Free Speech

Nick Cave Slams 'Woke' Culture as 'Self-Righteous' and Suppressive

"Antifa and the Far Right," he adds, are "good for nothing."


Australian musician and writer Nick Cave—best known as the genre-bending Goth heartthrob leader of the Bad Seeds—has had enough of "woke culture." A fan recently asked the 62-year-old Cave about his political leanings, and another inquired: "How 'woke' are you?" His answer, posted at his blog The Red Hand Files, is as lapidary and memorable as the theme song he composed for Peaky Blinders.

I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as 'the truth' or 'the way'. This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including 'woke' culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought. Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.

Antifa and the Far Right, for example, with their routine street fights, role-playing and dress-ups are participants in a weirdly erotic, violent and mutually self-sustaining marriage, propped up entirely by the blind, inflexible convictions of each other's belief systems. It is good for nothing, except inflaming their own self-righteousness.

Cave reminds his readers that

Some of us…are of the generation that believed that free speech was a clear-cut and uncontested virtue, yet within a generation this concept is seen by many as a dog-whistle to the Far Right, and is rapidly being consigned to the Left's ever-expanding ideological junk pile.

Indeed. One of the most amazing things about the current moment is the rapidity with which hard-fought battles to clear a space for free speech have been forgotten and replaced by a new censoriousness. It was only 50 years ago that we really won the right to talk and speak freely about all sorts of topics and ideas. Do we really want to return to an older time when speech and culture were constipated?