Intentional Confusion and Deconstructing Words: Don’t Play Rhetorical Calvinball
Note: Click on images to see them clearly in their full resolution. (Some are blurry by default.)
A Brief History of Using Language for Control
There’s been a recent kerfuffle about 2+2 not equaling 4. In beginning to discuss this topic, it’s important to know that much of the blowup is related to queer theory, which is a subset of critical theories that has been heavily influenced by critical feminist studies.
Does this sound innocuous? It’s not. Before we get to the math debacle, it’s important to understand the nature of thought and theory, and how we got to today. It’s almost guaranteed that the pervasiveness of what’s happening is far greater than you realized. I believe that there is at least one important thing that you need to do, which I’ll address at the end of this post. For now, let’s approach the history of what’s happening. This is vastly simplified.
- 1.) Marx. Everything is a struggle between societal classes.
- 2.) Frankfurt School of thought (1937), ideas hold more power and dominant narratives must be interrogated. (Max Horkheimer)
- 3.) 1950s-1960s, Lacan’s Linguistic Theory, language is privileged, can be used to oppose preceding structuralism.
- 4.) 1960s-70s, Derrida and Foucault, postmodernism and post-structuralism. Cultures can be changed by attacking words and tearing down meaning.
- 5.) 1980s-present (not completely novel, but the most visible growth). Poststructuralism is coupled with something new, primarily critical theory. Whereas poststructuralism was concerned with tearing down and analyzing meaning, critical theory saw new ways to power. Not content to merely tear down meaning, critical theorists also purposefully built up un-meaning to prevent societal immune responses to idea pathogens.
One important example of critical theory is the Pulitzer Prize winning “1619 Project.” It tears down the history of the United States and rebuilds a fake narrative (through storytelling) or the US actually being founded as a slaveocracy in 1619. This is un-meaning because it’s fiction. The leader of the “project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, admits that it’s fake. However, it is now being used in schools and other institutions to help people “reconceptualize whiteness.”
Below, Nikole Hannah-Jones admits that what people are now calling “history” was in fact just storytelling. Just making things up. Yet you’ll see the 1619 facts now on your facebook, instagram, and posted by friends. And as I said above, your kids will now be taught these “facts,” too. But if you look deeper, you’ll see that Nikole doesn’t believe in objective truth. I’ve commented here, here, and here, that on atheism, many conclude that a byproduct of such a reality is that knowledge of objective truth is impossible. However, with post-structuralism and critical theory, the destruction of objective truth is not merely a by-product, but a goal.
So now you have a primer on the most basic, highly-reduced aspects of what academics term “alternative ways of knowing.” With that done, let’s look at some application of using language in the ways prescribed above.
Seizing the Means of Cultural Production
More important than Marx’s vision of seizing the means of economic production is seizing the means of cultural production. If you own the culture, you’ve already killed off the resistance. (In theory; in application it never works like that.) This means of seizing culture, which happens by seizing language, has been going on for quite some time, so I’d love to show you some receipts.
By changing a man’s words, you can change what a man thinks. “What do you mean that you don’t support Antifa? So you’re PRO-fascist?” “What do you mean that you don’t support our organization? Don’t you agree that Black Lives Matter?” Those are a couple of simple examples. Psychologically, we know that it’s easier to control people if you get them to verbally sign on to something mild and support it. Later, when they find out that there’s much more and it’s far worse, they’re less likely to back out. For that and other reasons, controlling language is important.
Here it is in action. I was doing some reading this and found evidence from 1988 that this was being pursued by academics who actually wrote it out so that it was clear. In the case of the pictures below, the topic was primarily about sex and gender (does 2+2=4?). The important bits are underlined and highlighted for you. Look at how clever it is.
Notice the language: confound, disrupt, render ambiguous. What is truth, right? Deny binary oppositions, even. These academics, who are primarily neo-Marxian, have designed these thoughts to defeat the immune system of the West, and especially of the United States. (Free speech, etc.) They are quite literally designed to be parasitic. Do you think that I’m fibbing?
In case you think I’m exaggerating, let me share where they pulled back the curtain a little too much. The below is taken from “Women’s Studies as Virus: Institutional Feminism, Affect, and the Projection of Danger.” (2016, Fahs and Karger), where the authors explain the value of making these ideas parasitic, much as Joan did above.
This paper theorizes that one future pedagogical priority of women’s studies is to train students not only to master a body of knowledge but also to serve as symbolic “viruses” that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields. In this essay, we first posit how the metaphor of the virus in part exemplifies an ideal feminist pedagogy, and we then investigate how both women’s studies and the spread of actual viruses (e.g., Ebola, HIV) produce similar kinds of emotional responses in others. (abstract)
Women’s studies as an infectious discipline—one that serves not only as a virus that attaches to the “host” bodies of other disciplines and disrupts and infects them, but one that fundamentally alters the cell’s blueprint and directs it to a new purpose—might accurately describe the kinds of work that the field could prioritize and embrace (or, in any case, should prioritize and should embrace). Women’s studies students and the fields they infect and disrupt both gain from such an arrangement. As Clough & Puar (2012) noted, “In its replications, the virus does not remain the same, nor does that which it confronts and transits through” (p. 14). Just as women’s studies has gained much from its institutional status, it has also lost some of its “bite” (a problem this essay takes up). Further, if women’s studies also works to train students to become their own kinds of viruses, capable of infecting, disrupting, unsettling, and altering their own spaces (at work, home, in relationships, and in their communities), perhaps framing women’s studies as dangerous may actually prove useful and interesting. Dangerous things, after all, transform not only through destruction, but also through imagining and redirecting toward something new. (pp. 945–946)
That is what critical theory is designed to do. Tear down meaning; confuse, confound, disrupt. With that done, build up un-meaning. These people tend to end up being rather anti-capitalist, of course. Below is the head of BLM at Oxford; it’s not confined to America. They really are pretty blunt in their goals.
None of this popped up overnight, by the way, but it will infect you, your kids, your loves ones, and others if you are not on the lookout for it. Below is a receipt with one of the leading, old-guard poststructuralists bragging about infecting academia. Taking academia, these people who deny truth have been able to seize institutions, thereby taking the means of cultural production.
2+2=5 and Math
Below is a screenshot of people saying 2+2=5. You read that right…2+2=5. Among them are teachers, educators, and professors who plan on teaching this stuff to your children. So let’s talk about what’s going on here, why they’re doing this, and how we can stop it.
Notice exactly what is being said, as what’s going on is exactly what you saw in the paragraphs above. They don’t say 2+2=4 is FALSE. They don’t say 2+2 always equals 5. Instead, they claim (among other things):
- A. 2+2 can sometimes equal 5,
- B. That 2+2 doesn’t always equal 4.
Please notice that these critical theorists are NOT arguing that 2+2 always equals 5, nor are they contending that 2+2 never equals 4. Rather, they believe there is no universally correct answer to “2+2” that is objectively true in all situations. They aren’t FALSIFYING 2+2=4, they are DECONSTRUCTING it.
Again, no objective truth, disrupting language, and tearing down meaning.
How does deconstruction work? Deconstruction works by attacking at the level of MEANING. This means that words, ideas, concepts, discourses, art, texts, symbols; whatever is used to MEAN something or communicate a concept gets deconstructed. Thus deconstruction “destabilizes meaning.”
Critical theorists destabilize meaning because when a thing’s meaning is not stable, clear, and defined the meaning of the thing can be redefined and distorted. Then people can come to any conclusion they want about it. Here are examples from art, architecture, and international relations:
Critical theorists believe that racism, sexism, and bigotry are baked into the language and concepts we use. Since we think and communicate with language, if the language we use is inherently racist and sexist, then our communication and the ideas we communicate will be racist and sexist. This extends into Math. The theorists argue objectivity and any either/or binary about truth (answers are either true or false) are part of white supremacy. Since math uses objectivity and thinks things can be either true or false, math is rooted in white supremacy. Take a look:
It goes deeper than that. The Smithsonian put out this infographic which uses critical theory to attack “whiteness.” Notice how incredibly racist it really is, as it ends up communicating a belief that that people of color have, believe, or practice:
- No individuality.
- No self-reliance.
- No independence.
- No reward for success.
- No families.
- No science.
- No objectivity.
- No rationality.
- No work ethic.
- No Christianity.
- No respect for authority.
- No ownership of goods.
- No plans for the future.
- Instant gratification.
- Progress isn’t best.
- Tomorrow won’t be better.
This is Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez. She thinks math teachers need political knowledge (she thinks math is political), not just knowledge of teaching math. She created a type of math where humans are no longer-centered. Soon we’ll look at what she teaches students. One paper of hers, which I’ll review (which has as its keywords diversity and equity), begins with her quoting Dr. Kimmerer, who states that science and traditional knowledge can come together by listening to plants. I feel the need to state that this is, in fact, a real published academic paper.
Dr. Gutierrez also says the idea math can solve anything is a fallacy. She asks why math:
- 1. values logic over intuition and asks the student to use logic instead of intuition, and
- 2. teaches people to critique reasoning rather than just appreciate it various reasoning attempts.
The answer to 1 and 2 above appears to simply be “because it is math. She then suggests that rather than learning “dominant math,” students might instead go outside the learn to appreciate the patterns in bird songs. Again. I must stress that this is in fact a real paper.
Dr. Gutierrez also states directly that she is not trying to get closer to truth. This is a stunning admission. This woman is a tenured professor of education at The University of Illinois and she comes right out at says that she is not trying to find truth. However, at a symposium for educators at UMass recently, teachers were taught to in fact tear down truth and the “superiority of science.” The term for this is “decolonization.” It leads to storytelling being above truth.
The above was modified from Wokal Distance’s original explanation.
2+2=4 and Sex: A Test for Vulva Owners and Men
These educational tenets, as seen in the video in the previous paragraph, are becoming quite common. Narrative supersedes truth.
The 2+2 “debate” sprang up over not just gender, but genetic sex. Many institutions have been captured by critical theory, including the ACLU. Can you spot what is being done to language in the pictures below? Do you believe the claims? Think about what we learned upthread. What do you notice?
What Can You Do?
Deconstructed meaning can suck you in and warp your mind. It’s meant to. Constructed un-meaning can be even more harmful. In his Reason debate with Dr. Stephen Hicks on postmodernism in society, Dr. Thaddeus Russell, a poststructuralist, remarked,
⮑ “There is nothing in my book, in my work, anywhere, that is true. I never speak the truth. I’m telling stories. I’m telling new stories; different stories…you can like them or not. I don’t think they are any more true than any other story—about the holocaust, about World War II…
Now I use evidence that other people use against them, or against the game that they’re playing, but I don’t claim that there is an absolute universal truth that is going to apply for all time. That would be highly arrogant of me!”
I’m hammering this home: these people have been taught this for decades. They’ve been teaching it for decades: confuse, disrupt, dismantle. They truly believe that there are no objective truths, because they do not believe that the mind has evolved to know truth, or that it can even be known, period. Subsequently, they are not aiming to play fair with you. Calvin in the comic “Calvin and Hobbes” sucked at sports and could never win, so he came up with “Calvinball,” a game where he was always changing the rules and making them up on the fly, so that he’d always win. In much the same way, these people have not won debate or culture by building up people and organizations, so they now play rhetorical Calvinball, changing words and tearing down. Don’t let them fool you: they don’t believe that morality is useful or real. In the same debate, Dr. Russell admitted this, saying,
⮑ “Morality to me is a form of superstition…it is the idea that something applies again to all people in all times and all places forever; that is a religious idea. I hope that’s clear. I hope it’s clear that you can’t prove that. That is a hell of an arrogant claim that is very similar to what you find in the Bible.
So what I tell people; what I’ve told my students has for decades been, “Don’t worry about what is morally good or morally wrong; figure out what you want; what you value.”
It’s the politics of self-interest that I’m preaching here…You don’t need to make moral claims, do you?”
Ignore all the fluff words. You’ll have friends taken in by this mind-virus. They won’t even have any mastery of the subject history, being instead useful idiots. Their minds will be entirely parasitized by these ideas. Don’t attack the complex, constructed facades of unmeaning that they ramble on about. Realize instead that the foundations are important. Approach them like this:
- Wrong: There is no truth. (Dr. Russell)
- Right: “A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.”―Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: An Introduction and Survey