June 18, 2021

"'Political correctness' is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits..."

"... they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain... Its connotations are all negative to most middle-class Americans, including racial minorities, who see the world as ‘creative’ rather than ‘critical,’ ‘individual’ rather than ‘racial,’ ‘practical’ rather than ‘theoretical.’ Strung together, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American. [And critical race theory is not] an externally applied pejorative... it’s the label the critical race theorists chose themselves.”

Wrote Christopher Rufo to Benjamin Wallace-Wells, who produced this New Yorker article: "How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory/To Christopher Rufo, a term for a school of legal scholarship looked like 'the perfect weapon.'"

Is that headline correct? You know, I've got a thing about headlines that begin with "how." Are we really going to be told "how" or only "that"? But is it even true that Christopher Rufo invented the conflict over Critical Race Theory? The article shows the Rufo has been collecting information about anti-racism training sessions and, since late July 2020, communicating about what he's found and what he thinks of it.

Rufo didn't invent the term. He took a term that already had a life and he exposed it and critiqued it. What did he "invent"? He's accused of — credited with? — inventing the conflict about it. If something is already out there — having an effect — and someone comes along and raises questions about it, has he invented a conflict

This is what activists do. It's the same thing the Critical Race Theorists themselves did. They looked at how systems were operating, and they "invented a conflict" about it. They said the systems contained racism, furthered white supremacy, even covertly and unintentionally. Their technique was to "invent conflict" — wasn't it? — just as much as Rufo's technique was to invent conflict. If we're going to use the phrase "invent conflict," he invented conflict about the conflict they invented.


Ann Althouse said...

Dave Begley writes:

Over at Power Line, there is an excellent video by Rufo that clearly explains CRT and, inter alia, its Marxist origins. I highly recommend it.

This New Yorker hit piece is out there to discredit an effective opponent of CRT.

CRT will destroy America. Tribalism has never worked. Ask the people of Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia.

Yes, I started to watch it a few days ago, after someone recommended it. It's very slick — propaganda style. It takes the position that CRT *is* Marxist. It just "informs" us of that. The proponents of CRT won't accept that characterization and consider it McCarthyesque. There needs to be a deeper discussion of this matter, but I think this is the #1 thing actual CRT people won't talk about.

I knew a lot of the CRT people and Critical Legal Studies people back in the 80s and 90s, and I never heard Marxism used directly. I once said to a Critical Legal Studies professor, "I would like to know more about the relationship between Critical Legal Studies and Marxism," and she snapped at me: "There is none!" She seemed to want me to feel bad about even asking, like it was a profoundly stupid issue to bring up — to invent. And it's not as if I'd said "I think Critical Legal Studies and Marxism are the same thing." I just said I wanted to know more about the relationship between the 2 things. But that was verboten. I was Joe McCarthy even to consider musing about it.

Ann Althouse said...

Ed writes:

The trouble with CRT is that it isn't treated as a THEORY at all by most of its adherents--
it's treated as an accurate analysis of reality and guide to past, present, and future. That's
the similarity to Marxism as it was operationalized, and for much the same reason--
it provides easy, simple, (and wrong) modes of thought and speech (and eventually
behavior) for the resentful, lazy, and stupid.

Whether CRT and Marxism are identical, or even what the precise percentage of influence
is, are interesting historical and intellectual questions in themselves, but the divisive and
corrosive effects of both are matters of practical significance and effect.

Ann Althouse said...

"Christopher Rufo was a candidate for Seattle City Council about 5 years ago. Left-wing activists objected to that and threatened his family. He dropped out of the race and changed careers to be an investigative journalist. The left-wing activists should have left him alone; we probably would have lost. Now, he’s their worst enemy."

Ann Althouse said...

Skeptical Voter writes:

Messaging may be what it’s all about. My mind keeps going back to an old New Yorker cartoon where an ad agency executive is trying to explain why an ad campaign for dog food has failed. The executive wails, “The dogs don’t like the dog food”. Well Critical Race Theory, and a good bit of the other slop that our ideological and political “betters” are trying to sell us, just doesn’t taste good to the great unwashed Middle Americans. We don’t like the dog food they are trying to force on us. The American Academy that produced, among other nonsensical things, Critical Race Theory by and large suffers from inbreeding—I hesitate to call it “intellectual” inbreeding because it tends to be group think and an endless reinforcing and recycling loop of ideas without a whole lot of substance. And while I don’t want to go all Jukes and Kallikaks here, most of us know that inbreeding tends to produce idiots.

Worse yet that ideological inbreeding has spread to the media. Large swaths of the daily print media—whether out in flyover country, or along the progressive coastlines have shrunk in size—or simply gone out of business entirely. There’s an audience out there that just doesn’t like the dog food being served as the majority of the fresh simply slavishly follows and repeats whatever the NYT and Washington Post decide is “news”. . I’m both amused and saddened by the shrinking of the Los Angeles Times—my daily newspaper. It used to land on my driveway with a weighty thud in the morning—two or three pounds of ink and newsprint (albeit 2/3 of that was advertisements). These days it lands with a whisper. If it shrinks any further in size (and it will) it could be printed on what Tina Turner called “a skeeter’s tweeter” with room to spare.

Ann Althouse said...

LA_Bob writes:

'If we're going to use the phrase "invent conflict," he invented conflict about the conflict they invented.'

This brings to mind a "thing" in differential calculus called "the derivative." Rufo's invented conflict is the first derivative of the Critical Race Theorists' conflict. That makes it interesting to me. And conflict-worthy.

For the record, I'd never heard of Rufo until now. For me "critical race theory" is just another two- or three-word phrase invoked as though everyone knows what the invoker means. In reality, the phrase means different things to different people.

Think "affirmative action". Some people think "outreach to disadvantaged people" while others hear "hiring quotas". Still others hear "tokens". Or "vice-president in charge of sitting by the door".

Likewise, "right to choose", "right to life", "climate change", and "free speech" all have us talking past each other, because few (certainly in the popular media) really try to define common meaning. That may be as intended.

For me, Rufo or no Rufo, "critical race theory" is just "white people bad." Someone will have to do better than this before I can get on board.

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce writes:

"To me, this is different aspects of the same thing. Political Correctness is the use of public and peer pressure to control speech, and through that, control thought. Cancel Culture is one method used to impose Political Correctness. CRT is merely one of the areas in which Political Correctness is imposed. Ditto with the White Privilege, BLM, etc. As well as the memes that the election was fair, that Biden won fair and square, that COVID-19 naturally evolved, that it required masks, or a shutdown of our economy, or that it required mail-in voting last November. Or that there are more than two (or so - adding in hermaphrodites) genders Etc. The added aspect though of CRT is that it is, in many cases, being imposed on school aged kids through classroom indoctrination. And being in the classroom, the teachers imposing it have even more power to enforce speech that we mostly see outside schools, and the kids are often too young to dustinguish truth on their own."

Ann Althouse said...

Jack writes:

The intellectual underpinning of this movement is Critical Race Theory if you read what the intellectual leaders of the movement say. Just like a consumer product, CRT will be reframed and sold under many names in order to gain acceptance. So while a bar of soap is “new”, “fresh”, “better”, :”smelling good”, “gentle”, etc., CRT is portrayed as “social justice”, “reality”, “atonement of past sins”, “path to a better future”, “counter to white supremacy”, etc.

I tend to focus on the intellectual underpinnings. CRT is a reframing of Marxist dialectic of capitalists and worker, which never gained much traction in America, into a dialectic of oppressor and oppressed defined by race and not socio-economic status. In that sense it is clearly Marxist, not that being Marxist is a problem in itself. The problem is that dialectics don’t permit any resolution except by one side or the other winning. So conflict never ends until the side with the weaker will gives in. That is why CRT is so lethal to society - its goal is a society with endless conflict but with their side in control. Martin Luther King is spinning in his grave.