If you’ve watched television or heard a podcast or read the news recently, you’ve heard the term “woke” bandied about. Billionaire midlife crisis manager Elon Musk has thrown out the phrase “woke mind virus” to describe what conservatives (and libertarians) have branded this century’s “political correctness” boogeyman. Whether it is public education or the banking crisis caused by deregulation, the conservative movement’s answer to everyone’s problems is saying the word “woke” and pretending that this is a solution to anything. At all.
Bethany Mandel is a conservative writer. She has done very well for herself by publishing a series of children’s books about conservative icons. The trick here is that she uses the excuse of these being children’s books to skip past any uncomfortable facts about things like slavery and such, while offering up a make-believe American history that is easier to digest for snowflake right-wing parents. Most recently, she is promoting a book she wrote with Karol Markowicz titled Stolen Youth: How Radicals are Erasing Innocence. It is exactly as terrible as it sounds.
On Tuesday, Mandel went on the Rising show to promote her book. At one point, host Briahna Joy Gray asked Mandel to define what she means by the term “woke.” Guess what happened?
It is very important to remember that the origin of terms like “political correctness” and “woke” and “cancel culture”—and all of those catchphrases used as armor for shitty people who attack children and marginalized groups—came from higher education. It is no coincidence that grifters like Ben Shapiro and Bethany Mandel and Bari Weiss (and any other pretend free-speechers) all hang their careers on accusing the amorphous “left” of taking over colleges and brainwashing young people. This also why these charlatans speak in buzzwords, dog whistles, and word salad: If you don’t analyze it for more than one second, they sound like they might be saying something intelligent. Really, though, they’re just creating an opaque atmosphere for spewing lies, “alternative facts,” and easily refutable logic, and ultimately are so full of shit that most critical thinkers in higher education probably find them boorish and boring.
In the clip, Mandel is going on about how the majority of Americans don’t consider themselves “woke” when host Gray steps in to ask an important question: “What does that mean to you? Would you mind defining ‘woke’? It has come up a couple of times and I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”
It is here that Mandel simply falls apart. She stutters, says it’s hard to define, says she wrote a whole chapter about it, realizes she doesn’t really have an answer, says, “This is gonna be one of those moments that goes viral,” hehe, and also says it has something to do with doing away with all of society in order to put in oppressive structures. Or something. I think she sort of flipped it, tried to remember which enigmatic, pretend intellectual thing she and her writing partner wrote in said “woke” chapter, and came out with a big nothingburger.
She ends by sort of sighing, deservedly humiliated, and saying, “It’s hard to explain in a 15-second soundbite.” (She’d already spent about 40 seconds floundering at this point, but who’s counting.) Gray adds a nice cherry on top here, responding: “Well, you can take your time.”
The responses have been everything you might imagine.
Having finally gotten back to her book, Mandel sent out this useless definition.
But don’t worry. Her inability to even come up with a semi-coherent sentence regarding something she is dedicating her professional life to is not her fault. It’s the person who asked the question that is to blame!
Now, considering that Mandel has shown herself to be relatively bankrupt when it comes to thoughts and opinions and such, I don’t know if we can take her word for anything. Here’s a better definition for her.
And as a history lesson: “Stay woke” was something that Black people coined as a public reminder of systemic injustices taking place in our country. Before that, Black people created the word for the exact same reason. Here’s one example from 1930.
You can enjoy the music or just listen to Lead Belly’s outro starting around 4:25. Stay woke.