Unfortunately, this essay needs to be written because so many people seem to be fatally confused about the concept of academic freedom, freedom of belief and speech more broadly and the value of viewpoint diversity and robust debate. That is, they fail to see the difference between someone making an argument that other people might find personally upsetting but which they do not have to read or listen to and targeted harassment, intimidation and dishonest character assassination intended to terrify people into silence. This is a very alarming development and it has never been more evident than in the current situation surrounding Professor Kathleen Stock.

Kathleen Stock is a feminist academic who has been critical of some forms of trans activism and queer theory that prioritise a personal perception of gender identity over the existence of biological sex in ways that impact on women’s rights, spaces and sports. While defending the rights of trans people to be free from harassment and discrimination and honouring their pronouns, Stock believes that recognizing the material reality of biological sex is important. In Material Girls she rejects the idea that only trans people have a right to an opinion on the subject of gender and argues that everyone does and that she as a lesbian sex-nonconforming woman has skin in the game too. She believes that women’s rights and trans people’s rights can both be recognized as important and rejects the idea that there is no debate to be had about this.

In the past week, Stock has been on the receiving end of what can only reasonably be described as a campaign of intimidation and an attempt at cancellation in the form of having her fired from her position at the University of Sussex. This included an Instagram account set up to demand her firing, posters stuck around her office calling for her firing and referring to her as transphobic and banners targeting her personally accompanied by the use of flares. In addition to this student activists issued explicit threats to continue the aggressive targeted harassment until Stock is fired and incited to others to behave intimidatingly until she is gone. The Instagram account said

‘If you care for our community like we do, spread the word, get people angry, angry enough to do something about it,’

And ‘Our demand is simple: Fire Kathleen Stock. Until then, you’ll see us around.’

Given all of this and the fact that police have needed to be consulted regarding Prof. Stocks’ physical safety is it any wonder that she has experienced panic attacks and been described as hyperventilating and crying? This was a targeted, personal attack on an individual of a physically threatening nature simply because she wrote a book, made some arguments and organized with feminist and gay and lesbian groups to argue for the need to consider biological sex a relevant factor.

Incredibly, there are people who see Prof. Stock making arguments which target no individual and which people can choose to read or not and which repeatedly stress the importance of trans people’s rights not to be intimidated or discriminated against as equivalent or even worse than the campaign of intimidation against her as an individual. Nowhere is this more evident than on Twitter. Twitter should not be mistaken for a representation of broader society but neither should its power and influence be underestimated.

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This is blatantly untrue as well as being ridiculously hyperbolic. Would it be reasonable to accuse Judith Butler of making gender-conforming (or as Stock would prefer “sex-conforming”) people unsafe and wanting them dead because she has written and spoken about the importance of understanding gender as a performance? Would it be reasonable for students who disagreed with Butler’s theories of gender to worry that she wanted them dead or ethical for them to aggressively hound her, demand her firing and incite students to behave aggressively towards to her? Of course it would not. Butler is to be understood as having written arguments which people, including Kathleen Stock, have responded to appropriately with arguments. If activists targetted Butler in this way or any other queer theorist or trans activist in this way (which of course happens) it would almost certainly be clear to the activists hounding Stock that this was harassing and threatening behaviour. It would also be clear to Kathleen Stock who condemns any such behaviour very explicitly.

Many activists do not see this in this case because of their belief that arguments about sex and gender which do not comport with their gender ideology are literally dangerous to trans people. It is argued that any differing views on how sex and gender work can lead trans people to commit suicide. “Pretend to believe what I do or I’ll kill myself” is an emotionally manipulative demand and cannot be used ethically to prevent people expressing a range of views on an issue that really needs to be discussed. People who are suicidal require psychological support not the censorship of all other viewpoints. Similarly, it is argued that the existence of gender critical feminist arguments encourages violence against trans people although there is no evidence of anyone having committed violence influenced by gender critical feminism. Nevertheless, the belief that disagreement with a certain gender ideology held by (what is almost certainly) a minority of trans people is literally dangerous to trans people persists. If you believe this, it seems perfectly reasonable to respond to such arguments not with counterarguments but with aggressive retaliation. People with this mindset do not see Stock as a philosopher having an opinion which could be upsetting to some people but as a hatemonger causing real, genuine harm. The exchange below demonstrates this well.

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Bizarrely, this has led some people to accuse those defending Stock or opposing the bullying and harassment of being “snowflakes.” They even regard the intimidating behaviour as “criticism” seeming not to comprehend that criticism is the production of a verbal or written critique, not an attempt to get someone fired or make them too afraid to enter their place of work.

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This use of the term “snowflake” is an attempt to turn a term coined to describe people who feel harmed by viewpoints they find upsetting back onto those who object to physical harassment and intimidation of an individual. This does not work. It therefore seems necessary to discuss what phenomenon the word “snowflake” is meant to describe and why it does not apply to people preferring not to become the victims of campaigns of targeted harassment.

I am not a fan of the term “snowflake.” It tends to be used in a derogatory fashion to indicate contempt for an individual’s lack of psychological resilience. This usually occurs in the response to some dramatic statement about the harmfulness of speech. It is often said in response to things like “Your beliefs about sex and gender deny trans people’s right to exist,” “Your words erase women of color,” ‘advocating for hearing aids is advocating Deaf genocide.” While such statements are hyperbolic, it is not particularly useful to just dismiss the individual expressing them as a snowflake. This fails to recognize that the distress felt is probably completely genuine. If it is, some compassion and also a practical solution is required if we wish to be able to keep discussing different ideas. We need to look at the cause of people feeling deeply and personally harmed by somebody else expressing a viewpoint. This could be caused by an individual having suffered trauma that has left them feeling genuinely endangered by certain trigger words and who needs to be treated with therapy. It could also be caused by a cultural shift in our attitudes towards language and concepts of emotional safety which is teaching young people to genuinely feel such intense distress at words. This is more likely the explanation in the case of activist groups and it needs to be addressed on a cultural level. This is particularly important as these groups are so often found in universities which will turn out the next generation of leaders of various industries and institutions and we need them to be able to cope with a full range of words and ideas.

On that cultural level what is disparagingly known as “snowflakery” is more seriously and empathetically expressed by concern about an increasing lack of psychological resilience. It indicates alarm that an increasing number of young people and particularly those deeply steeped in theories of Critical Social Justice behave as though words that convey ideas they find upsetting could psychologically melt them. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt looks at precisely this phenomenon in a compassionate way that accepts the phenomenon as real and dangerous. It points out that we should not just dismiss people feeling this way as snowflakes as though it is their choice and preference to feel this way. The evidence that this phenomenon is accompanied by an increase in mental illness and suicide suggests it is not something young people are taking on because they enjoy it.

This phenomenon is very real and it needs addressing robustly by re-establishing a cultural norm that exposes young people to a wide range of ideas and teaches them to respond to speech they find abhorrent and unethical with counterspeech rather than with mass hysteria, violence, intimidation and attempts to get people fired. Of course, not all young people feel or behave this way and many of the people opposing this kind of mentality are themselves members of Generation Z. They are our best hope for a more resilient, tolerant and genuinely progressive future.

The phenomenon of snowflakery or what could be more compassionately referred to as “a pathological oversensitivity to words that causes people to be less able to function in the ideologically diverse world in which we live” is very different to an ethical objection to bullying, harassment, intimidation and cancellation. It is absolutely essential that we do not lose sight of some very key distinctions.

  • The difference between distress and physical harm.

If somebody makes an argument that women are mentally inferior and should stay at home doing only domestic chores, this idea could make me feel emotionally hurt or angry or that my full humanity was not being recognized. It does not physically harm me as I remain free to do precisely what I want and I can choose not to read the argument or criticize the argument. I can make my own argument for why women should be able to access all the opportunities men have. In fact, this happened and equal rights for women won. I won’t say the subject is not up for debate but I am confident that the arguments for equal rights for women are strong enough to keep winning.

The issue of whether or not women’s rights are affected by self-identified gender identity being accepted as the definition of womanhood in all circumstances has not been settled and it really needs to be. This requires allowing people like Kathleen Stock and theorists and activists who have opposing views to make those arguments and have those discussions. They will not be easy for everyone and could cause significant distress to individuals but it will not cause them physical harm. Physical harm is much more likely to be caused by continuing not to allow this to “be up for debate.” Gender critical feminists and trans people already face much hostility and occasionally violence. Discussion is the only thing that will prevent this and enable a resolution to be found where natal women’s rights and trans people’s rights do not conflict and disadvantage either party.

  • The difference between making arguments and targeting individuals for harassment.

If somebody writes a book arguing that sex and gender both exist on a spectrum and that there are infinite numbers of gender identities and that these should be prioritized over understanding biological sex as binary with very little variation, they are making an argument. If somebody else writes a book arguing that biological sex is almost entirely binary and that it is important to recognize that and that gender identity cannot take priority over biological sex in every situation without affecting women’s safety and ability to compete fairly in sports, they are also making an argument. People are likely to have strong feelings about both books but they can express these with arguments.

If political activists become enraged with the author of either of these books and plaster their workplace with posters calling them hateful names, set off flares, set up Instagram pages to incite acts of intimidation and frighten them out of speaking or writing or going to work, this is not an argument. These are targeted acts of harassment, bullying and intimidation against an individual. They are intended to circumvent the need for argument or dialogue and instead impose one viewpoint on others by intimidation. At the moment, it is the people making arguments for recognition of biological sex that activists feel most justified in trying to bully into silence but this could change. If you recognize that this would be bullying and harassment if done to somebody writing a book supporting a position you hold, recognize that it still so when done to someone writing one supporting a position you don’t.

  • The difference between criticism of ideas and punishment for them.

If somebody strongly dislikes an idea set forth by someone else, they must be able to criticize it. A criticism is when someone makes a critical analysis of an argument and attempts to show, possibly in strong terms, why that idea is factually wrong or morally abhorrent. This is done in words just as the original idea was set out in words. If the criticism is strong enough, the other person’s reputation could be damaged and they could lose esteem in the eyes of the public. This is a natural consequence of having one’s ideas critiqued and is acceptable in a liberal society. It does not constitute a punishment although it could be considered a consequence. Nevertheless, it is an acceptable consequence that we all sign up for when putting our ideas out into the public sphere.

If someone strongly dislikes an idea set forth by someone else and they then try to get that person deplatformed, fired or intimidated into silence, this is not a criticism. There has been no critical analysis. It has not been shown why the idea is factually wrong or morally abhorrent. The person taking these steps is not seeking to criticize ideas and convince others in a legitimate way that the individual expressing the idea is not putting forth anything of worth and should not be held in high esteem. They are going straight to punishment. This is not a natural consequence but one enabled by being in a position of power that enables one to essentially ban ideas and intimidate anyone else who might be thinking of expressing them. This is not an acceptable consequence for expressing ideas in a liberal society and it is not something anyone should have to accept they are signing up for when expressing their ideas in the public sphere. If we have a society where that is the case, we have a society in which totalitarianism is being allowed to win out over liberalism and that must be fought by everybody who wishes to be able to speak freely whether they agree with the current ideas or not.

 


Andreas Bikfalvi MD PhD, University of Bordeaux and National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM)

“The politicization of science” is a divisive subject. There are people who think that science is always political while others, such as the prominent quantum Chemist Anna Krylov, say that science must keep its independent and neutral status. There have been recently two assays published in J Physical Chemistry that are holding these opposing views. In the first assay, Anna Krylov, explains what politicization of science really means and, for here, we must absolutely follow the principles of Robert K. Merton who views science as a system of organized skepticism which is neutral and universal, and must therefore be protected from political or ideological intrusion. The second assay asserts that, because of strong ties with society (universities, state-governed funding organizations etc..), science can never escape politics and must bow its knee to it. I will discuss this here by defending Krylov’s position.

In her recent essay, Anna Krylov detailed her thoughts and worries about the increasing politicization of science (1). Growing up in the U.S.S.R., Anna Krylov, who immigrated to Israel in 1991 and came to the USA in 1996 (2), experienced first-hand how communist Soviet ideology permeated all areas of the society in which she was raised. In particular, this political control affected many aspects of Russian science, the deleterious effects of which are well-known. With this background, Krylov is endowed with an important perspective on the changing nature of society and the interaction between politics, culture and science. Her article has attracted significant attention (more than 50 thousand views since its publication on June 12), and has been the subject of both praise and criticism on social media platforms.

Krylov’s essay has been criticized in print by Philip Ball, a science journalist from the UK (3,4). Here I will discuss some of his criticisms. In my opinion, his criticisms largely miss the points made by Krylov, and furthermore I find the demeaning and patronizing tone of his writings rather inappropriate.

Ball’s main point is that science is and has always been political, and therefore the idea that science and politics should be separated is naïve. My sense is that few if any scientists will disagree with this; anyone who is involved in the process of grant applications and research funding is acutely aware that funding is provided by society and priorities here are dictated by culture and politics. And this is seemingly uncontroversial, as Society wants a return on its investment. Science should ultimately lead to improving standards of living and the flourishing of society. In this sense, science and politics are intimately intertwined.

However, “politicization of science” means something entirely different in the context of Krylov’s essay. Perhaps, “imposition of ideological viewpoints into science” would be a more precise term. It means that specific ideas, doctrines, and ideologies that originated outside of science are forcefully imported into science, demanding individual scientists to conform irrespective of the validity and merit of these ideas. That is, a forceful imposition of the ideology onto science and demanding its blind acceptance. In some past instances, such ideas were based on erroneous interpretations of scientific observations, which falsely promised to nourish society and contributed to the Zeitgeist which, as a consequence, reinforced these erroneous interpretations in a kind of feed-forward loop. Lysenkoism, Eugenics, and social Darwinism are classic examples of this type. This is exactly the principal substance of Krylov’s article. She identifies current tendencies in the sciences and society that mirror these past and unfortunate perturbations of the scientific enterprise. Her worries about lasting damage that such intrusion may cause are indeed well-founded.

Rather than focusing on the Krylov’s main point, Ball instead spends much of his effort attacking a strawman of his own creation. Nowhere in Krylov’s viewpoint is the issue of improving diversity in science discussed. Yet Ball talks a lot on this topic, creating the false impression that Krylov’s paper is somehow at odds with the prevailing opinion of the importance of this issue.

Another aspect of Ball’s criticism is related to the question of values in science. There is an ongoing discussion about how moral and ethical values are related to science. In the past, this discussion has been mainly confined to the social sciences: Max Weber’s distinction of “sein” (is) and “sollen” (ought), which was the subject of the “Werturteilsstreit” at the beginning of the 20th century. This has been followed by debates between Neurath (Vienna Circle) and Horkheimer (critical theory) in the 1940s and those between Popper (critical rationalism) and Adorno (critical theory) as well Albert (critical rationalism) and Habermas (critical theory) three decades later (5).

But the discussion about values has many aspects. For instance, should a professor attempt to indoctrinate their mentees (students and post-docs) and transform them into activists, or should the professor instead teach them how to think? For me, the latter is mandatory. Should academic institutions or funding organizations introduce criteria for recruitment or obtaining grants that favor considerations other than merit, potential, and expertise? Should science explore all possibilities in the realm of rationality? Or, perhaps, should there be areas of knowledge that are off-limits to investigation because of conflicts with current societal wisdom? These are difficult questions to answer since science is conducted within ethical boundaries, which evolve with time and can differ between societies. However, such questions about the value system of a scientific enterprise are distinct from the privately held morals of a scientist, which should be separated from his or her scientific work. Should scientists be judged on their scientific merits alone, or “cancelled” when failings — as judged by deviance from contemporary moral values — occur? Should Einstein be cancelled because of his disparaging remarks in his private diary about the Chinese (6)? Should John von Neumann be canceled because he designed the explosive lens that would surround the atom bomb and calculated the altitude at which the bomb should explode to cause maximum damage? (7).

Furthermore, the evaluation of past events under a lens of contemporary moral standards is questionable and may lead to erroneous conclusions. A good example (outside of science) is to depict the 17th Century French philosopher Montesquieu as a racist (as Cornell West did, (8)) when one does not understand that the tone of his “Lettres Persanes“ is ironical (perhaps because of a lack of erudition in the French language). Should we judge as racist the biologist and Nobel prize winner Hermann Müller who was a committed eugenicist, but at the same time a devout Marxist? (9).

 

Finally, basing value judgments of the present on past events as causal factors is highly contentious and does not take into account causal complexities, confounding factors, background conditions, etc. In most cases, they represent classical examples of defective causal reasoning.

Ball cites Oreske. I will cite the Canadian historian and science sociologist Yves Gingras, a Mertonian who already in 2019 said: “By deciding that the social behavior of scientists will now affect their chances of keeping their grants, the NSF extends its traditional mission beyond that of scientific gatekeeper. This is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the times, but by explicitly opening the scientific sphere to the general social sphere, it will be moving onto more slippery terrain,” (10) and “Whereas getting funded by the NSF was perceived as a sign of scientific excellence, it is possible that in the coming years, keeping one’s grant will have also become a badge of good social behavior. It also suggests that existing institutions hiring those people are not doing their work properly. But as the road to hell is paved with good intentions….” (10). In the same vein, the NIH in the US has recently implemented a policy for grant applications that introduces huge moral biases, a true Mertonian sacrilege!

Ball’s understanding of current social movements seems to miss at least some of what is going on at all levels of society, including education, the sciences, and medicine. Does he want racial discrimination based on the importation of critical race theory (CRT) in the medical praxis or does he want a socially egalitarian evidence-based medicine preserved (11)? Does he approve of the replacing of rigorous mathematics instruction by dumbed-down ethnocentric versions of mathematics pedagogy (12)?

Towards the middle of Ref. 3, Ball states, “To suggest that science should be immune to calls in the broader society to re-examine the biases and incentives that inhibit diversity is not just in itself a political act, but moveover [sic] one that may be against the interests of science.” I find this rather ironic because Ball and so many others are not arguing for diversity in viewpoints in science. On the contrary, they want to imbue science with a homogeneous political ideology, which means Ball is making Krylov’s case for her without realizing it.

I am sure that Anna Krylov’s essay will remain widely read and important despite Ball’s attempt to distort its message and his misdirected criticisms. Undoubtedly, the Savonarola’s of the present day are well alive!

References

  1. Krylov AI, The Peril of Politicizing Science. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2021, 12, 22, 5371-5376, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpclett.1c01475
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Krylov
  3. Philip Ball. Science Is Political, and We Must Deal with It. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2021, 12, 27, 6336-6340, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpclett.1c02017
  4. Philip Ball. Science is political. Chemistry World, 16 July 2021, https://www.chemistryworld.com/opinion/science-is-political/4013986.article
  5. Albert H, Topisch E. Werturteilsstreit. Wege der Forschung Band 175; Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1979
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/world/einstein-travel-diaries.html
  7. John von Neumann, https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/John_von_Neumann
  8. West C. A Genealogy of Modern Racism. In Race Critical Theories, Eds : P. Esset, DT Goldberg, pp. 90-110,
  9. Richards M. Artificial insemination and eugenics: celibate motherhood, eutelegenesis and germinal choice, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Volume 39, Issue 2, June 2008, Pages 211-221 .
  10. Gingras Y. The moralisation of science is challenging its autonomy. University World News. 23 March 2019, https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20190320145639758
  11. Wispelwey B., Moore M. An Antiracist Agenda for Medicine. Boston Review, March 17, 2021, http://bostonreview.net/science-nature-race/bram-wispelwey-michelle-morse-antiracist-agenda-medicine
  12. Deift, P.; Jitomirskaya, S.; Klainerman, S. America is flunking math. Persuasion, 2021. https://www.persuasion.community/p/why-america-is-flunking-math-education

Curt Jaimungal and Desh Amila’s new documentary Better Left Unsaid  is a gripping chronicle of the post-modern extreme left’s descent into ideological thought-policing. The documentary is skilfully presented by the captivating Jaimungal and is helpfully divided into chapters.

Amila and Jaimungal trace the decline of civil debate to the introduction of new terminology that began from around 2013 in the English-speaking West. A raft of new rhetorical slogans (“TERFs”, “mansplaining”, “non-binary”, “intersectional”, “white privilege”, “systemic racism”, “diversity”, etc.) came into currency, and along with the lexicon came a new moralizing that prized diversity of ethnicity and race over diversity of viewpoint. According to interviewee Professor Bruce Pardy of Queens University, it is hard to understand what it is the radical left wish to achieve other than an extreme form of collective authoritarian control.

Amila and Jaimungal carefully avoid setting up straw men. At every step, their documentary offers a truthful rendering of the radical left’s positions and arguments, as well as tracing them back to their origins in post-modern thought. Only after honestly explaining the radical left’s stances and assertions do they launch the counterarguments. This is particularly important because the extreme left has conspicuously (and tactically?) avoided entering into the kind of reasoned debates that academics from the liberal left (now re-branded ‘conservatives’) would win. Instead, the far left has pushed its ideology through the use of cancel culture, misleading language, and/or pre-emptive changes in policy or law. This has led many on the liberal left to compare the radical left Critical Social Justice (CSJ) movement to a sort of cultural Marxism; it imposes ideological orthodoxies through the coercive machinations of state bureaucracy and mass propaganda rather than by reasoned persuasion.

Better Left Unsaid claims that CSJ doctrine revolves around social constructionism and rejects essentialism. However, this is erroneous since the radical left actually insists upon gender essentialism, and sexual constructivism. This is one reason why there is such divergence between the trans-affirming left and liberal gender-critical feminists. Furthermore, Critical Race Theory uses non-essentialist language as ‘bait’ and then switches to essentialist claims once the audience is hooked. Despite this blind spot, the film fruitfully points out that a key supporting case study for the transgender movement is a deeply flawed experiment that was performed by John Money on a two-year-old boy named Bruce (later David) Reimer in the late 1960s. Bruce later committed suicide because of the trauma inflicted by Money’s intervention, and yet this botched experiment is somehow supposed to prove gender constructivism.

Like gender, ‘racism’ has also taken on new meaning within the far left’s lexicon. We no longer judge someone a ‘racist’ on the basis of what they say or do, but on the basis of their race. The presumption of innocence has been abolished (for white people). We don’t see an individual; we see his appearance and assess him on that basis, which (oddly) is what ‘racism’ used to mean.

‘Sexism’, too, has gone from being inequality of opportunity to a situation where, if there is any inequality of outcome, sexism is alleged to be the cause. While there is some truth in the CSJ claims, balance is being lost partly because of the way that the reasoned critique of propositions, which was the way things used to work at universities, is being supplanted by moralizing doctrines. The new definitions (e.g. systemic racism, sexism) are broadened to such an extent that one cannot help but fall guilty of them. However, the punishment for these thought crimes is as if you’d transgressed the original (much narrower, empirically measurable) definition. Micro-aggressions and unconscious bias can’t really be measured, but just like original sin, they are still asserted to exist. Moreover, by re-defining the experience of being offended as though it were tantamount to being the victim of a physical assault, you justify violent assault as a legitimate response to mere words.

It helps that Jaimungal and Amila are themselves non-white, because they can meaningfully ask how those on the extreme left who claim to speak on behalf of oppressed minorities respond when members of those very minorities disagree with what is being said in their name. The unfortunate answer is that minorities who dissent from the “tolerant and inclusive community” positions are quickly stigmatized with racial epithets like “house nigger”, “Uncle Tom”, “native informant” or “coconut” (brown on the outside but white on the inside).

In this climate everything and everyone becomes politicized, even if only by not being sufficiently political. All occurrences are viewed through the CSJ lens. Art history isn’t really about art anymore. Art is the means to the end of Social Justice. English isn’t about English anymore. Science isn’t about science. All are social constructions invented by European men to oppress someone. This new ideological framework is one in which presumptive guilt is the starting point, and any inaction vis-à-vis the status quo is a sin of omission.

Jaimungal is aware that, if interpreted uncharitably, his documentary could itself be declared illegal under the current British Colombia Human Rights Code [RSBC 1996]. Many comparisons have been made between the CSJ ideology and religion. Both promote a notion of ‘original sin’; both have banned sources of evidence that conflict with what adherents already believe; both have censored dissident doctrines and excommunicated irreverent speakers; both claim to promote ideals that sound unambiguously good. However, a big difference is that the Social Justice ‘religion’ is being imposed on non-believers, whereas most left-thinking people do not accept that religions can demand that others agree with them. The question is no longer ‘did racism take place?’. Rather, it is, ‘how did racism manifest in that situation?’ As with theology, the proposition is put forth a priori as an axiom. The presumption of innocence is demolished in the claim that not to act against racism is to actively support it. The logic, says Jaimungal, is that by doing nothing you are simultaneously doing everything. Similarly, the Christian concept of grace entails that the salvific ‘price’ has been paid for your sin with the blood of Christ, meaning you owe it to God to confess the faith.

Many on the extreme left see the West as peerless in its misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and even genocidal tendencies. ‘Compared to what?’, asks Jaimungal. If one claims to care about certain minority rights as a matter of principle, then where is the outrage against those Islamic and/or African states where honour killing and child marriage are the norm, where slavery is still legal but homosexuality is not? The lack of interest in the rights of the same minority groups championed by the far left in the USA and Britain (when the perpetrator is not ‘the West’) betrays a certain disingenuousness.

Jaimungal helpfully traces the roots of the extreme left movement to post-modernism, as well as explaining modernism so that viewers understand what post-modernism was a reaction against. Post-modernism arose in the later 20th century as both an attack on and a continuation of modernism. Thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard and Baudrillard were diverse in their ideas but they are united by a common scepticism towards grand narratives. They espoused both epistemological and moral relativism. For them, no ‘fact’ can be disentangled from relationships of power, from politics. Truth isn’t outside of power, it is produced under the control of a few great political and economic apparatuses. But Jurgen Habermas has accused Foucault of a ‘performative contradiction’. As Jaimungal explains, “you can’t make a truth claim denying the existence of truth.” He continues by saying that Truth(1) is an ontological claim about what is the case, whereas Truth(2) is a social construction. But Truth(2) takes Truth(1) as a presupposition.

The new Social Justice movement that has risen to ascendency in US and British academia followed in the wake of post-modernism and can be seen as its legacy. It is characterised by the ideas of academics such as Judith Butler, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Edward Said, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Their contribution has been to associate all ideas with race, gender or sexuality and to mine all ideas and texts in order to find the power structure(s) motivating them. They dismiss statistics, objective evidence and even scientific method, with Sandra Harding even calling Newton’s Principia “a rape manual”.

In Chapter 3 Jaimungal presents a recapitulation of what happened in the last century under the aegis of communism. This is intended as a warning because mass carnage took place under the auspices of equity. The worrying thing is that, while widespread violence has not yet started to take place under the auspices of ‘social justice’, the preambulatory rhetoric sustaining it bears an uncanny resemblance to pre-tyranny language, and there have been a few outbreaks of actual fisticuffs from the group calling itself, with no irony, “Antifa”. For this reason, Jaimungal is looking not just at what happened — in Lenin’s Russia, in Mao’s China, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, in Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnamese collective land reform campaign, in Nazi Germany, during the Rwandan genocide, and to Tamils in Sri Lanka – but also how and why these horrors happened. What he reveals is that over and over again atrocities were committed in the name of equality, individuals were abolished in favour of classes of people (who either had power or didn’t have power) and collective guilt, free speech was abolished, and anyone who didn’t mobilize in the ‘correct’ way was seen not as a passive non-combatant but as positively traitorous.

In response to the well-worn rebuttal that these movements were not ‘true’ Marxism/Communism but a false veneer put on by charismatic interlopers who corrupted the pure doctrine, Jaimungal says this is rich coming from the same people who insist that one can self-identify as any gender and that they must be believed simply on the (infallible?) basis of their self-pronouncement. Jaimungal questions why the same logic does not apply to self-described ‘Marxists’ and ‘Communists’.

Another rebuttal he fields states that the meddling West interfered with these experiments in Communist self-government. One might ask how we can disambiguate what was ‘pure’ Marxism/Communism from doctored versions thereof? To answer this, Jaimungal uses Causal Networks and Reichenbach’s Common Cause Principle to show that the ‘package of ideas’ that typifies the new left’s ‘cultural Marxism’ correlates highly with Communism. Thus, while admitting that the methodology could be flawed, or the sample size too small, the tentative conclusion from the evidence is that the West’s meddling is a less likely causal factor than the actual similarities between CSJ’s ‘cultural Marxism’ and Communism.

Nevertheless, his aim is to argue that this kind of politics could happen again in the modern West. We are not sufficiently vigilant of how fragile our civil liberties are. What we’re seeing is a sustained assault on the main ‘arteries’ (e.g. checks and balances) that protect our freedoms, such as free expression, the presumption of innocence, bodily integrity and informed consent.

Jaimungal does not limit his critique to the non-Western regimes under communism. He states that the West has clearly done some horrendous acts, such as the coups d’état in Iran and Chile and Projects MK Ultra and Mockingbird in the United States, among others. Given what we know about our own governments, Jaimungal asks why we would doubt that modern Western states would commit deleterious actions against their own people. This is an especially good question in light of how the presumption of innocence is being abolished in public school curricula in the United States where first-graders are forced to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and then to rank themselves according to their “power and privilege”. A curriculum teaches that “all white people play a part in perpetuating systemic racism” and white teachers are told in training sessions that they are guilty of “spirit murdering” black children. Or take Harvard-Westlake, a private school in Los Angeles, where a new plan to become an “anti-racist institution”—unveiled this July, in a 20-page document— forces kids to fixate on race.

The filmmakers provide a blueprint of the dangerous ‘package’ of ideas that are the prelude to violence and group persecution. There are four ‘stages’ or steps to the ideological process: (1) a lens claim, (2) an evidentiary clam, (3) separation claim, (4) the call to action. Tellingly, the documentary excerpts a directive issued from Communist Party HQ in 1943 to all communists in the United States. It reads:

When certain obstructionists become too irritating, label them – after a suitable build-up — as fascists, or Nazi or anti-Semitic and use the prestige of anti-fascist intolerance organizations to discredit them. In the public mind, constantly associate those who oppose us with those names which already have a bad smell. The association will, after enough repetition, become fact in the public mind.

One of the most important points made by this documentary is that we’ve lost perspective. The purposeful use of charged words and images has seized our attention and led us astray. Harry Frankfurt called it “bullshit” in his eponymous book. We’re losing sight of truth and getting caught up in salient rhetoric, emotional appeals, and persuasive associations to the extent that we now equate a lower-middle class person not having a CEO position with actual slavery and we equate the temporary sting of an offensive remark with GBH. These distortions and exaggerations get amplified with repetition.

Jaimungal concludes by reminding us of the danger involved in viewing the world as more dangerous than it actually is. Trust is a cardinal resource in a functioning society that both the extreme left and the extreme right are squandering. Both extremes have abandoned the West’s key tenets: (1) the sanctity of the individual, (2) the notion that conscious lies lead to serious injustice, (3) moral agency and responsibility, and (4) freedom of speech. As for the second of these, the radical left demolishes any sense that dishonesty corrupts, since post-modernism says that there is no truth. Without truth, there is no lying.

©2021 by T.M Murray. All Rights Reserved.


This essay is the second instalment of my series on woke tactics. This series is dedicated to helping you understand the way that Critical Social Justice advocates try to win arguments so they can advance their cause socially, politically, and institutionally.

As I mentioned in my last essay, it is often the case that CSJ activists are not trying to defeat you intellectually with evidence and arguments, they are trying to defeat you socially using power moves and social maneuvering. The CSJ activists – in many cases – are not trying to convince you on rational grounds, they are trying to gain social power and influence over society so they have the ability to spread CSJ everywhere. It is important to understand this as we look at their strategies. There may be times that the CSJ activists will try to use fair arguments to make their case and when that happens we ought to engage in good faith. However, we have to be aware that often they do not argue in good faith and instead use different tactics for which we must be prepared.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the next three tactics Critical Social Justice advocates use to win arguments.

  1. The Kafka Trap.

Put simply, the Kafka Trap is a fallacy where someone is accused of something terrible and, when the accused person insists they are innocent, the accuser twists the insistence of innocence and uses it as evidence of guilt. Here is a simple illustration of the tactic:

Police: “You robbed the bank.”

You: “I did not.”

Police: “That is exactly what a bank robber would say. I knew you were guilty.”

The mechanism of a Kafka Trap works like this: someone goes about accusing someone else of something terrible and when the accused person insists they are innocent the person making the accusation twists the insistence of innocence and uses it as evidence of guilt. In this way, all the accused persons claims are treated as though they imply guilt.

The Kafka Trap was first discussed by Eric Raymond and named for the author Franz Kafka who illustrated this fallacy beautifully in his book The Trial. In The Trial the main character is accused of crimes and placed on trial without being told what he actually did wrong, and with no evidence being brought against him. He is then put through a process to destroy his reputation and credibility. The only way the trial ends is if he admits guilt, and his refusal to admit that he is guilty of these unnamed crimes is used as proof of how evil he is; after all, he is so remorseless that he won’t even be honest and admit guilt!

A typical Kafka Trap in the world of CSJ is to say that we are all complicit in (systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc) and then when someone denies that they are complicit in (systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc) the CSJ advocate will say that only a (racist, sexist, homophobe, etc) could be blind to their complicity in (systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, etc).

As you can see, the way this works is to say that denial of the accusation proves that the accusation is true. If you deny you are a racist, then you are a racist for denying that you are a racist. There is no way out.

When laid out that simply the Kafka Trap becomes obvious. It becomes less obvious when dressed up as a sort of academic jargon. The most obvious example of this is “white fragility.”

The concept of White Fragility was created by Robin DiAngelo in 2011. DiAngelo says that white Fragility refers to the agitation, anger, frustration, and shock that white people go through when they are confronted with their own racism. She claims that white fragility is the result of a lack of stamina in white people to confront racial issues honestly. According to DiAngelo, a white person’s denial and refusal to accept their complicity in racism is a result of white fragility. It is white fragility which explains why white people deny their complicity in racism.

“White fragility” is a Kafka Trap disguised as an academic idea. The way it works is that if you are accused of complicity in racism, and deny that you are complicit in racism, you will then be considered guilty of white fragility. Since, according to CSJ advocates, white fragility has the effect of preserving white people at the top of the racial hierarchy, exhibiting white fragility means you are complicit in racism. This means that when you are accused of being complicit in racism you have two choices:

  1. Admit to your complicity in racism, or
  2. Deny your complicity in racism in which case your denial is taken as proof that you have white fragility and are therefore complicit in racism.

As you can see, there is no way out because white fragility is a Kafka Trap.

  1. Reframing/decentering

Reframing is a tactic that is as old as the hills. In practice the way that this works is to change the terms on which the debate or conversation is being had. This is done all over the political spectrum and is a common tactic. A simple example of how re-framing works can be seen in conversations around gun legislation. Let’s suppose someone suggests some sort of regulation to make guns more difficult to purchase, the frame from both the left and right would go something like this:

Pro-gun person: “This is an issue of the right to bear arms.”

Anti-gun person: “This is an issue of gun violence.”

As you can see, the pro-gun person is putting the issue in terms of their right to posses a gun, and the anti-gun person is putting the issue in terms of the prevention of gun violence. Both of these statements are instances of people trying to decide the terms on which the debate will be had. The idea of re-framing is that if you get to frame the debate, you can determine the terms of the debate and essentially bake the conclusion right into them. In most debates we are usually trying to balance several competing interests, and if one of those interests gets to define the debate, they can tip the playing field in their side’s favor.

De-centering is similar to re-framing, but it works in a different way. De-centering is changing the focus of the debate. That is, de-centering is not so much about changing the terms on which the debate is had, but changing whose concerns get to be central to the debate and whose concerns get to take all the conversational oxygen. An example of de-centering might look like this:

Enlightenment Liberal: “I am not sure I agree with this policy position, we should analyze this reasonably and carefully using the methods of science.”

CSJ advocate: “White male scientists have been front and centre in this debate for too long. They need to sit down and be quiet so that the concerns of trans-women can be central to this conversation.”

Enlightenment Liberal: “But this is a scientific question.”

CSJ advocate: “We’re going to be centering the lived experiences of trans-women of color in this conversation. Sit down.”

The reason this tactic is used is that CSJ is very concerned with discourses and they think society is put together by a set of interwoven discourses and culture wide “conversations” as it were. CSJ thinks white people and “whiteness” have monopolized the cultural conversation in the west for far too long, and the way to end this is to “decenter” both of those by marginalizing people that argue from any position the CSJ advocates consider to be a product of white people, or whiteness. The idea is that it is time for white people to be quiet and let other groups dominate the conversation.

Decentering does not seek to tell you that you are wrong, or that your view is incorrect, or that you do not have your facts in order. The goal of decentering is to “win” by turning down the volume of any view opposed to CSJ, and turning up the volume of the CSJ worldview. In other words, decentering is a social power move that seeks to marginalize Enlightenment liberalism by moving it to the fringes of the discourse. Thus, with the use of this tactic CSJ advocates can bully their way into a place of prominence in the conversation.

Decentering seeks to move the CSJ view into a place of prominence and move any other view to the fringes of the debate by using social power. Rather than allowing people to use reason to decide which views ought to be central in the debate, CSJ advocates attempt to bully their way into a place of prominence in the conversation by claiming that any idea they do not like is “whiteness”

  1. Redefinition

This tactic may be the most common tactic that the CSJ advocates use when they spread their ideas. The way this works is pretty simple: they take a simple word like “racism” and then redefine it to fit their needs. This is how the word racism goes from being defined as:

  1. Bigotry against a person or persons due to their race.

To being defined as

  1. “White racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of Whites and the disadvantage of people of Color. Racism encompasses economic, political, social, and institutional actions and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources, and power between Whites and people of Color.”

Typically when someone says “America has a problem with racism” people take this to mean that America has too many people who are bigoted against other people because of their race. Most of the time they do not think that America is beset by institutional white privilege, nor do they think there is an institutionalized authority that is reinforcing racism. The result of this is that CSJ advocates can garner support and agreement from those who naturally support pleas to “help end racism” without realizing this redefinition has gone on. When people realize the definitions in play are not the usual ones, the CSJ advocate will insist that the CSJ definitions are the “correct” ones. It’s the linguistic equivalent of pouring out the wine, filling the bottle with Kool-Aid, pouring someone a glass without telling them what you did, and then when they complain, responding by saying “why are you upset, that’s how it’s supposed to taste.”

Now, to be completely fair it is not always the case that this is done dishonestly. CSJ thinks about the world in a different way then the rest of us so it “translates” any concept it likes into something that fits with the CSJ conception of the world. This means all the concepts that we use, they will redefine to fit their conception of the world. The redefinition of basic concepts is a hallmark of CSJ, which is why, as James Lindsey points out, “ this worldview is only ever communicated to us in reformulated perversions of our own concepts”. For this reason it is very important, when confronted with a CSJ advocate, to get the specific definitions for any term they use lest you get more than you bargained for.

Conclusion.

I said this in my last essay, but I want to say it again for emphasis: The CSJ worldview progresses not through clarity and truth, but by muddying the intellectual waters and making social power moves.

The first step in preventing Critical Social Justice advocates from turning a discussion of truth into a struggle for power is to be able to know and understand the tactics that CSJ advocates employ. Being prepared for the ways in which the CSJ advocate will attempt to take the conversation off of the solid ground of truth, evidence, rationality, and warrant, and move it onto the quicksand of power struggle will allow you to push back against it more effectively.

Mike Young is a Canadian thinker, writer and essayist. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/wokal_distance.

 


“My favorite state has not yet been invented. It will be called Montana, and it will be perfect.” –Abraham Lincoln

Montana is not perfect, but President Lincoln would be proud of how it is handling the fight against Critical Race Theory (CRT), or more accurately, the Critical Social Justice (CSJ) movement that has grown out of it. If you are not familiar with these terms or the problems associated with them check out What do we Mean by Critical Social Justice by Helen Pluckrose. Last month, the Montana state attorney general released a statement affirming that treating people differently based on their race violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is not merely a political performance; the formal opinion of the Attorney General of Montana carries the weight of law in that state. This is the way to fight CRT in the United States. Other states and the federal government should follow Montana’s lead.

CRT proponents have been waging ideological war in the realm of academia for decades. More recently, they have been waging it in the realm of business, with “diversity, equity, and inclusion” initiatives becoming standard practice very quickly. Recent examples are industry giants Coca-Cola and Disney implementing dubious and ideologically driven diversity initiatives. The latest battleground in this ideological war is K-12 schools. Unfortunately for CRT, parents tend to bristle at their children being taught that they are racist (if they’re white) or helpless (if they’re black). With remote learning being so prevalent over the last year due to COVID-19, parents became more aware than ever of what their children were learning.

Understandably, the instinct of many—who have come to see CSJ ideology for what it is—is to ban it through institutional policy changes or laws. The first major example of this was President Trump’s executive order banning CRT training from federal agencies and contractors in September. It’s important to note that executive orders aren’t laws and that this order did not prohibit CRT training in the US, only in the federal agencies over which the president has ultimate authority. President Biden wasted no time rescinding that order on his first day in office. However, Trump’s executive order seemed to have signaled that it was okay for people to resist these ideas. And resist they did. A very notable example is that of a black woman whose son (who is biracial) was given a failing grade for refusing to put himself in racial categories that were described as oppressive, among other things.

Since President Biden took office, many states have introduced bills that would make CRT training illegal. Some of them, like Idaho’s, call out CRT by name. Other states, like Arkansas, modeled their bills more like Trump’s executive order and used more generic terminology like “race and sex stereotyping.” Some bills, like North Carolina’s, specifically limit the ban to public primary education. Others, like New Hampshire’s, include additional areas such as government agencies and contractors. Some have been defeated, some have been signed into law, and some are still in the legislative process. As far as first efforts to resist CRT go, these at least get the fight started. Opponents of CRT are on the defensive, and most didn’t even know they were in a battle until far too late for their own liking, so they’re just glad to be returning fire, even if it’s not with the best aim.

It is inevitable that these bills, once passed into law, will be challenged by CRT proponents, but they should also be challenged by freedom-loving Americans of many stripes. All laws should be challenged if they infringe on Americans’ rights, and we have to be very careful with banning ideas. Who gets to decide what constitutes a “divisive concept?” If the goal is to ban racist practices, that was already done most effectively by the Civil Right Act (CRA) of 1964.

If it’s racist (meaning to discriminate against any individual due to race) and it’s impacting people in school, work, or business, the CRA already says it’s illegal, which brings us back to Montana.

As everyone’s favorite new Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” CRT advocates like to wrap their ideology in words like “anti-racism” and want to assume the mantle of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But as everyone knows, that movement was about judging people not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” CRT, however, often does the opposite, explicitly and unapologetically, such as the aforementioned Coca-Cola training that encouraged employees to be less white by being less oppressive, less arrogant, and less ignorant. Therefore, it obviously violates the CRA, as Montana’s attorney general has made clear. Banning a theory or an idea or even an ideology is illiberal. Writing a law to ban these things introduces all kinds of opportunities for exploitation and unnecessary curtailment of liberty. Yes, those laws can then be challenged, but if we can resist something already illegal with laws already in place we can avoid problems caused by vague language and other potential flaws in new legislation. Perhaps more importantly, using this specific law to strike down CRT-based practices that discriminate based on race is the most crushing blow to its claim to Civil Rights Era morality.

To be clear, banning the teaching of ideas is a bad idea, but if those ideas lead to practices that discriminate based on race, then teaching them as if they are true is already illegal under the CRA. This is how Jim Crow laws—which were based on the idea that black Americans were inferior to white Americans—were declared illegal, but not the ideas they were based on, despite their immorality. Morality is the entire basis of CRT proponents’ claims. Showing its immorality, especially by using a true moral paragon of racial equality like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is all that’s needed.

Craig Carroll is a retired US Marine Corps martial arts instructor and intelligence analyst. He retired from the US Intelligence Community as a contractor last year. He is now road-tripping around the US to connect with friends new and old while reading and writing about topics of import, particularly Critical Social Justice.

 


We live in a time distrustful of nuance and thus skewed towards simpler forms of thought. Dichotomies are especially favoured because they’re binary. Something is either black or white – there’s no mucking about with shades of gray. Decision-making is therefore hugely simplified: you just have to choose between two extremes and, if you’re part of a tribe, you’re spared even that agony as the choice will already have been made for you.

Traditionally, those with an active interest in politics have positioned themselves either on the left (Labour, Democrat, etc) or the right (Conservative, Republican, etc). Generally speaking, the primary delineation between left and right wing politics was the collectivist mindset, on the left, and the individualist mindset, on the right. Consequently the major points of disagreement largely concerned the size and role of the state. The two political tribes often agree over the desirability of a given objective, but differ over how best to achieve it, with the left typically more inclined towards wholesale societal change while the right prefers to tweak the status quo.

While, for some, politics has always been about much more than economic and social policy, that mindset seems to have become more widespread in recent years. This is especially true of the US but increasingly also of countries that take their cultural lead from it, such as the UK. Today many allow their membership of a political tribe to dictate their position on pretty much everything. This, in turn, increases the appeal of dichotomies since they’re by far the most efficient way to ensure adherence to the party line. Not everyone is getting the memo, however, which becomes apparent when dichotomies collide.

One example of such a collision in the UK was the matter of Brexit. Already a dichotomy by definition, attitudes to the in/out referendum initially seemed to cleave neatly along party lines, with leftists preferring to stick with membership of the EU, while rightists were more likely to want to leave. But the 2019 general election confirmed a much more nuanced picture. Leftist heartlands in the north of England were among the most in favour of leaving the EU and Labour’s apparent opposition to the outcome of the referendum contributed to its worst electoral outcome for a generation.

So it turned out Brexit wasn’t simply a left/right thing after all. While wanting to be part of the European Union is superficially the more collectivist position, it seemed to be a step too far for many otherwise tribal lefties. Like layers of an onion, there are many levels of collectivism, of which supranational blocs are the outermost. Journalist David Goodhart has argued the real Brexit dichotomy was between those who value more intimate collectives such as family and local community – the “somewheres” – and those who don’t – the “anywheres”. In other words, communitarians have a distinct limit to their collectivist instincts, which can lead to them voting against their presumed political tribe.

Today’s political left seems less about collectivism or redistribution of wealth than blind dogmatism to identity politics and Critical Social Justice (CSJ). Many of that tribe appear to view themselves as the “goodies”; consequently, their every thought and impulse is viewed as, by definition, correct. There is only one ideal and only they strive for it, so they’re beyond reproach and the ends always justify the means. I describe this way of thinking as “top-down”, which can be positioned within a dichotomy with “bottom-up” at the opposite extreme. I’m far from the first to frame human thought and behaviour in this way, but think it’s worth revisiting in the current context.

In their simplest form, you could say top-down thinkers strive towards ideals, while bottom-up ones start from points of principle, with most sensible people incorporating a bit of both into their approach. It’s all very well having clearly defined principles but they just serve as a foundation on which to build towards whichever ideals a person may have in mind. Conversely, pursuing ideals in the absence of constraining principles leads to fanaticism. Religion is a good illustration of this: as a source of wisdom, strength and solace it’s benign, but when adherents take holy books literally and punish anyone who doesn’t, it becomes destructive.

Top-down thinking is currently manifesting itself in an especially malevolent way among the political left in the US. The government there has seized on the disturbing riot at the Capitol building earlier this year as justification for declaring an ongoing state of national emergency. Suddenly “white supremacy” is an existential threat justifying draconian interventions, despite considerable data and anecdotal evidence indicating the country’s continued evolution away from its apartheid past. This narrative sets the stage for a war against domestic terrorism, in which the targets seem to be defined largely along political lines.

“After the Capitol riots of January 6th, the War on Terror came home, and ‘domestic extremists’ stepped into the role enemy combatants played before,” wrote journalist Matt Taibbi recently. He went on to describe how the corporate media is largely complicit in this, with The Intercept noting “White supremacists, QAnon believers, and Trump election fraud conspiracists still pose a grave threat to our democracy and our safety.” Maybe they do, but the identified groups are all associated with the political right. What about BLM riots and Antifa assaults – do they pose no threat whatsoever?

One Intercept journalist, when challenged by Taibbi as to whether he would be naming any of the people they identified as threats by sifting through their behaviour on the social media platform Gab, responded sarcastically: “Of course I won’t be naming anyone. Racist white people must be defended at all costs.” This is classic top-down thinking – his behaviour completely justified by the righteousness of his cause. Furthermore, as a self-appointed inquisitor, his judgment is beyond reproach. For journalists to be assisting the US government and security services in the kind of political witch-hunt Joseph McCarthy would have been proud of is appalling and would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

Conspicuous individualism is kryptonite to those under the sway of CSJ and “cancel culture” is their defence, in which anyone who deviates from the narrative must be immediately cast into the wilderness. This is the mindset that seems to have taken hold of many institutions in the West, leading historian Niall Ferguson to recently note it’s looking more like the authoritarian East with every passing day.

It is to offer assistance to those outcasts, and anyone in fear of becoming one, that Counterweight was formed. The specific manifestation of top-down thinking Counterweight focuses on is Critical Social Justice, which is defined by founder Helen Pluckrose as ‘a specific theoretical approach to addressing issues of prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of characteristics like race, sex, sexuality, gender identity, dis/ability and body size.’ It views everything, even knowledge, as the product of power, and the only legitimate form of power is, funnily enough, that which is wielded by CSJ adherents. This is quintessential top-down thinking and is the diametric opposite to bottom-up philosophies such as liberalism.

Where bottom-up philosophies focus on the individual, on freedom, on unfettered discussion, on evidence, nuance, and principles, top-down ones favour groups, authority, censorship, narrative, dogma and ideology. Both have always existed, with the 20th century especially blighted by top-down political movements, and CSJ is just the latest, in which traditional clients such as the proletariat have been replaced by the disempowered group du jour. An especially odious feature of this parasitism is the collateral damage it causes. It often leaves client groups worse off, not least through manufacturing ideological schisms within them. It also diverts resources and support from the many people who genuinely do seek to help those in need and poisons public discourse. Political leftism wasn’t always like this and many people who still consider themselves of the left feel alienated by CSJ.

This piece started acknowledging the appeal of dichotomies but, as is nearly always the case, the best position lies somewhere in between two extremes. Of course people should have ideals and aspirations, but they should build towards them from solid ethical foundations. Top-down ideology will always produce negative societal outcomes unless it’s balanced by bottom-up principles. It is the job of bottom-up thinkers to try to guide those in the grip of unconstrained top-down thinking away from the precipice, but in many ways they’re at a disadvantage. Top-down thinking is simpler, more certain and thus more seductive. Only by appealing to reason, humility and individuality can the liberal view hope to prevail.

Scott Bicheno is a journalist and writer who recently self-published his first novel: Identity Crisis.


I’ve heard from friends lately who say “yes this woke stuff can go too far, but it’s really not that dangerous. Give me a break, it’s no threat to liberalism! You should fight against something more important, like Republican efforts to undercut voting rights.”

While I agree that people should stand up for voting rights, I also strongly believe that the imposition of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) is, in fact, a real threat to liberalism. By liberalism, I am referring to the basic operating system in society that permits the free expression of ideas. Liberalism allows ideas to be aired, debated, rejected or accepted. It enables scientific inquiry and open debate and discussion. And while we may take it for granted like the air we breathe, liberalism, like air, requires that we vigorously protect it from those who would do it harm.

Here are six ways that CSJ threatens to undermine society’s liberal values:

1. CSJ undercuts knowledge production in universities

The primary purpose of universities is knowledge creation, be it current knowledge creation in the research undertaken by faculty, or future knowledge creation by the students that are taught there. The imposition of CSJ has increasingly undercut both. Today, higher education, particularly schools of education, have become complicit in the spread of ideology, rather than learning and research, at every level of society. Too often, they teach students what to think rather than how to think. Research in the social sciences is also corrupted, addressing social issues with a preconceived ideological bias and serving as an echo chamber for critical ideologies rather than a testing ground for cutting edge ideas.

2. CSJ prevents us from effectively addressing thorny social issues

CSJ proponents assert that white supremacy and systemic bias are alone responsible for society’s social ills. They crowd out of the discussion other potential factors, such as the effects of poverty, fatherlessness, and the legacy of past racism. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls such ideologies “coo-coo,” not because they are crazy, but because, like the Cuckoo bird, they force the eggs of other birds out of the nest. When you misdiagnose a problem, you can’t properly address it. If society’s main focus is on reducing racism, we may fail to address other likely causes of disparity and may make matters worse.

3. CSJ corrupts the scientific process

With the onset of “equity” requirements and “research justice”, scientific institutions are hampered in doing, well, science. Scientific research is increasingly determined on the basis of whether it advances or detracts from racial equity. Some journal articles now have to quote minority scientists in proportion to their percentage of the population. Society should invest in the long term development of minority scientists and create a pipeline through which they can advance from school to academia, not impose equity in the here and now in a way that distorts the science itself.

Research Justice

4. CSJ squelches intellectual curiosity

CSJ establishes the one true way of looking at the world and raises the stakes for expressing alternative views. It prevents people from openly discussing sensitive issues and stifles intellectual curiosity. Dynamic societies encourage curiosity and incentivize it. Static societies punish it. Without curiosity, there’s no growth in knowledge. Society becomes stuck.

5. CSJ exacerbates identity politics on the political right

CSJ insists that only people adversely affected by oppression have the standing to speak about it, cutting out of the conversation anyone who disagrees with them on matters of race and racism. This naturally breeds resentment. Furthermore, the charge of privilege does not go over well with many white people who are suffering from their own adverse circumstances. Leftwing identity politics exacerbates rightwing identity politics, which has manifested itself in two American elections. The populist surge on the right only further compromises our liberal society.

6. CSJ corrupts mainstream media outlets

It is very clear that mainstream media outlets, from the New York Times to National Public Radio (US), have adopted to some extent or another “a racial equity lens.” This may sound fine at first blush. But what it’s really doing is filtering news through a pre-decided ideological lens. Reporters are then incentivized to misreport issues like disparities in healthcare between black people and white people, which may actually be a function of class not race. It may cause these news outlets to leave out heterodox voices who see things differently. As the media is the lifeblood of a liberal democratic society, it is never good when it becomes tainted and we no longer have a shared picture of the truth.

Yes, liberalism is on the line on the left as well as the right. Now is a fine time to do something about it before it gets worse.

David Bernstein is an Affiliate at Counterweight and Principal of Viewpoint consulting. Follow him on Twitter @Blogunwoke. To find out more about Viewpoint diversity consultancy services please email David Bernstein at DavidLBernstein66@gmail.com

 


It’s old news, of course, that the media industry has undergone nothing short of a revolution these last couple of decades. For traditional newspapers, advertising revenue has all but dried up, shuttering hundreds of city and local dailies as a consequence. Those still standing now rely on reader-generated revenue, as traditional advertisers go with the more efficient technologies offered by the Google/Facebook duopoly.

Any reader of Andrey Mir’s latest book, a case study of disruptive innovation called Postjournalism and the Death of Newspapers, will come away thinking that we haven’t at all grasped what’s really been wrought. From the warping of traditional news reporting, our politics and political rhetoric, and even our collective psychology, America’s post-media, post-journalism reality is truly terrifying.

Mir, a media studies professor at the University of Toronto (home of the late, pioneering media analyst, Marshall McLuhan), spends most of Postjounalism grappling with the ramifications of traditional outlets having moved from a funding model based on advertisers (primarily) and subscribers, to one relying on “memberships” and donations. Unlike the newspaper subscribers of yore, he writes, new, paid-up “members” of outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post don’t actually need the news they pay for. Like everyone else, they can basically get it elsewhere for free; through non-paywalled sites, social media outlets, and other digital platforms. What they’re actually paying for is a cause.

As Mir writes, what triggers the membership fees and donations for today’s Times and Post readers is the knowledge that they help spread an agenda and influence others. The reader-publisher relationship is no longer transactional, but one where the payer subsidizes the creation of the content and pays to validate the perceived worthiness of that content. In essence, says Mir, the new membership model “incentivizes journalism to mutate into propaganda.”

Pre-internet, the reigning media-studies approach, created by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, held that, due to newspapers’ reliance on corporate advertising and government access, it was their function “to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society.” Editors wanted a large and wealthy audience buying what was advertised and more or less supporting whatever government was in power.

To the extent that this was true, it is certainly no longer the case. Editors now have to take into account the ideological views of their paid-up members and craft the news in a different way. No longer is reporting driven by the genuine importance of a story or market fundamentals; what drives the daily editorial search is “the most resonating pressing social issues that could justify fundraising and stimulate readers to donate.” In other words, the Times, Post, etc., are now in the business of selling fearmongering and outrage; not the news.

Needless to say, under the new model, there isn’t even the pretense of separation between editors and funders. According to Mir, while editors often speak platitudinously about “listening to the readers”, etc., they actually do far more than that. Today, “newsrooms must let the readers in, in any form that may please them.” “Impartiality”, or what the media previously hung their reputations on, “will not succeed in soliciting for donations.” What pays the bills now is the “proactive and intensive signaling of a newspaper’s endorsing or opposing stances” and, more alarmingly, the “exaggeration and even inducement of the public’s concerns.” The Times and Post create worry, anger and frustration because they have to.

With all traditional outlets feeling the same industry pressures, they’ve all jettisoned impartiality to some extent (Mir rightly separates his concern for the bigger traditional media from blogs and other post-internet media that are more or less open about their agendas and seek to fill niches). But, unfortunately for most (the L.A. Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, etc.), people won’t subscribe to multiple news sources. Considering it is agenda-spreading they want, they’ll pick only the biggest and most impactful outlets. Hence, the Times and Post being the only US papers, Mir notes, whose digital subscriptions have outpaced their past, pre-internet circulation figures.

Noticeably, Mir offers a very apolitical explanation for what is a very political phenomenon. To summarize his position: major media has become so warped due to basic economics. In an anticlimactic conclusion that eschews the typical explanations, such as motivations of journalists and editors to mold public opinion, “guide” democratic decision-making, and generally grab power in the name of progressive enlightenment, Mir states that: “There is no evil plot, nor ‘liberal bias’ [] behind this.”

Glaringly absent from Mir’s analysis is any mention that the ideological membership-base he criticizes also contains the very journalists and editors who apparently harbor no “liberal bias.” Just like their readers, Times and Post staffers are predominately of a northern, liberal background; people who generally share the same animosity towards and alienation from middle America, the South, and white working people generally. As Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger himself said back in 2003: “If white men were not complaining, it would be an indication we weren’t succeeding and making the inroads that we are.”

This makes Mir’s analysis appear naïve and incomplete; so much so, it makes one wonder if his position can be explained by his place in such a hyper-woke institution as the University of Toronto. After all, conservative professors Tom Groseclose and Jeff Milyo faced considerable backlash when they published a paper on left-wing media bias in the US, and that was nearly 20 years ago. Speculation aside, while today’s problem of industry-dynamics is deeply serious, it doesn’t seem to explain the fundamentals and foundations of American media bias.

But without a doubt the new normal Mir lays out in Postjournalism is terrifying. A desperate media industry can be deadly serious. As we have seen, and as Mir notes, the media can and does induce reality through its coverage. Just look at the altering of public perceptions as seen in the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown or George Floyd cases, or the recent poll showing an alarming number of Americans believing unarmed shootings of blacks run in the tens of thousands per year, and not in the low double-digits suggested by the available data (137 since 2015).

And by seeking financial support from members, the incentives now are, as Mir says, “to dramatize the agenda and continuously seek for new triggers”; that is, the media must manufacture or inflate forever new and exaggerated threats to the nation. In other words, if it isn’t Trump or Russia’s threat to American democracy, it’s black-voter suppression, “misinformation”, white domestic terrorism… anything.

So, until a new model emerges, media literacy increases, or the Times and Post somehow admit their own biases, the great triggering of America will continue.

Bradford H.B. is a US-based lawyer, former political staffer, and has contributed to Quillette, American Spectator, and Areo Magazine, among other publications.

 


When they weaponize your empathy against you, preparation, skepticism and humor are your best defense.

What is Brainwashing?

The phenomenon known as “brainwashing” is controversial. Can one really be “brainwashed” – stripped of all agency and independent thought? Perhaps not, and perhaps not everyone or always. What we do know, however, is that it is human nature to be susceptible to the influence of others, especially when that influence is malignant. Further, there are certain circumstances in which some people are more susceptible to, and thus more likely to go along with, dubious ideas. Thus, when we see the psychological techniques that are associated with “brainwashing” being implemented in our society today, there is some cause for genuine concern. For the remainder of this essay, then, the term brainwashing will be used to refer to unethical techniques that attempt to persuade, convince, or alter the behaviour of an individual in such a way that causes them to conform to a particular ideology which they would, when thinking rationally, ordinarily reject. Psychologist Margaret Thaler Singer formulated the Six Conditions of Mind Control over the course of forty years of studying the phenomena, beginning with American prisoners of war “brainwashed” by Korean and Chinese Psyops personnel during the Korean War, followed by decades of working with former cult members:

 

1. Gradually Mislead: Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how they are being changed one step at a time.

2. Control Environment: Control the person’s social and/or physical environment; especially control the person’s time.

3. Render Powerless: Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.

4. Inhibit Former Identity: Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person’s former social identity.

5. Promote New Identity: Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote the learning of the group’s ideology or belief system as well as group-approved behaviors.

6. Dictate: Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

Psychological Control and Critical Social Justice

Whether they realize it or not, Critical Social Justice (CSJ, or Woke) “facilitators” often end up applying some of these conditions of mind control during their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training sessions. This does not mean that the facilitators necessarily have bad intentions: they may well be sincerely trying to make the world a better place. However, regardless of intentions or whether they believe the ideologies they are putting forward, the fact remains that attempting to persuade people through shame, silencing and threats to social or job security is unethical and antithetical to our liberal society.

CSJ ideology is a collective of related theories emerging out of postmodern philosophy, notably: Critical Race Theory (CRT), Critical Gender Theory (CGT), Postcolonial Theory (PCT), Queer Theory, and Support-Group Identity Theory (disability and fatness). Unlike scientific theories, CSJ theories are poorly supported by studies and evidence, instead relying on anecdotes, personal stories and dogmatic assumptions. CRT contains assertions such as: All whites are racist, even if they don’t know it. Such assertions are dogma, not theory, as they utilize circular reasoning and cannot be rebutted, let alone proven or disproven. The term “woke” gradually became an alternative, short label for all things pertaining to cumbersome terms like “Critical Social Justice Theory”. In recent years it has been adopted and used pejoratively by those who oppose CSJ. Thus, for the remainder of this essay CSJ and “woke” will refer to approaches to social justice by society at large and on the individual level which utilise or endorse un-scientific and unsubstantiated claims to remedy the “oppressive” state of society.

POWs, cult inductees and EDI trainees are not brainwashed through direct threats and violence. Coercion is subtle. Brainwashing targets are led, step-by-step, to become complicit in their own brainwashing. They must sit and be silent targets while facilitators use shame, fear and peer pressure to leverage their acquiescence. If you doubt the power of peer pressure to influence ordinary people, this two-minute film on the Asch Experiment will change your mind. To witness this phenomenon in the so-called ‘anti-racist’ domain, watch the full Evergreen story.

While some diversity initiatives affirm liberal values and are unlikely to use these techniques when providing education on matters of race and racism, it’s important to be alert to the risk of EDI initiatives influenced by Critical Theory. So, if an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion session looms for you, watch for these ten signs of CSJ indoctrination.

1. It’s mandatory.

When you begin in fear of job or education loss, of shaming or ostracism, their battle for your mind is half over. It might even be the case that voluntary training sessions seem suspiciously mandatory. Is “voluntary” attendance really voluntary? Is your presence, or lack thereof, noted? If you resist, complain or criticize, you may be targeted and harassed during and after the session, or later forced out on trumped-up policy violations. Your fear and acquiescence enable their control.

For example, after Jodi Shaw declined to share some personal experiences in the diversity training mandated by her employer, Smith College, she experienced such extraordinary pressure from her co-workers and superiors, including the college president, that she had to resign from her job and is now suing the college for discrimination. I am the blog editor for one chapter of a well-known national environmental organization. I wrote a blog supporting the organization’s president against charges leveled by former pro-CSJ diversity officers of the organization and criticized their CSJ diversity training. Pro-CSJ middle-management employees of the organization then demanded my post be removed, suspended the chapter certification and withheld regular dues-share payments until their demands were met.

Such implementations of CSJ Diversity training, whether mandatory or forced through peer pressure, take away your power to protest, control the environment in which they are presented, and control you through fear of loss of your employment, your education and the acceptance of your peers.

2. “Listen with curiosity, without judgment.”

In a 2012 paper called ‘Misinformation and its Correction’, the authors noted that: “People, by default, expect presented information to be valid.” But when we are in such default acceptance mode and we encounter something suspect, our skeptical filter “switches on” and may stay on. Woke facilitators cannot permit skepticism in trainees. By requesting—repeatedly if necessary—intentional acceptance mode from you, they minimize your ability to doubt or distrust. In this mode, should doubt arise, an inhibiting thought quickly appears: “Oh…I’m supposed to listen with curiosity, without judgment.” You then intentionally switch your skeptical filter back off, enabling your brainwashing to continue. You enable their process of removing your power and taking control of your mind. They now can deluge you with information and ideas which you cannot question, sort through, and process. Resist. Question. Subvert their process–intentionally turn your skeptical filter on and leave it on. “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”—Bertrand Russell

By disarming you, they are preparing to mislead you step-by-step. Their greatest misrepresentation, widely disseminated through propaganda in the media, is that their form of CSJ training is harmless, friendly, beneficial to all, and effective at reducing racism and increasing diversity in the school or workplace.

3. “Check your privilege.”

Statements alluding to your privilege or whiteness (if you are white) are designed to remove your power, inhibit your present identity and prepare you for your new Woke identity. They arouse your empathy, shame and fear to knock you off balance for the rest of the training. Feelings of powerlessness and inhibition weaken your old identity. Critical Race Theory holds that whiteness is the unforgivable sin for which you can never atone. This is racism disguised as anti-racism, powerlessness disguised as enlightenment. Keep your skeptical antennae raised.

“Do you believe in white privilege?” Say “no” and they call you a racist, because they Know Without Question that all whites are privileged. Say “yes” and they ask if you’re “Doing the Work,” — being “anti-racist,” interrogating your own racism, confronting everyone you meet about their privilege, bias, racism, sexism, and fascism. Of course you don’t. No one does. They’ve erected a double-bind: racist if you do, racist when you don’t.

With a simple statement such as “check your privilege,” they insult you, shame you, reduce your power to object and begin to disassemble your personality through the application of punishment and reward.

4. “How do you identify?”

Acceptable answers to this question pertain to your race, gender, or ethnicity. This subtly channels you into their narrow set of demographics. Anything else—artist, cook, dog lover—shows active resistance to their control and identity inhibition. For white people, it’s evidence of your Everyday Privilege or Ordinary Bias: you are so saturated with Inherent Bias and White Privilege that you don’t know it. If you’ve been sufficiently “softened,” you won’t notice that they’ve put you into another double-bind through the fallacy of circular reasoning: if you’re white, you’re a racist. Why? Because all whites are inherently racist! For individuals of different ethnicities, refusing to identify in terms of your group identity might lead them to accuse you of exhibiting “internalised oppression,” where you simply don’t recognise the importance of your group identity because you have become used to being treated as a “second-class citizen.”

This and the following two signs continue their series of small steps in their system of rewards and punishments, designed to inhibit your current identity and promote a new identity by learning their ideology and practicing new group-approved behaviors.

5. “What are your pronouns?”

This lets others know how you wish to be addressed: he/his, she/her, they/them. These pronouns might appear in emails, social media, or snail-mail. Many Woke-dominated institutions require this or use peer pressure to force it upon you. Pronouns are an important Virtue Signal among the Woke, letting others know of their Wokeness. Virtue signaling is one of the most important characteristics of Wokeness, helping to fuel mob behavior. “Male” and “female”—over 92 per cent of American adults—are now referred to as Cisgender Male and Cisgender Female. As these are the only genders grounded in biology, they are by Woke definition polluted by privilege and implicit bias, and treated as inferior to the least-used genders.

6. Black Allyship.

With double-binds, attitude manipulation, shame, fear and invented vocabulary, facilitators build your emotional cage of unavoidable racism and shame. Your only escape from your inherent racism, bias and guilt is to become a Black Ally. If you are white, you must use your white skin and privilege to proselytize other white people, who accept criticism from white people more readily than from black people. This is the final trap: if you do not become a Black Ally, if you do not criticize and “call out” other white people, your inaction makes you complicit in their racism, making you an even bigger racist than before. Your shame and fear mounts. Refusal of Black Allyship is apostasy, the refusal to act on your new Woke faith. For example, in the article “Use Your Everyday Privilege to Help Others”, Dolly Chugh wrote:

For so many of us looking for an opportunity to fight bigotry and bias in the workplace or in our broader culture, we may be missing the opportunity staring back at us in the mirror: using the ordinary nature of who we are as a source of extraordinary power….Look for opportunities to speak and act. Confront people, ask questions, raise issues….call it out when it happens…

The Woke activists—those who storm buildings, attack teachers, occupy classrooms, chant for hours, troll the internet, demand endless name changes—all began by following the gentle, seemingly harmless suggestions above. It’s one step at a time. The American POWs in Korea began by jotting down one innocuous criticism of America; they ended with despising all things American.

Those who take this step and fall into this trap will find it very hard to extricate themselves from Wokeness. Their old personality is now well-suppressed and their new Woke personality well-encouraged, using guilt and fear to enforce behavioral change.

7. No humor.

Wokeness short-circuits humor just as intentional acceptance mode prevents skepticism. You can be Woke, and you can be funny, but not at the same time. “Intent is irrelevant”—a Woke catchphrase—applies to humor most of all. Training you to inhibit your own humor weakens your old identity and your spontaneous creativity. This clears the path to build your new controlled identity — step five of Singer’s six conditions of mind control. Fight their humorlessness with sarcasm, mockery and irony. The facilitators won’t like it. They’ll claim it makes unnamed fictitious others “feel unsafe”; they’ll use shame and peer pressure to squelch it.

By inhibiting and suppressing your sense of humor, they have gone beyond mere indoctrination; they are now adjusting your attitude and affecting the deeper levels of your personality.

8. Shaming for disagreement or critical questions.


Questions are permitted only to increase your shame and acquiescence to their program, as in “How do I stop behaving as a privileged white woman?” Critical questions about their statements or behavior are not permitted. They’ll say, “You’re pulling a power play”—trying to resist them, trying to influence others, subverting the training, and your disagreement proves your racism, that you are “on the wrong side of history”; the future belongs to the Woke. Want to belong? “Do the Work.”

Don’t believe them if they say that the “still, small voice” of your inner self is your White Fragility, panicking at vanishing. If they succeed at inhibiting that voice, your psychological recovery from Wokeness becomes very difficult, as some psychological therapists and others have discovered. Psychotherapist Seerut K. Chawla, practicing in London, dislikes Wokeness for the damage it has caused to many of her patients. Mike Brooks writes in Psychology Today about how Woke shaming destroys compassion. Also in Psychology Today Rupert W Nacoste writes that name-calling is bigotry, not social justice. The pressure to conform from facilitators and other trainees can be overwhelming. Your ounce of resistance is worth a pound of cure. Resist. Question. Tell a joke. Humor subverts Wokeness. One voice of resistance can unleash a chorus of support.

Shaming and disallowing critical questions have a threefold effect: they inhibit your former identity, promote your new identity and set you up for unquestioning acceptance of their authoritarian and closed system of theory, presented in the following two signs.

9. Diversity of race, gender and ethnicity but not of thought or speech.

They are not interested in your opinions, your individuality or your experience beyond your confessions to “inherent bias” and “white privilege.” Permissible questions must “move you forward” in your indoctrination. Social Justice Theory is sacrosanct; unfavorable opinions or penetrating questions are forbidden. Thus the Woke asserts that their ideology is a priori True, and that only implicitly biased and fragile white racists question its Truth. This is Singer’s sixth condition of mind-control:

Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

By shutting down true dialogue, freedom of expression, thought and humor, by persistent shaming and use of peer pressure, they’ve eliminated your ability to think critically; unthinking emotional acceptance of their doctrine is the result.

10. New terms, rarely supported or defined.

Facilitators communicate CSJ ideology through terms: some new, some old, some old but redefined to suit themselves. They present them as self-evident truths, with no explanation or supporting evidence. If you don’t understand, don’t waste their time, “Do The Work.” They expect you to believe they refer to something real: your presumed privilege, inherent bias, white fragility and so on. This is the fallacy of reification.

Reification occurs when a word or idea is treated as equivalent to the actual thing represented by that word or idea, or to treat an abstraction or process as equivalent to a concrete object or thing. Example: “Because there is a word “unicorn,” unicorns exist. Now let’s all move forward to discussing the exact structure and function of their horns.” The fact that unicorns don’t actually exist gets lost in the muddle of words. Reifying a term is asserting without supporting evidence that something is true or real. As the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, in what is now called Hitchens’ Razor: What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

Examples of Woke reified terms include: Anti-blackness, Anti-BIPOC, Cultural Appropriation, Implicit Bias, Institutional Racism, Intersectionality, Structural Racism, Systemic Racism, White Adjacent, White Fragility, White Oppression, White Privilege, Whitesplaining, White Tears.

These terms are commonly used and reified to shame and control you. They interact synergistically to solidify their authoritarian and closed theoretical structure. This structure depends heavily on reification and the fallacy of circular argumentation, permits no feedback and refuses modification. CSJ facilitators may use any or all of these terms.

Tessa Dover et.al. in Harvard Business Review writes: “Diversity policies must be researched, assessed for effectiveness, and implemented with care so that everyone in the workplace can feel valued and supported.” [Emphasis added.] Woke diversity training includes none of these criteria. It increases stereotyping, bias and interpersonal animosity. There is no supporting evidence that awareness of personal unconscious biases can mitigate racist behavior. Woke diversity training is no more than psychologically damaging brainwashing.

After a lifetime of varied and peculiar jobs, ending with working for five different film companies without changing the location of his chair, Chuck Almdale retired with Lillian, his wife, to the northern Los Angeles suburbs where he tends native California plants and insects in the front yard, grows tomatoes in the side yard, and watches doves and towhees nest and raise their young out back.

 


It can be difficult to find clear information about gender dysphoria online, so we compiled answers to some questions you may have about the topic. This text should serve as an introduction for readers who hope to engage with the literature discussing gender, but who know very little about the issues to begin with.

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person feels as though their sex at birth is mismatched with the gender they identify most with. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), 0.005–0.014% of biological males suffer from gender dysphoria and 0.002–0.003% of biological females do so, although this is changing due to recent surges in gender dysphoria diagnoses. There is no doubt about the existence of gender dysphoria as a legitimate condition that can be alleviated by going through a series of medical processes known as “transitioning”, in which an individual’s body is made to look and feel more similar to that of the gender they identify with. The causes of gender dysphoria are still unclear.

What does “transitioning” mean?

Transitioning can take several different forms and does not always involve surgery or irreversible procedures. The two types of transitions are social and medical.

What is the difference between a medical transition and a social transition?

Social transitioning is when a person chooses to present themselves as a member of the opposite sex. This may be through aesthetic changes such as clothing and hairstyles and could also include going by a different name and pronouns. Steps taken to socially transition are generally reversible. A medical transition is characterised by the use of medical interventions such as puberty blockers, hormone treatment and surgery. Some types of medical transitions, such as puberty blockers, are reversible, whereas surgery is generally permanent.

What is the difference between “sex” and “gender”?

Although the words “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably, they refer to different concepts. “Sex” is assigned at birth and describes the difference between men, who have XY chromosomes, and women, who have XX chromosomes. “Gender”, on the other hand, is broadly defined as the social elements of what it means to be a man or woman. This concept of gender as malleable and shaped by environmental factors was developed in the 1960s and 70s. The field of Gender Theory, which has become popularised since that period, generally posits that masculinity and femininity are socially constructed. Some gender academics even propose that sex is socially constructed. This field is not without criticism. Studies have shown that men and women are different in many ways including psychological traits, hormone levels and many observable traits. In addition to this, there is evidence that babies of just three months old prefer toys associated with their sex. This is also observable in rhesus monkeys, who preferred playing with toys associated with their sex, thereby casting doubt on the idea that these traits are solely developed through socialisation.

What does it feel like to suffer from gender dysphoria?

Children suffering from gender dysphoria can exhibit a number of symptoms including refusing toys designed for their sex, urinating in the position of the opposite sex and repeatedly stating they are really of the opposite sex. In teenagers and adults, gender dysphoria can cause deep disgust of one’s own genitals and the strong belief that their real gender is not the same as their biological sex. This is often accompanied by feelings of isolation and depression.

What’s the difference between the terms “gender dysphoria”, “transgender” and “gender non-conforming”?

As described above, “gender dysphoria” is a condition in which an individual feels that they do not identify with their sex. A “transgender” person is someone whose gender identity is different to their sex. A “gender non-conforming” person is someone whose appearance or behaviour does not align with what one might expect from a member of their sex.

What about parents of children who are questioning their gender?

One can only imagine how difficult it must be for people struggling with gender dysphoria. It must also be challenging for parents and family members of these individuals to respond to the revelation that a child does not identify as their biological sex. On top of the difficulty parents might face in understanding their children’s desire to change gender, parents can face even more challenges from those around them. Social media shaming and excessively PC school policies are just two challenges faced by parents who question their child regarding issues of gender.

Is gender dysphoria permanent?

Around 80% of gender non-conforming children grow up to be cisgender (i.e. identifying as the same gender they were born as). However, when gender dysphoria persists through puberty, it is usually permanent. Some research has shown that adults with gender dysphoria can have brain structures that are somewhere in between male and female brain structures.

Does body image and mental health play a role?

One study on teenage girls in the US found that 50% of 13-year olds felt unhappy with their bodies, growing to 80% by the time the girls reached the age of 17. Adolescence is a difficult time for young people. Being uncomfortable in their own bodies is perfectly normal.

Indeed, certain mental health problems have been found to correlate with feelings of gender dysphoria. There is anecdotal evidence of young people mistaking body image issues and depression for gender dysphoria.

In 2020, Keira Bell brought a case to the UK High Court. Keira had begun transitioning into a boy when she was a teenager but had changed her mind and de-transitioned. She claimed that she had been given false hope that transitioning would solve all her problems. She said:

I made a brash decision as a teenager, as a lot of teenagers do, trying to find confidence and happiness, except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected. Transition was a very temporary, superficial fix for a very complex identity issue.

Of course, disentangling causality in those who are—or simply believe themselves to be —suffering from gender dysphoria can be tricky. Those who genuinely and persistently believe themselves to be in the wrong body would doubtless be vulnerable to mental health issues and body issues.

What’s the role of sexuality?

Around 75% of boys who are gender-nonconforming grow up to be gay adults. In fact, gender-nonconformity in childhood is one of the best predictors of homosexuality in adulthood.

What treatment is given to children who question their gender?

When a child is thought to have gender dysphoria and is brought to a gender clinic, they will generally be required to see a number of different specialists over the course of a few months. As stated on the NHS website, many interventions involve psychological support rather than medical because gender dysphoria has a tendency to subside during puberty. Children may also be given puberty blockers, designed to pause the physical changes that usually occur during puberty. In the UK, after the age of 16, children may be given cross-sex hormones. These have more permanent effects and involve giving female patients the male hormone (testosterone) and male patients the female hormone (oestrogen). In the US, puberty blockers and hormone therapy can be administered to children under the age of 16 in the majority of states, while in some states treatment for children under 16 is banned. In Arkansas, doctors cannot provide any treatment for gender dysphoria to patients under the age of 18.

Are there any side effects of these treatments?

Puberty blockers do have a number of side-effects, some of which are relatively benign, for example headaches, muscle aches and changes in weight. Other more serious side-effects include lower bone density, changes in mood and delayed growth plate closure. The effects of puberty blockers are thought to be reversible – once a patient stops taking these blockers, puberty will resume, although longer term effects are still unknown and researchers are yet to discover whether puberty blockers affect brain development.

The side-effects of taking cross-sex hormones are still largely unknown. However, the few studies done have suggested that transgender women who were on the hormones had a greater risk of mortality, while transgender men had increased blood pressure and insulin resistance. In addition to this, infertility is a very common side-effect of long-term use of cross-sex hormones.

Although it is not a treatment per-se, chest binders are sometimes used by biological women who wish to give the appearance of a flat chest. It has been shown that the use of chest binders, a tight piece of cloth which is wrapped around the chest, comes with considerable side-effects. 53% of participants experienced back pain and 47% reported shortness of breath as a result of chest binding. Rarer side-effects can include spinal misalignment and rib damage.

Can children give informed consent for gender dysphoria treatments?

Despite the potential for harm, UK gender clinics have found a legal loophole through which pharmacies can administer hormone medication prescribed by doctors in any part of the EU and outside the jurisdiction of UK regulators. This was discovered when a reporter posing as a 15-year-old girl was prescribed testosterone by a gender clinic without parental knowledge. This raises the issue of informed consent. In the UK, children under the age of 16 are unable to consent to sexual intercourse, while those under 18 cannot marry, drink alcohol or vote in elections. These age limits are put in place because adolescents are not deemed to be capable of assessing decisions in the same way that a fully developed adult would. This is because the frontal cortex, the brain’s decision-making powerhouse, is not fully developed. While an adult should be well within their rights to transition if they decide to, a child may not be capable of making a decision that has such life-altering consequences, infertility being one of them.

Science has a long way to go in researching the causes and treatments of gender dysphoria, so open and honest dialogue about these issues will be increasingly important as we move forward. We can do this by learning the facts, keeping an open mind and treating everyone with dignity.

After studying Architecture at the University of Nottingham, Laura Walker-Beaven worked in fundraising and international development. She is currently studying a masters in Human Rights, during which she has become increasingly concerned about the impact of Critical Social Justice on universities.