Exclusion & Refusal to Debate
How the dogmatism of the post-left leads to exclusionary behaviour and undermines the possibility of reasoned debate.
Sommaire en français Comment le dogmatisme de la post-gauche conduit à des comportements d’exclusion et sape la possibilité d’un débat raisonné.
I use the term “post-leftism” or “anti-Enlightenment pseudo-leftism” to refer to the political stance which has come to be known colloquially as the “woke.” The post-leftist mentality is a toxic soup of dubious ideologies such as intersectionality, cultural relativism, postmodernism, post-Marxism, neoracism, Islamolatry, etc. The post-leftist obsession with personal identities, its abandonment of universalism and especially its essentialization (i.e. racialization) of religious affiliation render it antisecular.
Post-leftists have a bad habit of combining a reasonable idea with a very unreasonable one, with disastrous consequences. But because one ingredient is reasonable, the habit gets far more respect than it deserves. Here are two examples of this.
(1) So-called “cancel culture” refers to people losing their jobs, reputation or even freedom because of some seriously bad behaviour. The cancellation itself is not the problem, because some people have indeed behaved badly enough that they deserve such consequences. One example that comes to mind is Bill Cosby who was guilty of many instances of sexual assault.
The problem is that some people get cancelled in circumstances which are dubious or downright unjustified. For example, James Damore was fired from Google for expressing the opinion that the lower number of women in certain software jobs may not be due entirely to discrimination, but may be caused partly by women’s preferences. He suggested, in a well written document, that there may be multiple causes of the observed lower female representation. That suggestion was evidently considered heretical by his employers and coworkers. Damore was dismissed from his job for expressing a perfectly reasonable opinion, with which one may disagree, but which certainly did not justify job loss.
(2) When two parties are in extreme disagreement, one side may refuse to engage in debate with the other. Sometimes a refusal to debate may be justified. For example, some scientists who occasionally engage in public debates have decided not to debate with creationists. They argue that such debates would be waste of their time and energy, because creationists typically do not debate in good faith. Furthermore, debating with them would only serve to legitimate the creationists’ point of view, lending then an air of scientific credibility which they do not deserve. Another example would be the refusal to debate with Nazis or neo-Nazis, because such a debate would probably be futile and risk legitimizing extremist views.
However, that is not how the most pious post-leftists apply this idea: rather, they simply treat anyone who disagrees with them as beyond the pale, unworthy of reasoned adversarial debate. Thus, they reject anyone and everyone as possible participants in a debate. The result is that such post-leftists simply hurl egregious insults such as racist, xenophobe, fascist, Nazi, etc., rather than formulate arguments.
The situations described above have two things in common:
- An initial reasonable idea (that negative consequences may be deserved; and that some debates are a waste of time) may, to a superficial observer, be enough to look like a justification. This gives post-leftists credibility which they do not deserve.
- In both cases, that initial idea leads nevertheless to disastrous results because of post-leftists’ dogmatism and their Manichaean mentality, i.e. their attitude that anyone or everyone who disagrees with them is pure evil. This lack of nuance leads to cancelling some people who have done little or nothing wrong. And it also results in smaller disagreements being treated as major “sins.”
In the above text, I occasionally use religious terms such as “heretical” or “pious” or “evil” or “sin.” This is intentional. I consider the post-left—or at least the most pious members of that social movement—to be parareligious. That is, they practice an ideology which, although not a religion in the strict sense of the word (because there is no explicit supernatural aspect), nevertheless behave in a way similar to the religious. The “woke” claim to be fighting for social justice, but what they are really advocating is a form of tribalism.
Next blog: The Great Canadian Euphemism