Dave Rubin Isn't Woke, and That's a Compliment
James A. Lindsay, @goddoesnt
Wake up, sheeple!
Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report and -- as I've met him -- apparently all around great guy, has been accused of being a conservative ::gasp:: and, in fact, something like anti-woke, or un-woke, or something. In a riveting (/s) piece on Mic about conservative disdain for crowdfunding with Patreon, Jack Smith IV pins Rubin down as being something like reverse-woke.
Here's Smith's quote again, in case it isn't plainly visible in the embedded Tweet:
It's not just progressivists winning on Patreon. Right wingers are also funding their own media projects, like Red Letter Media or the Rubin Report, a show by a former host from the liberal the Young Turks network whose personal political trajectory is something like becoming woke, but in reverse. (emphasis added)
Rubin is attempting to challenge the claim that he's a right-winger on Twitter, and we'll see how that goes. (Don't color me too hopeful, but in this highly partisan age, it will probably work out well for all parties involved except those who love conversation and compromise. Also, Smith's analysis is truthy enough to catch traction because I'd bet a fair amount of Rubin's support comes from right-wingers, even if Rubin himself isn't one. It should be further noted that Smith doesn't appear to have been writing anything more than a slam against whining conservatives about the success of venues they hate via the crowd-powered project-funding site Patreon.)
I'm not interested in the squabble, though I do hope truth wins out (and no, Rubin most certainly isn't a right-winger, although I can see how the far left would get that mixed up). I want to talk about being "woke," and anti-woke, and why the statement that Rubin's "personal political trajectory is something like becoming woke, but in reverse" is an enormous compliment for which he should thank Smith for publicizing.
First, let me do something I've refrained from doing for months: come clean about Rubin. I like Rubin. Like I said, I met him. I appreciate what he's trying to do, and I get it, I really get it. Several of my friends strongly support him, and I join them in that for good reasons. I also think that my other friend, Phil Torres, hit the nail pretty close to the head in his long essay about his concerned support for Rubin's work. I share most of Phil's concerns that Rubin's platform dips excessively into handing a megaphone to people who truly don't need one, lacks sufficient pushback in real time against some of the ideas he invites onto his show, rides Yiannopoulos's provocateur coattails to a degree that will prove damaging in the long run, and commits some sins that are perfectly characteristic of having been among The Young Turks (namely, taking the game a little far), which he left to do this anti-woke thing he does now, but somewhat in reverse. Also, as you may guess if you follow both of us and our work, I am a little annoyed with his brand (much like that of The Young Turks) being built massively upon political cynicism, which I don't have much patience for.
As to Rubin's megaphone, I want to reiterate that I understand the motivating ethos. Too many self-described liberals, perhaps mirroring conservatives over the last decade or two, increasingly refuse even to listen to "the other side." They don't want to hear and they don't care what legitimate grievances are hidden within their moral enemies complaints. Rubin's effort admirably seeks to correct for this problem, to bring those complaints, the worldviews, and the legitimate grievances of "the other side" into view so that we can find a more balanced, more nuanced, more accurate, and more complete view of our sociocultural milieu. Riding the line on giving people such a platform, challenging them, having difficult debates about these topics, and the whole thing is a very difficult task, and Rubin gets more than his fair share of criticism for not doing the job perfectly (in a highly contentious environment in which Rubin is pioneering since there are very few people even attempting anything like it). That air cleared, let me reiterate: I like Dave Rubin and think what he is doing is important and valuable overall, even if some kinks need working out, and I think it would be great if you all went and provided him with a little more "hipster welfare."
Now, let's get down to "woke," because I've been wanting to launch this cruise missile for a while. "Woke" is a slang term that's raging with the Social Justice Progressives these days, and in their vernacular, being woke is a very good thing. I think it will brand me immediately as a fuddy-duddy to spell it out, but it's obviously an (trigger warning: racializing and appropriation, but it's ok, lol, because allies) urban slang rendering of "awakened," referring to having become aware of social injustices that one was previously blinded to by privilege.
While I'm fuddy-duddying myself, let's pull up the Urban Dictionary about being woke so that we can understand it from a culturally emergent perspective.
1. Being Woke means being aware.. Knowing whats going on in the community (Relating to Racism and Social Injustice)
2. Although an incorrect tense of awake, a reference to how people should be aware in current affairs.
3. A state of perceived intellectual superiority one gains by reading The Huffington Post.
4. The act of being aWOKE to society and the world.
-you're into controversial topics
-possibly a feminist or support LGBT rights
-you are open minded
Seems legit, but we can do a lot better, fellow sheeple. So, what does "woke" really mean? Woke means "you are thinking in a way that the Social Justice Progressive social group deems to be correct on this topic related to culture." Of course, an alternate way of characterizing it would be "thinking in a way that people who use the word 'woke' unironically would approve of."
That's it. Being "woke" means being deemed morally congruent with the moral framework defining Social Justice Progressives.
In fact, experts don't say things like, "wake up, sheeple!" to tell people to get things right; they just correct you. (Your triglyceride numbers are looking concerning; you should take up light exercise and change your diet accordingly.) Telling someone to "wake up" to the "correct" information is almost purely moralizing behavior, and it means "join my moral tribe by seeing things that hit my moral/emotional buttons in the same way I do." Wake up, sheeple, chemtrails are scary, and you need to be aware of their existence!
As being "woke" refers to being "awakened" to the beliefs and concerns of a particular moral community (read: indoctrinated) that is concerned primarily with Social Justice Progressivism, being "woke" is akin to joining a religion. It is putting on woke-colored glasses through which the world can be seen only in the Social Justice Progressive way. Woke-colored glasses have polarized lenses that only allow certain facts to be seen in the way SJPs see them while completely obscuring others.
Privilege-colored glasses, if they make sense to talk about, would distort one's view similarly, disguising relevant facts about social and cultural inequality from view, but woke-colored glasses are just another pair of glasses; they are not actually taking the glasses off completely. Woke-colored glasses exaggerate facts about social and cultural inequality, downplay contravening facts, and tend to make their wearers into insufferable jerks. That is, being "woke" isn't so much waking up to a broader reality as it is like seeing a glimpse of it and choosing a new narrow way of seeing thing in response.
That means that becoming un-woke, or anti-woke, or following a trajectory that is "like becoming woke, but in reverse" -- pulling a Rubin -- is a compliment. Becoming un-woke means thinking more freely, unbound from the moral fetters of a particular moral tribe.
Now, of course, Dave Rubin is the object of attention through whatever glasses we're looking, or none, if that can be the case, and it bears crucially upon this analysis that Dave Rubin used to work for The Young Turks. That implies that Dave Rubin used to be kind of super-woke and then, through whatever process made it happen, managed to look over the rim of his deeply woke-colored glasses, saw more to the world, and took them off. Did he put on another pair? Possibly, probably even, otherwise Phil Torres's advice to him might not have been able to have been given (an expressly anti-SJW pair of glasses is certainly sitting on the table these days, and there are pretty good reasons to believe Rubin's checking the world through their mirrored lenses).
The fact remains, however. Becoming un-woke, however Smith wants to word it, is something that Rubin should be applauded for, not denigrated, in exactly the same way apostatizing from any religion should be. What Rubin does with his expanded opportunity for freethought as a result of becoming un-woke may remain to be seen, but a blinding ideology left is still a blinder removed.