“In this House…” The Slogans of Woke Progressivism

A woke progressive resides here

Have you seen this sign? I see it or a version of it all the time. I walk a lot, and the neighborhood where I live is teaming with progressives, and these are the slogans of progressivism. “Love is love” is a meaningless stab at a tautology. “Kindness is everything” is dangerous. One need not be kind to aggressors or invaders. Indeed, human survival depends on hard-headed refusal to universalize kindness. The naïve expression of humanitarianism embedded in this sentiment in turn inspires the slogan “No human is illegal,” admonishing us to remember that those who cross national borders without authorization should not be referred to as illegal aliens or immigrants; at worst they are unauthorized or undocumented. But crossing national borders without authorization is illegal, so it’s really an expression of open borders. Of course women’s rights are human rights. Women are humans. My last few blog entries on abortion rights have concerned that matter. I will direct you there. A slogan won’t do.

The weird conflation of epistemology and ontology aside, the “Science is real” slogan is at odds with belief in Black Lives Matter, since the movement is based on claims exposed as demonstrably false by the lights of science. It’s this problem that I want to address in this essay, namely the progressive claim to stand with science—to “follow the science,” as the faithful say—and the rejection of scientific claims that stand outside the political-ideological parameters of the woke progressivism. You may have noticed that, by virtue of being progressive, progressives know more than those they suspect of being something other than that—which is anybody who doesn’t chant the slogans. Woke progressivism is like a zealous religious attitude. The snobbish attitude is endemic to the progressive mindset in the same way that fundamentalist Christians know they have the scoop on the world. The rank-and-file behaves as if they are among the elect. In contrast, the man who is not progressive, whatever his background or qualifications, is a backwards neanderthal because he doesn’t rehearse the progressive lines.

One can see this in the debates around the SARS-CoV-2 virus. During the COVID-19 pandemic hysteria, my arguments, despite being science-based, were dismissed ostensibly because I am not trained in the areas progressives deem relevant. Even assuming their parameters, one would still have to claim that a PhD in any scientific field is not a fungible skill, that understanding how to think and work scientifically does not apply across domains. This reflects a poor understanding of science and scientific training. I have empirical research published in peer-reviewed academic journals. I know how to conduct and consume research. “Are you a doctor?” is the frequent question. Yes, actually, I am. And I am a scientist. To be sure, concepts and theories are abstracted from the concrete realities of the various domains, and there is something to be said for expertise, but the basic methods by which the specific is worked into the general remain the same. (See The Cynical Appeal to Expertise.)

Yet even those doctors and scientists with expertise in the areas progressives deem relevant but who also break with the prevailing narrative—that a narrative prevails and we all know what the terms of the narrative are proves the claim that progressives have captured society’s major institutions—are dismissed as crackpots and bigots, as rightwingers and reactionaries. And in both instances, there is a profound contradiction at work. In disagreements over scientific matters, when progressives cite the alleged absence of expertise of the person with whom they disagree, they at the same time disqualify themselves on the same grounds. If I cannot make a science-based claim because the subject matters pertains to a domain for which I am not specialized, then how does the person who points this out presume to make science-based claims or, for that matter, know whether I am right or wrong? How do they get to argue from the lay position yet I am disqualified even though I am a scientist? And all those doctors and scientists with expertise in the fields of epidemiology, immunology, virology, etc. who disagree with the thoroughly corporate-captured CDC, FDA, and WHO, by what lights do progressives judge them? By the edicts of the very governmental agencies the norms of science demand we subject to skeptical inquiry? How do they know who to trust? They’re progressives, that’s how, and the regulatory apparatus of the corporate state they bow down to told them what to believe.

For progressives, it’s all ideology all the time, and the ideology in play is a projection of the technocratic desire of corporate statism. They confuse science with the edicts of regulatory agencies because of their faith in Big Brother. In the end (or at least close to it), I was right about COVID-19. Why? Because I am a scientist? Sure. But, more importantly, because I am not a progressive. Progressivism is a species of ideological blindness. It makes a virtue of appeal to authority and dresses it in a degree of condescension befitting a religious attitude. “Science is real” has the same vibe as “Jesus is the way and the truth.” Indeed, progressives sound a lot like Christians. When hailing from the left, they’re practically indistinguishable. It’s as if Jesus had blue hair. This is why, if you were inclined to put a sign in your yard, the sign shared below would adequately represent the scientific humanist spirit, while at the same time pointing out the stupidity of the ideology that pretends to.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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