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.