Woke campaigners can cause more harm than good, study finds

Woke campaigners can harm the fight for social justice by letting "righteous anger become self-righteous toxicity", a think tank has found. 

The Fabian Society, which aims to establish a democratic socialist society in Britain, will publish a report analysing the so-called culture wars and the "anti-woke" agenda on Monday. 

The report, entitled "How to resist the culture wars and build 21st-century solidarity", concluded that there is a "tipping point" at which the work of "progressives" or "woke" campaigners, who are fighting for a more just society, is effective and impactful.

Researchers said: "The rage many progressives feel about the inequality and injustice that disfigure our society is not merely understandable and legitimate – it can be actively helpful as a source of collective inspiration and personal resilience.

"The point at which it tips from a strength into a weakness is when righteous anger becomes self-righteous toxicity. Nobody – most of all progressives – can afford for relationships to become poisoned in this way, because the challenges of the 2020s are simply too big for any group or segment of society to deal with them alone. 

"As we have seen in the first year of this devastating pandemic, only solidarity – inside countries and between them – offers real security.

"The next frontiers – regulating technology, transforming our economy or dealing with the climate and ecological emergencies – are ones that we have to navigate as a whole society (and eventually as a whole global community)."

The report also concluded that the culture wars and the "anti-woke" agenda is pitting working-class communities against each other.

The Labour-affiliated think-tank claims that rows over issues such as racial equality and cancel culture are stoked by politicians, media outlets and social media platforms rather than reflecting actual attitude divides among the public.

Roger Harding, the report’s second co-author, added: "Culture war peddlers often use contrived stories to pit working-class communities against one another and caricature movements for racial and LGBT equality.

"We need to have the confidence to call out what they are doing so we can build on the public demand – especially amongst working-class people up and down the country – for action on jobs, climate change and building a better future for the next generation."

The so-called culture wars have been played out over a number of controversies in recent years, from whether Rule Britannia should be played at the end of the Proms, to supposed calls to have the film Grease "cancelled".

Rows have also erupted over the Black Lives Matter movement, the England football team taking the knee before matches, and over LGBT+ rights.

The decision by England players to take the knee before each Euro 2020 game has caused controversy

Credit: Neil Hall/AFP

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the Museum of the Home in Shoreditch, east London, it must "retain and explain" its controversial statue of slave trader Robert Geffrye after a petition was launched calling for its removal.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson criticised a group of Oxford students who reportedly voted to remove a picture of the Queen from their common room due to the monarchy’s links with colonialism.

Last month, elections expert Professor Sir John Curtice claimed that the Conservative Party are seeking to "tap into" a wider set of values held by those who voted to leave the EU in 2016 through an "anti-woke agenda".

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, added: "It will not be easy to end the culture wars which have become a valuable tool for cynics on the right.

"These fake controversies create division between people with shared economic needs and they distract the public from a low-tax, low-regulation, libertarian worldview that few in Britain support.

"Progressives of all stripes – and the Labour Party in particular – must focus their energy not on winning culture wars, but on calling them out, building bridges and ending these divisive battles."

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