December 2019

Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind

In this podcast, constitutional lawyer Greg Lukianoff and founder of Heterodox Academy, Professor Jonathan Haidt investigate the effects and consequences that social justice ideology (SJI) within academia has on the students themselves, rather than on academia in general. This podcast, which is also available in written form, is centered around their critically acclaimed book “The Coddling of the American Mind”.

Haidt and Lukianoff argue that protecting students from subjects they may find offensive not only ill-prepares them for a life outside of academia but can damage their mental health and can cause some to think pathologically. Alongside these potential consequences, there have been more immediate effects, such as a significant increase in the reporting of mental health disorder, including depression and anxiety.

November 2019

Art of Now: Identity Crisis

In this podcast, author and social commentator Sohrab Ahmari discusses the influence of identity politics on contemporary art and how it has come to dominate them. Ahmari believes that not only is much of this art ugly, but that it has terrible consequences for art and society in general by “fuelling narcissism, division and political conformity”.

During this investigation, he talks to people from both sides of the argument. The critics of identity politics’ domination within the canon claim that certain subject matters are taboo, a fact that they feel goes against the traditions of art and that young artists are being encouraged to pursue this course because it is an easy source of funding and an easy path to notoriety. Many see the exponents of contemporary art as being primarily interested in the self and is often a narcissistic display to place oneself above the masses.

Those who support identity politics within the canon believe it allows marginalized communities to express themselves in creative ways within a privileged environment. Many argue that art has always been political, that all politics is "identity politics” and that this new trend within the canon merely addresses historical imbalances.

October 2019

No Justice Without Love: Why Activism Must Be More Generous

In 2016, Frances Lee published a well-known essay called “Why I’ve Started to Fear my Fellow Social Justice Activists”. This was one of several watershed pieces that have been coming out over the past few years in response to “cancel culture” and the increasing patterns of bullying, fanaticism, and de-platforming that has occurred in social justice movements.

In the essay, titled “No Justice without love: why activism must be more generous”, Lee goes further into their understanding of what really matters in our pursuit of a just world and why we need to operate out of love and humility rather than reducing our activism to outrage, cruelty and contempt.

What makes this piece particularly powerful is that Lee, a transgender intersectional activist and cultural studies scholar, has identified the cult-like elements that have crept into many of today’s social justice movements. The following passage about how information and dogmas are shared in these movements sums this up:

“But the way they [ideas for change] are presented, re-shared and absorbed into activist culture as infallible gospel truths removes people’s agency to think for themselves. I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a cult or a religion.”

“Furthermore”, they continue, “I worry that identity is being deployed as a way to separate people rather than to create coalitions to work together en masse.”

Lee’s new book, Toward An Ethics of Activism: A Community Investigation of Humility, Grace and Compassion in Movements for Justice, addresses the “relational aggression” that is common in these movements and explores some of the ways in which the inevitable conflicts can be surfaced, understood, and healed.

If the book reflects the basic outlook of this essay, it could become another piece of the emerging canon for a social justice reformation.

(Almost) Everything You Know About GamerGate is Wrong

Author Cathy Young has written an insightful piece about #Gamergate, which describes the tropes, stereotypes, misconceptions and cultural myths behind the controversy.

As this controversy is widely considered to have been one of the watershed moments that launched the modern culture wars, this article is a worthy read.

Why We Need More Standpoint Theory

Sonia Zawitkowski, a graduate student in applied social psychology, has written an interesting essay arguing for the positive aspects of Standpoint Theory.

Put in the simplest possible way, this is one of the main theories in modern Social Justice Ideology (SJI) that asks who is in power and who stands to gain more power by holding a specific position on an issue. It is a higher resolution justification for the beliefs and behaviors of those who practice what some call “identity politics”.

But, as to be expected from the Electric Agora online philosophy forum founded by philosopher, Daniel A. Kaufman, this essay presents a more subtle perspective that is worthy of consideration.

This site hosts essay writers from all persuasions who present deep perspectives on issues, which makes its tagline ” a modern symposium for the digital age” earning of its name. Not surprisingly, the site has been awarded as one of the top 100 philosophy blogs.

Below are a few notable titles:

All Philosophy is Activist Philosophy by David Ottinger

Postmodernism as Truth in Advertising by Kevin Currie-Knight​

Random Reflections on Intellectual History, Abstraction and Social and Political Values by Mark English

Antiracism: A Neoliberal Alternative to a Left

Dr. Adolf Reed Jr., a noted scholar and professor of politics and the history of race, published a paper in the Dialectical Anthropology Journal in June of 2018. While the writing and citations is highly academic and erudite in its expression, the insights and critiques of the ideology known as AntiRacism™ and its parent ideology, Critical Race Theory are an important contribution to the conversation around the impact of hardline ideologies on the solving of society’s problems.

Woke History is Making Big Inroads in America's High Schools

In recent years there has been a wealth of proposals for uprooting the Eurocentric curriculum that has undergirded the American educational enterprise for decades. The basic idea is that we need to center the voices, experiences, narratives, and ways of life of people who have lived their lives at the margins of American life due to either negligence, oppression, or both.

But, the important project of building a multicultural approach into teaching and learning environments and correcting imbalances in the stories we choose to tell about our country has begun to appear more like indoctrination into a specific ideology rather than a systematic implementation of more inclusive perspectives.

Real Clear Investigations has just published an interesting article that details some of the ideological artifacts that have made their way into the proposed curricula for K-12 education in California and many other states in recent years.

This article’s title, unfortunately, contains the word “woke” which appears pejorative. But, it’s a worthy read in that it examines the different reasons why several different groups of people object to (or wish to reform) this proposed curriculum.

What Social Justice Gets Right

But, while it’s popularly accepted to inflict accusation, shame, self-hatred and generalized guilt onto ourselves and other people we consider “wrong-doers” or wrong-thinkers, it is a form of spiritual violence that will eventually need to be healed.

In "What Social Justice Gets Right", a case is made that we can work to structure our systems, design public policy, and treat others in all the ways that social justice theories encourage without falling into the trap of extremism, dualistic thinking, or ideological fixation.

EXCERPT: “Liberal critics of the postmodern conception of the world, currently most visible in Social Justice activism, don’t claim that these ideas have no validity. They do. Given the choice of believing that culture strongly influences what a society accepts as true and believing that it has no impact, rational people who value evidence and reason must conclude that it does. The idea that recognition of this belongs to postmodernists or Social Justice activists, while the rest of us wander around in a comfortable haze of common sense waiting for them to make us woke to it is simply false. Humans in general have been aware of the existence of culture, the power of narratives and the tendency of humans to hold biases they are not fully aware of since long before Social Justice came into existence. Where liberals with progressive aims disagree with the Social Justice scholars and activists is on how to understand these biases and address them. It is essential to be clear about this if we are to make any kind of balanced and fair critique of Social Justice, and if we are to do so confidently en masse.”

September 2019

A Manifesto Against the Enemies of Modernity

In this podcast, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay discuss their 2017 essay "A Manifesto Against the Enemies of Modernity". This lengthy essay investigates what the authors perceive as a two pronged-attack on modernity, which they define as Enlightenment morality and science, from the adherents of both postmodernism and pre-modernism.

Pluckrose and Lindsay identify the postmodernists and the pre-modernists as the extreme fringes of the left and right respectively and not post and pre-modernists in general. Whilst at the opposite end of the "identitarian horseshoe" they identify both sides as being similar in their extreme authoritarianism. Both sides have ventured to such extremes they believe their opponents as existential threats to humanity. This extreme and "existential polarization" has the consequence that people who are in fact centrists are caught in the middle and viewed as being far-left or far-right by the extremist, often simultaneously. This polarization has become so deep that the authors believe that modernity is at significant risk and that both opposing sides seem intent on its destruction. Pluckrose and Lindsay also believe that this polarized partisanship results in people thinking along ideological lines and without reason, a phenomenon often referred to as "groupthink".

Starhawk: Building a Welcoming Movement

In a world of increasingly hostile and cruel activism, this essay by a seasoned advocate is a precious pearl. Starhawk has been an activist and a feminist since the 1960’s and has organized protests, social action, and liberation movements for many years. While this piece of writing may occasionally turn to the rhetoric of the oppressors versus the oppressed, Starhawk’s insightful message contains ten workable strategies for building a welcoming movement. Below is the tenth strategy:

10. Be kind.

Not necessarily to the oppressors, but at least to your own supporters, friends, co-conspirators and allies. That doesn’t mean to stifle constructive critique, but don’t turn organizing into an episode of Mean Girls. Support people when they are down. Share burdens. Be there for your comrades in jail, in illness or disease or injury or other troubles.

Understand that kindness, compassion and caring are the cornerstones of the world we want to create, and they take practice. So begin with one another.

This is a terrifying and challenging time, but it is also a great time of opportunity. If we commit ourselves to valuing the inherent worth in every human being, to using inclusive language and to educating everyone, we can build a broad-based, welcoming movement that will be an enormous force for positive change.

August 2019

Equity and Symbolic Paranoia: Is Today’s Left So Toxic?

This long-form essay gets to the heart of the matter in its respectful, sharp, and incisive critique of the symbolic paranoia and hatred that has begun to surface in modern iterations of Social Justice Ideology (SJI).

EXCERPT: The psychological tendency which unifies all these equity stances within the modern left is symbolic paranoia.

Symbolic paranoia is when you cease to see the reality of an empirical situation because you’ve projected a symbolic narrative onto it. The symbolic narrative makes you want to fight against a grave injustice, which now suddenly seems both pervasive, and something the rest of society displays a callous indifference towards. But this appearance of injustice is actually an illusion, an illusion borne out of an inability to perceive the features of reality that clash with the symbolic narrative.

When one acts on behalf of a symbolic narrative, the clash with reality makes the act counter-productive and destructive. In the name of helping the powerless and the vulnerable, one winds up hurting everyone, because ‘help’ is impossible outside the constraints of reality. What’s particularly fascinating about symbolic paranoia is it’s almost always coupled with hypocrisy. The person trying to enact justice on behalf of a symbolic narrative is normally doing a greater injustice than the purported injustice he or she is trying to fight. This is partly because when one is in the grip of symbolic paranoia, one confuses solving problems with prohibiting symbols one associates with the problems one would like to solve. When one is in the grip of symbolic paranoia, one typically tries to solve problem X, primarily by prohibiting symbols associated with X…

Symbolic narratives are, in effect, ways of explaining the world that block out empirical (and indeed, psychological) information. They block out the very information relevant to how one should explain the world, if one is to react to the moral demands of the world, rather than simply make childish demands upon our world. When we are mature adults, the way we see the world is fluid, capable of constantly shifting and adjusting, as new and incoming information pours in.

In contrast to this, the 21st century left has rigidly confined itself to a symbolic narrative that explains (and decides) all social conflict and change, prior to having investigated the particulars of situations. This prejudgement of situations and people is hence, why the modern mainstream left is awash in so much bigotry and authoritarianism. Judging people based on assumptions that cannot be altered with new information is the genesis of bigotry. And when one experiences discomfort because of incoming information one would rather block out, the more comforting solution is to ban its expression…

To fix it, we need a more thorough appreciation of our liberal democratic tradition, a tradition that allows most of us a level of freedom, prosperity, lawfulness, and health that would be unthinkable for most humans that have ever lived on planet earth. Without any gratitude, our tradition will atrophy and wither away, because of activists who are less like Martin Luther King than Veruca Salt.


Conflict Mediator and Zen Teacher Promotes "Healthy Inclusion"

In recent years, spiritual communities, including Christian churches from different traditions, temples, meditation centers, yoga centers, and other practice communities have experienced a rise in intergroup conflicts and ideological schisms since the adoption of diversity and inclusion measures that are based on the ideological assumptions of Critical Race Theory (CRT), Standpoint Theory, Queer Theory, and other postmodernist ideologies that are built upon the oppressor vs. oppressed frame of reality.

While these programs are almost always well-intentioned, they are often implemented in unhealthy ways.

To work with this challenge, organizational consultant, conflict mediator and Zen teacher, Diane Musho Hamilton developed a program called “Healthy Inclusion 2.0” in collaboration with teachers, mediators, and organizational theorists. Although this blog post is not an explicit endorsement of the program, we feel it’s important to support campaigns for healthy inclusion like the one that Hamilton has designed.

The following list, taken from Hamilton’s 10 Directions website, describes what “unhealthy inclusion” looks like, and calls for a new approach to inclusion, equality, diversity and social justice in communities and organizations.

Unhealthy Inclusion

* Oppressive rules around speech and “political correctness”. – – There can seem to be a hypersensitivity to language and behavior that can create a culture of fear.

* Endless processes of blame and accusation that don’t seem to ever resolve.

* A victim-oppressor framework that doesn’t allow any other narratives to come forth.

* The inversion of power hierarchies instead of their transformation (with a new group of oppressors at the top instead of no oppressors there).

* Devaluing of assertiveness and aggressiveness that can breed with competitors.

* Creating a talent drain as some leave rather than speak out.

* A monoculture that only values a narrow range of attitudes, politics, personality types, and communication styles.

* The demonization of those with differing views.

* A focus on internal politics and policies which draws too much attention away from action and movement forward.

How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained

We added another piece to what we are calling an “emerging canon” of works by thoughtful writers and thinkers who seek to bring us back to a more balanced and reality-based approach to social justice and human rights. Without a doubt, Helen Pluckrose of Areo Magazine has worked diligently and rigorously to educate people about the theoretical underpinnings of Social Justice Ideology (SJI).

On Anti-Racism w/ Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Thomas Chatterton Williams and Coleman Hughes

This podcast features four black men (academics, political commentators and writers) who discuss the drawbacks of the specific ideology of “Anti-Racism” that has become mainstream in the Western world since 2011. Though these men identify as liberal, some of them advocate a commitment to personal responsibility and don’t attribute all struggles and difficulties to systemic bigotry - views that are similar to black conservatives like Larry Elder.

PARTICIPANTS: Glenn Loury, Professor of the Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University and host of The Glenn Show @ … John McWhorter, Linguistics professor at Columbia University … Coleman Hughes Writer, Quillette Magazine … Thomas Chatterton Williams author of, “Losing My Cool”.

July 2019

No, I Will Not Debate With You

This piece demonstrates how ideologically-based hatreds and stereotyping against “those people” from out-of-favor demographic groups has led to the widespread belief and practice of refusing to engage with them. This has often resulted in severely distorted perceptions, rigid thinking, and the further dehumanization of perceived enemies. For an example of the insightfulness of both women and men when invited to respond to ideas, this is a collection of responses to a New York Times opinion piece about “raising boys not to be misogynists”.

Concept Creep: How Americans Became So Sensitive to Harm

Over the past five years, a “new convert” mentality or an almost religious True Believer-ship by followers of Social Justice Ideology (SJI) who invest in models of political reality that purport to know the secret thoughts, beliefs and attitudes of individuals who belong to different population groups.

One of the fall-outs of the totalist mindset that stereotypes groups, is that unscrupulous people who belong to in-favor groups could easily manipulate the framework to dominate others in activist spaces and other environments in which this new caste system has been installed without mindfulness or safeguards against abuse.

Another aggravating factor is what Dr. Nicholas Haslam, a psychologist, has termed “concept creep” back in 2016. According to an Atlantic Magazine article, published in 2016, years of Haslam’s research had revealed a pattern where we have expanded the definitions of what constitutes “harm” so significantly that abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, prejudice, and other painful human experiences have become so greatly amplified that being regarded as a “perpetrator” has also become almost impossible to avoid in certain environments. Heterodox Academy professor Jonathan Haidt, also investigates how "concept creep" has become increasingly more prevalent within acacdemic institutions in this article.

Once we allow the very essence of the world to be characterized as essentially evil or conspiratorial, we begin to search for it everywhere and spend all of our time rooting it out. It is a dark, dark place indeed.

Overcoming the Paralysis of Toxic Shame

In recent years, collective guilt and internalized personal shame have become mainstream, particular among adherents of group identity-based ideologies that use Privilege Theory as a single defining framework for all of social reality.

For some people, the belief that they belong to an inherently bad demographic group fulfills an unconscious psychic function, where their sense of self feels more complete by identifying with a grand narrative that casts them in a role that requires continual self-doubt, self-blame, contemplation of their flaws, and a never-ending search for a redemption that will never come.

For others, toxic shame is a weapon that can be used to inflict emotional or spiritual suffering onto other people to gain the psychic reward of sadistically hurting people or in the best of circumstances to gain a sense of moral domination and superiority.

Toxic shame, and the never-ending search for “wrongness” inside and outside is becoming the norm in our media, educational institutions, and even the workplace of companies that have taken on the programming of regressive ideologies that purport to be the only way to create a better society.

But, while it’s popularly accepted to inflict accusation, shame, self-hatred, and generalized guilt onto ourselves and other people we consider “wrong-doers” or wrong-thinkers, it is a form of spiritual violence that will eventually need to be healed.

June 2019

Exiting the Vampire Castle

Here is also a link to one of the best articles that examines the complexities around Mark Fisher’s life and death.

Mark Fisher was a Marxist activist who worked all his life to advance the rights of working people from all backgrounds. But, after he dared to critique the emerging culture of weaponized victimhood and bullying in the social justice movement in his famous essay "Exit From the Vampire Castle", he was viciously crucified by the social justice mobs. In 2017 Mark committed suicide.

Early on, at the beginning of the rise of what Fisher called “Identitarianism” in leftist/social justice political movements and subcultures, he was one of the first publicly known activists to sound the alarm. And that his death was ridiculed, mocked and even celebrated by his critics should give us pause.

As one of the editors who originally commissioned Mark's essay in the first place, C. Derick Varn has special insight and discusses Mark's story in this podcast.

What Gaslighting Isn't

This article explores the details of gas lighting behaviors and warns the reader not to overuse the term to describe behaviors that are not in fact gas lighting.

Victims of genuinely sociopathic behaviors and relentless bullying campaigns often develop hypervigilance later in life where they see bullying, gaslighting, abuse and evil everywhere. This hypervigilant style also occurs in those whose ideology trains them to seek out heresy and wrongness everywhere.

It’s a tricky thing. We don’t want to be caught off guard by those who are truly sociopathy and wish to play with us for personal pleasure. Yet, we also want to make sure we’re not throwing around words like “bullying”, “gaslighting”, “hate”, and “abuse” when we are having disagreements with people. These words not only cast unfair aspersions upon innocent people, they also lose their value when we do this because people begin to roll their eyes when the real thing finally comes along.

May 2019

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

Robert Jay Lifton’s “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” is an important study of political cultism. Ideological conditioning often involves academic-sounding words and phrases that can lead even intelligent, well-meaning people to despise entire groups of people and to stereotype individuals who belong to those groups. It is often caused by the excessive repetition of narratives about these groups - even historical narratives that are verifiably accurate.

We are seeing these patterns emerge in both the Trump movement and the Social Justice Ideology (SJI) movement, particularly on elite college campuses that focus on social justice. This is why it’s becoming increasingly vital for people to understand and recognize the patterns of what Lifton has called ideological totalism.

These helpful tips by political cult expert Robert Jay Lifton can help us to recognize how this hatred gains its staying power. For a useful introduction to how political cultism (or ideological totalism) manifests on college campuses, the #ExposeEvergreen video series is highly recommended.

In Chapter 22 of his book, Lifton discusses "Ideological Totalism", a full PDF version of which can be found here.

Situational Assessment 2019: AOC Edition

In contrast to the above article, Jordan Hall’s Situational Assessment series offers a multi-perspectival, sober, disciplined and hopeful assessment of the critical juncture that Western Civilization finds itself in. Over a series of essays, Hall discusses what his colleague Jeffrey Quackenbush has called the crisis in sense-making and the emergence of decentralized, collective intelligence as the way forward through the “new culture war”, the Trump Insurgency, and the rise of alternative media. The Assessment series also challenges individuals to participate consciously in the process of change that is occurring from the perspective of liminality rather than ideology.

EXCERPT: “From my perspective, then, the resolution of Culture War 2.0, and the broader War for Collective Intelligence, settles into a simple choice. We either endeavor to make sense and choices on the basis of our existing cultural toolkit and, ultimately, battle into self-extinguishing chaos as lived reality accelerates beyond the bounds of those tools. Or we listen to our deepest humanness and allow ourselves to become sensitive to creative liminality. From here (and, I propose, only from here) we are capable of a coherent collective intelligence that is fully adequate to the novelty and magnitude of our present reality… We already have what we need. We only need to step away from that which doesn’t serve the future and re-member that which does.”

I’m Done Pretending Men Are Safe (Even My Sons)

This short piece reflects on the viral fallout of a Washington Post article in which the author reflects on her belief that her teenage sons - like almost all men - will never come to accept the non-redemptive reality of being a male in what she views as a rape culture. What’s most notable about this piece is the ease with which the writer is willing to reveal her lack of faith in the goodness of her sons and her lack of appreciation of how it might feel for her sons to have identities publicly known. A related article was published in the UK Telegraph in 2015 and places the shame of being suspected of being potential perpetrators at the center of the educational lives of boys and young men.

It’s a Man’s World and It Always Will Be

This essay by dissenting academic Camile Paglia would seem to be a response to the above misandrist opinion column by Suzanne Walters, but it was written, most presciently, several years before. Mark J. Perry has written another short and interesting essay that compares these two strikingly different visions for the way we need to consider and treat men and boys. For a more in-depth look at the particular burdens placed on men, here is a talk given by Karen Straughan at the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE).

April 2019

Joe Rogan & Tim Pool: Twitter, Media and Censorship

Joe Rogan discusses Twitter bans with Twitter executives Jack Dorsey and Vitaya Gadde and independent journalist Tim Pool. Accuracy of information and the culture of contempt in mainstream and alternative media are discussed. One of the interesting examples pointed out in this conversation is the 2018 Data and Society report on what the study called the Alternative Influence Network. Interestingly, that report mislabeled YouTube content creators as “alt right” or “far right”, when a majority of them, including Tim Pool and Joe Rogan are actually left of center and both left-libertarians.

Bill Maher: The Denial of Distinctions

Here, Bill Maher reminds us that there are distinctions in the world of abuse and violence and that there is a spectrum of behaviors that require different measures of our responses. Put more simply, destroying lives is not a proportional response to every mishap, sexual or otherwise. Psychologists and social science researchers are also discovering the apocalyptic cult of “cancel culture”, and a recent New York Times piece questions “The Cruelty of Callout Culture” among similar lines.

How Can I Cure my White Guilt?

This piece from The New York Times begins with a letter by a person claiming to be burdened with white guilt. The language and assumptions in both the letter and the responses to the letter by those considered experts demonstrate the shame-orientation, reductionism in thought, and ideological conditioning of adherents of SJI. This is an example of mainstream political cultism that disallows the practice of considering multiple perspectives and variants and actively encourages a totalistic worldview. For more about ideological totalism, we refer you to Robert Jay Lifton’s book, “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism”.

A Liberal Definition of the Alt-Left

Podcaster, writer and cultural critic Keri Smith has written this essay about the the cult-like beliefs and practices of contemporary social justice activism. The essay is written in the language and style of today’s youth culture and as a former insider of what she alternately calls “the Alt-Left” and “SJW”-ism, Smith is able to translate the dark side of this culture in a way that is accessible to all. The term “SJW” is an abbreviation of the term “Social Justice Warrior”, which was coined in the early 2000’s and popularized in a 2014 book called “How to Make a Social Justice Warrior” by science fiction writer, and self-described Marxist and universalist, William Shetterly. To learn more about Smith’s experiences inside the world of social justice activism, read her well-known breakout essay, “On Leaving the SJW Cult and Finding Myself”.

EXCERPT: “I am of the opinion that a lot of well-meaning people have become converts to the Alt-Left ideology without even realizing it. Like the parable of the slow boiling frog, if you had told me at the beginning that one day I’d be expected to perform mental gymnastics in order to defend censorship and violence in response to speech, I would have leapt from the pot. Instead, I was conditioned to accept as gospel each new tenet of SJWism over a period of twenty years. I believed in the essential goodness of the ideology, and in my own essential goodness in preaching it. When facts about the direction it was taking me made themselves known to me, I rejected them because they did not fit the frame. As the ideology became more noticeably toxic, hypocritical, and authoritarian, so too did the tactics of the true believers. Whether in academia, in the media, at Google, or online — the message is clear: dare to step out of line or express an independent thought, and a mob of zealous SJW zombies will come for you. The fear of losing one’s job, status, friends or personal safety is a strong motivator in forcing reasonable people to remain silent.”

March 2019

Christina Hoff Sommers: Beyond the Culture War

Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers taught philosophy for more than twenty years and is the author of The War Against Boys. She has been a consistent critic of what she has called the adversarial stance against males in contemporary feminist culture, theory and practice. As she has often noted in public talks and in her YouTube series, The Factual Feminist The Factual Feminist, Hoff Sommers supports what she considers the original foundation of feminism and other movements, which is about true equality rather than gender chauvinism and identitarian hostility. Like other public figures who have spoken out on the harmful effects of misandry and the denial of biological differences between the sexes, Hoff Sommers has met with passionate opposition. For more insight into her work, here is an interview with Joe Rogan.

Warren Farrell: The Future of Boys and Men

In this interview, social psychologist and author of The Boy Crisis, Warren Farrell speaks of the need for a more humanized and balanced approach to conversations about sex and gender, and in particular, the topic of masculinity. Emotional vulnerability in boys and men is a shared value between advocates for women’s rights and men’s rights, and this interview covers this and the many other overlaps that ultimately tie all movements for equality and mutual respect into a single whole.

John McWhorter: The Benefits of Victimhood

Linguistics professor John McWhorter, a founding member of Heterodox Academy, discusses the alleged hate crime hoax that Jussie Smollett, an openly gay, black actor on the television show Empire, has been accused of engineering for the purpose of advancing his career, and the impact of victimhood narratives and ideology on the culture at large. A major theme of this interview (and other McWhorter writings) is the need for black advocates to question victimology as a permanent stance. For an in-depth discussion of this issue with McWhorter and Glenn Loury, click click here. It’s interesting to note that an increasing number of black writers and academics have written and spoken along similar lines. Harvard professor, Dr. Cornel West questions the victim narrative and the bleak and racialized world view of Critical Race Theory in a piece called “Ta Nahesi Coates is the Neoliberal Face of the Black Freedom Struggle“, and Christina Dit Sully echoes some of the same concerns in a piece called “Universalism and the Courage to Change Society”.

Why Can’t We Hate Men?

This infamous essay from the Washington Post was written by Suzanna Walters, the Gender Studies Department Chair at Northeastern University. Rather than including the original accompanying photo of an infamous man accused of being a serial perpetrator, we’ve chosen this photo from an essay on misandry by Dissent Mama, which explores in simple terms the bigotry and ideologically-driven stereotypes and rhetoric that modern social justice theories use to dehumanize and disempower people from the out-of-favor demographic groups these theories deem worthy of punishment. Cultural critic Jonathan Pageau explores a related theme in this YouTube video, where we can see the intentional reversal of perceived power hierarchies in contemporary films that portray males as weak, as incompetent buffoons, or as subjects bending the knee to female warrior and heroes.

Truth and Disfavored Identities

This essay explores the current atmosphere in which people from disfavored identity groups can have their personal reputations, livelihoods, and future prospects destroyed, not only for making mistakes but simply for being misperceived or intentionally characterized as having engaged in wrong doing. Another related piece can be found in this Atlantic Magazine article, in which the journalist publicly apologizes for getting the Covington Catholic MAGA hat incident wrong and encouraging public humiliation and personal destruction of these high school kids. Click here for the full video of the incident released by the attorneys representing these students in their lawsuit against the Washington Post. Another video which goes into more detail about how the media and activists distorted the truth of this event can be found here. And, to get a sense of the personality of to Nick Sandmann, the 16-year old boy at the center of the controversy, we recommend this interview from the TODAY SHOW.

EXCERPT: Weaving comprehensive narratives about society from isolated cases (even cases in which the facts militate against those narratives) and engaging in moral preening targeted at entire identity groups is always dangerous. But in our current climate, it is deemed acceptable even so, so long as the objects of hatred hail from disfavored backgrounds… The unfortunate fate that the boys encountered and the Orwellian dishonesty and public Two Minutes Hate that followed hew to a broader and increasingly familiar trend of exacting revenge on historically privileged groups for the secularized original sin imputed to their unalterable characteristics, without regard for truth, consequences, or even simple human decency.

The Buddha Was Not on the Left (or the Right)

As two the prominent SJI frameworks of Intersectionality Theory and Critical Race Theory have become increasingly influential in Western religions, including their formal adoption by the American Southern Baptist Convention and by various schools of Buddhism in the West, this essay offers additional insights that can balance perspectives and practices related to group identity, oppression narratives, personal responsibility, and open inquiry.

The essay also explores the theme of what the ancients called “idiot compassion”, which wisdom traditions have rejected as sentimental and lacking in insight into the unadorned and sometimes harsh realities of life and human nature. Victimhood culture, the demand for purity and perfect “goodness” from ourselves and others, and the constant striving to impose control on society to eradicate the inevitable pain, discomfort, suffering, loss, and ambiguities of living are increasingly valued by the Social Justice Ideology (SJI) that has been embraced by the modern left.

The writer of this essay explores why the Buddha and the ancient teachers from other non-dual wisdom traditions - would have questioned this.

Shame Storm

This thoughtful essay was written by a moderate conservative writer who recounts her experiences and insights around public shame and humiliation and what it’s like to have your name and negative statements about you permanently accessible on the internet.

Towards the end of this piece, Helen Andrew offers sound moral advice to media editors and social media users:

EXCERPT: “The solution, then, is not to try to make shame storms well targeted, but to make it so they happen as infrequently as possible. Editors should refuse to run stories that have no value except humiliation, and readers should refuse to click on them. It is, after all, the moral equivalent of contributing your rock to a public stoning. We should all develop a robust sense of what is and is not any of our business. Shame can be useful—and even necessary—but it is toxic unless a relationship exists between two people first. A Twitter mob is no more a basis for salutary shaming than an actual mob is for reasoned discussion. That would be true even if the shaming’s relics were not preserved forever by Google, making any kind of rehabilitation impossible”.

I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came For Me

In this article, the anonymous writer speaks about how his life was destroyed after fellow activists went after him due to a single instance of offensive remarks. Unfortunately, some targets of online campaigns haven’t had the ability to remain anonymous, including journalist Jonathan Kaiman who became radioactive and isolated after an accusation. For advice about how to deal with the individual SJI adherents who use dogmatic language and bullying tactics, click on this essay by John Faithful Hamer, “How To Deal With a Progressive Bully”. Hamer also reflects on how abuse and mobbing by SJI adherents alienates supporters from otherwise good causes in a piece called “I’m Nobody’s Ally”.

February 2019

Jonathan Haidt: Two Incompatible Values

In this video Jonathan Haidt, the moral psychologist and founder of Heterodox Academy, lays out in great detail the power behind inquiry, investigation, and open-mindedness. This way of approaching reality, knowledge, and truth, Haidt exhorts, is in stark contrast to ideologically fixed and unchangeable truths of modern social justice ideologies. The competing values referred to in the title are: Truth (open inquiry) and Social Justice Ideology (a programmed, restrictive view of seeing and responding to reality in a predetermined way). While this particular talk focuses on the “telos” of institutions of higher education, Haidt has also studied and lectured on the the ways in which Congress and the American public have become polarized in recent years. have led more in-depth discussion about the variables that have impacted the strength of Western democracies can be found in Haidt’s take on “Why America’s Finely-Tuned Democracy is Running Down”. Haidt has recently collaborated with attorney Greg Lukianoff to co-author the critically acclaimed book "The Coddling of the American Mind" where they investigate further Haidt's theory of the “Three Terrible Ideas”.

Janice Fiamengo: Institutions of Indoctrination

In this YouTube Series​, The Fiamengo File, University of Ottawa, Professor Janice Fiamengo deconstructs the orthodox world of intersectional ideology on the college campus and its strong influence on recent generations of young people. In this particular video​, Fiamengo speaks of the shame orientation of privilege theory and the adversarial, almost-cult-like behaviors of new converts. Another concept that is discussed in the series is the imbalanced narrative of what each gender has contributed to the world throughout history.

The Racism Treadmill

In this essay, Coleman Hughes, a young black philosopher, argues for a more holistic approach to diagnosing the causes of disparities in outcomes between different racial groups. Hughes is currently studying philosophy at Columbia University, and he has been developing a framework for understanding and reconciling the competing visions of anti-racism versus humanism. Some of Coleman’s critique of Ta Nahesi Coates and Critical Race Theory are reminiscent of the views of Dr. Cornel West of Harvard University.

EXCERPT: “I submit that the Racism Treadmill, and the dogmas that motivate it, account for much of the progressophobia of the activist Left on the topic of race. The Treadmill shows itself in the way progressives appropriate the tragedies of history in order to summon rhetorical gravitas in the present. Carceral policy is not just bad, it’s the “New Jim Crow”; posting reaction GIFs on social media that portray black people is “digital blackface”; and, even though three separate analyses [article 1] [article 2] [article 3] have found no racial bias in police shootings, such shootings are said to be “reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching,” as a United Nations report put it. It seems as if every reduction in racist behavior is met with a commensurate expansion in our definition of the concept. Thus, racism has become a conserved quantity akin to mass or energy: transformable but irreducible.”

Why I’ve Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists

In this recent essay, cultural studies scholar Frances Lee, a transgender person of color, introduces the reader to the increasingly abusive culture of social justice activism on social media, activist spaces, and other communities. The second part of the headline reads, “We are alienating each other with unrestrained callouts and unchecked self-righteousness. Here’s how that can stop.” Lee has also written another essay called “No Justice Without Love: Why Activism Must Be More Generous” in which they argue that “part of honoring our humanity means honoring the humanity of others, including our enemies and oppressors”.

Social Justice and the Weaponization of Empathy by Bad Actors

This piece examines how academic theories and clever language are used as weapons by bad actors who seek to destroy and punish rather than heal and transform. The New York Times published a similar piece called “The Industrial Revolution of Shame” which focuses on the public’s online participation in heresy-hunting and reputation destruction. For a clinical perspective of online mobbing and blacklisting, we also recommend “The Apocalyptic Culture of Cancel Culture”, published in Psychology Today.

The Rise of the Post New-Left Vocabulary

This article examines the differences between the New Left (1960’s and 70’s) and what this writer has termed the Post New Left (more popularly known as Social Justice Left, Intersectionality, Anti-Oppression, Call-out Culture, etc.) This piece will likely be helpful to Baby Boomers and generally older human rights and economic justice advocates who may wonder why the modern Left feels so utterly different.

Coleman Hughes: Evolving on Race Issues

Dave Rubin interviews Coleman Hughes about race issues and emerging new heterodox perspectives on racism that question the narrative of systemic bigotry. Part 2 of this interview can be found here. Hughes is currently studying at Columbia University where he met linguistics professor, John McWhorter, who teaches there. Both of these black writers are formally connected with the Heterodox Academy. This interview features refreshingly open dialogue without ideology, rhetoric, or image-making.

#MeToo: On Perspectives, Listening and Risk-Taking

This essay by Diane Musho Hamilton is best summed up with the final words of the essay itself. In an age of condemnation, the redemptive qualities of healthy, open exchange can show us the way in, out, and forward. Hamilton has developed models for what she calls “Inclusion 2.0” in response to the increasingly abusive atmosphere of communities that have embraced SJI.

EXCERPT: “When there is the freedom to truly exchange perspectives when we can practice listening better and hearing more, and when we can risk with each other, offering up new, sometimes dicey points of view, there is potent potential for learning and for compassion. We become capable of navigating through these perspectives in a way that honors the truth in each of them, but still creates a hierarchy of perspectives that offers the best and the highest for everyone. That’s not an easy thing to do. But it is far more interesting, informative, and helpful than insisting there is only one way to see things, and therefore, only one way to act.”

January 2019

Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right

This is a PDF of Angela Nagle’s recent book “Kill All Normies”, which covers the differences between the punitive and puritanical aspects of modern social justice ideology and the reactionary “culture of transgression” that has given rise to the hyper-polarization of the Trump era. This book has its critics, but it is an informative resource for those who want a brief and reliable introduction to the culture wars.

Cassie Jaye: Meeting the “Enemy” in The Red Pill

In this watershed Ted Talk, filmmaker Cassie Jaye talks about the transformational process she went through as she set out to “expose” the Men’s Rights Movement in her film, “The Red Pill”. In this talk, and through her other work, Jaye reminds us that inter-gender hatred and stereotyping is not the way to liberation or equality, and that in spite of the often-true narratives around women’s oppression, boys and men suffer, too. Rather than treating women’s issues as a zero sum game, she asks us to consider the possibility that we can embrace the rights of all at the expense of none.

Identity Politics Does Not Continue the Work of the Civil Rights Movement

This piece, also from Areo Magazine, was written by Helen Pluckrose (the current editor) and James Lindsay. While both Pluckrose and Lindsay gained wider recognition for a 2018 experiment in which they collaborated with and philosopher Peter Boghossian to expose the theoretical over-reach and support for abusive practices in postmodernist/social justice academic journals, they have been laying the groundwork for understanding Social Justice Ideology (SJI) for several years. For a more in-depth examination of the intellectual tradition and impact of applied post-modernism on Western culture, click here.

First Church of Intersectionality

This essay from a journal on religion and public life describes how the belief system called “intersectionality” forms the basis of an almost church-like doctrine and how the intersectionalist worldview divides the world into enemy camps.

EXCERPT: “In demonizing non-radical political views, white men, and tradition in general, intersectionality ­theorists make precisely the same mistake they so vehemently abhor: They classify people in terms of names and characteristics that they often have not chosen, and then write them off as enemies. The intersectional project of oppositional, activist scholarship demands it, for nothing brings people together like a common enemy. When that enemy must be eradicated in a quasi-­religious movement of destruction, we are in for a long and bitter fight.”

We’ve chosen to highlight this piece because of the religiosity and totalist mindset of the Intersectionality framework, but we also want to recognize the contribution of another essay published in Quillette, which presents a concise and meticulous rebuttal to the intellectual and moral claims of Intersectionality Theory.

Men as Stereotypical Perpetrators of Harm

In this podcast, Heterodox Academy interviews Tania Reynolds, the researcher of a recent study that revealed how men and boys are seen as less deserving of empathy, protection and mercy and are unfairly perceived as perpetrators. This podcast is especially poignant given the American Psychological Association’s recent adoption of the first-ever APA guidelines for working with men and boys. It is notable that even practicing female therapists are questioning the pathologizing of males in the APA and beyond. Another piece by a female psychotherapist is called “Masculinity is Not a Sickness”.

Wendy McElroy: Individual Prepetrators, Not Groups

In her opening remarks to a debate with Jessica Valenti, Wendy McElroy speaks about treating perpetrators as individuals rather than as members of an identity group. In this powerful speech, McElroy describes her own experiences with violent sexual assault (content warning) and reminds us that it was these particular individual men who are to blame, not the demographic group that these individuals belong to.

The Waves of Feminism, and Why People Keep Fighting Over Them, Explained

This piece teaches us how this movement has grown from being centered on women’s rights to championing the rights of all marginalized groups in a world that is seen as a vast network of interlocking systems of oppression. It is a great primer for people who both support these movements and question some of their more problematic aspects.

December 2018

Benjamin A. Boyce: The Complete Evergreen Story

This is the first video in Benjamin A. Boyce's serial documentary The Complete Evergreen Story. In this series and in his vast collection from the #ExposeEvergreen YouTube series, Boyce captures the disturbing cult-like behaviors and an atmosphere of forced ideological conformity, bullying and mobbing that has been occurring at Evergreen State College since 2015. In this video, he explores a clip showing an Evergreen State College professor introducing students to a mystical world-wide conspiratorial, malevolent force labeled as “white supremacy” that is believed to structure all of reality. Boyce is currently working on an authoritative documentary about the Evergreen State College breakdown that took place in the spring of 2017. For another powerful document of the Evergreen breakdown, we recommend the first installment of a documentary by Mike Nayna. For a breakdown of one of the most influential theories that fueled the mobbing attacks at Evergreen, we recommend this piece on Robin D’Angelo’s White Fragility Theory.

Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice

This Areo Magazine essay by James Lindsay provides the perfect companion piece to many other essays showcased on this site. In it, he explores the almost-religious nature of the institutionalized movement of Social Justice Ideology (SJI), along with its rituals for salvation (soteriology), epistemic claims about all of social reality, and its pursuit of institutional power. Although an increasing number of writers and thinkers have begun to grapple with the real-world impact of postmodernist philosophy and with the postmodernist foundations of SJI, few have tackled the issues involved in “applied postmodernism” in the way that Lindsay has. Of all the pieces included in this collection of proposed canonical works, this one builds the strongest case for a Social Justice Evolution.

As this particular essay attempts to analyze SJI comprehensively, the following seven articles – also from Areo Magazine – can serve as extensions and further elaboration on several of the themes touched on in James Lindsay’s piece.

Teaching to Transgress: Rage and Entitlement at Evergreen College

This essay offers a breakdown description of the specific beliefs and practices that led to the racially charged implosion of Evergreen State College in the Spring of 2017. It was written as an entry point to the disturbing and documentary series on these events by Mike Nayna.

My Apostasy from the Church of Critical Theory

This essay provides insight into the main ideological assumptions about human beings and all of reality that are taught in today’s higher ed institutions. In a highly dogmatic way, the author explains critical theory, critical race theory (a branch of it) and other deconstructionist theories that are inculcated into students as the only way to analyze the world and its systems.

What Thomas Sowell Taught Me About Being a Dissident Feminist

This essay explores the ways in which the more dogmatic variety of social justice activism punishes and demonizes those whose ideas and discoveries do not conform to the ideologically pure version of SJI.

The Progressive Case Against White Privilege

This essay begins with the following statements: “The arguments against the existence of white privilege are stereotypically represented as originating primarily from right-wingers and grounded in conservative notions about American meritocracy. But there is a stronger argument against the concept, which comes from the very philosophical tradition that its supporters claim as their intellectual heritage… White privilege is a flawed paradigm, which ascribes racism to a process which does not contain it. But, more importantly, it’s an ultimately self-defeating notion, which negates some of the most fundamental principles of equality and human rights.” This opening statement echoes the insights discovered in a recent study published in Greater Good Magazine, which found that whites who have embraced the concept of white privilege developed a marked drop in empathy for poor Whites while experiencing no change in how they felt towards the plight of People of Color.

The Epistemological Problem of White Fragility Theory

This essay along with a follow-up Areo essay on the proselytization aspect of White Fragility Theory in practice examines the dogmatic assumptions behind “fragility theory” and how it distorts conversations about bigotry and undermines relationships between demographic groups. A major insight is that this theory pre-supposes the secret inner thoughts and feelings of individuals who belong to out-of-favor groups, which sets up a dynamic in which those who belong to “marginalized” groups can claim moral superiority based on the presuppositions.

Racism Does Not Equal Prejudice Plus Power

This essay describes the history of this designed equation, which was originally set up in the 1970’s as a political tactic to reverse perceived power differentials between different demographic groups (originally the white population). The idea was that by making bigoted “isms” only possible for people who are said to be in power, those who are perceived to be out of power are then free to be as hostile and power-seeking as they wanted, as long as they are “punching up” against “the oppressor”. For an academic-style video treatment of this argument, click here.

The Evolution of Black Heterodox Thought

This essay by Samuel Kronen was written about the changing conversation in the Black community. In it, he explores the emerging influence of several Black intellectuals and moral philosophers, including Glenn Loury, Professor of the social sciences and economics at Brown University and host of The Glenn Show @, John McWhorter, linguistics professor at Columbia University, Coleman Hughes, author at Quillette Magazine, Thomas Chatterton Williams, author of “Losing My Cool”, and others.

The Institutionalization of Social Justice

This essay from Quillette describes the formal and ritualized way in which social justice as an ideology has become institutionalized in the media, educational institutions, and even corporations that have embraced a highly codified orthodoxy that threatens conformity through mechanisms of shame, public call-outs, and humiliation, enforced thought-conformity, and widespread censorship.

Everything is Problematic: My Journey into a Dark Political World and How I Escaped

This piece explores the life of a social justice activist and how she was drawn into the extremely bleak world of punishment, hostility, paranoia, and political cultism. Over time, she allowed herself to see what was really going on and found her way out and back to a more sane relationship with reality. In some ways, this piece was a kind of watershed piece written at the beginning of the explosion of Social Justice Ideology (SJI). For a more recent piece written along the same lines and from a similar perspective, please read “Sad Radicals”, which came out in December of 2018. For an in-depth study of the labyrinthine doctrines and intentionally subversive practices of radical “woke” ideology, we highly recommend “#AltWoke Manifesto”.

Ayishat Akanbi: The Problem with Wokeness

Ayishat Akanbi discusses the problem of “reactionary” behaviors in the modern social justice movement and how it’s hurting us all. Although some of the popular fundamental belief systems in this movement encourage aggressive behaviors in activists against perceived enemies, Akanbi’s theme of practicing open-hearted immediacy and embracing the humanity of people who belong to groups we have deemed “the enemy” is as timely as ever. This theme is similarly expressed in the essay, “In Praise of Allies: Wherever we’re going, we’ll only get there together”. Since this video has gone viral, Akanbi has given talks around the world about the importance of discovering our commonalities alongside our differences.

The Regressive Left: History, Theory, Methodology

This ten-part essay is one of the best online resources for understanding the Social Justice Ideology (SJI) and its increasing radicalization of people towards the Manichean (us-against-them) mindset. In Chapter 9, the writer defines “regressive” in the following way:

EXCERPT: “[Regression happens] when a member of any other closed social system or maybe even an extremist believer in political ideology, seeks to regress to a child-like state wherein an omnipotent parental figure is in complete control. Maintenance of this illusion requires epistemic closure: insulation of the belief system and its adherents from external influences that threaten to undermine it. Thus, outsiders and dissidents are demonized and ideological conformity and groupthink are made paramount.”

This essay and the Alternative Left website are highly recommended for people who wish to pursue knowledge about the theoretical underpinnings and overall goals of the SJI movement and to acquire the necessary tools for “the revival of the democratic humanist tradition”. Another essay that echoes the insights of this piece is called “With Allies Like These: Reflections on Privilege Reductionism”.

The Regressive Left Essays from Alternative Left

Part 1:

Recent Regression

Part 2:

Senseless Social Justice

Part 3:

Academic Anarchy

Part 4:

Postmodern Pandemonium

Part 5:

Radical Ruckus

Part 6:

Conservative Complacency

Part 7:

Marxist Mayhem

Part 8:

The Regressive Soul

Part 9:

The Militant Mind

Part 10:  

Lucid Leftism

Are Academics Cowards? The Grip of Grievance Studies and the Sunk Costs of Academic Pursuit

*Submitted by an anonymous contributor

This is an essay that calls us to action to stand up to the incursions of Social Justice Ideology (SJI) on human rights and intellectual integrity. The essay was written by James Lindsay, who was the leader of the recent “Grievance Studies” hoax study.

That study involved nearly a year of submitting hoax academic papers written by Lindsay and two other academics, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian to highly influential academic journals that championed the perspective of Social Justice ideology.

It’s important to understand that some of these hoax papers explicitly recommended the commission of Social Justice Abuse upon innocent people who belonged to “privileged” or “oppressor” demographic groups as part of what was termed an “intersectional praxis” in the college classroom. One of the practices included the intentional infliction of frustration in white students during class discussions by not allowing them to speak or by intentionally ignoring them. Another offered practice was to force white students to sit down on the classroom floor with chains so that they can be more aware of their “privilege”.

In this essay, authored by Lindsay puts out a call for action for teachers, academics, writers, and people with a conscience to speak out en masse against the abuses, cruelties and absurdities of those who abuse Social Justice Ideology (SJI) for purposes having little to do with creating a just world that provides opportunity and freedom for all.

Kafka Traps and Ego Triumphalism

I met a friend for coffee a few days back. He is being attacked by a small social justice mob, not for something offensive or incorrect he has done or said but because his socio-cultural identity has been designated as “oppressive” by his very presence and therefore has earned him the punishment of being subjected to abusive mental beat-downs and relentless and dehumanizing call-outs.

I wanted to help him, but I could do little more than just be an empathic listening presence. Ideological fixation is just too powerful to stand up against and to defend against -especially an ideology that shames “free thought” or “intellectualism” as qualities that belong to “the oppressor”. The relegation of free thought to the gulag of badness is always a clever move for an authoritarian movement; it renders all counter-arguments as “evil” because of the very nature of arguments using logic -which Social Justice theories have successfully neutered by spreading the idea that logic is part of the mechanics of oppression.

More specifically, logic is said to be one of the evil components of a conspiratorial force that runs throughout all of reality. Whether that evil force is the Patriarchy or “the System of [a social group] Supremacy”, logic and rationality are said to be its chief strategy for maintaining power.

Still, for the sane, for the rational, for the honest, and for the self-aware, there is some hope in understanding the architecture of what is going on. Part of that understanding involves the study of Kafka-trapping.

As described in a previous post, Kafka-trapping comes from the book “The Trial” by Franz Kafka. In this book, a man is perpetually placed on trial for some kind of crime without ever knowing what crime he supposedly committed or learning who his accuser was. Software developer Eric Raymond coined the term Kafka-trapping to describe scenarios in which people are accused of doing, thinking, or saying something wrong without evidence and without any hope for redemption. What makes the Kafka traps most insidious is that every moment in which the accused person denies the “crime” the denial itself is pegged as “proof” of guilt.

In abusive Social Justice circles, one is assumed to be “defensive” or “uncomfortable” about being called out on one’s supposed evil thoughts and beliefs and must be held accountable for the denial of one’s intrinsic badness. It is a highly ritualized ceremony of toxic shame, in which the very thought of the unredeemable-ness of the accused is celebrated by the accuser.

It’s helpful to understand that the Kafka Trap can be used as a tactic by people from any identity group who wish to exploit their status as marginalized to dominate one-dimensional evil others they get to cast aside as “the oppressor”.

Brett Weinstein has called this the “Intersectional Shakedown”, in which the oppressed intentionally enjoy the newly found game of oppressing the oppressor. Some women, for example, will use the “misogyny” angle against men in cases where it’s not warranted or accurate, but only useful as a moral weapon to overpower others. Some trans people will automatically accuse cisgender people of being transphobic to gain the upper hand. Some gay people will weaponize the idea that all straight people are homophobic. And, some people of color will weaponize their status of being part of a marginalized group to indulge in ego triumphalism against their lighter-skinned counterparts.

Googling “Evergreen College bullying”, and you will see an example of just how far the Social Justice Bullying and ideology-induced hatred can play out.

The most important tactic involved in the Kafka Trap is to instill a sense of guilt and even self-hatred in the target. This tactic makes the target question not only his or her reality but also his or her sanity, self-worth or even potential for goodness and redemption. If the target tries to defend against these mind-reading, pre-suppositional moral domination tactics (e.g. you are defensive and unconsciously protective of your privilege and hatred!), their very denial is taken as evidence of the thought crime itself.

This is what a Kafka trap is, and it has begun to happen with increasing regularity in social policy institutions, educational circles, and activist communities that do not have the courage to bring this pattern into the light of awareness and to create safeguards against this abusive practice.

It is interesting that in an era in which “abuse” and “trauma” are seen to be existing everywhere, all the time and in increasingly subtle, almost undetectable ways, we do victory dances online, on college campuses, and in other communities when we see oppressors in pain.

“Oh, boo-hoo”, we say. “Your poor white tears”. And as we gloat in our delight of “masculinity so fragile”, we have no self-awareness of how the principle of ego triumphalism has itself been the evil dragon all along. We merely fetishized it in our theories, projected it onto one-dimensional “all-bad” others, and increased its power within ourselves.

Kafka Traps and How to Avoid Them

An increasing number of people are being trained to believe that rituals of shame, confession, and psychological breakdown sessions are effective tools for rooting out the secret evils of this or that “sin”, “ism” or “phobia” that are said to be in our hearts and minds. Religious cults use this technique and so do political cults.

In such an atmosphere, one is always subject to the ever-watchful eye of those who hunt feverishly for your secret immoral thoughts. And when you look inside and find nothing of the kind, you are accused of “projecting”, of “being defensive” or of having sinful thoughts or biases and hatreds that are “unconscious” to you but claimed to be fully on display to the “clairvoyant” ever-watchful eye of the probing inquisitors.

Regardless of your level of personal development and wisdom, the good you have done in your life without an audience, or the self-awareness that has evolved in your consciousness, the mind reader who studies you, the workshop facilitator who shames you, and the educator who grades you… the ever-watchful eye who beholds you… knows who you REALLY are.

Except, they don’t.

This assault on your dignity and invasion of your sense of self is a form of emotional abuse. Because the nature of this kind of probing is a kind of non-consensual mind rape, it will be difficult for you to resist, especially if the probing inquisitor has authority over you in some way. But resistance is necessary for your well-being. When people try to tell you that you hate when you know deep in your heart that you do not hate, they are imposing a non-consensual belief system onto you, and you have the right to resist.

When people tell you that your resistance or intellectual arguments are a smokescreen to hide your “discomfort” with hearing the truth about your supposed “sin”, you are the target of what is called a Kafka trap, a game of psychological “capture the flag” that can be resisted if you know what to do.

As in Kafka’s book “The Trial”, the Kafka Trap is a game that is played by power-seekers (or in the best of circumstances just a True Believer who blindly follows a dogmatic moral paradigm) where you are always “guilty” of some crime or sin that you cannot locate but that others who stand to gain moral power over you insist are inside you. And the more you deny it, the more it is “proven” that you are guilty.

Let me repeat that. The more you deny your hatred, your desire to protect some form of status or privilege, or the belief that others have the right to put their thoughts into you, you are “proving” that you are guilty by the very act of your resisting.

The Kafka Trap and similar rituals are the primary weapons used by religious cults that want to control adherents by shaming them for their selfish drives or sexual feelings.

More insidiously because of the difficulty in detecting it, this trap is also used by followers of various anti-oppression ideologies who believe they can solve racism and other forms of bigotry with blanket accusations, categorization schemes, rankism, cult mind control tactics and emotional abuse.

It is not necessary to take on this stuff to make the world a more fair and equitable place. There are other ways to promote love and fairness that do not rely on mental beatings, head games, and power plays, so it’s important to resist this recruitment style ghost-hunting technique to avoid getting pulled into world views that create hardened categories of “us” and “them”, force us to think thoughts we didn’t think before, and distract us from doing real work.

When this happens, the best way to handle it is to name it.

Because of the cult-like style of the attack, the best mode to use in your communication is the leveling mode. In "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work", linguist Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin suggests a leveler mode when you are in a mentally abusive situation. Level with your abuser by straight out saying, “this is emotional abuse, and you’re not going to succeed in putting thoughts in my head.”

If the person persists, just say, “you repeating that you think I [fill in the blank] doesn’t make it true and is just a manipulative power play to win moral superiority over a ghost that isn’t there. I’m not standing for it, so let’s move on to another topic.”

There are other gentler methods, and these sentences can be altered to suit your style and unique situation. But, the key is to deliver the following three messages:

1) You are engaging in emotional abuse

2) It is a play for moral power over others based on nothing real,

3) I won’t stand for it.

Stay true to your path towards wholeness, practice the life of compassion and fairness, and do what you can to protect yourself from individuals and groups who try to brainwash you into believing that your nature or essence is intrinsically evil in some way and that you do not have the capacity to treat others with respect and love.

You know who you are.