The new woke war on the very concept of 'freedom'

From the inky print of the Washington Post to the digital pages of Teen Vogue, an astonishing movement is underway.  Simply put, the argument being made is that, because what we know as "freedom" is a historically White / colonialist / patriarchal (emphasis on the white) construct and White / colonialist / patriarchal concepts are intrinsically evil, then the very idea of freedom is bad (again, emphasis on the white).

Just as asking a person what 2 plus 2 is and getting the response "harbor" can indicate that that person has at best a loose grip on reality, it is tempting to dismiss this latest line of, um, thought as so off base that it's otherworldly in its inexplicability.  But sadly, that may not be possible, as the people making this argument have access to resources, media exposure, and the levers of power that are manifestly unavailable to the very people they would demonize.

The scribblings of Teen Vogue can be taken less seriously with a private dismissal along the lines of "maybe they should stay in their lane and keep writing pieces on 'Which Rom-Com Role You Are Based on Your Zodiac Sign.'"  However, flippantly ignoring the Washington Post and other outlets is less simple.

Image: American flag by wirestock, edited to add Francis Scott Key's original lyrics.

Freedom is not just a stand-alone ideal; it involves many very specific aspects: freedom of movement, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.  Reading certain items in the Post and other outlets denigrating those concepts leaves one with the distinct feeling of just having glimpsed a suicide note.

It is unnerving to know that there are members of the press who so loathe that which they cannot directly control that they are willing to put their whole enterprise — the entire meaning of their existence — at risk.  Imagine an op-ed by Dr. J calling to ban the dunk in the NBA or a piece by Picasso stating that the only good art is the strictly representational kind.  Outside sociopaths, the inherent psychological contradictions in holding those positions would be impossible to internally justify.

Others are taking the notion even farther, claiming that extolling the virtues of such freedom not only is racist, but inevitably leads to violence and terrorism — again, a chilling train of thought.

For centuries, Americans and the West generally have believed that all humans have an innate desire for freedom, for the ability to say, think, and do what they believe is best.  It has clearly not always worked out that way, for any number of reasons, but this ideal has been the driver of so much history that it's inexplicable that journalists, of all people, would wish it away for transitory gain.

It is true that the past two years have shown that far from everyone holds this view and that far too many individuals are perfectly fine with adhering to the whimsy of the moment of the empowered.  However, if the pandemic has, in fact, changed society that much, we could be facing something far worse than we have endured up to this point and could be staring into the abyss of the long COVID of the soul.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at  You can read more of his work at

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