Category Archive 'Critical Theory'

12 Sep 2020

At Root, It’s a Technique For Denying Reality

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Helen Dale’s review of Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity in The Critic is a Must-Read item analyzing the real content of the Critical Theory rubbish that has recently come to dominate the American intellectual establishment.

At one point in Winnie-The-Pooh, Pooh and Piglet start to follow footprints in the snow. The pair think they belong to a creature called a “Woozle”. The tracks keep multiplying, and the two become increasingly confused, until — finally — Christopher Robin explains they’ve been following their own tracks in circles around a tree, and that Woozles aren’t real.

These days, if you go to university to read humanities and some social sciences — notably psychology and sociology — you’ll find yourself retracing Pooh and Piglet’s steps, hunting for Woozles that aren’t there.

You will encounter radical scepticism about whether objective knowledge or truth is obtainable, along with a commitment to the notion that real things — like sex and race — are culturally constructed. Your lecturers will impress upon you the idea that society is formed into identity-based hierarchies and knowledge is an effect of power. Your position on a league-table of oppressed identities determine what can be known and how it is known. If you disagree you will at least be marked down, and sometimes formally disciplined. Worse, there is no Christopher Robin to save you. It’s Woozles all the way down, and don’t you dare dissent. …

The shift from “it’s immoral to tell another culture’s story” to “it’s impossible to tell another culture’s story, but in any case, one shouldn’t try for moral reasons” is part of a process Pluckrose and Lindsay describe as “reification”, which emerged after I’d left the ivory tower and commenced moving companies around and drafting commercial leases for a living. Once reified, postmodern abstractions about the world are treated as though they are real things, and accorded the status of empirical truth. Contemporary social justice activism thus sees theory as reality, as though it were gravity or cell division or the atomic structure of uranium.

The correspondence theory of truth holds that objective truth exists and we can learn something about it through evidence and reason. That is, things are knowable and we gain reliable information about them when our beliefs align with reality. It’s termed “the correspondence theory of truth” because a statement is considered true when it corresponds with reality and false when it doesn’t. Reality, of course, is the thing that does not change regardless of what you believe.

While advanced civilisations going back to classical antiquity employed this reasoning in selected areas (Ancient Rome to civil engineering and law, for example, or Medieval China to public administration), it’s only since the Enlightenment that it’s been applied consistently to nearly everything, at least in developed countries. It forms the foundation of modern scientific and administrative progress and accounts in large part for the safety and material comfort we now enjoy.

Reified “Theory” is no more and no less than a rejection of the correspondence theory of truth. There are no universal truths and no objective reality, only narratives expressed in discourses and language that reflect one group’s power over another. Science has no claim on objectivity, because science itself is a cultural construct, created out of power differentials, and ordered by straight white males. There are no arguments, merely identity showdowns; the most oppressed always wins.

And, because language makes the world, attempts by scholars in other disciplines and from across the political spectrum to do what I did and falsify Theory’s empirical claims are met not with reasoned debate but an accusation that those individuals are harming the oppressed or silencing the marginalised, because all someone higher up the hierarchical food chain is supposed to do when confronted by someone lower down is listen. That’s the point of telling people to “check their privilege” before they open their mouths.

RTWT

06 Aug 2020

The Establishment Media is Behind the Great Awokening

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The usage of the terms “racist(s)” and “racism” as a percentage of all words in four of the nation’s largest newspapers from (depending on the publication) 1970 through 2019.

Zach Goldberg, in Tablet Magazine, documents the sudden rise to mainstream acceptance of the radical Marxist viewpoint on American History and society.

In the wake of the protests, riots, and general upheaval sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the United States is experiencing a racial reckoning. The response from America’s elite liberal institutions suggests that many have embraced the ideology of the protesters. Here, for instance, is a sampling of the titles of opinion pieces and news stories published over the past month by the country’s two most influential newspapers, The Washington Post and The New York Times:

    “When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs”

    “Black Activists Wonder: Is Protesting Just Trendy for White People?”

    “To White People Who Want to Be ‘One of the Good Ones’”

    “America’s Enduring Caste System: Our founding ideals promise liberty and equality for all. Our reality is an enduring racial hierarchy that has persisted for centuries.”

The last entry on the list, a lengthy feature on America’s “caste system” in The New York Times Magazine, explicitly compares the United States to Nazi Germany.

Countless articles have been published in recent weeks, often under the guise of straight news reporting, in which journalists take for granted the legitimacy of novel theories about race and identity. Such articles illustrate a prevailing new political morality on questions of race and justice that has taken power at the Times and Post—a worldview sometimes abbreviated as “wokeness” that combines the sensibilities of highly educated and hyperliberal white professionals with elements of Black nationalism and academic critical race theory. But the media’s embrace of “wokeness” did not begin in response to the death of George Floyd. This racial ideology first began to take hold at leading liberal media institutions years before the arrival of Donald Trump and, in fact, heavily influenced the journalistic response to the protest movements of recent years and their critique of American society.

Starting well before Donald Trump’s rise to power, while President Obama was still in office, terms like “microaggression” and “white privilege” were picked up by liberal journalists. These terms went from being obscure fragments of academic jargon to commonplace journalistic language in only a few years—a process that I document here in detail. During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like “racism” were being radically redefined. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.

RTWT

24 Jul 2020

Io Lo Credo

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29 Oct 2018

Sad Progressivism

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E.M. Cadwaldr describes the culture of boundless negativity that is Progressivism.

To someone raised in a leftist family, the drill is all too familiar. There may be variations, but my experience went something like this:

One is immersed from birth in Marxist critical theory like a chicken cooking slowly in pot — not that one is ever told explicitly what Marxist critical theory is. In practice, the dogma is practiced as nothing more sophisticated than a lifestyle of continual dissatisfaction — of one long sad and negative discussion after another. The ideal setting for such discussions really has become the coffee shop — now a kind of secular parody of a church. There, one can ruminate, virtue signal to one’s fellow left-leaners, and sip slowly at the bitter cup of fair-trade, overpriced java picked by scenically depicted (but always comfortably far away) peasants from a third world hellhole du jour. If you miss the wafer normally offered in a more traditional sacrament, have a biscotti. One can tip the transgender barista graciously, earning a kind of progressive equivalent of merit, though not the least shred of actual grace. One can snub America simply by occupying the repackaged equivalent of a European institution. This is leftism by association.

The pilgrimage to the bookstore is another popular rite, though not compulsory. There, one finds all sorts of new and interesting topics to feel bad about. One can educate one’s sense of moral outrage, refining the palate to the subtler nuances of the same eternal whine. The vibrant Red whine: How bad western civilization is in general. The anti-American White whine: How bad America is in particular. All such reading fuels the same peculiarly self-destructive end. The progressive is taught to believe that an entirely unproductive and pathologically disheartened outlook is the mark of a superior being. Life is to be lamented from start to finish. Ordinary happiness is for the stupid. Such an ongoing narrative is as sticky and as lethal as a Venus fly trap. Try reading a little of the public intellectual Noam Chomsky. See how wonderfully acerbic and languid he is? Read a bit of the revisionist historian Howard Zinn. Such a blistering indictment of the West by a man who hasn’t troubled himself to examine any inconvenient historical data. Even a cursory study of leftist literature will make it plain to any conservative how leftists have developed an unspoken longing for cultural suicide. They have few or no children. They have no reason to be bothered if America is eventually transformed into just another Latin American failed state. They have been told their whole lives that it would serve us right.

RTWT


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