Education

Intersectionality and Popper’s Paradox

Conservative rationalist Karl Popper wrote in The Open Society and Its Enemies that “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.” In a society that tolerates intolerant forces, these forces will eventually take advantage of the situation and bring about the downfall of the entire society. The philosophical foundation of this belief can trace its roots to Plato’s ideas of the republic or Machiavelli’s paradox of ruling by love or fear, and a practical example of this in action is jihadists taking advantage of human rights laws. Nothing should be absolute and without reasonable boundaries, not even freedom. In light of this, there are three observable, identifiable ways in which this latest fad of intersectionality is taking advantage of and destroying the rational enlightenment roots of Western academia from within. The approaches are, namely, infiltration, subversion, and coercion.

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On the face of it, infiltration at first sounds conspiratorial and even counterintuitive. There is, of course, no grand conspiracy or a cabal with a smoke-filled headquarters in the Swiss Alps led by a bald, one-eyed man stroking a cat. The roots of this recent phenomenon, however, can be traced back to Central Europe. At the height of the Cold War, Western Marxists foresaw that the opportunity for an armed socialist revolution was bleak. Gramscian Eurocommunists like Marcuse and Dutschke developed what is now known as the long march through the institutions, wherein every building block of society, from professions, business, and academia to the armed forces, needed to be infiltrated by agents of change from within.

The 7th Congress of the leftist party Marxist Student Organisation Spartacus (MSB), related to the DKP (German Communist Party) took place in October 1981 in Bremen (Germany).

In modern times, the rise of interdisciplinary research aided by intersectional, feminist, and social justice pedagogy, has followed this same template. For example, in a 2016 paper in the feminist journal Hypatia, a pedagogical priority was designed by which women’s studies departments could train students to infiltrate disciplines as “symbolic ‘viruses’ that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields.” Likewise, in another case, two Canadian professors designed what they themselves claim to be “Trojan horse” pedagogy, where social justice themes and ideas are included as interdisciplinary research for unassuming students.

Similarly, middle school teachers are teaching social justice while teaching math. In another instance, a feminist academic wants to destroy the “traditional lens” of looking at “white-hetero-patriarchal” science by revisionism through a feminist lens. Hundreds of well-documented similar instances can be found littered across the Internet.

Subversion, as the second approach, requires interdisciplinary research to dilute the core expertise of any subject, thereby giving an equal platform and standing to unscientific, dogmatic, and ideological literature alongside established scientific methods. An example would be one of Cordelia Fine or Angela Saini’s polemics now being accepted as established peer-reviewed science.

The dilution of academic fields is not where it ends however. The promotion of transgenderism as settled science and arbitrary pronouns like them/theirs being used in schools and universities are further examples of subversion. In every Western university (including where I research), the casual usage of made up pronouns is being promoted by a small minority of academics and students. One risks being marked as a bigot if one chooses to question or debate such arbitrary policies. Every university has Marxist and feminist reading groups and departments that essentially control events, doctoral training modules that include methods that prefer non-positivist research, and journal publications wherein the chances of one being censored are higher if he or she dares to question groupthink.

The third approach involves coercion, or simply the tyranny of minority. A handful of students, instigated by a handful of academics, especially from intersectional disciplines and Marxist-feminist-post-colonial and gender studies backgrounds and departments, now attempt to dictate what can or cannot be taught, discussed, or even debated at a university. The cases of deplatforming and shouting down Richard Dawkins, Christina Hoff Sommers, Ben Shapiro, and Charles Murray are already evident, as are well-documented incidents at Berkeley and Mizzou. The recent threats to Third World Quarterly for publishing something that went against the  hitherto received wisdom of post-colonial literature is yet another example.

The “decolonize” madness currently found at elite Western centers of excellence, such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Yale, are still more case studies of coercion, more often than not led by students and ideologues posing as professors. In one act of censorship, a group of university professors came together to cancel a play that was critical of intersectionality, identity politics, and Black Lives Matter, arguing that it was done for the emotional well-being of their students. Similarly, an essay in Heritage by a Boise State University professor that questioned the intellectual history of the meaning of gender was shut down by university officials after an outcry that the article represented “the root of genocide”. Two simple patterns of this coercion emerge. First, no argumentation or debate is deemed permissible, and second, there are always a handful of academics who are instigating.

Recently, British journalist Toby Young had his article deleted from the Teach First website after he questioned what is realistically achievable for schools in reducing achievement gaps. The censorship suggested that even mentioning well-established psychometric research is now a transgression and liable to be silenced as it might be uncomfortable for certain ideologies. My fellow Quillette and Telegraph columnist, Charlie Peters, recently highlighted an incident where a straightforward debate in a class was considered invalid because the opinion was uttered by a Caucasian male. This is not uncommon or simply a British university problem. On the contrary, race and gender now form the only basis of validation determining whether or not many ideas or speakers are considered worthy. Similarly, in the Soviet Union, one’s ideas would be judged depending on which social and economic strata one was born into. In the same way, a hierarchy is slowly forming at universities. Recently, a tweet of a U-Penn tutor about the tactic of progressive stacking caused a great deal of furor. She made a tactical error in tweeting it, but it gave the rest of us a glimpse into the discriminatory teaching practices that go on in certain sections of academia, including admissions.

Of course the silent majority of university students, professors, and taxpayers who fund these courses are not as ideologically invested as their radical colleagues. But the silent majority are also usually irrelevant, as the history of humanity illustrates. In the Soviet Union, the majority of the Russian civilians were not Stalinists nor were most of the Chinese civilians hardcore Maoist Red guards. Today in the West, intersectional departments are acting as commissars who are attempting to set the terms of the debate. They are increasingly framing opposition to their ideas as violence against their personhood. In select institutions, gullible administrators are adding fuel to the fire by actually paying students to monitor each other for micro-aggressions and other markers of ideological impurity. Rudi Dutschke would be proud.

***

As Victor Davis Hanson and Roger Scruton pointed out in their books, the first casualty of radicalism is classical education. In India, where I come from, it was moderate liberals as well as imperial conservatives who wanted the British Raj to establish science colleges to promote Renaissance values in order to counter the dogma of medieval religions. Today in the West, classical education is under threat by intersectional and quasi-Marxist disciplines such as post-colonialism and gender studies which are trying to change the rules of debate by stifling viewpoints, hijacking disciplines, and peddling pseudoscientific gibberish. As Popper’s paradox predicts, the infiltration, subversion and coercion of Western academics is now occurring because the tolerance of liberal academia has enabled intolerance to flourish.

Filed under: Education

by

Sumantra Maitra is Doctoral Researcher on Great power politics and Neo-Realism, with a special focus on Russia at the University of Nottingham, UK. He writes for War on the Rocks, The National Interest, and is a regular analyst for The Centre for Land Warfare Studies, India. He holds a Masters of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a Masters of International Studies, both with distinctions.

25 Comments

  1. Grumpy Liberal says

    One of the difficulties with these issues is the ease with which people will assume the worst of you if you resist in any way. The Motte and Bailey technique (which I learned about from Claire Lehmann of this site) is a common method of argumentation which is used. For example, if you question some draconian policy such as a quota or mandatory diversity training, people will assume that you are opposed to women being in science, or being nice to minorities, or whatever.

      • No it’s subtler than that. You have your motte, a strong position where everyone agrees (like, “women are people”) but isn’t politically useful, and a weak position that’s more controversial (like “we should police micro agressions”) but furthers your position.
        You use your weak position (bailey) in most debates, but whenever someone tries to argue about it, you retreat to your motte to discredit their argument (“what, you don’t think women are people ??”).

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/03/all-in-all-another-brick-in-the-motte/

      • It’s slightly more subtle than that.

        You make some ridiculous argument or statement but, when challenged, claim that you’re arguing for something reasonable.

        An example you might hear from militant feminists spouting some anti-scientific mumbo-jumbo, then when called up on it responding “I was just trying to help you do better science”.

        Note the second argument doesn’t need to bear any resemblance to the first.

    • David Lammers says

      A good example of this came recently when Google stifled the essay on diversity and fired its author. Any opposition to this closed-society action was derided as anti-feminist.

  2. Is it plausible that this depth of confusion is caused by the situation that words like “racist” and “bigot” do not necessarily have specific definitions?

    • And also that usage of words like “nazi”, “fascist”, etc and the words you mentioned is used all over the place without correct context, thereby slowly eroding their weight.
      Generally buzzwords of this sorts seem to be interpreted differently by many actors on the scene – thus increasing confusion.

  3. poltiser says

    I think it is a very time to “deconstruct” postmodernism
    😉

    Thank you for an interesting article!

  4. Kevin says

    This article is underdeveloped. The wave of repression is benefitting the ruling class. Therefore left is the new right.

    • Taupe Pope says

      Trying to label it ‘left’ or ‘right’ is unnecessary political gamesmanship. Those are broad umbrella terms which obscure matters more than the specific term ‘intersectionality’. It’s not like the whole of the left or the right is invested in one side or the other in this conflict. Religion zealots are quite happy to side with anti-colonialists and marxist feminists in attacking Classical Western institutions and bodies of knowledge.

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  6. They can march through all the institutions they like as fortunately you can still say what you like around the kitchen table.
    So march aside amateurs, teas on & we’re onto you……….

  7. GildedDogs says

    Never seen an article jump from conspiracy to conspiracy so quickly. What ridiculous shite

  8. Hype. The incidents cited are all insignificant. Oxford was maybe more newsworthy but it only involved a minority of students and was single-issue. As far as I remember, it simply consisted of students saying the statue should be removed- nobody actually tried to destroy or damage it. A couple of students at a few universities making utterances that the press pounces on does not a worldwide Marxist Feminist Post-Colonial conspiracy make.

  9. Some of the comments seem to follow the same argument techniques mentioned by others. Ex, those are minor incidences the press pounced on, but that is the very nature of the infiltration. Gender dysphoria and homosexuality are minority traits yet they are presented as commonplace in the media and entertainment. Mass shootings are equally rare and have been shown to NOT be increasing yet the media presents the story that we are living in the streets of Grand Theft Auto.

    Some published research from a decade ago talked about diffusion of information in societies and how culture drove trust for news sources. The focus of that research were African tribespeople but I think it fits here. It’s why one group believes what the main stream media says while also explaining why younger generations seem to believe everything they read on their Facebook feed and yet a third generation discredits all of the above because they cross-check. The point is that human behavior provides the infiltration vector which is being exploited by these “insignificant incidents” which are then pounced on. Remember all the post-election hysterics and stories about racism and KKK and attacks on Muslims? Have you noticed that the news reports of all the guilty-for-false-reports results of those investigations rarely make anything beyond their local news? Those were also few in # but the press coverage blew them up the same way they have the shooting of unarmed black youths.

  10. your article makes many good points and i agree there is a very serious problem, however a couple of points: the words their and them have a much longer history of use than his/her, several centuries in fact. There was quite a struggle over the introduction of his/her over their/them during his/her introduction, you might see Steven Pinker on this. Secondly, there is a very serious problem with discipline boundaries and given those problems it is not really sensible to blanket support them. One of the serious problems in what most people think of as science, and there are a number of them, is that too stringent a focus on a single subject makes large picture thinking nearly impossible. Single-subject researchers tend to be myopic and to understand little outside their field. This is particularly acute in the study of whole ecological systems and reflects part of the reason that Lovelock’s Gaia theory has met with such emotional antagonism. In a world that is as interconnected as ours is whole system thinking demands training or at minimum deep familiarity with multiple areas of study and an ability to think beyond discipline boundaries. A final point along this line: Karl Popper did not think much of Plato, in fact he considered his thinking dangerous to democracy. Plato, rather than Socrates, created the intellectual foundation for rule by elites and a corresponding suspicion, even denigration, of the common people. Not a position I am comfortable with. He, overall, thought them “deplorables.” Which leads to the final point with which i agree with you though i think you could have set better intellectual foundations for it. Raul Hilberg, the holocaust historian, has been succinct on this issue (as has Popper and other writers such as Rita Felski). Hilberg has noted that the movement to anti-democratic and oppressive government always begins the same way: with intellectuals. They create a rational, intellectual foundation for their way of thought which, slowly, begins to gather purchase within a culture. The next step is the implementation of their thought by legislatures. The next step is the use of the power of the state through policing to enforce those beliefs. The final step is mob action to enforce it culturally, in essence mob rule. I have not seen an historical exception to this. This phenomenon is perceivable both on the left and right, in the current climate among liberals toward politically correct speech and censoring of speech they find repugnant. It is clearly seen among the American right since Reagan – they have spent decades creating an intellectual alternative to FDR’s approach to government in order to create the kind of government they wanted, which did not include civil rights or government support for the poor or, as has become apparent, the middle class. There is a welcome, and overdue, corrective occurring in which moderates, finally, are starting to actively establish or re-establish an intellectual foundation for culture based on our connective humanness as opposed to those based on difference.

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  12. Carl Sageman says

    I have been researching many of these topics carefully. This article superbly encapsulates many of the significant issues we face today. For further reading, may I suggest watching “silence u part 2” by “we he Internet” for Yale’s extremist students where thousands marched (ie. this was far beyond one one or two people as some other Quilletters have suggested, however, this topic is continually under-reported across western media). Also, there are the Berkeley campus riots, with rockets fired at police, a car upturned and shop fronts smashed. This was because a right-leaning talker was invited to speak. While I may not share some of this talker’s views, he is one of many who have been silenced, as the article states.

    Also read the article by IPA titled “Our Universities Value Identity Politics Over Western Civilisation — And Here’s The Proof” by Gideon Rozner, showing just how far identity politics (intersectionalism) has infiltrated Australian Universities. The article states “history departments’ fixation with issues like gender, race and sexuality is a matter of ‘market forces’, rather than a product of design” and “Professor Burnard feels the need to own up to his gender and race before mentioning his qualifications or expertise in the subject at hand” when Professor Bernard tried to dispel a previous article about identity politics, which is also an essential read (see below).

    The reaction from Professor Burnard was in response to IPA who covered intersectionalism in an article titled “The Rise Of Identity Politics: History In Australian Universities” by Bella d’Arbrera in which a “report systematically reviews the 746 history courses offered across 35 Australian universities in 2017. It finds that undergraduate history degrees in Australia have become dominated by identity politics – where subjects are reduced to class, gender and race – to the detriment of important teachings on Western Civilisation.”

    Ultimately, intersectionalism can only be sustained where logic and reason are ignored to promote intersectional ideologies. This is required as intersectional arguments do not stand up to scrutiny and are often contradicted with indepth studies such as “Sex Differences In Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures”.

    Key players such as Steve Bannon, former advisor to Donald Trump are on record as saying “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.” (apnews). One such example of Bannon’s insight was confirmed when a leading Democrat (Magdeline Leader) was caught out in a Daily Caller article “DNC Official Says She Doesn’t Want To Recruit ‘Cisgender Straight White Males'”.

    This issue is systemic in Australia, in the US, UK, Canada. You will also notice that with the exception of The Australian, “We Risk Going Down As Age That Forgot History” by JANET ALBRECHTSEN, the media almost universally ignore this topic.

    For an excellent case study, research how the entire mainstream media industry vilified James Damore for his “screed” (Google memo), where all expert analysis was ignored by every single mainstream media outlet. Quillette identitied four experts, plus, weigh in from Jordan Peterson (a high profile psychologist, ex-Harvard) also supported James. Why was this expert analysis universally ignored? Systemic intersectionalism in the media. This article at Quillette rightly focuses on education because it plants the seeds. However, the media waters and nurtures the seeds of intolerance, planted by academia. Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, even lower profile campuses like Brown are involved.

    In summary, the situation is dire. The problem is systemic. Governments, academic institutions and the media have aligned to promote intersectionalism as the expense of logic and reason and history.

    OBS: IPA identified that history departments had been dominated. Why history? “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”. The man who coined this phrase also wrote a dystopian masterpiece titled “1984”.

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  14. The author presents a compelling assessment. A faction of the left (the majority one by all appearance) has created the self-replicating Cancer-Frankenstein that is colonizing one host after the other: Cultural Studies, Multicultural Education, big part of the Humanities…. With its unholy marriage to alt-reality postmodernism it looks like they are now dominant in academia (outside of the sciences). All that which it hasn’t yet invaded and metastasized is white supremacist, nazi, anti-feminist, etc. (this is to shut you up). But at the same time, it’s important not to overstate the crisis. It will take a long and hard debate to recover, first some sanity. People have have to speak up, not let them shut you up. Thank you for this essay.

  15. Several of your sources, like the “social justice trojan horse” classes offered do not link to evidence of such courses. Maybe they dropped those courses from the website or changed the names, but do you have archived links?

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