Personal experience, various observations, concerns. (Scroll down for the links.)
(Please note: Articles posted from the following sources do not necessarily equate to endorsement of entire periodical or website content. Nearly all of these authors are not “conservative” in the traditional sense; most are liberal and leftist thinkers who believe American and Western tenets are being eroded and dismantled by nefarious authoritarian and totalitarian forces.
For the purpose of clarity, the main tenets of Western civilization’s liberalism include limitations on the powers of government, political democracy, the existence of universal and objective truths, universal human rights, religious freedom, legal equality, equal opportunity (not to be mistaken for equity and equitable outcomes), freedom of speech, the inherent value of each individual, individual liberty, free-agency and thought, the right to self-govern, and rational debate for public policy in the marketplace of ideas.)
In 2019, I retired from teaching college for many of the same reasons written in Dr. Peter Boghossian’s recent resignation letter from Portland State University. Too many public universities and academic disciplines have become infected with the toxic and cultish ideology of identity politics—also known as “woke ideology” or “Wokeism”—meaning one is supposed to be “awakened” (akin to being “born again”) to the nature of one’s own individual and group complicity to societal oppression and injustice toward historically marginalized groups. Former proponents and now critics of Wokeism claim to be “awakened” from the Woke.
I surely understand the idea of structural bigotry and racism. I don’t mean to imply that oppression and injustice don’t exist in our society nor are these value propositions and public policy propositions without merit. We should self-reflect and strive for the betterment of society. Even more, society and individuals are obligated to seek policies that promote “liberty and justice for all.”
By the same token, any ideology (including its methods) that necessitates a “by any means necessary” approach becomes dangerously fundamentalist, authoritarian, and totalitarian. Also, any ideology that methodizes re-education, censorship, specified language, forced compliance, violence, bullying, threats, intimidation and other punitive measures (again, for the “greater good”) is simply another brand of tyranny.
The Powerful Influence of Critical Theories
In the 1980’s, public universities introduced an educational framework known as Critical Pedagogy and Critical Theory as a way to induce the “critical consciousness” of students—meaning teaching students “other ways of knowing” and other ways of interpreting society and the world through a lens of “systemic oppression” and marginalization of “the other.” These theories teach students to analyze and to think within a different and non-objective framework. Any critical theory is mainly concerned with revealing hidden bigotry, biases, racism, sexism, etc., by pointing out or “problematizing” unspoken assumptions in individuals, groups, and society. Eventually, Critical Theory as an analytical and interpretive tool expanded into other spheres and dimensions. For instance, Critical Social Justice Theory and Critical Race Theory are used to implement social justice advocacy and activism within education, corporations, and other institutions and for purposes of societal and global public-policy making.
I refer to Dr. Helen Pluckrose and Dr. James Lindsay’s whose observations mirror my own:
Social Justice scholarship does not merely present the postmodern knowledge principle–that objective truth does not exist and knowledge is socially constructed and a product of culture–and the postmodern political principle–society is constructed through knowledge by language and discourses, designed to keep the dominant in power over the oppressed. It treats them as The Truth, tolerates no dissent, and expects everyone to agree or be ‘cancelled.’ We see this in the obsessive focus on who can produce knowledge and how and in the explicit desire to ‘infect’ as many other disciplines as possible [within academia and in Western institutions] with Social Justice methods. This is is reflected in a clear wish to achieve epistemic and research ‘justice’ by asserting that rigorous knowledge production is just a product of white, male, and Western culture and thus no better than the Theoretically interpreted lived experiences of members of marginalized groups, which must be constantly elevated and foregrounded.
Group identity is treated as so integral to the functioning of society that those invested in Social Justice have elevated divisive group-identity politics to a fever pitch. Belief in the overwhelming power of language, which must be scrutinized and cleansed is simply taken for granted [in universities and now, in society at large].
This has had a number of consequences. Scholars and activists devote tremendous effort to searching for and inflating the smallest infractions–this being the ‘critical’ approach [theory]. They scrupulously examine people’s current and past speech, particularly on social media, and punish purveyors of ‘hateful’ discourses. If the person involved is considered influential, the mob may try to end their career altogether.
The difficulty with…Social Justice ‘way of knowing’ is however, the same as that with all gnostic ‘epistemologies’ that rely upon feelings, intuition, and subjective experience: what should we do when people’s subjective experiences conflict? The overarching liberal principle of conflict resolution–to put forth one’s best arguments and hash the issue out, deferring to the best available evidence whenever possible–is completely eliminated by this approach. Indeed, it’s billed as a conspiracy used to keep marginalized people down. If different members of the same marginalized group–or members of different marginalized groups–give incompatible interpretations of their ‘lived experience,’ how can this contradiction be reconciled?
Social Justice scholars … select certain favored interpretations of marginalized people’s experience (those consistent with Theory) and anoint these as the ‘authentic’ ones; all others are explained away as unfortunate internalization of dominant ideologies or cynical self-interest. In this way the logical contradiction between radical relativism and dogmatic absolutism is resolved but at the price of rendering the Social Justice Theory completely unfalsifiable and indefeasible; no matter what evidence about reality (physical, biological, and social) or philosophical argument may be presented, Theory always can and always does explain it away. In this sense, we are not so far, in fact, from the apocalyptic cults who predicted that the world would end on a specific day, but reaffirmed their beliefs with added fervor when that day passed uneventfully.
It is therefore no exaggeration to observe that Social Justice Theorists have created a new religion, a tradition of faith that is actively hostile to reason, falsification, disconfirmation, and disagreement of any kind. Indeed, the whole postmodernist project now seems, in retrospect, like an unwitting attempt to have deconstructed the old metanarratives of Western thought–science and reason along with religion and capitalist economic systems–to make room for a wholly new religion, a postmodern faith based on a dead God, which sees mysterious worldly forces in system of power and privilege and which sanctifies victimhood. This, increasingly is the fundamentalist religion of the nominally secular left.
Theory has not remained confined to the academy. First applied, then reified, postmodernism in the form of Social Justice has left the universities, spread–with evangelical zeal–by graduates and through social media and activist journalism. It has become a significant cultural force with a profound–and often negative–influence on politics.Pluckrose, H. & Lindsay, J. (2020). Cynical Theories: How activist scholarship made everything about race, gender, and identity—and why this harms everybody. Pitchstone Publishing. Durham, North Carolina. pp. 210-212.
Compliance Gaining Instruction and Methods
Proponents of Critical Theories—particularly, Critical Social Justice Theory (CSJ) and Critical Race Theory (CRT)— include an effective instructional and methodological approach within universities, as well as variations of these principles and strategies in many corporate boardrooms and employee training. The first stages usually begin with reasonable suggestions to self-reflect upon one’s racial and heteronormative privilege in comparison to marginalized groups followed by appeals for empathy and sensitivity in one’s language and behavior toward marginalized peoples. CSJ instructors and advocates—due to their expertise—give themselves exclusive moral authority to define words such as “privilege” and “oppressive” and thus categorically assign individuals accordingly.
Gradually and incrementally, ensuing stages involve more forceful strategies in gaining the compliance of individuals assigned to their categorized group. Strategies include watchful observances by advocates and marginalized individuals for signs of any type of “oppression” such as verbal or nonverbal microaggressions within group communication environments. Such observances serve a purpose in establishing the moral high ground, forming group consensus to enable formation of alliances and “ally-ship” in righting societal historical wrongs. As a result, new policies = individual conformity and compliance.
At its most basic, CSJ logic is based on a set of premises that use assumptions about the nature and character of individuals assigned to the CSJ categorical grouping on a vast “intersectional” matrix. CSJ logic casts suspicious assumptions upon the moral characters of individuals assigned to privileged categories. In order for individuals to comply to their newly assigned categories, a series of strategies are set forth such as the Kafka Trap. (For further details, see my other posts about academia.) Individuals who question these assumptions are used as examples and therefore further evidence as to the nature of their character flaws underscoring the moral deficiencies of their assigned group.
Final stages involve expanding the appeals and suggestions that encourage individual participance into forms of forced behavioral and speech compliance to the now solidified moral edicts. Advocates, activists, and victims see themselves as moral crusaders with the moral authority to control others. Recruitment style efforts on the part of crusaders become ever-more forceful using group coercion, distorted information, and exaggerated consensus.
Finally, dissent is quelled by bullying, persecution, public humiliation, firing, doxxing, “cancel culture,” de-platforming, violence, and other dehumanizing measures. And it’s all been frighteningly effective.
One anonymous philosopher (I think he’s an Arabic male) who refers to himself as “Aurelian of Rome” succinctly encapsulates this cynical approach:
- Charge an entire demographic with a collective and/or historical crime.
- Use that charge as grounds for framing individuals within the demographic as perpetrators of the crime.
- Seek to strip condemned individuals of rights, dignity, and qual protection based on that charge.
In my opinion, what began as well-meaning advocacy for historically oppressed and marginalized groups, has morphed into a new (but old) brand of punitive puritanism and zealotry. The ever-expanding definitions, edicts, and lexicon set forth by activists have resulted in a toxic brew of fundamentalism and dogma in attaining “ideological purity.” In recent years, “social justice” activists instruction and persuasion now rely heavily on methods that induce and foment shame, guilt, resentment, anger, condemnation for purposes of punishment and public humiliation for failure to comply. At best, these revolutionary activists hold pious mindsets toward individuals and groups who are “ignorant culturally and racially illiterate” or “willfully ignorant.” At worst, they view dissenters as “bad, indecent, immoral, evil,” etc.
Again, I refer to “Aurelian of Rome” in his Twitter response to journalist David A. French:
People are objecting because a reductionist narrative with sacred generalizations is being pushed in a dogmatic and authoritarian way with prescribed language. All attempts to update the prescribed ideological falsehoods with nuance leads to the narrative simply being repeated.
Ideological rigidity is blinding you and others to the grotesque fictions and oversimplifications that you have embraced. Such sacred fictions have made you unwilling or unable to see how unethical you have become. A generalization that isn’t true is lie.
You treat millions of distinct individuals as racially-determined avatars for metaphysical demographic dynasties. You revel in racial stereotypes that define what individuals supposedly have based on skin color, not direct evidence. This is demagoguery, not rationality.
All of this unethical behavior, cruelty, hatred, deception, demagoguery, prejudice, bigotry, stereotyping, demonization, and grotesque discrimination is triumphantly and constantly insisted upon.”July 25, 2021
A New Secular Religion
Surely, this new “secular” Puritanism contains many hallmarks of old-time Christianity; a form of “secular Christian” religion that utilizes notions of faith-based narratives, sin, original sin (born into “whiteness”), atonement (atoning for “whiteness” or “white supremacy”), guilt, fear, confession, rituals (including public posturing and performance of one’s “virtue” and “righteousness”), “correct” language usage and speech suppression, evangelicalism in the form of activism, shame and public humiliation through condemnation on social media (Remember the medieval punishment of locking people in the village stocks?) for heresy or wrong-think, excommunication (being “cancelled”), the list goes on. Ironically, this theology offers little to no grace, no nuance (edicts are framed in either/or thinking), and no chance of redemption for the “privileged” group.
Dr. Helen Pluckrose and Dr. James Lindsay give an apt description of these activist scholars and educators:
Not only do these scholar-activists speak a specialized language—while using everyday words that people assume, incorrectly, that they understand—but they also represent a wholly different culture, embedded within our own. People who have adopted this view may be physically close by, but, intellectually, they are a world away, which makes understanding them and communicating with them incredibly difficult.
They are obsessed with power language, knowledge, and the relationships between them. They interpret the world through a lens that detects power dynamics in every interaction, utterance, and cultural artifact—even when they aren’t obvious or real. This is a worldview that centers social and cultural grievances and aims to make everything into a zero-sum political struggle revolving around identity markers like race, sex, gender, sexuality, and many others. …They interpret all our human sociological interactions in the most cynical way possible.
These applied cynical theories deconstruct … ‘the old religions’ of human thought—which include conventional religious faiths like Christianity and secular ideologies like Marxism, as well as cohesive modern systems such as science, philosophical liberalism, and ‘progress’—and replace[d] them with a new religion of it own, called “Social Justice.” ….it is a story about how despair found new confidence, which then grew into the sort of firm conviction associated with religious adherence. The faith that emerged is throughly postmodern, which means that, rather than interpreting the world in terms of subtle spiritual forces like sin and magic, it focuses instead on subtle material forces, such as systemic bigotry, and diffuse but omnipresent systems of power and privilege.
We can see [Social Justice religion’s] impact on the world in their attacks on science and reason. It is also evident in their assertions that society is simplistically divided into dominant and marginalized identities and underpinned by invisible systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, ableism, and fatphobia. We find ourselves faced with the continuing dismantlement of categories like knowledge and belief, reason and emotion, and men and woman, and with increasing pressures to censor our language in accordance with The Truth According to Social Justice. We see radical relativism in the form of double standards, the wholesale rejection of consistent principles of nondiscrimination… it grows increasingly difficult and even dangerous to argue that people should be treated as individuals or to urge recognition of our shared humanity in the face of divisive and constraining identity politics.
… anyone from any part of the political spectrum who believes in the marketplace of ideas as a way to examine and challenge ideas and advance society ….[needs] to be able to engage with Social Justice ideas as they really are.”pp. 16-19.
Below are only a handful of links providing specific examples of Critical Theories (Wokeism) and the fundamentalist approach and ongoing impact on American and Western institutions. Also included are a few links exemplifying professors and administrators who were deemed “witches,” and thus “burned at the academic stake.” I will continue to post links on this page to illustrate the increasing corruption in higher education and its ramifications in society and in the West.
For more information, see newdiscourses.com.