Ideological Race Gaming: Evidence, Knowledge and the Kafka Trap

Graham Hill's picture
Submitted by Graham Hill on Fri, 2021-06-18 01:23

(After posting this article on 18 June 2021, I have revised it to correct errors and make things clearer.)

Many in the race hustling world in advocating for their point of view end up making points through logical fallacies. Their viewpoint’s ends then justify the means by poor thinking.

Fallacies are prevalent across the critical theory spectrum. Having spent the week researching aspects of critical legal theory and critical theory in education it is apparent there are some rules or nostrums in the critical theory game. I look at two rules , first, evidence and Voices and then secondly, the rhetorical device of the sophistic Kafka Trap.

A simple denial of norms of thought, by the retort of racist or white supremacy, is prevalent and trite. Rejection covers most of the components of Western civil society: “the traditions of constitutionalism and individual rights…” (Christopher Ruffo, March 2021), Capitalism, property, individualism, the rule of law, cannons of academic argument, evidence and, of course, the usual suspect, objective knowledge and analysis. In fact “the very foundations of the liberal legal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law.” (Pyle 1999)

Evidence flows to form knowledge and after analysis and testing to objective knowledge. Evidence (and its analysis) is avoided by decrying it as part of the “ racist/sexist system. ” It is put forward as a proposition (an argument that is not an argument) without further ado because it is a rhetorical device. The “system”, (“whiteness”, “ the hegemony” or “the patriarchy”) is an unproven and an unfalsifiable abstracted entity or thing. Evidence, and the means of assessing it, is replaced with “Voices” of ‘life as lived.’

Voices, are a claim for "truth", to make a polemical political point . Oral history it is not. Framing Voices this way is to ‘Segway’ directly to a universal truth to support an ideological position or to support a narrative. There are Black voices, ‘Latinx Voices’, Women's voices, and so on. Voices make a visceral moral claim to being ‘as authentic’ so to be exempt from the 'oppressor's intellectual discourse and system of how we know things. Tim Hsiao, ‘Lived Experiences Aren’t special, in Quillette (24 May 2021) makes a good point:

“Lived experiences are often vividly used by progressive activists as evidence of widespread injustice, accompanied with a call for action and social change. Yet basing one’s entire case for widespread injustice and sweeping social change on lived experiences is, quite simply, bad statistical reasoning.”

We can say it is bad reasoning because policy actions affect others and rights requiring state imposition. But also because:

The point is that one cannot prove or disprove generalizations simply based on personal experiences. This is a pretty basic rule of statistical reasoning that seems to have been lost on many people who should know better. Just because one experiences racism (as I have) does not show that racism is widespread or deeply ingrained,…

…lived experiences cannot be used to make (or disprove) statistical generalizations about the prevalence of social injustice, whether it be police violence, sexual harassment, or economic disparities."

Further, ‘Voices’ are intrinsically an attack on the cannons of Western objective analysis and knowledge. In contrast to the western cannons, “’ lived experiences’ are appealed to as a special source , if not form, of knowledge.”

Yet, if there is no objective analysis or knowledge , and relativism prevails, as Ibrahim X Kendi says is the case, then the claim of ‘voices and lived experience’ as special or superior knowledge falls away. Voices merely existing as a narrative among narratives. Furthermore, if there is no objective analysis and knowledge then there is no debate. One wonders, despite the hapless term ‘conversations’, which may mean a one way dictate if a debate is ever intended.

The social construction of knowledge, a Marxist idea, popularised by Berger and Luckmann in the late 1960’s, is of the same order. Jeffrey Pyle in 1999 in a piece on critical race theory and the rule of law and liberalism said that “the postmodernist left, an academic movement that insists that all knowledge is "socially constructed," and.. inherently subjective, contingent and immune to objective evaluation.”

He cites race crit theorists:

… Derrick Bell, a pre-eminent race crit, insists that "abstraction, put forth as 'rational' or 'objective' truth, smuggles the privileged choice of the privileged [i.e., whites] to ‘depersonify’ their claims and then pass them off as the universal authority and the universal good, 'that In other words, mainstream truths dominate legal discourse not because they are better than other truths, but because groups in power espouse .' them. Charles Lawrence urges "outsiders" (i.e., minorities) to free themselves from the "mystification "produced by the "ideology" of objective truth: "We must learn to trust our own senses, feelings, and experiences, and to give them authority, even (or especially) in the face of dominant accounts of social reality that claim universality." According to the race-crits, knowledge is not universal;" it is autobiographical and group-based."

Amidst the subjectivity, inherent is the inability, owing also to relativism, to academically discriminate between good and bad, better and worse. The upshot is that indiscriminateness in thought according to Allan Bloom (1987) had become a “moral imperative because its opposite was discrimination.” Relativism and indiscriminateness – and the ensuing rejection of western legal norms-then have implications for the insider-outsider majority-minority formula by being, with irony, antagonistic to inclusion.

We do need to have a consensus on knowledge for problem-solving and civil society. Fitting facts to ideology is the reverse of the proper flow of information forming knowledge. But is the objection not really about knowledge but about the aim of the delegitimising of present civil society for a collectivist one?

The second type of rule is the Kafka trap. The Washington Examiner, (17 June 2021) has an article “Critical race theory school battles are deepening the red-blue divide” by William Jacobson points to the fallacy of the Kafka trap.

Democratic lawmakers seem unbothered by the public’s disapproval of their educational agenda. Instead, they employ the logical fallacy of “Kafka-trapping,” using denials of ubiquitous racism as proof that it must exist. This often takes the form of accusations of “white fragility” or the insistence that “whiteness” is a cancer on our society.”

Eric Raymond coined the term in 2010. The source is The Trial a 1915 novel by Franz Kafka.

In The Trial the protagonist is arrested and accused of serious crimes which are never specified. He receives no explanation or description of the charges, and his refusal to acknowledge that he must be guilty is what makes him guilty. The only way to stop his abuse is to admit that he is guilty.

Robin DiAngelo's book White Fragility (2018) is an exemplar, and astonishingly, if not uncritically, has been set as reading for The Defense Intelligence Agency, The US Navy’s Second Fleet and Marines’ Units, while the Admiral of Operations has set Ibram X Kendi’s (formerly Henry Rogers) Marxist and anticapitalist book How to be Antiracist as reading for the United States Navy. David Burke in his article on DiAngelo's book, "The Intellectual fraud of Robin DiAngelo's "White Fragility" (link below) calls out her theory and its basis:

"White Fragility is religion masquerading as knowledge. DiAngelo’s conception of white fragility isn’t hard-won wisdom. It’s an unprovable and unfalsifiable theory, deceptively framed to convince readers of their own guilt. DiAngelo relies on rhetorical tricks and skewed interpretations of ambiguous events to deceive readers, in the same way, a zealot tries to gain converts."

Burke then turns to DiAngelo's use of the Kafka Trap:

"DiAngelo leaves white readers with only two options. Either acknowledge your fragility, which proves DiAngelo’s theory, or deny your fragility, which according to DiAngelo, also proves her theory [guilt of racism]. This is a logical fallacy known as a Kafka Trap. If our legal system worked this way, no person accused of a crime would ever be acquitted because their denial would prove their guilt."

Examples of this manipulative loop are set out online by Life’s Lessons:

Model A
“Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of racism, confirms that you are guilty of racism”
Model C
“Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of racism, you are guilty because you have benefited from the racist behaviour of others in the system” [i.e, White privilege]
Model M
“The act of arguing against the theory of anti-racism demonstrates that you are either racist, or do not understand the theory of anti-racism, and your argument can therefore be dismissed as either corrupt or incompetent”
Model P
“Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of racism, you are guilty because you have a privileged position in the racist system” [i.e All western civilisation is racist and must be burnt down]
Model S
“Skepticism about any particular anecdotal account of racism, or any attempt to deny that the particular anecdote implies a systemic problem in which you are one of the guilty parties, is itself sufficient to establish your guilt”
Model T
“Designated victims of racism who question any part of the theory of racism demonstrate by doing so that they are not authentic members of the victim class, so their experience can be discounted and their thoughts dismissed as internalized racism”
[colonised by whiteness and have derogatory titles e.g. Spud (as affixed to free-thinking Maori man) brown on the outside but white on the inside]
Model J
“Even if your innocence is proven in a court of law, this not only confirms your guilt; it also confirms the guilt of the legal system that found you innocent”
In summary:
“You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of Kafka Trapping precludes that possibility.” – Wendy McElroy”

The advice is not to engage as it is a no-win game and is meant to be one. The verdict is always the guilty verdict of The Trial,. The point to know with ideological gaming is to know that it operates on its own circumscribed, flawed, and tainted knowledge base, which is ultimately nihilistic. Burning the world down does not fix or build anything.

The paradigm’s unerring focus is on power and the oppressors and the oppressed. But this is utilising a pinhole matchbox camera obscura of race to examine Socrates’ unexamined life and the race theorist ideologues inherently fail to comprehend by such contraction of perspective the full dynamic matrix of human life.

It is a case of the Hedgehog and the Fox. Surrendering to the Hedgehog of the ‘big theory’ means a contraction of perspective, an abdication of reason, the devaluing and the misattribution of human experience, the data bank of cultural knowledge's know-how and the abdication of responsibility to be broad and open-minded, to discern and know, like Archilochus’ Fox, what is better, good, what will work and to problem solve in the real world, not in an over abstracted totalitarian mental silo.

Graham Hill
Nelson Revised 19 June 2021