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Shake off the comforts of being perpetual underdogs where cultural loss is both profitable and safe.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at a Young America’s Foundation (YAF) seminar titled, “Liberate America from Wokeness.”

During my speech, I explained that in order to truly liberate America from wokeness, the conservative movement must collectively decide that we really want to liberate America from wokeness.

Read my full speech below, and watch the video for the Q&A session that followed:

Thank you to Jaime for inviting me, and everyone at YAF for hosting this event. I’m really honored to be here.

We’re here today to talk about how we can “Liberate America from Wokeness.” To give each other the tools to fight back and stop the spread of wokeness across the country.

Sounds good so far!

But first, before we dive in, are we sure that we all know what wokeness means?  We all know what images spring to mind when you hear the word “woke.” For a lot of us, that’s usually a screaming lunatic with purple hair.

But it’s actually really important that we all agree on what we mean by wokeness, so that we’re all pulling in the same direction, and also understand what the Left means by wokeness. 

This is because the Left have one really powerful strategy that’s amazingly effective – the abuse of language to push their agenda. Let’s think about some examples.

With this language strategy, the debate over abortion is presented as one over a mother’s “choice” — or a birthing person’s choice, depending on how transphobic you feel like being that day — over what he/she/they/them can do with their “body.” 

So before the debate has even started, they’ve framed the issue in their terms.  Before you know it, you’re not talking about the murder of an unborn baby, but about top-down government control of women — if women exist that day, of course.

Another example is the debate over gun control. Ask yourselves: how does the Left use language to frame this debate? 

Terms like “assault weapons” and “weapons of war” come to mind. All of these are carefully selected to trick you into accepting part of their argument before you even begin, so if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself pushed into a corner defending a so-called “weapon of war,” rather than focusing on actually important and relevant factors like statistics or the Constitution or reality.

And one more example — let’s think about illegal immigration. Even the words “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” have been shifted into the unacceptable, and you’re forced to enter the debate using terms like “undocumented person.” 

And any time you use their language, they’ve won half the battle.

Regardless of the area of debate, the Left uses language to stay one step ahead at every turn, and the same is true when it comes to “wokeness.” 

That’s why it’s really important to understand both what wokeness means and what the Left will claim wokeness means, so you don’t find yourself trapped in another one of their word games, fighting on their terms.

So, what is wokeness?

For the Left, they’ll hide behind the dictionary definition of wokeness, which is as vague as possible to avoid the unpleasant realities of their own radicalism. They’ll just say it’s a state of being aware, especially of social issues like racism and inequality. 

The word “woke” or “wokeness” really started to spread in the context of so-called “police brutality” – another language victory of the Left, by the way. 

In a Vox article titled “A history of wokeness,” they explain, quote:

Before 2014, the call to “stay woke” was, for many people, unheard of. The idea behind it was common within Black communities at that point — the notion that staying “woke” and alert to the deceptions of other people was a basic survival tactic.

Then, in 2014 when Michael Brown was shot after he attacked a police officer, “stay woke” was co-opted by the Black Lives Matter movement as a way of supposedly staying alert in the face of police brutality.

And since then, the word “woke” has grown far beyond this context, with a core issue now being a refusal – on both sides – to understand what the word has become in the eyes of the other side.

Going back to that Vox article, they said, quote:

On the left, to be “woke” means to identify as a staunch social justice advocate who’s abreast of contemporary political concerns — or to be perceived that way, whether or not you ever claimed to be “woke” yourself.”

Seems so warm and fuzzy, right? To be “woke” in the eyes of the Left, all it takes is to care about “social justice” — which is a meaningless word — and be up-to-date on political issues. 

I’m not sure we could find a more vague definition if we tried…

And, according to Vox, for those on the Right, quote:

“woke” — like its cousin “canceled” — bespeaks “political correctness” gone awry, and the term itself is usually used sarcastically.

Notice that when it comes to the Left’s view of wokeness, they presume the premise underlying wokeness — the idea that advocating in favor of “progressive” contemporary political concerns is a good thing, both morally and societally. 

Now, when it comes to the Right, it is true that many of us do use the word “woke” or “wokeness” as a catch-all for the people we don’t like on the Left. 

“Woke” is just another accusatory insult, like “lib” or “Bernie bro” or *gasp* “coastal elite,” and its overuse makes it really easy to dismiss, and really difficult to act upon.

So I want to define — on a high-level — what I mean by wokeness, before talking about how we can fight back. 

I’m going to define it by tweaking the Left’s definition of wokeness. 

Someone who is “woke” is not someone who identifies as a staunch social justice advocate who’s abreast of contemporary political concerns. 

Instead, it’s a staunch and aggressive advocate for political and cultural Leftism who uses “social justice” and “contemporary political concerns” to justify a totalitarian desire for radical change.

So what does “wokeness” mean, given this definition?

Well, “wokeness” means things like the rampant celebration of sexual depravity and gender theory in the mainstream culture, with an intentional focus on children through entertainment and education. What do I mean by that? I mean forcing children to watch half-naked adults twerk and grind on each other at gay pride parades, or trying to make drag queen story hour at public schools national policy.

This definition of “wokeness” is also strongly related to a widespread push to embrace the racial identity politics underlying things like Critical Race Theory to enforce a social hierarchy of victimhood regardless of individual behavior or age, seeking a return to a world where your skin color alone defines your moral value. 

What do I mean by that? I mean arguing that racism is unavoidably inherent if you are white, regardless of the content of your character.

And “wokeness” also means attitudes like the relentless demand for top-down government coddling of an increasingly entitled and lazy society, who see every element of American life as a right, rather than a privilege, while actual rights are seen as privileges which apply only to those who earn them from a politically biased upper class. 

This means applying a “social justice” excuse to the absurd implementation of “green energy,” or trying to make endless government education endlessly “free,” or making it the government’s job to force parents to castrate their children if they decide they’re a girl or a boy.

But again, it’s also really important to remember that not everything we don’t like as conservatives is “woke,” in the same way that liberals and Leftists are different. 

Generally wanting higher taxes, for example, doesn’t make you woke, and by dismissing every person with whom we disagree as just being “woke,” we’re going to be pushing too many moderates or liberals into the hands of the actually woke Left.

So, on a high and generalized level, now we understand what wokeness is and isn’t, and we know that not everyone to the Left of conservatives is woke. That leaves one question — how do we fight back. How do we liberate America from wokeness?

Because one thing is for sure — we need to liberate America from wokeness. 

We have a President of the United States who — when he’s not taking a nap or hiding in Delaware or falling of his bike — is cheering the number of LGBT people in his administration. He’s cheering the number of gay people in his administration, like preferring penises or vaginas means you’re good at your government job. 

Biden himself is a reflection of the society gripped by radical woke-ism, with one obvious extreme example being the sexualization of children, in every element of our culture.

During this seminar, I’m sure other speakers are going to be explaining what we can do to combat wokeness by giving you some tools and tactics when it comes to dealing with the Left. But there is a flip side to every coin — and so I want to approach this problem from the other side. 

To try and encourage all of us — and the conservative movement — to understand that there are things we need to change too if we want to defeat wokeness.

With that in mind, here’s my advice to conservatives:

We need to decide that — as a collective movement — we actually want to liberate America from wokeness, and demand representatives who want the same.

Because make no mistake — while there are plenty of conservative politicians who will stand in front of you and call for the liberation of America from wokeness, they are delighted that the Left has gone quite so insane, because it makes their jobs so much easier.

One of the worst parts of the political world is that most political figures can’t survive without having someone or something to run against or complain about. 

Don’t forget that there’s a massive difference between running for something and running against something else, and far too many people choose the latter because it’s so much easier to not do anything, and just spend your time pointing out how bad the alternative is.

Given that the other side is doing the exact same thing, this means that we’re locked in a never-ending race to the bottom, where you never have to actually do anything beyond presenting your opponent as incompetent, or inexperienced, or evil. 

Of course, sometimes your opponents are one or more of these things, but nevertheless, there is no incentive structure in place to reward actually changing anything.

There’s no incentive to actually win.

What makes matters worse is that solving problems is also a bad thing for politicians if they care about keeping their position. On both sides of the aisle, an ongoing crisis is a good thing if you can present yourself as the only solution to that crisis. But that means you’re tying your very political existence to that crisis. 

No crisis to “solve,” no reason to exist.

There’s no better proof of this than COVID-19. It was the ultimate cheat code for Congress, and they’ve started to panic knowing that the vast majority of Americans won’t fall for the COVID excuse any more. So with each passing day, they need to either pivot to other existing crises, or create new ones.

And for far too many politicians on the Right, woke-ism is one of those crises, and a very real one that’s not going away. 

The pure radicalism of the Left in recent years allows politicians to appear on TV or social media or speaking events and present their uniform platform: that they are our savior from wokeness. 

They’ll fundraise, they’ll rile up the base, they might even get voted in. 

But most of them won’t solve the underlying problem of wokeness — either because they don’t have a plan to do so, or they don’t have the desire to do so.

Because without the radicalism of obvious in-your-face wokeness, their job would be much harder. 

Because they’d have to prove why they deserve your vote. And that just sounds like a lot of work.

And this is also a problem that goes beyond politicians alone. Just like politicians, many in the conservative movement more broadly have become lazy in the face of an easy opponent. An easy opponent that keeps winning.

This all points to a fundamental problem — conservatives are far too comfortable being the underdog. Far too comfortable sitting back with a self-satisfied sense of being morally better. Watching from the sidelines and scoffing at the behavior of the Left. All while we’re left behind.

The slightly over-the-top conservative embrace of Elon Musk and his potential purchase of Twitter reminds me of this problem. Why were conservatives so excited? After all, Elon Musk — by his own admission — is not a conservative. And while he might improve Twitter in the long run, nothing has even happened yet. He hasn’t even officially bought the company.

Well, one of the reasons some conservatives rushed to idolize Elon Musk was because Elon Musk routinely “owns the libs.” Too many like Elon Musk because he makes the “other side” angry. They seem him as one of “ours,” taking to Twitter to dunk on our enemies. 

We’ve become so comfortable with being underdogs that these dunks alone are seen as a victory. Meanwhile, we’re losing the game.

This attitude has become endemic in the conservative movement. 

We’ve given up real success in the form of an improving society and culture, and all we want now is the short-term gratification of “owning” the other side, of “slamming” bad ideas without arguing in favor of good ideas, and encouraging others to “walk away” from the Left, with the almost arrogant assumption that they would join our side in return.

Now, it is easy to understand how we originally found ourselves in this position. The Left dominates every institution in American life — often in part due to our own lack of foresight and unwillingness to fight. Regardless of who is in the White House or who controls Congress, the Left’s grip on the media, education, finance, tech, medicine and even “the science” ensures that we’re moving to the Left anyway.

This level of widespread dominance means that conservatives are now the underdog in almost every cultural battle. And what’s one good thing about being an underdog? No one really expects you to win. 

This means that being seen putting up a good fight is too often judged as enough, breeding a complete lack of desire and ambition. Why bother risking anything to win when you can risk nothing and live as a perpetual underdog?

And with each passing day, the Left continues to win, and “wokeness” spreads.

How do we liberate America from wokeness? 

We can start by liberating ourselves from this lack of ambition, by stepping out from the comfortable shade of being the cultural underdog, by deciding that the goal is to win.

There are many ways we can achieve this ultimate goal. 

We must start by being bold enough to proudly and clearly explain the culture we want to build. 

It’s not enough to share viral videos of children at drag shows — we must build a movement which explains precisely why such behavior is detrimental to society. 

It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines and post our smirking reactions to the latest insane comments from a random person with blue hair and no bra. 

We must attack the underlying ideas, and become the ones they are responding to. 

It’s not enough to complain every time a Democrat raises the LGBTQABCEFG flag over a government building. 

We must become the movement which teaches people what flags represent, and why the American flag is a uniting image, while the rainbow flag has become quite the opposite.

Essentially, we must wrestle the narrative from them. 

We must define the terms of engagement.

And part of this also means not stooping to the same level as the Left when it suits us. 

It means not idolizing any random celebrity who comes along just because they have one viewpoint that we like. 

It means deconstructing the absurdity of identity politics, valuing ideas and character, rather than celebrating our own representatives based on their skin color or gender or heritage. 

And it means resisting the temptation to insist on purity tests for those in our own movement, rather than uniting based on clear and fundamental conservative principles.

Lastly, what we also need to realize is that we have one unbeatable advantage over the Left: the facts are on our side. 

As the absurdity of the Left’s falsehoods become more apparent, the security of the Right’s core truths remains as steady as ever. 

Progressivism, by definition, must involve constant progress. When they’ve progressed past one goal, they must keep progressing, no matter how ridiculous the next goal becomes. This actually presents us with the ultimate opportunity, even though the stakes haven’t been this high in decades. 

As this kind of ideological extremism grows, setting out to win by providing people with a conservative view of reality can result in massive success. 

Consider last year’s exposé of Loudoun County’s alleged cover-up of a sexual assault in a Virginia school. This didn’t rely on grandstanding or reaction videos or tweets, but focused reporting which simply put what was happening in front of the people’s eyes. Not only did that story uncover the true dangers of gender theory in public education, it also swung an election.

Objective truth itself is built into the genetic makeup of conservatism: it’s part of what we value, and what the new Left increasingly denies. 

When we settle for complaining, for cherry-picking the easiest from the Left to criticize, for owning the libs from the sidelines, we do ourselves and our movement a damaging disservice.

So how do we liberate America from wokeness? 

Shake off the comforts of being perpetual underdogs where cultural loss is both profitable and safe, and fight for a world in which we might not need political saviors anymore.

Get off the sidelines, and tell the truth. 

Get off the sidelines, and build a true alternative to the woke, providing proof that a conservative model for America is far superior to the inevitable outcome of radicalism.

Get off the sidelines and prosper.

That’s how we win.

Follow Ian Haworth on Twitter.

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