Long read, scary information... SJWs are a religious cult



Remember how shocked Bret Weinstein was at finding that Social Justice Warriors at Evergreen College not only rejected the enlightenment, but the very idea of enlightenment. To them, capitalism, democracy, the rule of law, critical thinking, logic and the scientific method are not just flawed, they are inherently racist systems of oppression that must be destroyed and replaced by Social Justice.

Social Justice isn’t at war with “oppression” or even “whiteness,” it is at war with the entirety of western civilization.


But there’s one key difference between Communism and Social Justice. Marx cloaked his theory in the language of science as “scientific socialism.” Social Justice Warriors reject the scientific method as a system of oppression. The basis of modern civilization is just another instance of the “master’s tools” to be cast down.

Social Justice cannot measure an electron’s charge or whether a load-bearing concrete pillar can support a floor’s weight, but only whether those things are racist or not. 

A long read, but worth it.


The Totalitarian Epistemological Closure of Social Justice

I have this ginormous post on Social Justice that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more and more links, and I’ll never finish it unless I start breaking it down into smaller chunks. So this post focuses on two meaty pieces about the theoretical underpinnings of Social Justice, and how it suffers from epistemological closure.

First up: James Lindsay on why the woke will not debate you:

There are a number of points within Critical Social Justice Theory that would see having a debate or conversation with people of opposing views as unacceptable, and they all combine to create a mindset where that wouldn’t be something that adherents to the Theory are likely or even willing to do in general. This reticence, if not unwillingness, to converse with anyone who disagrees actually has a few pretty deep reasons behind it, and they’re interrelated but not quite the same. They combine, however, to produce the first thing everyone needs to understand about this ideology: it is a complete worldview with its own ethics, epistemology, and morality, and theirs is not the same worldview the rest of us use. Theirs is, very much in particular, not liberal. In fact, theirs advances itself rather parasitically or virally by depending upon us to play the liberal game while taking advantage of its openings. That’s not the same thing as being willing to play the liberal game themselves, however, including to have thoughtful dialogue with people who oppose them and their view of the world. Conversation and debate are part of our game, and they are not part of their game.

The first thing to understand about the way adherents to Critical Social Justice view the world is just how deeply they have accepted the belief that we operate within a wholly systemically oppressive system. That system extends to literally everything, not just material structures, institutions, law, policies, and so on, but also into cultures, mindsets, ways of thinking, and how we determine what is and isn’t true about the world. In their view, the broadly liberal approach to knowledge and society is, in fact, rotted through with “white, Western, male (and so on) biases,” and this is such a profound departure from how the rest of us—broadly, liberals—think about the world that it is almost impossible to understand just how deeply and profoundly they mean this.

In a 2014 paper by the black feminist epistemology heavyweight Kristie Dotson, she explains that our entire epistemic landscape is itself profoundly unequal. Indeed, she argues that it is intrinsically and “irreducibly” so, meaning that it is not possible from within the prevailing system of knowledge and understanding to understand or know that the system itself is unfairly biased toward certain ways of knowing (white, Western, Eurocentric, male, etc.) and thus exclusionary of other ways of knowing (be those what they may). That is, Dotson explains that when we look across identity groups, not only do we find a profound lack of “shared epistemic resources” by which people can come to understand things in the same way as one another, but also that the lack extends to the ability to know that that dismal state of affairs is the case at all. This, she refers to as “irreducible” epistemic oppression, which she assigns to the third and most severe order of forms of epistemic oppression, and says that it requires a “third-order change” to the “organizational schemata” of society (i.e., a complete epistemic revolution that removes the old epistemologies and replaces them with new ones) in order to find repair.

This view is then echoed and amplified, for example, in a lesser-read 2017 paper by the Theorist Alison Bailey. Therein she invokes explicitly that in the neo-Marxist “critical” tradition, which is not to be mistaken for the “critical thinking” tradition of the Western canon, critical thinking itself and that which is seen to produce and legitimize it are part of the “master’s tools” that black feminist Audre Lorde wrote “will never dismantle the master’s house.” Since nobody ever believes me that she really writes this, here’s the quote:

The critical-thinking tradition is concerned primarily with epistemic adequacy. To be critical is to show good judgment in recognizing when arguments are faulty, assertions lack evidence, truth claims appeal to unreliable sources, or concepts are sloppily crafted and applied. For critical thinkers, the problem is that people fail to “examine the assumptions, commitments, and logic of daily life… the basic problem is irrational, illogical, and unexamined living.” In this tradition sloppy claims can be identified and fixed by learning to apply the tools of formal and informal logic correctly.

Critical pedagogy begins from a different set of assumptions rooted in the neo-Marxian literature on critical theory commonly associated with the Frankfurt School. Here, the critical learner is someone who is empowered and motivated to seek justice and emancipation. Critical pedagogy regards the claims that students make in response to social-justice issues not as propositions to be assessed for their truth value, but as expressions of power that function to re-inscribe and perpetuate social inequalities. Its mission is to teach students ways of identifying and mapping how power shapes our understandings of the world. This is the first step toward resisting and transforming social injustices. By interrogating the politics of knowledge-production, this tradition also calls into question the uses of the accepted critical-thinking toolkit to determine epistemic adequacy. To extend Audre Lorde’s classic metaphor, the tools of the critical-thinking tradition (for example, validity, soundness, conceptual clarity) cannot dismantle the master’s house: they can temporarily beat the master at his own game, but they can never bring about any enduring structural change. They fail because the critical thinker’s toolkit is commonly invoked in particular settings, at particular times to reassert power: those adept with the tools often use them to restore an order that assures their comfort. They can be habitually invoked to defend our epistemic home terrains. (pp. 881–882) .

Here, the “master’s tools” are explicitly named by Bailey as including soundness and validity of argument, conceptual clarity, and epistemic adequacy (i.e., knowing what you’re talking about) and can easily be extended to science, reason, and rationality, and thus also to conversation and debate. The “master’s house” is the “organizational schemata” laid out by Kristie Dotson as the prevailing knowing system. Her claim is that these tools—essentially all of the liberal ones—cannot dismantle liberal societies from within, which is their goal, because they are the very tools that build and keep building it.

Bailey’s point is clear: the usual tools by which we identify provisional truths and settle scholarly disagreements are part of the hegemonically dominant system that, by definition, cannot be sufficiently radical to create real revolutionary change (a “third-order” change, as Dotson has it). That is, they can’t reorder society in the radical way they deem necessary. The belief, as both scholars explain in different ways, is that to play by the existing rules (like conversation and debate as a means to better understand society and advance truth) is to automatically be co-opted by those rules and to support their legitimacy, beside one deeper problem that’s even more significant.

The deeper, more significant aspect of this problem is that by participating in something like conversation or debate about scholarly, ethical, or other disagreements, not only do the radical Critical Social Justice scholars have to tacitly endorse the existing system, they also have to be willing to agree to participate in a system in which they truly believe they cannot win. This isn’t the same as saying they know they’d lose the debate because they know their methods are weak. It’s saying that they believe their tools are extremely good but not welcome in the currently dominant system, which is a different belief based on different assumptions. Again, their game is not our game, and they don’t want to play our game at all; they want to disrupt and dismantle it.

Their analysis would insist that their methods aren’t weak; it’s that the dominant system treats them unfairly. By being forced to participate in the dominant system, they therefore believe, they’re being cheated of the full force of their cause. To them, if we set the legitimization of the system part aside, to engage in scholarly conversation or debate is like a boxer stepping into an MMA match in which kicks, punches, throwing, and grappling are all on the table for the MMA fighter whereas gloved punches are the only thing the boxer is allowed to use, only far worse.

Debate and conversation, especially when they rely upon reason, rationality, science, evidence, epistemic adequacy, and other Enlightenment-based tools of persuasion are the very thing they think produced injustice in the world in the first place. Those are not their methods and they reject them. Their methods are, instead, storytelling and counter-storytelling, appealing to emotions and subjectively interpreted lived experience, and problematizing arguments morally, on their moral terms. Because they know the dominant liberal order values those things sense far less than rigor, evidence, and reasoned argument, they believe the whole conversation and debate game is intrinsically rigged against them in a way that not only leads to their certain loss but also that props up the existing system and then further delegitimizes the approaches they advance in their place. Critical Social Justice Theorists genuinely believe getting away from the “master’s tools” is necessary to break the hegemony of the dominant modes of thought. Debate is a no-win for them.

Therefore, you’ll find them resistant to engaging in debate because they fully believe that engaging in debate or other kinds of conversation forces them to do their work in a system that has been rigged so that they cannot possibly win, no matter how well they do. They literally believe, in some sense, that the system itself hates people like them and has always been rigged to keep them and their views out. Even the concepts of civil debate (instead of screaming, reeeee!) and methodological rigor (instead of appealing to subjective claims and emotions) are considered this way, as approaches that only have superiority within the dominant paradigm, which was in turn illegitimately installed through political processes designed to advance the interests of powerful white, Western men (especially rich ones) through the exclusion of all others. And, yes, they really think this way.

For adherents to Critical Social Justice Theory, then, there’s just no point to engaging in conversation or debate with people with whom they disagree. They reject the premise that such a thing is possible at all, because what is discussed or debated are, if changeable, in some sense matters of opinion. They don’t see the world this way at all, though. “Racism is not a matter of opinion” is, after all, one of their thought-stopping mantras. For them, disagreements across a stratifying axis of social power are a matter of being, experience, reality, and even life and death. These are not matters to be debated; they’re far too important for that.


Secondly, the organizing principle of their worldview is that two things structure society: discourses and systems of power maintained by discourses. Regarding the systems of power, their underlying belief is genuinely that of the Critical Theorists: society is divided into oppressors versus oppressed, and the oppressors condition the beliefs and culture of society such that neither they nor the oppressed are aware of the realities of their oppression. That is, everyone who isn’t “Woke” to the realities of systemic oppression lives in a form of false consciousness. Members of dominant groups have internalized their dominance by accepting it as normal, natural, earned, and justified and therefore are unaware of the oppression they create. Members of “minoritized” groups have often internalized their oppression by accepting it as normal, natural, and just the way things are and are therefore unaware of the extent of the oppression they suffer or its true sources. In both cases, though in different ways and to different ends, the falsely conscious need to be awakened to a critical consciousness, i.e., become Critical Theorists.

Adherents to this worldview will not want to have conversations or debate with people who do not possess a critical consciousness because there’s basically no point to doing such a thing. Unless they can wake their debate or conversation partner up to Wokeness on the spot, they’d see it as though they’re talking to zombies who can’t even think for themselves. Unwoke people are stuck thinking in the ways dominant and elite powers in society have socialized them into thinking (you could consider this a kind of conditioning or brainwashing by the very machinations of society and how it thinks).

Much discussion of Foucault postmodernism snipped.

The knowledge principle is that knowledge is socially constructed and the result of political processes, and therefore objective truth is unattainable and irrelevant except in that some people make unjustified claims upon having access to it. The political principle is that these unjustified claims create a form of hegemonic dominance that needs to be deconstructed and dismantled through manipulations within the discourses at the level of the meanings of ideas.

You really do have to understand this like a religious view, very much like a Holy Spirit that is the Word, where the “Word” is the prevailing discourses, and the “Spirit” isn’t really holy: it’s systems of power and attempts at their disruption. Power is viewed to work through all people at all times as a result of the discourses that they accept and participate in, and so participating in conversation or debate with people who uphold the dominant discourses causes that power to work through you as well. That makes you complicit in the dominant discourses, even if you think you reject them, which makes having a conversation with the wrong person tantamount to a sin. This attitude is overwhelmingly present in the critical whiteness literature, which devotes a considerable portion of all of its proliferation to pointing out that white progressives who try to help out are the worst kind of racists because they no longer think that they’re equally significant conduits of the problematic dominant discourses and systems of society.


Thirdly, adding to this is a theme we draw out significantly in the eighth chapter of Cynical Theories: they believe all disagreement with them to be illegitimate. If we followed from Dotson in the paper named above and another slightly earlier one (2011) about “epistemic violence,” it could be pinned on what she calls “pernicious ignorance.” Robin DiAngelo would call it “white fragility” to disagree. Alison Bailey refers to it as an attempt to preserve one’s privilege under the kind of term George Carlin lived to make fun of: “privilege-preserving epistemic pushback” (four words, twelve syllables, one hyphen). Further, Bailey said all attempts to criticize Critical Social Justice thought, because they come from that “critical thinking” and not the “critical theory” tradition (within which they’d obviously agree), generate “shadow texts” that follow along but don’t truly engage (in the correctly “critical” way; i.e., agreement with her). Barbara Applebaum said similar in her 2010 book, Being White, Being Good, wherein she explains that the only legitimate way to disagree with Critical Social Justice education in the classroom is to ask questions for clarification until one agrees (which, you might notice, isn’t disagreeing at all).

In general, as mentioned a bit earlier in the essay, if you disagree, you either have false consciousness or the willful intention to oppress, and so your disagreement isn’t genuine. Only disagreement that comes from a Critical Theory perspective would be genuine, but this isn’t actually disagreement with the Woke worldview, only with superficial aspects of how it is playing out. The Woke view genuinely is that unless you agree with the Woke worldview, you haven’t disagreed with the Woke worldview in an authentic way, and therefore your disagreement cannot be legitimate. Read it again: unless you actually agree, you didn’t disagree correctly.

Remember how shocked Bret Weinstein was at finding that Social Justice Warriors at Evergreen College not only rejected the enlightenment, but the very idea of enlightenment. To them, capitalism, democracy, the rule of law, critical thinking, logic and the scientific method are not just flawed, they are inherently racist systems of oppression that must be destroyed and replaced by Social Justice.

Social Justice isn’t at war with “oppression” or even “whiteness,” it is at war with the entirety of western civilization.

Remember my post about Social Justice as sick religion? Here Bradley Campbell expounds upon the religion theme:

The “snowflake” language fails to capture the moral seriousness of social justice activists. If you understand them mainly as undisciplined and self-absorbed, you’ll expect the movement to fizzle out, but it’s clear that’s not happening, and won’t happen anytime soon. The activists’ seriousness is better captured by critics who see them as adherents of something like a new religion. John McWhorter has written about what he calls the new religion of anti-racism, with its own notions of sin and Judgment Day and its own rituals. For example, anti-racist classes and seminars commonly teach whites to regularly acknowledge their privilege, which McWhorter sees as a “self-standing, totemic act… based on the same justification as… fundamental sinfulness is as a Christian.”

This is closer to the mark, but the problem with many of these comparisons is that they’re coming from those who have negative views of both the social justice movement and religion. McWhorter says that some of the key anti-racist ideas aren’t very well thought out, but that this is a feature of religion: “It is inherent to a religion that one is to accept certain suspensions of disbelief. Certain questions are not to be asked, or if asked, only politely—and the answer one gets, despite being somewhat half-cocked, is to be accepted as doing the job.” Others may point to the “cancel culture” aspects of the social justice movement and compare it to religious people persecuting heretics, apostates, and unbelievers. This is all fine as it goes, but it is limited to criticism as opposed to analysis, and it overlooks a more fundamental aspect of the social justice movement: that social justice culture is a moral culture, similar in some ways and different in others to other moral cultures. It also overlooks other, more positive ways the movement resembles religious movements.

In 2014 Jason Manning and I first wrote about the rise of a new moral culture. We called it victimhood culture because among those who embrace it, victimhood comes to act as a kind of moral status. While there are right-wing versions of it, most of the activists embracing this new culture are on the Left, and they see themselves as pursuing social justice. This culture, then, which can also be called social justice culture, is a moral framework concerned primarily with documenting and fighting oppression.

This new moral culture differs from prior ones, particularly in dealing with conflict. The honor cultures of many traditional societies valued bravery above all else, and in these societies people needed to stand up for themselves, often by engaging in violence, to demonstrate they weren’t cowards and wouldn’t let others take advantage of them or insult them. A duel over an insult, which seems so strange to most of us, made sense in this context. Surely if someone calls me a liar, we might think, our firing guns at one another doesn’t prove I’m not a liar. But what it does prove is that I’m not willing to let such an insult stand without a fight, that I’m willing to risk death to try avenging it. It may not prove I’m honest, but it does demonstrate my bravery, which may be more consequential.

In the United States and elsewhere, honor culture eventually gave way to dignity culture. It became more important to recognize one’s own and others’ inherent worth, so reputations weren’t so important. People came to believe they should let most insults stand, and that they should rely on the legal system for solving more serious disputes.

Social justice culture is similar to honor culture in that people might be concerned even with small slights and insults (microaggressions) that would be ignored by people in a dignity culture, but it’s similar to dignity culture in that people often appeal to authorities and other third parties rather than handling the slights themselves. The elevation of one virtue over others—from demonstrating bravery in honor cultures, to recognizing the worth of every individual in dignity cultures, and opposing oppression in social justice cultures—occurs along with different ways of conceiving of and responding to transgressions. It is important to note in this context that people immersed in different moral cultures commonly find each other’s behavior offensive or incomprehensible. And just as those in dignity cultures object to the violence of honor cultures as being foolish and cruel, and just as those in honor cultures object to the avoidance of conflict or the appeal to law in dignity cultures as cowardly and weak, those in dignity cultures sometimes see social justice activists as self-absorbed and childish—snowflakes. What they miss is that their behavior makes sense given their assumptions. That doesn’t mean it’s always sincere—people don’t always have pure motives when they express moral outrage and condemn wrongdoing—but it seems it often is, and it’s probably as sincere as that of any other activist group.

That the activists are usually sincere doesn’t mean that they’re right. I have been writing for some time about the threats the new culture poses to free speech and due process. But those who are concerned about problems arising from the new culture would do well to understand that these problems don’t come because people just haven’t learned how to be adults, or how to live in the real world. Problems that arise come from the culture’s elevation of social justice concerns above all else and from the interpretation of nearly all human interaction and all social institutions in terms of oppression and victimhood.

As part of its axiomatic tenets, Social Justice decrees that cannot be criticized from any viewpoint outside Social Justice. By automatically and schematically rejecting all outside critiques, Social justice is a totalitarian system suffering epistemological closure. Where no outside critique is possible, no change is possible. In decrying every competing system as a system of repression, it becomes a system of totalitarian repression itself, in which every challenge to its own power is illegitimate. As a religion substitute, its axioms are not debatable, but unchanging and unchangeable dogma.

Like Communism, its totalitarian ancestor, Social Justice decrees that it is the only true path to building utopia on earth. Like Communism, all opposing systems, institutions and viewpoints must be destroyed. Like Communism, those who reject its tenets, or just embrace them too weakly, must be made to renounce their sins, and those who refuse to do so must be destroyed. (“For those outside the Party, nothing. For those inside the Party, everything.”) “If you want to know what the future looks like, imagine everyone in the world forced to denounce themselves in a perpetual struggle session…forever.”

But there’s one key difference between Communism and Social Justice. Marx cloaked his theory in the language of science as “scientific socialism.” Social Justice Warriors reject the scientific method as a system of oppression. The basis of modern civilization is just another instance of the “master’s tools” to be cast down.

Social Justice cannot measure an electron’s charge or whether a load-bearing concrete pillar can support a floor’s weight, but only whether those things are racist or not.

To quote Lindsay again:

One of the biggest mistakes we keep making as liberals who do value debate, dialogue, conversation, reason, evidence, epistemic adequacy, fairness, civility, charity of argument, and all these other “master’s tools” is that we can expect that advocates of Critical Social Justice also value them. They don’t. Or, we make the mistake that we can possibly pin Critical Social Justice advocates into having to defend their views in debate or conversation. We can’t.

These principles and values are rejected to their very roots within the Critical Social Justice worldview, and so the request for an advocate to have a debate or conversation with someone who disagrees will, to the degree they have adopted the Critical Social Justice Theoretical ideology/faith, be a complete nonstarter. It’s literally a request to do the exact opposite of everything their ideology instructs with regard to how the world and “systemic oppression” within it operates—to participate in their own oppression and maintain oppression of the people they claim to speak for.

Social Justice cannot be reasoned with. It can only be isolated, quarantined, fought and destroyed.

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