Discover more from Euphoric Recall
The Rise of Woke Entryists
How illiberal radicals have become society's new gatekeepers.
Euphoric Recall is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Last Friday, the New York Times published a truly depressing piece entitled “D.E.I. Statements Stir Debate on College Campuses.” It begins by relating the tale of University of Toronto psychology professor Yoel Inbar, who was recently denied a position at the University of California, Los Angeles despite being a shoo-in for the job and acing his interviews.
You may have already guessed that Inbar was passed up for reasons having to do with the Left’s sacrosanct Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion trinity. What makes his story all the more outrageous, however, is that he happily submitted a “diversity statement” that used all the right buzzwords and ticked all the right boxes, but was blocked from joining after a platoon of activist graduate students discovered that, on his podcast five years ago, Inbar had opposed the idea of requiring DEI statements for academic hires. Like Red Guards with a hair-trigger sensitivity for sniffing our heresy, such cadres of Left-modernist offense archaeologists insist on the most condemnatory interpretations of a person’s motives when the canonical totems of race, gender, and sexuality are transgressed. In Inbar’s case, 50 of these little woke jihadists signed a petition denouncing his potential hiring,1 and his application was summarily denied.
That story could be viewed as just the latest example of academia’s growing intellectual authoritarianism. What makes the Times piece different is that it then examines how DEI imperatives now thoroughly pervade the entire California university system, an infestation that has quickly spread across the country. According to the article, nearly half of the large colleges in America require that job applicants write DEI statements.2 “Universities have hired hundreds of administrators, who monitor compliance with hiring goals and curricular changes, and many departments write a variation on a D.E.I. policy.”
The vice provost at U.C. Davis has instructed search committees that candidates who don’t “look outstanding” on diversity cannot advance, no matter the quality of their academic research. Credentials and experience are examined only in later rounds. At Berkeley, a faculty committee rejected 75% of applicants in life sciences/environmental sciences and management purely on diversity statements. And the candidates who made the first cut were repeatedly asked about diversity in later rounds. “At every stage,” a study noted, “candidates were evaluated on their commitments to D.E.I.”
It’s pretty obvious that DEI statements are ideological purity tests. Requiring them is no different than requiring a progressive loyalty pledge. But what’s particularly horrifying about all this is that screening applicants for their desirable racial and sexual characteristics or their ability to demonstrate fulsome and abject fealty to social justice imperatives will have very real-world effects—especially in the hard science fields. A talent pool artificially drained of many of its most talented applicants will result in practical and theoretical research that’s suppressed or not even conducted, with the consequences imposed on the populace and hidden in statistics over time (life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.). It’s simply inevitable that the standards imposed by the DEI regime, in which dissent and insufficient enthusiasm for progressive orthodoxy incur permanent professional cost, will result in society being negatively and seriously affected in the long run.
Reading this New York Times piece I was reminded of something that Michael Lind, author of The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite, said last year. Lind believes that the term “Great Awokening,” which is often used to describe the rise of social justice activism and the new DEI religion, and which alludes to the two Great Awakenings that animated Anglo-American Protestantism in the 18th and 19th centuries, is misleading. This is because woke3 activists are not honest missionaries; they don’t ask for voluntary and whole-hearted conversions like Protestant evangelists. Rather, they are mostly white, affluent, college-educated infiltrators who have successfully seized control of society’s key institutions and seek to impose a top-down program of cultural imperialism.
In this respect, they are not unlike “entryists.” “Entryism” provides a means for a small but determined group to leverage their influence onto a larger sphere by using a hijacked organization’s power and resources. It is most commonly associated with the Trotskyist denomination of Marxism during the 1930s, when the exiled Leon Trotsky urged his followers in Britain to infiltrate the Labour Party in order to influence it from within, rather than form their own small and impotent party. In the late 1960s, the West German student activist Rudi Dutschke coined the phrase “the long march through the institutions” to describe such a strategy. Dutschke, a devout Christian Leftist, argued that embracing armed resistance would only end in disaster, and that infiltrating professional institutions to pull them in a leftward direction was a far more effective long-term goal, one that would allow the socialist movement to take over society from within without much of the appearance of a revolution on the surface.
The Left has long been vulnerable to entryism by small, radical sects of zealots, and today’s “no enemies to the Left” rule among liberals has allowed illiberal radicals to flourish in much the same way as yesterday’s communists. In little more than a decade, wokeness has captured major corporations, banks, universities, nonprofits, and government agencies.
To understand why, it helps to think of the WoQaeda as “gatekeepers.” In an effort to achieve political ends without ever having to engage in electoral politics, woke activists have sought to infiltrate institutions to control key chokepoints. Indeed, that’s exactly what Michael Lind has argued. He believes that the success of woke entryism can be attributed to the control of three crucial gateways: college education, professional accreditation, and commercial services—particularly social media, sales, and financial platforms. These three gateways are obviously important, in large part because economic success today typically requires obtaining a college diploma, joining professional accrediting organizations, and being able to do business via online platforms in the marketplace.
Waiting for people at each gateway, like sentries demanding that you genuflect before the altar of identity politics before you’re allowed to pass through, are woke Leftists. What makes these gateways particularly vulnerable to capture by disciplined, radical entryists is the fact that they’re mostly private and unregulated. Our most prestigious universities are private, and the standards they set forth are adopted by other schools, both private and public. All American universities are accredited by private, nonprofit accrediting agencies and not by America’s federal or state governments. And while traditional commerce and banking are heavily regulated in the public interest, for the past two decades or so, Silicon Valley, using offerings of campaign cash and post-political jobs, has persuaded policymakers to allow online platforms to self-regulate. The result is our present situation, in which indispensable industries of the information era are allowed to make their own rules, in the form of ever-changing “terms of service” that powerless customers must agree to; and are allowed to deputize themselves as vigilantes protecting Our Democracy™ from any “domestic enemies” whom they happen to designate.
It’s true that customers of conventional corporations don’t have a say in corporate governance, either. But most traditional corporations have to contend with rivals in a competitive marketplace, or, in the event that they enjoy a natural monopoly, are subject to regulation and government oversight. Companies like Google, Amazon, and PayPal, however, are near-monopolies in massive sectors of the economy and function as de facto public utilities for which realistic substitutes or alternatives are few or non-existent, yet don’t have to deal with local, state, or federal government regulation. Which is why they can freely censor information, deplatform people, and disappear sellers from the marketplace, while those on the receiving end of this arbitrary power have little recourse. This combination of legal impunity and exemption from regulation would have been unthinkable not too long ago.
It’s little wonder why woke entryists, who believe democracy is an obstacle to social justice that should be circumvented whenever possible, have burrowed into the powerful bureaucracies of private sector oligopolies instead of going through the arduous and prolonged process of persuading voters and winning in elections at all levels.
As for how these entryists use their control of the three aforementioned gates to impose their ideology on the rest of society, let’s begin with universities. We touched on prospective faculty being systematically blackballed from academia for failure to pledge full-throated fealty to the DEI regime, but unquestioning adherence to woke orthodoxy is required of students as well.
In 2001, 28.2% of men and 24.3% of women had a bachelor’s degree. As of last year, those numbers had risen to 36.2% and 39%, respectively. Even as academic bureaucrats have dumbed down the college experience, it has become increasingly necessary to have a B.A. degree or higher in order to compete in the job market, if only because employers use it as a screening device. Amidst this trend, union membership rate among private sector workers, once a pathway to living wages and benefits for high school-educated workers, has plummeted to 6% as of 2022.
The greater the number of people going through the college pipeline, the more people subjected to the woke indoctrination that has infested college campuses. And as Michael Lind has noted, the increasing polarization of the American class system along educational lines,4 as well as tremendous inflation in the credential market and too few jobs that actually require a degree,5 engenders conformity and submission in undergraduates. Because academia is host to a stifling environment in which dissent is treated as a source of infection that might injure vulnerable victim groups, and Trump, fascism, and death are seen as the products of heterodox opinions and original thoughts, more and more students are self-censoring. Those who transgress identitarian pieties run the very real risk of being subjected to Maoist reeducation/months-long Kafkaesque inquisitions and having a mark left on their permanent record preventing them entry into a good professional school. Under such circumstances, it’s only rational for a student to nod along and pretend to sacralize formerly oppressed minorities and place paramount value on identity markers, which is exactly what the DEI regime wants.
The next gate is the professional gateway, and here again we find woke entryists waiting like trolls under a bridge demanding passwords. See for example the proliferation of “equity guides” among organizations as diverse as the American Psychological Association and the Sierra Club that seek to normalize Wokespeak, a constantly updated dialect that must be mastered in order to be eligible for membership in the new national ruling patriciate. Like all ruling classes, the new American overclass uses cues like language and values to distinguish insiders from outsiders.6
And the Left’s neo-Stalinist uniformity of opinion enforced among members of the credentialed corporate-government-nonprofit-academic-media oligarchy renders aspiring professionals captive to the lunacy of woke entryists.
In 2021, the American Medical Association Board of Trustees passed a resolution advocating “for the removal of sex as a legal designation on the public portion of the birth certificate,” based on the idea that someone might end up realizing decades later that they were born in the wrong body. “Designating sex on birth certificates as male or female, and making that information available on the public portion, perpetuates a view that sex designation is permanent and fails to recognize the medical spectrum of gender identity. This type of categorization system also risks stifling an individual’s self-expression and self-identification and contributes to marginalization and minoritization,” said AMA Board Chair-Elect Sandra Adamson Fryhofer.
This is the American Medical Association, which was founded in 1847 and is the largest and only national association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders. To say that this organization has influence in the public health sector would be an understatement.
The American Bar Association, meanwhile, recently approved changes to its highly sought-after law school accreditation standards. “As part of a wider anti-racism movement in legal education,” U.S. law schools are now required to educate students about “bias, racism, and cross-cultural competency.” The ABA has also proposed making the accreditation of U.S. law schools dependent on their success in promoting goals like race and gender quotas among faculty and students, noting that a school’s failure to comply to the ABA’s DEI standards would be grounds for public notice and, potentially, loss of accreditation.
Such accreditation requirements would clearly run afoul of federal and state laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the legal standard of nondiscrimination, but the ABA says its own made up accreditation requirements supersede actual laws: “The requirement of a constitutional provision or statute that purports to prohibit consideration of race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, or military status in admissions or employment decisions is not a justification for a school’s noncompliance with Standard 206.”
Many people looking to acquire high-paying jobs at the commanding heights of our economy have to deal with such professional accreditation agencies in which woke entryists use the threat of reputational damage to impose ideological orthodoxy. Careers often exist only insofar as they are backed by sufficient reputational capital. That reputational capital is the professional class’s stock in trade, and is needed to ascend the ladder to the next position or fellowship. But it can be summarily erased by a single comment or tweet that doesn’t conform to Church of Woke gospel.
Assuming that, as a professional, you have obediently toed the woke party line, ritually reciting whatever pablum and platitudes the DEI commissars have mandated and pretending to be an antiracist missionary who abides by the Left’s long list of moral certitudes, you must still deal with the third gateway: commercial services.
Let’s say you want to make a purchase using a payment processor like PayPal or Square. If it’s to buy a gun in a perfectly legal transaction, you’re not allowed to. If you need to raise money for your business, platforms like GoFundMe will close your account and freeze your funds without warning for political reasons. If you participate in the wrong kind of protest, you could have money seized from your bank account or your donation page taken down. If you post conservative or libertarian content (i.e. questioning gender ideology or the vaccine mandates) on social media like Facebook or YouTube, you run the risk of being arbitrarily banned and demonetized without recourse. Or let’s say you’d like to pursue a career in authorship. In order to be traditionally published, your book will be subjected to “sensitivity readings” and sanitized to ensure it comports with woke sensibilities. And if Amazon, the world’s largest book store, doesn’t like your book because it conflicts with progressive narratives, it will be randomly disappeared, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
For-profit corporations are entities chartered by the government for economic purposes, not social reform. Capitalism shouldn’t be politics by other means, but as woke entryists enlist concentrated private corporate and financial power to promote the social causes of progressive neoliberalism, it increasingly is.
Michael Lind believes that there’s only one solution to the threat of woke hegemony that can work, and it’s a controversial one: a massive and permanent expansion of the regulatory powers of American government.7
Paradoxically, reluctant but determined political intervention by the elected branches of government may be necessary to depoliticize the institutions that have been captured and weaponized by woke entryists.
There is logic to this prescription. If the government’s delegation of authority to private institutions empowers the activists who have captured those institutions, then perhaps that delegation of authority should be repealed and replaced with direct government regulation. Much of occupational and professional licensing as well as financial regulation takes place at the state level. Each state can end its delegations of government power to self-regulating private agencies and corporations and assume democratic control over education, professional accreditation, and commerce and banking.
As mentioned earlier, private institutions with chokepoints are most vulnerable to capture by woke gatekeepers. Based on an implicit promise that they’ll be viewpoint-neutral and sector-specific, universities, professional accreditation organizations, social media, and financial platforms have been delegated vast powers. Consider the ABA. Its legitimacy in accrediting American law schools is based on the presumption that it will make judgements irrespective of politics or group identity and solely on the basis of technical legal standards. Because of the ABA’s abuse of power, its ability to license professionals should be revoked. Professionals of all variety should instead be licensed by government boards that are appointed by elected officials and subject to legislative oversight and judicial review.
Similarly, the legitimacy of banks and online payment platforms is dependent on the acceptance of all customers who engage in transactions allowed by law. In a democracy, necessary public accomodations cannot be permitted to accept or reject a customer based on whether managers agree with their political opinions8 or disapprove of particular transactions, like gun sales or the selling of Trump merchandise. The people who run such institutions are not the moral arbiters of society. If they persist in their discrimination, they deserve to be regulated by the government.
In the case of social media and fintech, Lind believes self-regulation should be replaced by government regulation via commissions overseen by elected officials. No longer would accessing an online website or using an online business require accepting complex and arbitrary take-it-or-leave-it terms of service. Terms of service would be one-size-fits-all and written by public commissions answerable to legislators. Each sector would also have a customer bill of rights, which would include protection against the denial of services on the basis of opinion or partisanship. In the same way that phone companies can’t cancel your service if they overhear someone saying the 2020 election was stolen, so too would de facto public utilities like Facebook be prohibited from banning people.
As for colleges: The authority of state governors and legislatures to regulate public university curricula and teaching should be used to prevent indoctrination by woke ideologues.
Private universities are obviously a different matter, but as nonprofit institutions they enjoy subsidies courtesy of taxpayers in the form of generous tax expenditures. If a private university wants to impose woke doctrine on faculty and students, it should lose nonprofit status and be redefined as a for-profit corporation, subject to federal, state, and local taxes.
Lind acknowledges the obvious objection to expanding the power of the states and the federal government to eliminate control by the new entryists over key social and economic chokepoints, which is the libertarian belief that government itself is the enemy, but believes the notion that private enterprise would be more inherently fair than a state grounded in the democratic process and the rule of law is what got us into this mess in the first place.
Another objection is that government officials are too incompetent and corrupt to engage in reasonable regulation of universities, accreditation agencies, and internet platforms in the public interest. But are we to assume that the university administrators and corporate and nonprofit staffers who now perform these functions are any less incompetent or corrupt? As I tried to emphasize in my Google.gov posts, much of the time we simply cannot see what these people are doing. Public governance, on the other hand, is at least subjected to public scrutiny and criticism. There’s no doubt that in responding to abuse of power by woke entryists, anti-woke governments will sometimes commit their own abuses. But the latter will be easily identified and have clear remedies, unlike the shadowy decisions of powerful self-regulating bureaucracies. Legislators and governors can be voted out of office.
I suppose it comes down to the question of which is worse: Woke hegemony, which allows intolerant and divisive zealots to impose a top-down program of cultural imperialism outside of the normal processes of public debate and legislative oversight, or the expansion of government power, which might very well prove permanent. But there’s little doubt that a progressive private sector version of the Chinese government’s social credit system is being established, one that prevents people who transgress woke orthodoxy from acquiring educational credentials, practicing a trade, or engaging in political speech. Having managed to infiltrate many of our key institutions and seize bureaucratic chokepoints, the new gatekeepers will not willingly relax their grip on power.
“His hiring would threaten ongoing efforts to protect and uplift individuals of marginalized backgrounds,” the students wrote, arguing that he wasn’t committed to a “safe, welcoming and inclusive environment.” They added that Inbar’s research in moral intuition and judgment lacked proper grounding in the progressive politics of identity. Every single one of the students included pronouns next to their name.
Encouragingly, seven states have made it illegal to require such statements, according to a tracker by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Let’s define what woke really means. “Wokeness,” or “wokeism,” is essentially cultural Marxism—instead of a class struggle, there’s an “intersectional” struggle built around power and identity, with those experiencing the most tribulations (minorities, trans, disabled, etc.) deserving the most in return. The idea is that power should be redistributed between identity groups in order to reach an equitable utopia. Sure, most people put on the spot might struggle to define the defuse, pretzel-logic bullshit that is wokeness, but it’s like porn: you know it when you see it.
Recall that in 2019, federal prosecutors revealed a bombshell case involving at least fifty defendants who bribed their children’s way into elite colleges. They didn’t do so because they wanted their children to get a good education; they did so because college has become an extraordinarily expensive licensing program for societal influence. College, in other words, is basically a sorting mechanism.
A 2021 study by Burning Glass found that, of the 4 in 10 college graduates who are underemployed in their first job, two-thirds will still be underemployed five years later. Of those, three-quarters will be working in non-college degree jobs after a decade.
As I wrote in The Left’s War on Language post, Wokespeak functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans. Working class people don’t keep up with the new national oligarchy as it changes codes and passwords every six months or so, notifying its members through universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at a fancy college to cue them in. Constantly replacing old terms with new terms — i.e. enslaved person instead of slave — known only to the overclass is a strategy of social exclusion. The dialect must be updated frequently to prevent deplorables from imitating their noble overlords.
I’m curious to hear what Euphoric Recall readers think about this possible solution, which I explore in the rest of this post. I know many of you are stalwart libertarians.