Wokeism Is a Cruel and Dangerous Cult

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Wokeism has been described by its critics as the omnipresent use of race—and to a lesser extent, gender—to replace meritocracy and thus ensure equality of result. What follows from implementing that ideology are reparatory actions to reward those of the present by atoning for the injustices done to others in the past. 

Some see it as an update of 1960s cultural Marxism fads. Others scoff that it is just a return to 1980s-style political correctness. 

Still more see it as the logical successor to 1990s-type race, class, and gender obsessions—albeit with a shriller and more dangerous Jacobin, Soviet, and Maoist twist. Wokeism’s hysteria also invites comparisons to the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism.

But few have described wokeism as the cruel creed that it is. 

Wokeism’s natural logic is to destroy the lives of people of both genders, of all races, and—if need be—those of every age, all to leverage an otherwise unworkable ideological agenda. It is nihilist and destroys everything it touches. It tears apart foes and friends alike, whether by fueling media-driven hatred of Donald Trump or faux-deification of the disaster that is now Joe Biden. 

Woke’s Victims 

Defunding law enforcement and defaming police resulted in record numbers of murders in 12 U.S. cities. A wave of violent crime is even hitting America’s suburbs. 

Without much fear of arrest, indictment, conviction, and incarceration, emboldened violent career criminals for the past year have robbed, assaulted, and killed the innocent with impunity. 

The victims at the bus stop, the subway, or in the furniture store do not seem to warrant media or progressive attention, much less sympathy. 


They are the ignored—the unnamed, and the forgotten collateral damage from the grand experiment of redefining crime as a social construct. The guilty are the elite academics, activists, and billionaires like George Soros who are untouched by what they birthed.

We have all seen videos of the vast expanse of flotsam and jetsam strewn by train thieves along the Union Pacific tracks in Los Angeles. Yet the Wild West mess is still more than just the concrete manifestations of Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascón’s unhinged efforts to excuse criminals from legal consequences. 

The packages thrown along the ground by thugs and gangsters represent, among other things, lost COVID-19 test results of the ill. Presumably, they unknowingly are waiting still by the window for the delivery of results that never arrive. The package in the dirt was, perhaps, a key tractor part eagerly awaited, in vain, by the broke farmer in the Central Valley. The mess included the life-saving medicines shipped to the sick that disappeared. 

And our elected leaders did what in response? Governor Gavin Newsom apologized for using the insensitive word “gangs” to describe those who plunder, loot, and trash railcars.

Always In Search of Targets 

It is a cruel thing to indoctrinate children with the lie that they are innately guilty of oppression due to their skin color. One accurate definition of racism is collective ill-treatment of an individual due to his innate appearance—on the pretext that such bias is deserved, given the target is deemed mentally, spiritually, or morally inferior because of said traits. But that, in a nutshell, is the essence of critical race theory: the destruction of all human traits and unique characteristics, as demonized individuals are reduced to stereotyped, faceless members of a collective.  

For over a half-century, female athletes have sought to achieve parity in society’s attitudes to sports. Title IX forced universities to ensure rough equality for both female and male sports. 

But the woke effort to redefine transitioning biological males as identical to biological women will assuredly destroy the life work of thousands of pioneer athletes. 

Ironically, the sexist woke movement has allowed men to take hormones and undergo surgery to become females—even as their immutable skeleton frames, muscularity, or organ characteristics ensure an unfair and asymmetrical contest. 

The lives of thousands of young female athletes will likely be diminished. Each sprinter, every swimmer, and all female pole-vaulters will now inevitably at some future date have a rendezvous with career implosion—defined by losing to a transgendered female/biological male. 

Records are being rewritten, the very nature of individual women’s sports changed, and soon there will no longer remain an idea of “women’s sports” at all. 

The Forgotten Broken Eggs of the Woke Omelet 

The green wokeists postulate that they are saving lives by radical efforts to restrict gas and oil production, to raise fuel prices. They want to force Americans to buy high-priced alternative sources of wind- and solar-generated power and battery-powered cars. But away from the faculty lounge, millions of Americans are colder and less mobile this winter, paying far more to heat their homes and to drive to work.

Most of the woke climate change activists rarely see the poor trying to empty their purses to scrounge combinations of cash and credit cards to leverage over $100 to fill their cars’ gas tanks. Tesla drivers might be the architects of last year’s war on carbon fuels. But real-life victims pay for their piety—those who have no such options to buy high-priced electric cars. 


For the cosmopolitan woke, the border is many things: a mere xenophobic construct, a racist barrier, a nationalist tic. 

But the thousands who live near the Mexican border see their homes and farms overrun with drug traffickers—and during a pandemic thousands of unvaccinated and possibly sick illegal aliens. They suffer firsthand from daily violence as all security disappears. 

For the American poor, who rely on government health clinics and state entitlements, the influx of thousands of illegal aliens into their communities becomes a zero-sum game. The more noncitizens put demands on such already oversubscribed services, the fewer citizens there are who will have access to quality care. 

The woke lecture that colleges and universities must now go beyond their former de factoracial quotas for admissions and hiring, already mostly based on proportional representation and disparate impact. But now a sort of reparations system emerges. It is what the Left itself used to call in derision “overrepresentation.” 

Equity in our Orwellian world is not equality, but payback. Again, it is the idea of making the current generation pay for the supposed sins of the long dead of centuries past. 


Aside from the destruction of merit by the substitution of racial criteria, millions from a discarded generation will have doors slammed on their careers—simply because of the color of their skin. And they will never forget that. 

The woke do not even make the effort to admit that class matters as much as, or more than, race. By doing so, they doom millions of poor white and Asian students, who managed in poverty to achieve excellent grades and test scores, from being admitted to top-tier schools. Their actual achievement, despite their absence of wealthy, college-educated, or well-connected parents, means little. 

Once a morally bankrupt society—for naïve, utopian, or ignoble reasons—begins to calibrate graduation ceremonies, dorm space, roommate selection, achievement, and grading standards based on race, then it not only will lose its standard of living, but it will deserve to. And it may have a future date with the violence of Rwanda, Iraq, or the Balkans. 

Power, Not “Equity,” Is the Creed 

In sum, wokeness is not about kindness, equality, fairness, or morality. 

It is the power agenda of the elite of all races. For differing reasons, they rig the game in their own interests, without a care about who suffers. 

Rich white people assume that they possess the money, the influence, the networking skills, and the connections to navigate around the very exclusionary rules they make for others. For them, there are seldom costs. But they win apparent psychological gain at feeling spiritually superior while driving a Range Rover.

They get high on the sense of power they wield to engineer the lives of millions deemed less important than they. And to the degree they feel guilty about their own monopoly of wealth and leisure, such transient superficial remorse is alleviated by abstract caring for the “other.” 


If they can ensure that 50 percent of TV commercials highlight African Americans, then they worry little about the nation’s existential crisis of 800 blacks murdered in Chicago this year. And no such television execs have a clue—or likely a concern—about how to stop it. 

The woke take out a medieval contract that all their material indulgences can be balanced by virtue-signaling caring for the less fortunate—although always at someone else’s expense. 

Woke = Wealthy Careerists 

And for the millions of the affluent, elite nonwhite? The resurgence of racial obsessions conveniently destroys the old idea of class, even though now it is the far more precise calibration of inequality. 

For all the woke talk about “constructs” of gender, race is somehow alone exempted and declared innate, definable, and immutable. One’s appearance becomes the permanent victimized refuge—even of NBA multibillionaires and billionaire rappers alike. 

A Ward Churchill or Elizabeth Warren can desperately seek to leverage a career in becoming Native American, apparently as if they were almost trapped in their own white bodies. Yet they can still not manage to construct such assumed identities in the manner of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner. 


If race is now the sole immutable barometer of who is a victim, who a victimizer, then LeBron James, Jay-Z, Kayne West, Chris Rock, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey are always to be among the eternally oppressed. The enormous influence, power, status, and wealth they wield never negates their victimhood, despite a nation three generations into affirmative action. 

In the immoral calculus of woke, the poor white or Southeast Asian offspring of poorly paid high-school dropouts constitute “the privileged.” And a multimillionaire racist like the TV anchorwoman Joy Reid claims to be the perpetual victim, not the inner-city African American retiree who in 2021 has lost local police protection. 

No wonder the woke elite and the affluent leftists fixate on race, given they are now the ruling class. Otherwise, their own privilege would be the obvious target of the once-beloved “Revolution.”  

So, they fear that by their own prior left-wing standards, they too could end up on the wrong side of their moral Maginot Line. Wokeism’s obsessions with ferreting out “white privilege” are a way for rich people to head off (so to speak) the fate of Marie Antoinette. 

Totalitarian Wokeism 

A final note. We know wokeism is both contrary to human nature and antithetical to democracy and constitutional government. 

Without public support, it has instead embraced an entire array of cruel, Soviet, and Maoist means to achieve its own self-interested ends. Woke talk about “racists” eerily emulates Soviet boilerplate about “counterrevolutionaries.” Today’s wokeist spouts things that could come right out of the mouth of the novelist Boris Pasternak’s character Army Commissar Strelnikov, or Mao’s Little Red Book concerning “suppression of counterrevolutionaries.” 

No wonder the woke, so-called “humanists” are the first to resort to Trotskyization and iconoclasm. They are masters of censoring, blacklisting, scapegoating, deplatforming, ritual humiliation, doxxing, cancel-culture, ostracism, and disbarring. 


Wokeism’s logic is the eternal one of the bully Jacobin with his guillotine lists of the revolutionary unpure, the 19th-century lynch mob storming the frontier jail, the Red Guards hounding the counterrevolutionary, and the forced mental hospitalizations of the Soviet Union. 

But above all, wokeism is a cruel cult—created by and for the careerist benefit of the privileged.

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20 thoughts on “Wokeism Is a Cruel and Dangerous Cult”

  1. As an FBI Agent from the late 70s to early 2000s, I had to deal with “Affirmative Action”. I am reluctant to say “suffer” from Affirmative Action because, since I was raised in the South, I saw, first hand, injustices perpetrated on Black Americans because of their race. During my career, I experienced many promotion cycles where people were promoted because of their race or ethnic identity – not on their merit. However, I do not believe “Affirmative Action” was as insidious as the “woke” crowds’ endorsement of “equity”. Having an authority or organization dictate equal results in all societal outcomes will eliminate all competitiveness in our society and eventually destroy America’s competitive edge in technology and science. The future is bleak if the woke crowd remains in power.

  2. Whoa. A powerful piece, Victor! I will share it with my Democrat, retired school teacher friend. I don’t believe she is a leftie, but we don’t talk much in the way of politics to save a friendship we’ve had since 5th grade. We are now in our mid 60’s. Regrettably, we don’t talk as much as we used to because she holds it against me that I was FOR President Trump.
    I don’t want him to run again, although I approved of everything policy-wise he stood for and accomplished. Too toxic, but I could get behind Cruz, DeSantis, maybe Cotton and certainly Mike Pompeo!
    Thanks for all you write and speak to. I listen to all three of your podcasts.

    1. Interesting perception of the toxicity of Trump which I don’t understand since you admittedly agree with his policies.
      What I found toxic was the media coverage of him and any Conservatives either local or international. Allow me to suggest that ad-hominems leaves any statement ex-facie and the repetition of it is nauseating.
      In addition, expecting unbiased/disinterested media coverage is quite naive given the demonstrated hoaxes and censorship that has been exposed.

  3. Nice faux Wicker Man title pic. I’ll be interested to see if it’s too risque and satanic for some commenters and promoting a harmful stereotype about Neo-Paganism and modern witchcraft for others. Of course, it reminds me of Iron Maiden.

  4. Racism is taught

    Two children, one black and one white play with one another and become friends. They do not see color. Racism is taught – and it is being taught in our schools today. To have to sit and think about someone’s color of skin, or to have a teacher tell a student to recognize the skin color of another student; why?

    The only purpose for doing this is to create a divide among the races. To have a race feel inferior to the other. To have a race feel like they did something wrong (creating a category of victims – victims being people you feel sorry for). What good comes of this?

    Americans have lived this story once before in our past and we have grown from it. Dr. King lost his life to unite us. As a millennial in my mid-thirties, when I went to school, we never had this problem. The diversity in our schools then, are very much like they are today. The PROBLEM we have today are teachers who are forcing a political agenda on our children. It needs to stop.
    Our greatest advocates are parents, we all have seen them at school board meetings. We must continue to support our moms and dads of America.

    Women Sports

    Women in sports have come a long way. We did not come all this way for a biological male to compete with women. The reason why women’s sports was created, was to bring forth the recognized efforts of women in sports, and that they too had a place. When you put a biological male in women sports it is as if men are just taking over something else women are d

  5. Again, Dr. Hanson is right on. His overview frames Wokeism’s “cruel and dangerous” nature perfectly. From a Christian perspective, I view Wokeism as a new Pharisaism–a false religion demanding perpetual penance according to the gospel of Ibram X. Kendi, et al. That it is, but “a cruel cult” says it all!
    With Thanks VDH,
    D. Paul Thomas

  6. Continued…
    When you put a biological male in women sports it is as if men are just taking over something else women are doing. Why then were women sports created if males could compete alongside with us? Women are important and we need our space, and NO men are not welcome on the playing field (unless they’re a coach). If this continues, women sports will disappear like Dr. Hanson has described. The bigger picture is – this country is trying to eliminate the woman’s role in the family (our mom’s), and now men want to take over women sports, along with trying to make the argument that men can breast-feed. Where are the women athletes that are against this? And how come they are not standing up for women?

    Hanson, “Equity in our Orwellian world is not equality, but payback. Again, it is the idea of making the current generation pay for the supposed sins of the long dead of centuries past.”
    But this payback will backfire. See it is not just the current generation being elbowed. It’s the millennials that are be screwed too. We are not going to forget this; we are the upcoming leaders of this country and many of us love America; deeply. When we position ourselves (it may take us time), but when we do, we will not forget how we were forgotten and treated. I am an American who has served this country with honor, who is suffering. But my suffering is minimal compared to the millennial homeless veterans sleeping on the streets of LA. Do you think they will forget? The doors

    1. “Where are the women athletes that are against this? And how come they are not standing up for women?” I asked myself where are all the feminists?

  7. Continued…
    The doors in are face are slammed, (color of our skin is included), but more it has to do with how one thinks. One can be a woman of color, a minority, and gay. That is not enough. You must think the way they think (the woke). Imagine being a millennial trying to find work but dodging companies that are un-American. Companies that represent equity, are not hard to find. They make their agenda noticeable on their websites. The red flags are there. What young Americans need are job platforms that are “All American,” that are searching for us. We don’t want to work for companies that are against America. Believe me, we are looking out for companies working for foreign countries that are enemies to the US. More, the retainability of a young American finding out that they are working for a company in bed with an enemy will not last. We are smarter and we will push back.

    I apologize professor for writing so much.

  8. kk.durham@gmail.com

    This is an exceptional expose of wokeism. The characteristics of the woke are so clearly defined. I can’t say it was easy reading because of the complexity of the issue, but it was beautifully written. I need to read it again & spend some time letting it soak in. I wish it was required reading in schools.

  9. The second to last paragraph on Woke’s Victims was very touching. Then in the fifth paragraph of the Woke Omelet section, it is saddening that the socialist state has this much control over people’s lives. That’s exactly what the Dems want, to bribe voters with permanent dependency. Care for the poor used to be done by private individuals, societies, benefactors, and the religious orders of the Church. We must end entitlements and hand outs paid for by the workers for the non-working. (It says so in the Bible.) Then in the last paragraph, what’s happening now is these institutions and businesses are discriminating not by race, rather on basis of MASK STATUS, injection status, booster / “vaccine” status, is the social credit system of the Commies is here to stay. What do you think big biz like Starbucks would have done had the Roberts Court ruled the other way? The Roberts Court already legalized the Blair passports for health workers. That will NEVER be repealed and you know it.

    I disagree with the whole women’s sports arguments. Why can’t women just play on men’s teams? Plenty of weak beta males don’t make the team. Women should have to deal with it, too. There’s literally nothing stopping college going women who want to play sports from doing so on the playground with other women. Why can’t women do the one thing men can’t more often, that is, birth children? No, they have to have careers and take jobs from men. That is the root of 90% of problems society has today.

  10. I am so grateful for this article / opinion! On July 3, 1989, I began teaching high school music in California. On December 22, 2021, I retired. Yes. In the middle of the year. Five years short of getting that “Full-Golden-Egg” of retirement. For the rest of my life, I will earn 65%-70% of what I could have earned in retirement if I had stayed until 62-years-old. I CHOSE not to stay.

    On October 6, 2021, I was told “Do not say ‘I love ya’ to your students” and “refrain from using social media.”

    Saying “I love ya” is now a ‘bad’ thing is strange to me and my grandfather was killed on the USS INDIANAPOLIS so I could have freedoms including the first amendment rights!

    Following reading this article/opinion, I look at the directives given to me through the “Lens-of-Cruelty.” What are our public schools (in California) doing to our children / our future? There is a sad irony that our teachers are being trained in “Social Emotional Learning” and yet … the message being delivered from the teachers contradicts much of the “Social Emotional Learning.”

    Confusion leads to totalitarianism because … a strong / charismatic person is going to come in and reorganize / renormalize the culture and who knows what that is going to look like following this “Woke Movement?” I would take the return of the “Jesus Movement.”

  11. Robert P Saunders

    I appreciate your articles. I believe those speaking up now are making a difference.
    God help us if they aren’t.

  12. Woke is what Satan whispered in the Garden of Eden. If you’ll listen to me you cannot imagine what I have I store. You will awake to a whole new world, and they did!

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