Doorstep Postings: The endlessly spinning cycles of wokeness—from the campus quad to the highest corridors of political power

Toronto Star reporter Kristin Rushowy offered the iconic image of the keffiyeh ban at Queen's Park.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Tired of hearing columnists whine about out-of-control wokeness on college campuses? Join the club, so am I! They’re almost as bad, if not worse, than the columnists decrying right-wing extremism, which is somehow always reaching new heights.  

Most of the loud and annoying campus activists I attended university with two decades ago have calmed down and moved on to live normal lives. Some never mellowed out and went on to become members of the professional activist class—where you make varying degrees of money by complaining about problems instead of solving them, and manipulating people into doing things.

Still fewer became actual elected officials, which is where you do the exact same thing as the professional activists, except you make a lot more money, befriend a lot more lobbyists, and join boards when you finally lose, quit, or are hounded out due to too-obvious corruption.

On these boards, you use your relationships that you’ve cultivated over the decades with your former elected-official pals and wear open-collared button-down shirts and dresses with sleeves instead of trendy hipsterwear.

And at every stage in this process, you become furious to the point of incapacity whenever someone is less than respectful to you.

(Some of these creeps never fully left campus, which puts them in a hazard class all their own.)

Still other university loudmouths become the aforementioned columnists, and now publish columns about how students have, at last—and due to the malign influence of foreign funding—finally obliterated the last vestiges of respectability and crossed the line into antisemitism. Back in their day, the left was open and tolerant. Now, it isn’t!

But many students, left, right, and centre, have no familiarity with these wannabe Robespierres, and couldn’t find any examples of wokeness run amok if they tried. They’re equally as confused when some lunatic screams “Go back to Poland!”, predicts 10,000 Oct. 7s, or expects praise for not killing Zionists.

They have no familiarity with the secret codes and relationships built between the tiny minority of trust-fund enabled wackos who eventually graduate to become Honourable Members, Senators, Governors-General, and, within the past decade, Prime Ministers.

The grey mass of normal people who filter through the university system—people with actual skills and competencies beyond tricking people who don’t know better into wasting their money and time in the service of noble-sounding projects that never go anywhere—spend their lives trying to avoid being inconvenienced too badly by the excesses of the activist-columnist complex. (Personally, I like to think I can operate equally well on either—I accept your judgment on how successful I am.)

If these normies ever go into public service, professional commentators will roll their eyes at their lack of “royal jelly” or the obvious fact that they are “not leaders”. These commentators might themselves be part of the activist-columnist complex or adjacent to it.

Either way, they know who they are loyal to and it isn’t these charisma-challenged empty suits who “don’t understand politics.” And so the cycle perpetuates itself until the entire system becomes so unmanageable that the competent people can no longer correct for the excesses of the incompetent who have accumulated large followings telling them they can do no wrong. 

So. I could be like your basic columnist telling you it’s 1938, and Jews need to be vigilant because wokesters are waving Hezbollah flags down stateside. Or that independent Ontario MPP Sarah Jama being told to remove her keffiyeh by a condescending white male as three young female Legislative Pages of colour looked on in heartbreak is not who we are as a nation and also totally who we are as a nation. Or ask who the hell appointed Naomi Klein (a professional activist of great stature!) Chief Rabbi of the Jews, to be telling us that we need to decolonialize and anti-racist-ify our religion to other people’s satisfaction. Or comment on how the federal Liberals fell out of a coconut tree in the leadup to Passover as Parliament Hill protestors praised Oct. 7 and brought out the condemnatory tweets. Or how some students are trying to sue an entire university for, well, behaving as any other Canadian public institution has behaved towards Jews over the last 30 years.

And iit’s he last 30 years that is the crucial point, because 30 years ago people were already writing columns and sounding alarms and telling us to emigrate to Israel, where things are no safer than they were here, 30 years ago. But if anything changed, it would cause problems for the activists, the columnists, and the associated fandoms. Nothing changes until the wheels finally fall off. 

Instead, let’s go in a different direction, because that’s just what the hell I do here. Let’s talk about Jennifer Pan, the subject of the Netflix true-crime shockumentary What Jennifer Did, who was the subject of much discussion by other Canadian columnists in recent weeks.

Like many Jewish kids, Jennifer’s parents were the typical Canadian suburban hard-ass workaholic non-white (?) mom and dad who expected excellence 100 percent of the time and curtailed her freedom when they didn’t get it from her. She started lying about her grades and jobs and admissions and awards to keep them happy—and when they finally saw through her performance, it triggered a series of events that led to Jennifer ordering a contract hit that killed her mom and severely wounded her dad. (Here is where we diverge from the Jewish experience because while many of us have fantasized about this exact scenario, few if any actually carry it out.)

Everyone wants to talk about Jennifer, her parents, the allegation that the documentary uses AI-generated fake photos, or the journalist who brought the story to the masses that Jennifer is being inappropriately sensationalized.

But nobody wants to talk about the system that keeps churning out Jennifers, which is the same one that keeps the roiling debate over Israel-Palestine and all the factors impacting it just rolling along. The system perpetuated by journalists and politicians and columnists and the rest of the professional activists who were told they were extraordinary and could achieve greatness growing up until they got smacked in the face with the reality that they weren’t and probably couldn’t. Some of them shamefully and quietly accepted that reality and never got over it. Some, like Jennifer Pan, tried to keep the illusion of excellence alive and failed.

But some were able to maintain the facade—and we have them to thank for the state we find ourselves in today.  

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.