The Rainbow Blob
What Connects the Left's Bizarre Coalitions?
Since Hamas launched its horrific attack on October 7th I’ve had a steady stream of people contact me to ask if I could explain the puzzling leftish coalition forming around the issue.
Before I attempt to untangle this conceptual mess, it’s important to note that I’m writing here about the Western reaction to the events in the Middle East, which are manifestations of our unique ideological situation.
This piece is about separating some of our home-grown propaganda from the events on the ground, which is an important step in avoiding the mass media psychosis that predictably follows an event of this kind.
Throughout my university days and a little beyond, I worked as a camera operator for a news bureau in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Part of my job was to cover local protest rallies where I was able to soak up the kind of detail we could never convey through the broadcast medium.
My brief career as a news cameraman coincided with the time social media gained wide adoption, and I watched as the nature of these protests evolved with the new technology. The early rallies I attended were tightly organised by a small group of people with specific demands, and the character of them was typically Australian - practical, level-headed, and plain-spoken.
As social media started being experimented with as a tool for agitation and mobilisation, the average age of the attendees got younger, the rhetoric more radical, and the goals less discernible. The feeling on the ground was more like a music festival where people of a similar worldview would come together to celebrate their morality.
What I now understand I was observing was a more explicitly ideological coalition forming around identity issues. For me, these were the first signs of the movement that would later become known as ‘Woke’.
The Woke Identitarian movement is held together by a grand unifying theory of oppression called Intersectionality. This concept claims that all forms of inequality are mutually reinforcing and part of a vast interconnected system of oppression that perpetuates itself through our cultural conditioning.
Like many words in the Internet era, the term ideology has gotten flabby. It’s commonly used to describe any collection of political ideas at all but this bloated definition deprives us of an important tool for pointing out a destructive form of thinking.
In its narrow sense, an ideology is a set of political stories a group of people tell to facilitate mass action. They are quasi-religious oversimplifications of reality that possess their most dogmatic believers to interpret themselves, their history, and the world around them through a fixed conceptual schema.
In his book Alien Powers, philosopher Kenneth Minogue studied a range of different ideologies in an attempt to identify their consistent features. He saw them as part philosophy, part science, and part spiritual revelation that gives believers a sense of purpose in a struggle to overcome oppression.
For Minogue, Communism, Nazism, certain feminisms, and even strains of libertarianism presented very similar patterns of ideological thought. They all proposed that a certain class of people were governed by hidden systems of oppression, they just had different ideas about who the oppressors were.
“Ideologies were distinguished from other sorts of intellectual production by the fact that they advanced proposals, and also nominated a special class to whom the task was entrusted to bring these proposals about. Each doctrine nominated what it imagined to be its natural bearers.
The problem which soon appeared was that the nominated bearers turned out to need instruction in the doctrines which constituted their natural consciousness. Proletarians had to be taught how to think like proletarians, women like women, Aryans like Aryans, and the members of nations sometimes had to be taught the very language of their nation from scratch.
The most successful ideologies were to be those which discovered the wave of the future in a natural class, and then equipped this class with a vanguard or elite who became the priests or custodians of its consciousness.”
Kenneth Minogue, Alien Powers: The Pure Theory of Ideology.
What Minogue points out is that ideologies forward a set of proposals that will lead to a new social and political order. They study a particular class of people and propose they’re living in a false consciousness that serves the interests of another class.
The task of the ideologue is to liberate the oppressed population through education about the yet-to-be-seen tyranny. The most successful ideologies of the past were only so because ideological educators worked tirelessly to expand and spread their hidden knowledge.
Not only was liberating the oppressed from their false consciousness a moral imperative for these educators but their work was further incentivised with the promise of high-status positions within the new political paradigm they sought to bring about.
Minogue called these educators ‘Custodians of Ideological Consciousness,' and they’re an unmistakable feature of the Woke movement, which found its early success in developing teaching methods & adapting educational institutions to their consciousness-raising enterprise.
The term “Woke” itself gained traction among true believers because it refers to a feeling of awakening from false consciousness into a world where hidden systems of oppression are visible.
Since Minogue's investigation, one of the more interesting ideological innovations is the fluidity of Wokeism’s oppressed class. The ideologies of the past worked on behalf of a single, cumbersome block of people - the workers (communism), the Aryan race (Nazism), and the female sex (radical feminism). What differentiates Woke Identitarian ideology from its predecessors is that its vanguard has tenaciously adapted its core doctrines of systemic oppression to many different identity groups.
Black people are oppressed by whites through systemic racism, women by men under systemic sexism, gays by straights under heteronormativity, trans people by gender conformists under cisnormativity, disabled by the abled under ableism, fats by thins under thin privilege, all the way down to left-handers being oppressed under the brutal reign of right-hand supremacy.
Anywhere a social grievance can be found, an academic franchise can be built, and the only real scrutiny the work is subjected to is determining where it fits within the intersectional hierarchy of oppression.
Because this ideology is a product of our academic institutions, where scientific studies are a means to authority, it has absorbed the forms of social science. When they use the term ‘normative’, they’re referring to norms in the statistical sense.
The bell curves of social behaviour are seen to inherently oppress the outliers, and equity is the social engineering enterprise of flattening out norms so that new ways of living can be discovered and practised unencumbered by the oppressive gaze of social values.
Each theorised system of oppression, from Whiteness to Cisgenderism, can be loosely described as normal patterns of behaviour and thought. They trace all social inequality to the simple fact that most people do similar things and that there are social expectations, laws, and institutional practices built around this reality. If something is common it’s dominant and if it’s dominant, it’s oppressive.
One of the consistent features of ideology that Kenneth Minogue identified, was that they claim the social order they seek to depose is itself an ideology. Take this description of Cisgenderism for example, where cisgender just means someone who isn’t trans.
“Cisgenderism refers to the cultural and systemic ideology that denies, denigrates, or pathologizes self-identified gender identities that do not align with assigned gender at birth… This ideology endorses and perpetuates the belief that cisgender identities and expression are to be valued more than transgender identities and expression and creates an inherent system of associated power and privilege.”
Erica Lennon, Brian J. Mistler; Cisgenderism.
They claim those who are comfortable with their biological sex, and value their traditional gender identity more than trans identities, which is most people, have been inculcated into a systemic ideology. The only way to escape this ideology and the harms it inflicts on transgendered people is to adopt Woke ideology and work on its behalf.
So then, who is in the grip of an ideology and who is in touch with reality?
After reading reams and reams of this activist canon, I’ve come to realise the foil for their revolution is a simplistic reduction of our Western cultural heritage. Through relentless ideological critique, they’ve managed to reduce our diverse legacy of customs, beliefs, political procedures, and ethics into something they call “systemic ideology”.
A civilisation is neither a system nor an ideology. It’s an evolved ecology of meaning and practice that can’t be dismantled and rearranged at will to produce desired outcomes. This reductive, mechanistic conception of culture is Woke’s biggest tell. Underneath all the hypnotic academic jargon lies the same simplistic model, repeated again and again - Cultural norms are “systems” that produce disparate outcomes and we need to reengineer them to produce equity.
It’s true that this massive canon has points of contact with reality, and some of its arguments can be made with compelling nuance, but given their cartoon reductions of human nature and social reality, it doesn’t matter. Woke Identitarianism is ideology in its purest form.
“Show up for Gaza, for Palestine, for all Indigenous peoples, for the Black Lives Matter and feminist movements, for the rights of children and for the environment. These are not separate struggles, they are all interconnected.”
Free Palestine Melbourne image at the top of this piece.
Like a leotard at a Lizzo concert, the oppressive construct is stretched and contorted to its absolute limit. Palestinians are seen to be oppressed by the Israelis under a system of Colonialism, which is also the construct that oppresses indigenous peoples. This system of oppression is viewed through the eyes of African Americans as Whiteness, which is how the BLM movement plays in. It morphs into Patriarchy for the feminists, and the environmentalists are connected via Climate Justice, which is intersectionality’s foray into climate change.
It’s tempting for activists to turn to these constructions to bring more people and energy to their cause, but trying to wield the masses in this way is a Faustian bargain. The underlying issues have a way of getting lost in the movement’s ideological mystifications, and resources are reliably diverted away from practical work into shady NGOs that are dedicated to endless consciousness-raising efforts.
Shortly after the death of George Floyd, a practically-minded friend who works for Médecins Sans Frontières wrote me the perfect sentence to sum up this parasitic dynamic.
“We’re a humanitarian health org in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re being forced to focus on exorcising a vague evil entity (colonialism).”
Decolonial activists had used the BLM media frenzy to stage a passive-aggressive putsch from within the organisation. One of many such cases. The same activists are now using the frenzy around the Israel/Gaza situation to seize more ground for their cultural revolution. They appear to be having trouble leveraging energy this time and have alienated many allies, but I’m reluctant to join the chorus of commentators celebrating the death of Woke.
The canon is too widespread, it lives in too many young minds, and there are too many careers tangled up in it for it to just wither away. When this body of work escaped its academic laboratory and came into contact with social media, an entity I call The Rainbow Blob entered the world.
The Rainbow Blob believes that with enough complaint, anything can be achieved. For the blob, all problems are fundamentally social, which means every unresolved hardship is tied to an implicit burden of guilt. It hunts down scapegoats, devouring careers and reputations in a blind search for absolution.
The Rainbow Blob will never stop. Its lust for change will never abate. It absorbs goodwill, attention, and resources from real causes and converts the energy into momentum for its dissociated revolution.
Left to run its natural course, it will redefine, reimagine, reshape, and reengineer civilisation until everything is equally diverse, exclusively inclusive, and its colours run together to reveal a nihilistic black. Beware the Rainbow Blob.