age-old values, religion, et cetera—the same things that Putin spoke of. Because Mao is officially still revered in China, you don't hear mockery of the báizuŏ from senior political figures, but there's plenty of it on the internet, uncensored.

If Jordan Peterson were to grasp the nettles of race and sex realism, I would become a devoted Peterson disciple. Until then, I'll admire him from a small distance, read more of what he has to say, and try to pay attention all the way through one of his videos or podcasts.

  • Second point about Wokeness: It's killing creativity.

There's a steady trickle of stories about this, if you go looking for them. A big landmark one was the January 11th article at Bari Weiss's Substack, cross-posted the same day at the London Daily Mail website.

The article is by two Los Angeles journalists (Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik) who specialize in covering showbiz, especially Hollywood of course. Hollywood's New Rules is the headline on Bari Weiss's Substack. The Daily Mail version is wordier, in the way those damn Brits have: Hollywood Will Barely Dare Whisper It But The Woke Revolution That Has Driven Out White Men And Ensures That Every Production Is Ideologically Sound Will Kill The Entertainment Industry.

The message here: the people who make movies and TV shows—"movies" of course including productions for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.—live and work in a state of fear that they aren't Woke enough.

That's just speaking of people who actually have jobs in showbiz production. Straight white men increasingly don't. CBS has mandated that writers' rooms, where the scripts for shows are produced, be at least forty percent BIPOC for the current broadcast season, and fifty percent for the next season, 2022-2023. Once again: BIPOC means black, indigenous and people of color.

A longtime showbiz veteran is quoted as saying that "every studio has something like that.”

As always when rigid ideological conformity is enforced, creativity is stifled. Longish quote from another anonymous person, identified only as "writer and producer":

Maybe it's 15 percent about the belief that it will bring more people into viewing content, and 85 percent about the fear of being attacked on social media or in places like the Hollywood press or The New York Times. You've got to be insane not to have at the forefront of your mind all of these racial and gender and trans issues when you're writing something. You have to worry about the impact that everything you do will have on your career. And that has an obvious chilling effect on creativity.

A side effect of all this politicization: successful movies and shows of the past are now being memory-holed: Blazing Saddles, for example, notwithstanding it was co-written by Richard Pryor. Also the original Rocky, because the bad guy cannot be black, and the Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie, where he fakes being a woman to get acting jobs.

All in the Family? Fuhgeddaboutit. A producer explained to the journalists that Archie Bunker “is basically a Trump voter." Well, that won't do!

So if you're wondering why shows nowadays are preachy, dull, and unfunny… It's the Wokeness.

  • A third point on Wokeness: IT'S BORING!

Once Wokeness has taken over some field of endeavor, it drains all the interest from that field.

If you read my monthly diaries here at, you know that I'm given to bellyaching about this in regard to math. It's getting to be more than I can bear.

The MAA, for example. That's the Mathematical Association of America. I've been a member of the MAA for thirty years and I get their periodicals: the Monthly, the College Math Journal, and their newsmagazine, which is called Focus.

Focus used to be fun and informative. They once published an article by me! Nowadays it's deeply Woke: not quite cover to cover, but heading that way. Of the five main articles in the current issue, here are three:

The first item there celebrates the life of a black female mathematician who passed away in August last year at age 82. I'm sure she was a nice lady and I hope she rests in peace; but as a mathematician, with all due respect, she seems not to have been distinguished. Her Ph.D., awarded in 1970, was in Mathematics Education.

She was, the obituary tells us, "committed to working at historically black colleges and universities.”  We are further told that she "was dedicated to improving mathematics opportunities for the disenfranchised." Also that she was "an equity champion for all.”

All worthy enough, I guess, though I don't know what the word "disenfranchised" is doing there. What, there were aspiring mathematicians who couldn't vote in the 1970s? Name one.

And math Ph.D.s must die at an actuarially steady clip, year after year. Would this one have been honored with a seven-page obituary in the newsletter of the MAA if she had been a white male of identical mathematical accomplishment?

I'm just asking.

The second item, "Building Community in the Classroom," is about the subject which the late Dr. Knight got her Ph.D. in: math education. The author is a white lady named Erica Winterer, currently a doctoral student in STEM education. She gives an account of her experiences as a student and teacher. The piece isn't objectionable but it's awful dull; and Ms. Winterer is the last person on earth to still believe in the reality of "stereotype threat."

The third item, "Critical Reflections on Equitable Mathematics Education," is even duller, and all written in Woke jargon: "problematic deficit perspectives that othered students of color," and so on…and on, and problematically on.

Reading this issue of Focus, in fact, I was starting to feel quite othered myself. These pages and pages of Wokery must be for someone, I guess, but they're not for me. I'm not interested in problematic deficit perspectives; I'm interested in math.

The American Mathematical Monthly is still about actual math: "Inellipses of Convex Polygons"—yeah! "An Alternating Analogue of Euler's Constant"—wow! "A New Approach to the Katětov-Tong Theorem" — er, okay, I never actually heard of that theorem, but I'll take a look. Where the names of theorems are concerned, my favorite is still the Bump-Ng Theorem, stated in 1986 by two mathematicians with surnames Bump and Ng.

So that's all good, but the poison is seeping in. At the end of the current MAA Monthly there is, as usual, a book review. Title of book under review: Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race, and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics. Author: Sara Hottinger, a white lady. Executive summary: Math is just a social construct. Hey, what isn't?

The author, reviewer Benjamin Braun tells us, "writes using language from critical theory and interdisciplinary feminist studies." He thinks she might have been more colloquial.

That mild quibble aside, our reviewer is on board with the author's approach:

Mathematicians must become generally more informed about the impact of race and gender in mathematics, and also must learn a better and more clear language for talking about complicated social issues.

I can hear math geeks from coast to coast groaning wearily: "Oh, must we? Can't we just do math?"

John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

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