Softcore Stalinism & Kompromat
Adidas has pulled a sneaker it was selling in honor of Black History Month after the all-white running shoe was slammed on Twitter.
The shoe, part of the company’s Ultraboost line, was included in a broader collection of clothing and sneakers inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, but critics said the sneaker’s color, and even the material apparently used to create it, made for a tone-deaf tribute.
First of all, can we all snort derisively at a global corporation for making a Black History Month sneaker? Did George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass live and die so Adidas could sell more shoes?
Second, what in the hell is that? People are so offended by whiteness that they hate white shoes now?
While we are pondering the threat to humanity posed by a white Black History Month sneaker, let us ponder the final part of my too-long Woke Menace post:
Here’s a Yale Daily News column by Isis Davis-Marks, a black woman and, more importantly, a Yale undergraduate, which makes her one of the most privileged persons walking the planet. She is already part of the ruling class. In the piece, she talks about the necessity to be a spy and an informant for Wokeness. Excerpts:
Everyone knows a white boy with shiny brown hair and a saccharine smile that conceals his great ambitions. He could be in Grand Strategy or the Yale Political Union. Maybe he’s the editor-in-chief of the News. He takes his classes. He networks. And, when it comes time for graduation, he wins all the awards.
One day, I’ll turn on the television — or, who knows, maybe televisions will be obsolete by this point — and I’ll see him sitting down for his Senate confirmation hearing. Yes, he’ll be a bit older, with tiny wrinkles sprouting at the corners of his eyes and a couple of gray hairs jutting out of the top of his widow’s peak. But that smile, that characteristic saccharine smile, will remain the same.
When I’m watching the white boy — who is now a white man by this point — on CNN, I’ll remember a racist remark that he said, an unintentional utterance that he made when he had one drink too many at a frat party during sophomore year. I’ll recall a message that he accidentally left open on a computer when he forgot to log out of iMessage, where he likened a woman’s body to a particularly large animal. I’ll kick myself for forgetting to screenshot the evidence.
And, when I’m watching him smile that smile, I’ll think that I could have stopped it.
To be honest, I’m not sure what the solution is. This expands beyond vocalizing problems about sexual assault: The core of this problem has to do with our values. The problem isn’t just the Yale administration; it’s Yale students. We allow things to skate by. We forget. We say, “No, he couldn’t have done that,” or, “But he’s so nice.” No questions are asked when our friends accept job offers from companies that manufacture weapons or contribute to gentrification in cities. We merely smile at them and wave as we walk across our residential college courtyards and do nothing. Thirty years later, we kick ourselves when it’s too late.
But I can’t do that anymore — I can’t let things slip by. I’m watching you, white boy. And this time, I’m taking the screenshot.
Here’s Ryszard Legutko, on something liberal democracy shares with socialism:
It happens that both systems never suffered from a shortage of people willing — often without being asked — to survey the political purity in communities, institutions, groups, and all types of social behavior.
The atmosphere the systems produce is particularly conducive to engendering a certain type of mentality: that of a moralist, a commissar, and an informer rolled into one. In one sense, this person may think that he performs something particularly valuable to humanity; in another, the situation helps him to develop a sense of power otherwise unavailable to him; and in a third, he often cannot resist the temptation to indulge in a low desire to harm others with impunity. For this reason tracking opposition and defending orthodoxy turned out to be so attractive that more and more people fail to resist it.
If you are white and male, you would be well advised to stay far away from Isis Davis-Marx, I mean, Davis-Marks. She’s watching you, white boy. Whiteness and maleness are evil.
The fact that in the Yale Daily News, she is able to publish a column with these actual words, whereas a white guy who wrote a column about, say, disproportionate black male crime rates, and ended by saying that, “I’m watching you, black boy,” would be thrown out of school and the campus shut down in a paroxysm of social-justice agony — well, that tells you a lot about the nature of the Woke Menace. It’s anti-human moralists, commissars, and informants all the way down.
Let’s ponder a world in which a multinational corporation can be persuaded to pull a sneaker from stores because some Twitter idiots decided that white shoes are offensive to black people, while a student at one of the world’s leading universities can publish straight-up racist invective against white men, and nobody blinks.
Spare me the, “Oh, come on, it’s a college newspaper.” We all know perfectly well that if a columnist for the Yale Daily News had as much as published a column as much as questioning, say, whether or not people were overreacting to the blackface thing, the entire campus would have convulsed. We know this is true. When Erica Christakis suggested a few years back that the university had better things to do than to manage the Halloween costumes of its students, everybody there went berserk. Christakis left the university under pressure.
People: this is the ruling class. This is how they think. Isis Davis-Marks came to Yale from the Bronx High School of Science, one of the most selective and elite high schools in the United States. She is going to graduate with a Yale degree, and be able to ride that racist wokeness as far as it can take her in the ruling class’s institutions. The ideology of this class views people like these white Applachians who live in West Virginia’s poorest county, and who voted for Donald Trump, as Deplorable bearers of White Privilege. They are today’s kulaks, the “class enemies” of the order that progressives are trying to bring into existence.
As the (black) linguist John McWhorter wrote four years ago, antiracism is a religion among progressives of all races. Davis-Marks’s racist remarks are not perceived as such by the culture at Yale and more than a claim that people who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior are going to hell would be controversial at an Alabama Bible college. But here’s the thing: a graduate of an Alabama Bible college has a microscopic chance of entering into one of the institutions of the American ruling class. Not so a graduate of Yale.
This matters. This really matters. In his 1951 classic The Captive Mind, the exiled Polish dissident Czeslaw Milosz addressed this point:
It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy. Their bread, their work, their private lives began to depend on this or that decision in disputes on principles to which, until then, they had never paid any attention.
You keep on telling yourself that what Ivy League intellectuals and those who teach and administer universities have to say about intersectionality, gender fluidity, white fragility, and the rest of it is nonsense that only eggheads care about.
And then you’ll wake up one day and find that a senior judge has upheld a state education policy forcing your children to be taught that there is no such thing as males and females, and that anybody who says so is a bigot. You’ll find out that you will not be considered for a position because of your race, and that objecting to this injustice is seen as a pathology. You will find yourself or your husband accused of sexual assault, and judged by the media and the court of public opinion as a rapist without a shred of concrete evidence. You will see your kids photographed in Washington DC minding their own business, then turned into international objects of hatred, declared “punchable” by national progressive media figures, condemned even by their own bishops, and your home addresses blasted all over the Internet by activists urging people to assault you as enemies of the people.
This is really happening. Isis Davis-Marks is an undergraduate at one of the most prestigious and influential colleges in the world, but still, only an undergraduate. If that’s how you see it, you are completely missing the point. Ask yourself what would happen if white male undergraduates at Yale organized any kind of protest, however peaceful, against Davis-Marks’s racist column. More to the point, ask yourself what kind of culture produces, even valorizes, people who say openly that they view all people around them who are of a particular race, or sex, as enemies, and that they are going to be watching them for ideological deviation, and recording it, so in the future, they can ruin those people’s lives?
The vigilance that this student proposes to exercise isn’t based on the waning power of the neutered state. The surveillance apparatus she wants to use is corporate. And the ultimate goal is to ensure that corporate interests are never opposed.
The wall-to-wall propaganda that characterizes this new totalitarianism isn’t state-sponsored either. It’s disseminated solely through corporate channels. Traditional politicians are squeezed out by TV and social media stars who represent this new form of power. The complete dependence of their popularity on Twitter and Instagram means they will do absolutely anything to avoid being deplatformed. It’s no longer about courting rich donors to donate to your campaign. Now it’s all about being a funny enough clown that attracts hits and likes to enrich the owners of these platforms.
Every day, the power of these giant corporations to unearth a tweet or a like on a tweet that can sink absolutely anybody grows. There is no need for a state to keep a dossier of kompromat (compromising material) on each citizen. This process has been completely corporatized. And the worst part is that people who are wielding this sort of coercive power honestly see themselves as powerless victims who have to defend themselves from coercion.
Clarissa makes a point that I’ve tried to emphasize here before, most recently in the Amelie Wen Zhao controversy (she’s the YA author who withdrew her unpublished book and apologized to the public after withering Twitter shaming): people are wrong to think that totalitarian repression comes only from the State. It is coming from corporations, from institutions, and from self-appointed commissars who weaponize their softcore Stalinism with social media. When you see a multinational corporation doing what Adidas did, it’s right to laugh at it, but you had better take seriously the force that motivated its decision.
People like Clarissa, who grew up under Socialism, know what’s happening. They’ve lived this before. One of them, a college professor, recently told me about the “terror” (their word) they have about voicing any objection to identity-politics wokeness within their institution, because they know it can and will be used against them, and they don’t know who, if anybody, will defend them.
You think it can’t happen here? It can — and it already is. The column Davis-Marks wrote is headlined: “Evil Is Banal.” Yeah, you think?
I am so g****mned tired of listening to white boys. I cannot describe to you how frustrating it is to be forced to listen to a white boy explain his take on the Black experience in the Obama-era. Hey Brian, I’m an actual Black woman alive right now with a brain. In what world would your understanding of my life carry more weight than my understanding? Unfortunately, it is this world, where white men debate the pain of other people for fun and then take away their rights. The second thing most white boys seem not to understand is that they do not exist separate from the rest of the world. You do not speak alone, you speak with the weight of every other white man who has spoken over a woman, erased the contributions of queer people from history, or denigrated “broken English” as unintelligent.You speak with the weight of policies and laws meant to forever define intelligence by how it measures up to the bros of America.
So, should white boys still be allowed to share their “opinions”? Should we be forced to listen? In honor of Black History Month, I’m gonna go with a hell no.
As ever, what’s important about this is not that an undergraduate has an obnoxious opinion. It’s that within a university, an opinion that’s openly racist, and in fact calls for the silencing of others on the basis of race and sex, is considered mainstream discourse.