11 votes

The Selfish Fallacy

24 comments

  1. [10]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    I think there's a cart here, but it's almost certainly before the horse. DeBoer seems to think that the rise of focus on CRT is "because the kind of soggy liberals who teach at law schools have...
    • Exemplary

    I think there's a cart here, but it's almost certainly before the horse. DeBoer seems to think that the rise of focus on CRT is "because the kind of soggy liberals who teach at law schools have decided that they need to look busy when it comes to race or risk losing their cush gigs".

    Barring how baldly prejudicial and simplistic that explanation is, it's also seemingly deliberately ignorant of context. It's hard to make a definitive claim about the source of a talking point in the first place, but my wager is that the CRT culture war has less to do with law school professors and more because our former President turned it into a public crusade. Less than two months before the election Trump took a stand against CRT and banned its use in federal agencies.

    Trump acting in his capacity as President just before a national election is significant enough, but it's also worth noting that conservative media is very good at creating talking points with clear labels and reinforcing them with consistent fearmongering and accusations of hypocrisy.

    Take a look (or better yet just trust me and don't give them the clicks) at Breitbart's archive for articles tagged "critical race theory". The page I linked is the last one, where you can see there were four articles posted on it before Trump's September memo opposing CRT. After that memo (and later executive order) the rate of articles accelerated to one or two every couple of days for the next several months. Meanwhile, here's the most recent page for the tag. Seven articles were published on CRT just yesterday. What happened yesterday? Trump published an anti-CRT op-ed.

    As loathe as I am to give him any attention at all, we simply cannot deny his impact, particularly when it is buttressed by massive media organizations constantly reinforcing him or his associated talking points. Here's a quote from that op-ed, for anyone who doesn't want to click through to read his words (which I strongly recommend against):

    Teaching even one child these divisive messages would verge on psychological abuse. Indoctrinating generations of children with these extreme ideas is not just immoral -- it is a program for national suicide.

    Does that sound like someone who has a sound grasp of what CRT is, or does that sound like someone whose understanding of its actual meaning is as hollow and irrelevant as the liberals reflexively defending it?

    Of course we know the answer, and so does DeBoer. He says it outright:

    Yes, conservatives don’t know shit about CRT and attack it for cynical reasons, but most of the liberals defending CRT don’t know shit about it either and are defending it for reasons of pure culture war and social signaling.

    His understanding of the problem transcends "sides" but his criticism is distinctly one-sided. This applies to his indictment of CRT's hollowness as well:

    CRT is now a completely floating signifier thanks to the motivated reasoning of those who defend it.

    For some reason DeBoer insists on taking CRT-defending liberals to task for not knowing about CRT as if we're committing some grand intellectual fraud when really the garbage is embedded in the talking point and culture war from the very beginning. If CRT has been a way for "the Democratic intelligentsia [to] appear to accept Black radicalism", it has also become yet another way for conservative media and leadership to "cry wolf". DeBoer is right when he says we'll be on to some new bullshit in six months because conservative media has a seemingly limitless number of wolves (see also: trans athletes, migrant caravans, election fraud, mask wearing, vaccines, etc.). His criticism that one side is reflexively denying the existence of the wolf without examining the evidence in the first place is a lot more hollow when it's put in this context, because we've been warned so many other times for so many other wolves that have turned out to be either entirely non-existent or misidentifications of harmless, friendly dogs.

    There is some value to this piece, because I do think the internet and Twitter in particular has a schism problem where nearly everything now divides people into "sides" and we defend our own while going for the kill on the other. I think that's a valuable thing to reflect on and am trying to be better about identifying and preventing those behavior patterns in myself. In fact, I'm bothered by the idea that people will probably see my motivation for writing what I have here as a need to defend my "team" from criticism when really it's just massive annoyance at DeBoer, who by his own admission should know better than to commit his own "selfish fallacy" on a piece about the selfish fallacy itself. Unfortunately, his writing here does the thing where it tries to directly highlight an issue while falling prey to it at the same time. It offers harsh words in a limited context to a specific target and completely passes on others for the same shitty behavior without attempting to resolve that dissonance at all.

    I ultimately think it's disingenuous to the point of near misinformation to talk about CRT as if it's almost exclusively a problem because of "liberals". This piece tries to separate itself from the partisan culture war but ends up contributing even more to the blaze.

    14 votes
    1. [9]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Replying to my own comment because this is fully separate from what I wrote above and is very off-topic and should be marked as such. I mentioned reflecting on this, and in the interest of...
      • Exemplary

      Replying to my own comment because this is fully separate from what I wrote above and is very off-topic and should be marked as such.

      There is some value to this piece, because I do think the internet and Twitter in particular has a schism problem where nearly everything now divides people into "sides" and we defend our own while going for the kill on the other. I think that's a valuable thing to reflect on and am trying to be better about identifying and preventing those behavior patterns in myself.

      I mentioned reflecting on this, and in the interest of full-disclosure: during the writing of my comment I felt profoundly sad, and that has persisted since I submitted it. I went to do laundry and my brain was totally preoccupied with churning over this article, my response, potential responses it might receive, and the fronts on which I might have to return to the culture war. All of this was also underpinned by a general and non-specific malaise that wasn't there earlier in the week or even today. These completely pulled mental focus and I had to return to the washer and dryer after I'd loaded them to make sure I actually started them, as I was so in my head I had no memory of turning them on. Turns out I actually did, but my brain was too busy wallowing in internet garbage to notice what was happening right in front of it IRL.

      I've been off of Tildes and much of the wider internet for about a week or so, as I've been very busy with real-life things. It's been nice. It's felt different in a good way. Coming back online now and immediately reintegrating myself in culture war concepts and topics has made me feel immediately and immeasurably worse. This isn't a criticism of the article's author or the person who linked it here -- it's more aimed at the current general zeitgeist of the internet and persistent culture wars in general. This internet landscape is not new, but it used to feel invigorating for me. I've put a lot of time and effort into participating in it.

      But I can't deny that right now, being apart from it felt better, and returning to it has made me feel simply tired and unhappy.

      I'm going to leave what I wrote above, but I don't know how much more I want to make comments of that type on topics of this type. I feel like I'm worse off for writing what I did despite the fact that I believe in what I wrote.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I was the one that exemplary'd your previous comment, but now that I have read your follow up to it I feel kinda sad/bad. I genuinely appreciate that you have pretty consistently stepped up to...

        I was the one that exemplary'd your previous comment, but now that I have read your follow up to it I feel kinda sad/bad. I genuinely appreciate that you have pretty consistently stepped up to address these topics, since you're an incredible writer, very often offer eye-opening insight, and have a knack for cutting through the BS to provide clarity on these issues. However, now that I realize it's been at the expense of your own mental health, I sort of regret the exemplary. Not because you don't deserve any accolades... on the contrary, you definitely do. But I can't help but feel that by my doing such things it might inadvertently encourage you to continue wading into the fray when you probably shouldn't, since your mental health is far more important than random internet discussions on US political bullshit.

        Anyways, sorry if I accidentally encouraged you to continue such unhealthy habits. Keep safe, keep sane, and look after yourself. ❤️

        p.s. I have been slowly distancing myself more and more from the internet lately too, and focusing more on "real life" and self-improvement instead (eating better, working out regularly again, taking on a bunch of DIY projects, etc). And TBH, I have been much happier/healthier as a result, so intend on keeping it up, and trying to keep myself limited to a more healthy level of online interaction. I may not have said much in your "screenless day" posts, since I am not really doing it in that particular way, and instead am taking it more holistically... but it's one of the things that inspired me to start distancing myself a bit more. So thanks for that too. :)

        5 votes
        1. kfwyre
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Don't feel bad! I always appreciate support from anyone, but yours in particular is very valuable for me. There has been some discussion of "extremely online" people recently, and I saw a lot of...

          Don't feel bad! I always appreciate support from anyone, but yours in particular is very valuable for me.

          There has been some discussion of "extremely online" people recently, and I saw a lot of myself in those and didn't like what I was identifying. I've always been pre-disposed to that sort of thing and I think the isolation of COVID allowed me to really dive in more than I have in the past. Now that I'm able to meet back up with people in person it's put a lot into perspective for me.

          Glad you're seeing some positives for yourself as well and making meaningful changes!

          4 votes
      2. [2]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        I'm sorry to hear you feel this way about your previous comment, but i also fully understand why, and fully empathize with it - I have felt similarly before, on Tildes especially. My own tolerance...

        I'm sorry to hear you feel this way about your previous comment, but i also fully understand why, and fully empathize with it - I have felt similarly before, on Tildes especially. My own tolerance for this particular feeling is much lower than it used to be in years ago, and frankly, it even got lower the past year or so. I've also noticed a fair few people here who seem more interested in the perpetuation of these culture wars than in achieving real social progress and that's been demoralizing, and turned me off contributing to most political threads (nearly entirely now). My own contribution to this topic in fact was quite explicitly off the primary topic...

        But i want you to personally know that your comments are valued and i believe make this place strictly better. You are loved here, i think most people would agree, those that wouldn't simply haven't met you yet :)

        I hope you stick around. But like @cfabbro said, i also hope it's not at the expense of your mental health, so i do not want to encourage you to keep commenting on these particular topics. Much as your voice is one of reason, the truth is, it's just not worth it.


        PS, to the rest of Tildes : Please get your shit together. I know some of you will recognize themselves in the above. I certainly recognize myself in it, even though I have been taking a lot of steps to fix that.

        I don't want to make it sound worse than it is. Overall Tildes is a great community. But some people could really stand to .. just .. be less zealous about things.

        5 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Thanks (as always) for your kindness and thoughtfulness, Adys! I've seen you have similar responses to other articles as I did to this one, and it's nice to know I'm not alone. It's also nice to...

          Thanks (as always) for your kindness and thoughtfulness, Adys!

          I've seen you have similar responses to other articles as I did to this one, and it's nice to know I'm not alone. It's also nice to know that the landscape is genuinely fatiguing to others. I think based on how we only see direct participation, it creates the illusion that people are invigorated and energized when really I think a lot of us are tired or worn down and it just doesn't show because we never air that (which is part of why I posted my follow-up comment in the first place -- to give visibility to something that I wouldn't normally share).

          I will say that to me, the issue isn't Tildes so much as it is the wider internet that unavoidably finds its way here. I see Tildes as an oasis within a desert, honestly. This place has been wonderful for me; we have a lot of incredible users here (yourself included!); and even on culture war stuff I think valuable discussions do happen here. The signal to noise ratio is honestly incredible, especially given the subject matter. I don't think there's a way we can insulate Tildes from those topics, and I think if we did it would artificially stifle our interactions.

          I can see myself changing my personal way of interacting with this site and the community (don't worry, I'm not going anywhere!), but I wouldn't want to mandate that for others, as I do know some people find those types of conversations and interactions valuable (as I myself used to!).

          Honestly, the worst interactions on Tildes are still head and shoulders above other places (case in point: the tweetbait you mention in your post). Something I didn't mention in my post that I probably should have was that I recently made the mistake of commenting on a different platform that does not have Tildes' norms or userbase. I, of course, got baited into an argument and then, because it was a low-moderation forum, felt compelled to keep returning and countering as a way of not letting some awful shit stand uncontested. I simultaneously hated that it was happening but felt unable to stop, and I felt some of that same feeling spill over to my response here, which I don't think is fair to the wider conversation or to @an_angry_tiger who posted this article here.

          6 votes
      3. [4]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I end up obsessing too. I think that there are worthy subjects that are emotional and require a lot of thought and research to do justice to, and it may not be worth doing it. Maybe we...

        Yeah, I end up obsessing too.

        I think that there are worthy subjects that are emotional and require a lot of thought and research to do justice to, and it may not be worth doing it. Maybe we shouldn’t expect to feel good about it? As an extreme example, you wouldn’t expect to feel good after writing about the Holocaust, would you? Most of history is horrible.

        But on top of that, we have the complications of talking not about the thing itself, but people’s reactions to it, sometimes including people we don’t know and don’t care about in the stack. This can get a bit absurd. Here I’m discussing your reaction to deBoer’s reaction to some unspecified progressives’ reactions to conservative reactions to academic responses to slavery. This is too many levels!

        The reaction thing is how social media sucks us into discussing things we know nothing about. If the responses are reasonably well-written, this is a more highbrow way that the Internet demands our attention than the more obvious noise.

        Maybe we should try to have conversations rooted in actual curiosity about things themselves, rather a pile of other people’s reactions to them?

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          This is a good point. I've thought a lot about your closing question: In trying to answer this, I realized that part of my frustration with culture war topics in general is that they are so...

          This is a good point. I've thought a lot about your closing question:

          Maybe we should try to have conversations rooted in actual curiosity about things themselves, rather a pile of other people’s reactions to them?

          In trying to answer this, I realized that part of my frustration with culture war topics in general is that they are so abstracted from "things themselves" that the reactions essentially are the reality. Like, CRT is an actual "thing", but the wider culture war surrounding CRT has very little to do with the thing itself and is instead moved into this alternate realm where everything is simultaneously hyper-meaningful and also complete bullshit. CRT is simultaneously a specific academic theory but also a broad and flexible stand-in for the concept of "racism in America". If we stick to discussions of what CRT explicitly is -- Critical Race Theory -- then we've followed a narrow and somewhat fruitless path, because the broader discussion isn't operating on those terms in the first place. CRT's coincident specificity and generality are what lets people talk past each other so much and also attack/defend so fluidly, because it's trivial to play motte-and-bailey all day long when a talking point is so malleable that it can be morphed into nearly anything to suit any purpose.

          And, like CRT, I feel like more and more things are becoming harder to pin down as actual things. As deBoer identified, they're becoming floating signifiers. Culture war topics feel like a giant game of people trying to nail jello to a wall, with half the people driving in a nail and celebrating that it stuck with the other half laughing openly at them because the jello, of course, didn't. The roles flip depending on where you go, and when I spend time in conservative places I see the same types of hollow empty dunks that I see when I go on liberal circles. The hot takes and shut downs are reciprocal. Everybody's laughing at the other side because their jello didn't stick! Ha HA! Look at their lonely nail holding up nothing! But, meanwhile, everybody's also trying to draw attention to the nails they hammered and quietly gloss over that their jello too is missing. Look at how sharp of a point this nail has! See how well I drove it in?! So sturdy! Please don't ask what it's holding up.

          Tildes is far better than most every other place I know of out there for not even attempting to handle the nails or jello in the first place, or for highlighting the task for what it is rather than engaging in it uncritically. I think the difficulty we face here isn't so much a cultural aspect of our site as it is a byproduct of the rest of the internet -- a sort of "eternal September" for jello nailing. When that style of discourse dominates discussions everywhere else, it will inevitably find its way here if not in form then at least in topics.

          Sorry that I'm pessimistically unloading on you, especially when your message was so supportive. I don't really have any solutions right now, just definite frustrations.

          7 votes
          1. [2]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            Yes, but do we need to participate in that broader discussion? Maybe not? Maybe nobody cares what we talk about on Tildes except us? Maybe we should care less about what strangers think who aren't...

            If we stick to discussions of what CRT explicitly is -- Critical Race Theory -- then we've followed a narrow and somewhat fruitless path, because the broader discussion isn't operating on those terms in the first place.

            Yes, but do we need to participate in that broader discussion? Maybe not? Maybe nobody cares what we talk about on Tildes except us? Maybe we should care less about what strangers think who aren't actually here?

            Someone could see some random article about critical race theory, wonder "huh, I wonder what that is," do some searches, and ignore the broader discussion and read some academic articles about it. It seems like learning some new things about history is more of a win than learning more about the controversy, particularly when the controversy is stupid.

            Or someone could decide we're not actually that curious and ignore it. Then they win at not being distracted.

            I'm doing neither of those because I'm not actually curious about it (revealed preference: I didn't do the web searches), but I am interested in the norms of online communication and how to do it better.

            6 votes
            1. kfwyre
              Link Parent
              This is pretty much how I plan to use the site moving forward. I definitely need to cut down on these bad behavior patterns and especially reduce my obsessiveness. Also, thank you for your...

              Yes, but do we need to participate in that broader discussion? Maybe not? Maybe nobody cares what we talk about on Tildes except us? Maybe we should care less about what strangers think who aren't actually here?

              This is pretty much how I plan to use the site moving forward. I definitely need to cut down on these bad behavior patterns and especially reduce my obsessiveness.

              Also, thank you for your consistent inquisitiveness, patience, and level-headedness.

              2 votes
  2. [3]
    Macil
    (edited )
    Link
    I think the author identifies a real phenomenon that's worth pointing out and discussing, but I find myself skeptical of the author's judgment of the phenomenon and some of the related politics. I...
    • Exemplary

    I think the author identifies a real phenomenon that's worth pointing out and discussing, but I find myself skeptical of the author's judgment of the phenomenon and some of the related politics.

    I think he may have a point in the idea that many liberals in conversations defending CRT may be nearly as ignorant of it as the conservatives attacking it, but it's weird that he's almost more critical of the liberal side than conservatives for this, with nothing much to say about Jeet Heer's insightful tweet that he highlighted besides just writing it off as "liberal cope". Jeet's quote of Rufo is surely relevant to the debate, but it goes almost entirely unaddressed in the article! The author diagnoses Jeet's attitude -- casting some maybe uncomfortable parts as subtle details that the debate shouldn't revolve around -- as "The Selfish Fallacy" and writes it off as invalid, but is Jeet's approach invalid? To call Jeet wrong, I think you'd need to show that the parts that Jeet writes off as esoteric actually are relevant to policies being effectively pushed or to the debates with conservatives. If those esoteric elements are esoteric, if Jeet is right about Rufo's quote being significant in directing the current debate around banning CRT, if anti-"CRT" debates are being used to ban schools from pushing more mundane forms of anti-racism, then I don't think the behavior the author calls "The Selfish Fallacy" is a fallacy or incorrect to use here. I agree with Jeet's resistance against centering this debate on CRT and I think it would be good to de-center the debate from the "floating signifier" of "CRT" as the article describes it. At times I feel like the article author agrees with this on some level but he's just desperate to get a point in against another team before the "CRT" debate ends.


    Everything below this is kind of secondary because I've made my main point and given the above, I'm a bit resistant toward getting much deeper into discussing the actual subject of CRT, which is a slightly unfair frame of discussion, but I am interested in picking apart some further bits of the article.

    I am a bit skeptical of his claim that liberals would necessarily be against CRT if they really knew more about it. He doesn't spend much time getting into it besides gesturing that it's against incrementalism and maybe free speech, but surely it's not too radical to accept that those concepts are things with costs and aren't wholly without problems? If there's some policies spawned from CRT being effectively pushed that wholly disregard those concepts then I would be worried, but the idea that an academic theory criticizes some issues with those concepts is not something that surprises me. I think everyone who has given up on less-moderated discussion sites after seeing too much racist pseudoscience spread and everyone frustrated at the effective spread of anti-vaccination propaganda can be described as having some criticisms of some forms of "free speech", and it would be ridiculous to disregard these people on the basis that they criticize the holy untouchable concept of free speech.

    The author sprinkles some links through the article about things that are supposedly wrong with CRT or progressive politics, but they're mostly weak and mischaracterized.

    But there genuinely is some wild-ass shit in CRT stuff and the broader “antiracism” movement, such as the idea that math is racist. Because it’s 2021 and culture war reigns in all things, liberals who defend CRT don’t want to accept that such wild shit exists.

    There's a huge difference between "the way we teach math may be racist" and "math [itself] is racist"! Reducing the charge and context to "math is racist" is terribly biased.

    So they go on Twitter and express performative outrage at conservative ignorance about CRT while remaining entirely ignorant of what CRT is themselves in order to avoid having the nasty feeling of being pretty much conventional center-left Dems who suddenly believe, for example, that free speech is not just undesirable but has always been a tool for maintaining white supremacy.

    Reducing that article down to "free speech is ... undesirable" is extremely misleading and unfair. Anyone who has seen racists disingenuously "just asking questions" to push racism in unmoderated places will understand where that article is coming from. It's possible to have criticisms of our current "free speech" norms without wanting the federal government to strike the first amendment.

    In my experience, most progressive criticisms of free speech regard the accepted norms in smaller often privately-managed spaces, rather than being about wanting the government to universally prohibit some speech. I think it's an important freedom for someone to be able to create a space for discussions where both unruly people and people pushing misinformation are excluded; some people would describe this as anti-free-speech yet I'd describe this as a core part of what the first amendment gives us the freedom to do. I think there's a lot of nuance around free speech that deBoer avoids in his insistence to write off a subject because he characterizes it as anti-free-speech.

    The radical Black critique of contemporary American society really is radical! For example, it is extremely common within the broad realm of critical race theory to argue that all white people inherently promote white supremacy, regardless of intentions. I don’t think that’s actually radical in substance - generalizing an accusation to that degree inevitably defangs it to the point of meaninglessness - but it is certainly a challenge to a widespread assumption that your individual racial attitudes matter in moral and political terms.

    Is it really radical to assert that many white people vocally against racism fail to actually act against it? (Is that not exactly what he's charging pro-CRT liberals of being across this whole article?) I've only read the abstract of the linked article, but it is more specific than his characterization of it as a plain condemnation of all white people here makes it out to be.

    I find it weird how the author is frequently dismissive of the "culture war", acting aloof of it and correctly judging some of the bad arbitrariness of it, but then I get the impression that he's willingly prolonging and fighting in it instead of trying to guide a path out of it and defusing it.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Autoxidation
        Link Parent
        I feel like this is missing the forest for the trees. If Republicans were solely going after CRT taught in major specific college courses, I could maybe understand, but the Conservative media...

        I feel like this is missing the forest for the trees. If Republicans were solely going after CRT taught in major specific college courses, I could maybe understand, but the Conservative media isn't framing it like that, they're framing it like it's being taught to your kids in public school, and the Conservative politicians are using this as an example to install laws to prevent teaching certain topics, like the 1619 Project.

        If anything, the Conservative media blitz about CRT is just a continuation of the culture war against the 1619 Project and similar alternative perspectives on US history. It's completely overblown and has been entirely misframed in order change the narrative more to their liking.

        10 votes
    2. skybrian
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Yeah, I don't know. I get the feeling that Freddie deBoer is often arguing with fellow leftists he actually knows, but it's like listening to half a telephone conversation since I don't know...

      Yeah, I don't know. I get the feeling that Freddie deBoer is often arguing with fellow leftists he actually knows, but it's like listening to half a telephone conversation since I don't know anyone like that.

      I don't know how representative his friends are of anything so it's not always that interesting to me, but I don't think they're figments of his imagination.

      I think if anyone is actually curious about critical race theory then they should do some web searches and maybe find a better introduction to share?

      4 votes
  3. Adys
    Link
    I don't know much about the topic at hand so I kinda skimmed, it's a pretty difficult article. This stood out, though: MY GOD is that something I've seen a lot of. Especially on Twitter. I think...

    I don't know much about the topic at hand so I kinda skimmed, it's a pretty difficult article. This stood out, though:

    A lot of liberals suddenly find themselves not just defending CRT and pretending that they have read deeply in the field but also pretending that they always have known what it means. (This stems from one of the most deeply-ingrained aspects of progressive culture, the addiction to knowingness - the imperative to not only have an opinion on everything but to act like you have always had this opinion because everything is obvious and banal to you.)

    MY GOD is that something I've seen a lot of. Especially on Twitter. I think the low character count caused that attitude to develop due to the way people would word their tweets: Instead of saying they just learned about x from y and sharing the experience of learning, they just share the fact itself. Especially dangerous when said fact is actually some bullshit they haven't debunked and they decide to be authoritative about it. "If you care about x, make sure to …" or "EVERYONE needs to know that …", or even "This is your daily reminder that: [thing I learned 5 mins ago]".

    Btw, if you use Twitter and find your timeline is filled with this type of [clickbait, but for retweets I guess? Tweetbait! Yeah that's a word.] tweetbait, you could really stand to unfollow some people. It's not as easy to curate as YouTube, but Twitter can be curated pretty well and your timeline can be something you browse to learn new things, appreciate old ones, and be informed of recent developments. Avoid pundits.

    12 votes
  4. [3]
    Grendel
    Link
    Dang, I see myself in this article and I don't like it. I absolutely assumed that CRT was "teaching kids that slavery is bad and that racism still exists" without doing enough research into to see...

    Dang, I see myself in this article and I don't like it. I absolutely assumed that CRT was "teaching kids that slavery is bad and that racism still exists" without doing enough research into to see what it was really about.

    I also have that tendency to sort of "invert conservatives" and just believe the opposite. Then ignore whatever might cause cognitive dissonance. I think this article is going to cause me to take a long hard look at what I've been claiming to believe in and re-asses my life.

    9 votes
    1. an_angry_tiger
      Link Parent
      I don't think there's any shame in finding yourself in that situation, it's a natural tendency to slip in to, especially on peer pressure platforms like twitter and (I presume, I don't use it)...

      I don't think there's any shame in finding yourself in that situation, it's a natural tendency to slip in to, especially on peer pressure platforms like twitter and (I presume, I don't use it) facebook or reddit. It also seems like a tough position not to find yourself in with the american (where I do not live) political system having only two parties, and one of them consistently angling themselves on the "taking away or preventing human rights" side (not to let the democrats off easy).

      The main part of the article that resonated with me isn't necessarily the CRT (which I don't really know much about either) but the tendency for online democrat-to-leftist-side-of-the-spectrum (which I guess I'm a part of) to be reactive to conservative talking points, and in the worst cases just start chasing ghosts and driving themselves crazy looking for "nazis" and "chuds" (not to say they do not exist) everywhere they look.

      5 votes
    2. Akir
      Link Parent
      That's because that's often what the detractors of CRT are actually rallying against. It's completely understandable. In reality, it's a part of academia and requires you to understand a lot of...

      I absolutely assumed that CRT was "teaching kids that slavery is bad and that racism still exists" without doing enough research into to see what it was really about.

      That's because that's often what the detractors of CRT are actually rallying against. It's completely understandable. In reality, it's a part of academia and requires you to understand a lot of very high-level concepts that most college graduates aren't likely to touch. In the popular discourse, CRT is just a red herring turned euphemism, which has the added benefit of adding extra (actually nonsense) rhetorical points like how it's related to Marxism.

      3 votes
  5. [6]
    skybrian
    Link
    "Motivated misunderstanding" might be a better name for this.

    "Motivated misunderstanding" might be a better name for this.

    4 votes
    1. Armando
      Link Parent
      I liked the way one of the commenters on the blog described it. "denial motivated by cognitive dissonance"

      I liked the way one of the commenters on the blog described it. "denial motivated by cognitive dissonance"

      4 votes
    2. [3]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      “Motivated ignorance” might work too. Misunderstanding implies they looked into it and got confused, ignorance just sounds like they didn’t bother.

      “Motivated ignorance” might work too. Misunderstanding implies they looked into it and got confused, ignorance just sounds like they didn’t bother.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        I think we might need a better word for the opposite of curiosity. I'm getting in the habit of asking myself, "what would I do if I were actually curious" and finding that, very often, it's not...

        I think we might need a better word for the opposite of curiosity.

        I'm getting in the habit of asking myself, "what would I do if I were actually curious" and finding that, very often, it's not what I'm doing.

        I'm reminded of the character of Pandora in Scott Alexander's short story about the Greek gods. Pandora doesn't open things. Ever. Because, well, you know.

        "Closed-minded" is close, but it doesn't really get at the feeling of not wanting to look, because you have a feeling you won't like what you find.

        3 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          “Obtuse” might work. Though that’s usually less that you have a feeling you won’t like it and more like you know you won’t like it so you play dumb. In both cases though, we’re losing the key...

          “Obtuse” might work. Though that’s usually less that you have a feeling you won’t like it and more like you know you won’t like it so you play dumb.

          In both cases though, we’re losing the key thing in the article which is a sense that the actual meaning of the terms doesn’t matter. It’s an ad hoc redefinition of the term to just be an empty stand-in for pro- or anti-whatever tribal positions.

          Of course the “liberal” case for CRT isn’t entirely off base. Because whatever the term actually means, when conservatives use it they don’t intend it to mean that. They’re engaging in a sort of motte-and-bailey fallacy where the thing is used to functionally forbid any discussion of race at all, but if you try to critique what they’re actually doing that’s when they retreat back to the motte of whatever zany stuff CRT supposedly says. Of course, because they’re deeply incurious people they can’t even bother quite mining to actually find anything damning, which itself is a sleazy bullshit artist move. They just make shit up instead.

          6 votes
    3. Greg
      Link Parent
      I like that a lot, I think it gives a much clearer meaning to what the author is saying.

      I like that a lot, I think it gives a much clearer meaning to what the author is saying.

      2 votes
  6. an_angry_tiger
    Link

    We pretend that the way political convictions work is that we look out into the world and assess the evidence for various political positions and then adopt our ideological outlooks from this process. This is, obviously, utter horseshit; we assemble our political selves either from wanting to embrace a particular social group (all the cool1 people on Twitter pretend they’re part of the Combahee River Collective so I will too) or to reject one (my parents are annoying limousine liberals so I’ll be a college Republican). We then backfill in a set of political opinions from there. There’s a lot of consequences for this, few of them positive. A big one is what I call the Selfish Fallacy, which is neither an apt nor clever name but I can’t think of anything better.

    Indeed the debate about critical race theory is filled with the Selfish Fallacy. CRT is now a completely floating signifier thanks to the motivated reasoning of those who defend it. Conventional center-left liberals feel compelled to defend CRT because conservatives attack it, but some aspects of that academic field are sufficiently extreme to make advocacy for them unpalatable, so the definition of CRT simply morphs to fit their boundaries for legitimate opinion. For many or most of the people defending critical race theory today, the tradition is just a vague assertion of the prevalence of racism, dressed up in a little academic jargon - because this conception is far more convenient for them than grappling with what CRT actually is.

    People are going to the mattresses for a fairly obscure set of theories from legal education that they didn’t know existed last year, and so there are bound to be people passionately advocating for CRT on Twitter when many of its precepts would be very challenging to their broader politics. People want to believe that their political culture is normal and the other side is crazy, so they sand away the edges of the philosophies they’re espousing.

    In 6 months the CRT debate will be over and nobody will talk about it and we’ll be on to a new bullshit “conversation about race” that never admits to the fact that our supposed racial reckoning has accomplished nothing. Because the very purpose of all of this culture war is to distract from that failure.

    This situation can’t last, and when it comes to a head, it might get ugly. And for those radical Black critics the story might be bleaker still: the fact that the Democratic party so effortlessly incorporates their rhetoric suggests that it’s far less challenging than they might like to think. Jeet Heer, for one, thinks all that radical stuff can be dismissed out of hand, and this is where Black radicalism stands among liberals today.

    1 vote