Artists standing up to the Church of Woke

I would ordinarily put something like this on my own blog, but because Dave Chappelle explicitly embraces his profession as an artist — and defends stand-up comics as a cohort of legit artists — the reaction to Chappelle’s last NETFLIX special has me thinking: are we finally at the much-anticipated tipping point where even liberal artists decide they’ve had enough of the Church of Woke? I mean, I get it that J.K. Rowling has been getting attacked for years, but she has so much money and fame there’s practically nothing short of a Cosby-style horrendous crimes in the closet discovery which could bring her down. They cannot cancel her, because she’s too big to be canceled.

But Dave Chappelle is not. By his own admission, Chappelle doesn’t bring in crowds to match Kevin Hart. Chappelle isn’t made of so many millions that he is bulletproof, should he never do a stand-up act ever again in his life.

Yet, Chappelle has chosen to say what he says anyway, and he’s done it with both a brilliantly humanistic approach, while at the same time mocking the absurdities of a political movement which has long since crossed over from being about victim advocacy, and is instead almost entirely about control: telling us what we can and cannot say, telling us what we can and cannot enjoy, and threatening to cost us our livelyhoods if we do not obey.

As Chappelle noted in one of his other specials, when you take away a man’s livelyhood you are killing him.

So what to make of the Rotten Tomatoes score with audience approval being off the charts, and the critics giving Chappelle the great green splat of death? And how does this apply to those of us who work as artists in the fiction biz?

First, I think it’s important to note that there are way, way more consumers who are tired of the Church of Woke, than the media will ever admit exist.

Second, I think it’s also important to note that these consumers are ready and willing to embrace artists who don’t immediately knuckle under at the first ruler-to-the-fingers rapping by the Woke nuns who are forever policing social media.

Third, I want to suggest that we are at that tipping point. And it’s not a sharp peak. More like, we’re rounding over the top of the hill, and more and more people on the liberal side of the house are simply becoming disgusted with Woke authoritarianism, and refusing to cooperate.

I hope (for heavens sake) that the Church of Woke is entering its decadent decline phase. Having gorged itself on Western culture since the late 1990s, its grown fat, lazy, slothful, and much too proud of its power — and there’s no question that Moral Majority 2.0 (the Secular Woke edition) is far, far more powerful and has far more adherents than Moral Majority 1.0 (the plastic-haired Televangelist edition) ever had. The Church of Woke has billion-dollar corporate PR in its hip pocket. The Church of Woke rules campuses from coast to coast, and beyond. The Church of Woke still tries to crush anybody who gets out of line, won’t drink the kool-aid, and decides to have an independent opinion about difficult, complex, or controversial topics.

But it’s been my thought for a long time now that even very powerful, very well-funded zealotry has a built-in expiration date. Because all zealotry (any nation, any era) invariably breeds contempt among the population. Mostly because such zealotry is almost always totalitarian in its approach while its practitioners too often show themselves to be monstrously hypocritical. It was no accident that Swaggart and the Bakkers were two of the biggest stars of Moral Majority 1.0, and their downfall presaged the great waning of Moral Majority 1.0’s power and influence in the United States.

Moral Majority 2.0 is way bigger. Much better funded. Owns more institutions, and has more people rabidly pushing it at multiple levels. But it’s not immune to the same inevitable forces of human nature which brought Moral Majority 1.0 down. Eventually, the Church of Woke just gets tired. People become fed up. The rules and expectations become too clownish, too impossible to follow, and the people speaking and enforcing them too ridiculous to take seriously. The rebellion gets underway. And in all rebellions, you need people to hold up lanterns to guide the way.

I don’t think Chappelle wanted the job. But he’s got it, now. Just because he refuses to quit.

And there’s a big lesson in that for each and every fiction writer in the Western world at this moment. Things may seem difficult or even impossible when the road is strewn with so many political landmines, but if you simply refuse to quit, and can continue to practice your art with grace, subtlety, humor, and creativity, you will gain and grow your audience. People are starved for such material. They’re sick to death of cookie-cutter box-checking stories which push the Woke politics to the front stage, and leave everything else in the dressing room. They want real storytelling back. In their books. In their movies. In their games. They are done with the religious sermon. Absolutely done.

And that’s where your market window is. That’s where you can provide quality product for an eager, underserved audience. Which is unafraid to respond with vigor when it gets what it wants.

26 comments

  1. I both agree and disagree, but I would have to go away and consider how to articulate my opinions on this matter.

    t would probably start with describing how the process of Moral Majority 1.0 led to the swing to Moral Majority 2.0, and what we should all be aware that a large swing to a reactionary conservative Moral Majority 3.0 would in and of itself not be a good thing for society.

    But who has the time to write something that will convince no one except those that agree? I’m not in a secure enough place to be able to put the effort required to joust with windmills.

    I would only say be careful what you wish for, because the road to Hell is paved w good intentions.

    1. I’ve noticed the “swings” tend to be more a rush of people who don’t care about the cause, but do want to be wearing the stompy-boots and have permission to abuse someone.

      That suggests the solution would be objecting to the behavior, not the claimed motives, no?

    2. The historical narrative you describe is probably not correct.

      It is true that there are go along to get alongs, and they do move to causes that provide desirable support and license.

      However, that is a type of historical narrative that makes a lot of sense when you are looking at the loudest voices within a country, from the outside, through a media lens.

      Okay, I am also blinded, incomplete information, etc…

      The seeds of ‘Moral Majority 2.0’ were growing in America well prior to the end of ‘Moral Majority 1.0’, and those seeds were not a simple reaction to ‘Moral Majority 1.0’.

      The frontier revivalist movement basically was a really huge influence on modern North American Protestantism. Revivalism came out of, or was inspired by writing of, the New England Calvinists, who are basically extinct as a practice. Revivalist thinking is extant in a bunch of Protestant denominations that are in taxonomy and theology not that flavor of New England Calvinist. I understand Televangelism was basically some of the revivalist behavior, but televised. I’m thinking that there may have been few televangelists practicing for Catholic or Mormon audiences in that way. If Moral Majority 1.0 was revivalist in foundation, if there were few nominal Catholics or Mormons participating in that, and more participating in 2.0, it may not be a reaction. Furthermore, there are still a lot of Americans who kept up the lifestyle, of reading a bunch of ‘Christian’ books by modern nominally Christian authors, etc., and who have not gone woke, so it feels different to me than what you describe. In my opinion, there was a lot of Christian religious behavior in America that did not have the publicity of the televangelists, and that is still present without much regard for the waxing or waning of the televangelists.

      ‘Moral Majority 2.0’ pretty clearly has some ancestry in stuff adjacent to the Wilson and FDR administrations. There is a fair amount of evidence that it does have a religious basis, but a different one from that of ‘Moral Majority 1.0’.

      Additionally, it can be shown that taking a historical narrative, fitting a curve to it, and then extrapolating that curve is not a reliably valid forecast. There are circumstances where sound forecasts can be made, but the general suspicion should be that a forecast is unsound. A less political example of such a historical forecast might be ‘Industry 4.0’. I recall some presentations on that, which made predictions that I am now fairly certain I can show the invalidity of.

      1. ‘Moral Majority 2.0’ pretty clearly has some ancestry in stuff adjacent to the Wilson and FDR administrations. There is a fair amount of evidence that it does have a religious basis, but a different one from that of ‘Moral Majority 1.0’.

        That would map well to Rev. Charles E. Coughlin, the communist radio priest–1930s. Blessed Fulton Sheen* did a lot of work to counter that guy’s damage, but the former’s stuff would be very familiar to those listening to the Woke.

        There’d be a lot of looking in on the various freak-outs where the ancestors of the Woke occasionally worked with more stand folks of good moral standing, and when the witch-hunts went bad they suddenly hadn’t been involved at all. Look at the “it was crazy religious folks who were against D&D,” when it was more the usual whip-up-a-hysterical-mob stuff.

        *He evangelized– brought the good news– on TV, but was definitely not like the 80s televangelists.

        1. Oh my gosh, coming around to the original subject of stand-up– apparently at one point Milton Berle was asked about what he thought of Life is Worth Living, Sheen’s TV show, and commented that the guy was pretty good for someone that used old material.

          … like, 2000+ years old…. :snickers:
          How often do you hear somebody being that classy *and* funny at the same time, these days?

        2. Evangelized is a word that can have some different meanings.

          Fulton Sheen, I’m pretty sure, would have expected people to attend Mass in their local diocese, if possible, and get Confirmed, etc. A supplement to their ordinarily expected practice, and converting those who are not yet in the Catholic Church.

          Mormons seem to be pretty organized, and not interested in converting people to watch a TV show, and otherwise not engage with the wider church.

          I have the impression that the Orthodox clergy are similar.

          Most likely, there are other Protestant congregations, or even denominations, that would encourage the wider participation, not just through a single clergymen.

          Revivals had an attitude that was not specific to denomination, congregation, or necessarily wider organization. On the frontier, there might be no local clergyman, and one might have gone a time since one last had a Sunday service. The attitude of a revivalist preacher was often that they were coming to new people, who had probably strayed, and needed to be brought back. Yes, it was conversion, but conversion of people who had believed to some degree, and were not necessarily practicing in error. Revivals were really big social events, with a lot of excitement, and did not necessarily lead to a stable community that works on more lasting change.

          My impression of a lot of televangelists, is that they often did not have a bigger organization than their own personal organization.

          New England Calvinism seems pretty relevant to the understanding of what hearsay paints of the revivalist shows. New England Calvinist theology seems to have evolved an elaborate theory of internal experiences that are part of conversion. Seems to have gone extinct partly as a result of the difficulty of ‘measuring’ this from the outside. However, an exciting social event can generate internal experiences. So, a theology that leads to uncertainty about whether one is converted, and about whether one is saved, dependent on internal experiences, might tend to promote the way American history shows waves of revivalism.

          1. *grins* I was thinking of the, ah, varied meanings of that– and now I can’t get the image of St. John with his eagle and all having a TV show, complete with gold Rolex. :laughing:

      2. You are probably right I was musing about the how I would start. The truth is I don’t know.

        Given that I lose the will to live every time I have to confront these issues, I also probably don’t care, but that’s just my mental health defence mechanism kicking in to insulate me from slipping into depression.

        Given that I had a extra-pyramidal Side-effects driven depressive episode from my rheumatoid medication that took time to sort out, I’m not inclined to engage in any great discourse on the matter.

        I should add, for context, that I’ve seen troubling reactions, from people who I consider intelligent friends (caveats on definitions of intelligent), who have reacted to any challenges of their belief that change must come now, at any cost, to eradicate black people dying (or any other hot topic issue), where my arguments that the ‘ends do not justify the means,’ which have left me seriously boggled.

        Boggled because, I consider myself to be reasonably adept at teasing out problems, and able to deescalate confrontations just from my training and experience as cognitive behavioural psychotherapist. YMMV.

        I know, I know. Don’t give up, never surrender etc., but life’s too short, and I have less time ahead of me to enjoy my life than I have life lived.

  2. Mr. Chapelle has often labored under the un-Woke impression that humor should be funny.

    I don’t always agree with what he finds funny, but he IS dedicated.

  3. Foxfier…”I’ve noticed the “swings” tend to be more a rush of people who don’t care about the cause, but do want to be wearing the stompy-boots and have permission to abuse someone.”

    Oh, absolutely. A lot of this is people who like the feeling of being vicious while also feeling morally justified in doing so. See my post Conformity, Cruelty, and Political Activism:

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/57600.html

    1. If you end up revisiting it, this part:
      Immorality is frequently motivated by a readiness to conform to law and convention in opposition to our own values.
      is a rephrasing of Catholic teaching on a well-formed conscience– the thing attacked by trying to force folks to take morally tainted vaccines.

      It seems to be extremely offensive to folks who’ve gone along.

  4. I’m having fun in a mild way by being resolutely non-woke in my own writing: with story lines that feature women wanting to get married to manly men and have families with them, and historicals with characters that are true to written historical concepts and events … including attitudes that were commonly held at the time, yet are sheer poison to our contemporary wokerati.

    1. I think I disagree with the writer of it.

      1) I do not consider official institutions of creative art to be the whole of creative art.
      2) I do not consider official institutions of the right to be the whole of the right, or even necessarily authentically right.
      3) I sometimes quite enjoy tedious theoretical arguments. That does not mean that discussing theory has any inherent value. The value of theory is only in application to real world, practical, problems, and someone who cannot apply their theory to something productive might not have sound theory.
      4) I think I heard ‘someone should be giving me money’ in that essay.
      5) Content in art is a matter of taste. I owe no ‘political ally’ an obligation to override my taste.
      6) Expanding on that, one can slice the right into many factions, including factions of an individual. An individual may conclude that skeevy art, that is defended as ‘authentic’, is a politically relevant lie, part of the left disinformation about human societies. In addition to individual feelings on taste.

      1. “I think I heard ‘someone should be giving me money’ in that essay.”

        Yeah, I hear that one quite often from “conservative” “artists” who can”t seem to break through to the big bucks they feel they deserve. Scare quotes because real conservatives work for a living, and real artists do their art whether they get money from it or not. Even if they have to only do it on the weekends because working for a living all week.

        Nobody here would know anything about that, right? 😡

      2. I mostly agree with your list. Mostly only added as a caveat because I tend to a disagreeable person. Therefore life is harder for me on the get along with everyone front.

        1. I would actually be quite concerned if everyone was unconditionally agreeing with me.

          I expect to see differences of opinion when people are thinking things through properly, and and being honest about what I see.

  5. So many of the books (and movies, and plays, and TV shows) lauded for their “relevance,” and “searing critique of [patriarchy/racism/sexism/whateverism]” are just dull, and painfully predictable. I remember over a decade ago a gent who happens to be gay grumbling about how we’ll know Hollywood accepts homosexuals when we stop having the obviously token fabulous! gay character, and just have a cool character who happens to be gay. _The Wire_ might be that story, but no one commented on it at the time. Granted, there are people who love predictable stories – thus formula romances, cozy cooking or needle-craft mysteries – but even there it’s the plot, not the preaching that fits beats and expectations. And those readers vote with dollars, despite (too spite?) critics. Woke has become boring. Boring is deadly to art, any art. Too much of abstract expressionism is boring.

    1. Sorry about the typos. I’m being deafened by a Cat of A Certain Age who is absolutely certain that she is (loudly) dying of neglect and starvation.

    2. I’ve noticed that myself. I saw some scrap of a headline about “Disney rebooting The Rocketeer” and instantly thought “…who will be black and fight Racism, with a 50/50 chance of being traumatized by syphilis experiments”. And my emotional reaction wasn’t even annoyance, but utter, overwhelming *dreariness*.

  6. I would argue that plastic-haired Televangelists and the Woke-ies are two sides of the same coin. They’re both Karens. Right along with the WCTU and that old bitch Carry Nation who used to smash up bars with a hatchet and the horrible eugenicists of the same time frame. “Do as we say or it’s hatchet time!” Currently best seen on display in Australia, where the latest meme is the cops grabbing some guy’s coffee on a walking trail to make sure there was coffee in it, because he wasn’t wearing a mask. On a walking trail. Like, outside and far away from other people.

    Australia is f-ed. they’re probably all watching Dave Chappelle.

    Dave Chappelle is the current media alternative to totalitarian Karenism. That side is called “Get off my lawn.” Dave Chappelle has been mocking the rabid Left to good effect for years now, and seeing the “trans” members of Netflix employees staging a walkout to get him cancelled is a thing of beauty. All the more so because the virtue-signalling management lizards won’t cancel the guy. They know what his numbers really look like. He’s their golden goose.

    I’m feeling pretty good about my adventure stories where nobody dies right about now. Beats the hell out of grey goo.

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