The Peculiar Conformity of Modern Radicals

April 18, 2021 Updated: May 4, 2021


The modern “radical” moves in a peculiar microcosm. Ideological bubbles of “wokeism” have sprung up around the nation—from college campuses and corporations, to Silicon Valley and even some major cities.

Inside them is a uniformly staunch sense of radicalism, originality, and non-conformity.

For the radical leftist, the surrounding world is a bastion of political assurance. University professors and curricula proselytize their same beliefs. Workplaces enforce training to ensure collective values are upheld. Corporate activism in the form of billboards, commercials, and public statements toe the same ideological line. Even Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream vehemently upholds a political ideology.

Public figures, from athletes to movie stars, do the same. Late-night television, award shows, sporting events, and the Hollywood machine all concur. These ideologies dominate dialogue on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, as Big Tech’s algorithms and oligarchs scramble to fact-check, censor, and squash dissent.

Social affirmation abounds in these ideological echo chambers. Friends and acquaintances post the same activist Instagram stories and attend the same protests and demonstrations. They might even have the same unique and quirky tattoo. In the realm of collective values, a peculiar phenomenon has occurred: The radical non-conformists have become the greatest conformers, after all.

study from Jonathan Touboul of Brandeis University revealed just that. In investigating why our society’s “rebels” all end up dressing the same, talking the same, and thinking the same, he discovered and described the “hipster effect: the counterintuitive phenomenon in which people who oppose mainstream culture all end up looking the same,” the MIT Technology Review said in a report on the study.

Upon its 2019 publication, the study confirmed itself. An enraged man emailed the MIT Technology Review, threatening legal action because it had used his photo to illustrate the generic “hipster” without his consent, only to find out that it wasn’t him in the photo. He had mistaken himself for another hipster and was forced to retreat with his tail between his legs.

These little worlds, where there’s conformity in non-conformity and differentiation in sameness, reveal a glaring lack of self-awareness. If every person and every institution in one’s orbit reinforces the same orthodoxy, are they truly thinking for themselves? Are they really a radical in any meaningful sense of the word?

Although the dominant progressive dogma promotes radical change, it’s ironically conformist. When promoting change is the norm, change itself will ultimately become the status quo. In these radical enclaves, where co-inhabitants are unified in their fanatical battle cries, a peculiar and paradoxical conformity has set in. The individual may feel like a black sheep, but, if that’s the case, they’re merely one in a flock of fellow black sheep.

Captivated by their affirmative frenzy and swept up in the madness of crowds, those in the echo chamber often lose touch with the outside—that’s precisely how the 2016 election floored the world. As society’s supposed radicals adopt a set of collective values and shift the cultural tides rapidly leftward, they have revealed a new brand of genuine non-conformists: those who stand like a rock in their own convictions.

These genuine radicals come in many forms, from Republicans and conservatives to libertarians and even just classical liberals, all unified in their resistance to the rise of puritanical leftism. True radicalism in the modern age—in this moment of ideological bombardment from all corners—is genuine free thought.

So, stand strong, even if it leaves you feeling more like a thought criminal than a radical, because intellectual autonomy is sacred above all.

Rikki Schlott is a writer and student based in New York City. As a young free-speech activist, her writing chronicles the rise of illiberalism from a Generation Z perspective. Schlott also works for The Megyn Kelly Show and has been published by The Daily Wire and The Conservative Review.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.