[review of Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody (2020), by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay]
After Nazism, Communism, another very bad Western idea: applied postmodernism. Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay did a brilliant job describing, conceptualizing and structuring this new ideology that is taking over universities, businesses, politics, museums, media, tech and, ultimately, society. As far I am aware, this is the very first work that correctly conceptualizes what is happening right now, in the 202o’s West. A return to the primitive, the final deconstructing of the West, where the universal and the individual are rejected, and the tribe (specially, the race tribe) is elevated to the “de facto” sociological and existential unit. As the authors admit eventually, in the end, this is an attack on everything White, Male, Heterosexual. What the authors disappointingly fail to make, is the connection between the demographic transition happening now in the West, from white homogeneous nations to multiracial, multiethnic ones. Maybe this ideology is rising precisely because now there are many other ethnic groups competing for resources, wealth, power, prestige, in the same limit physical space of the old White ethnic tribes? Also, this book is brilliant at denouncing it, but it is also a testimony to why the fight against postmodern Critical Theories will ultimately fail: Helen and James spend several paragraphs explaining themselves, denouncing the “obvious oppression, racism, sexism” of modern western societies and complaining about the evil far-right. In other words, they are weak and feeble. Something that postmodernists are not. The Bolsheviks are getting closer to the palace.
“Power is everywhere, not because it embraced everything, but because it comes from everywhere.” For Foucault, power is present on all levels of society because certain knowledges have been legitimized and accepted as true. This leads people to learn to speak in these discourses, which further reinforces them. Power works like this “not because it has the privilege of consolidating everything under its invincible unity, but because it is produced from one moment to the next, at every point, or rather in every relation from one point to another.” Thus Power is a system we’re all constantly participating in by how we talk about things and what ideas we’re willing to consider legitimate, a system into which we are socialized. This is a process of power but not, as the Marxist philosophers had claimed, one in which religious or secular authorities enforce an ideology on the common people like a weight, pressing down on the proletariat. For Foucault, power operated more like a grid, running through all layers of society and determining what people held to be true and, consequently, how they spoke about it. This view has gone on to become one of the core beliefs of applied postmodernism and Social Justice activism today: unjust power is everywhere, always, and it manifests in biases that are largely invisible because they have been internalized as “normal.” Consequently, speech is to be closely scrutinized to discover which discourses it is perpetuating, under the presumption that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or other latent prejudices must be present in the discourses and thus endemic to the society that produces them. These “problematics” need to be identified and exposed, whether they manifest in a president’s address or in the decade-old adolescent tweet history of a relative nobody. The widespread slang term “woke” describes having become aware of and more able to set these “problematics”. [Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay (2020), Cynical Theories]
Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom. (Quran 22:52)
That He may make the suggestions thrown in by Satan, but a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and who are hardened of heart: verily the wrong-doers are in a schism far (from the Truth). (Quran 22:53)
Axl Rose at The Whisky, 1986.
[review of Permanent Record (2019), by Edward Snowden]
First things first, Snowden is a hero. He revealed the evil eye of Sauron of the United States Empire and how it spies, manipulates and uses the digital life of all world citizens against them, if it needs to. I am, and will always be, deeply grateful to Snowden, but I am disappointed with his autobiography. Unfortunately, many chapters of Permanent Record feel like an Hollywood political correct script. I did like his philosophical considerations about freedom, digital data and privacy, but the constant embellishment and dramatization of his personal and family life almost make his whistleblower revelations seem just like a side note. I was expecting more personal and insightful reflections about the surveillance systems he revealed. And some revelations about the institutions Snowden worked for are just distasteful and don’t bring any value to the conversation; I would never reveal some organizational aspects of my former employers and I never worked for anything remotely secret.