Tuesday 22 June 2021

No Questions Please – We’re Revolutionaries!

The Kids Were All Right: By stripping away all moral and practical grounds for unified struggle, Critical Race Theory can only strengthen the elites’ grip on contemporary society. The abdication of School Strike For Climate Auckland offers a textbook example of this phenomenon. The moral force of the nation’s secondary students in the fight against climate change has been significantly compromised. And through it all the mainstream news media has had nothing to say.

PERHAPS THE MOST ASTONISHING aspect of School Strike For Climate Auckland’s (SSFCA) spectacular self-cancellation was the media’s lack of interest. Oh sure, they picked up the group’s news release, and made its contents known to the public, but that was it. There appeared to be a general reluctance, extending across the whole of the mainstream news media, to investigate the story in any depth. No attempt was made to flesh-out and explain what, to most New Zealanders, was a jarring and baffling item of news. The same media which had welcomed the School Strike For Climate Movement, and praised its achievements, accepted the curious demise of its largest section without serious investigation or comment.

The only explanation for such an egregious dereliction of journalistic duty is that mainstream editors and reporters were fearful of the territory into which any serious investigation of the event was bound to lead them. They would have to explain why a group of young and idealistic secondary-school students, people they had written glowing stories about, had somehow been persuaded that they, and their organisation, were racist. They would have been required to question whether the Maori and Pasifika groups into whose hands SSFCA had vouchsafed the climate fight were capable of maintaining the political momentum generated by Greta Thunberg’s global movement.

Most of all, they would have had to help ordinary New Zealanders understand the extraordinary self-abasement contained in the group’s news release:

We apologise for the hurt, burnout, and trauma. We also apologise for the further trauma caused by our slow action to take responsibility. We recognise that this apology can never be enough to make up for our actions on top of years of systemic and systematic oppression, racism, and the silencing of those who are the most affected by climate change. This apology is just one of our steps in taking accountability for our actions.

What could possibly have made these young people say such extraordinary things about themselves, and about the movement they had worked so hard to build?

Unwilling to go there, a more politically savvy mainstream news media would simply have ignored the news release. Certainly, if your intention is to let a story die, then the last place you should put it is on RNZ’s “Morning Report” or the NZ Herald’s website. That, however, is where the statement ended up – in all its woke glory. Tens-of-thousands of astonished New Zealanders heard it, or read it, and said: “What on Earth?” But, from the editors and reporters who had salved what remained of their journalistic consciences by broadcasting and publishing SSFCA’s words, no answers came – just enthusiastic endorsements of the organisation’s actions from indigenous activists.

Those astonished New Zealanders seeking an explanation for SSFCA’s actions need look no further than the American-born ideology known as “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). According to the University of California, Los Angeles, Luskin School of Public Affairs:

CRT recognises that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalisation of people of colour. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and colour-blind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle of self-interest, power and privilege.

Now, while you might need to be a professor to write the above definition of CRT, you most certainly do not need a PhD to grasp how CRT works in practice. In a nutshell, CRT operates according to the principle: “If you’re white, you cannot be right.”

Naturally, in the United States the historical force credited with creating white privilege and white supremacy is Slavery. In New Zealand, however, the place of Slavery has been taken by Colonisation. It is not to white slavers, but white settlers, that the followers of CRT look for the root of all Aotearoa’s evils.

Leftists who object that white workers will always have more in common with brown workers than they will with a white ruling-class that oppresses all workers, get no joy from the followers of CRT. White elites may derive material benefits from their dominant position, but working-class whites derive equally important psychological benefits from their position in the racial hierarchy. According to CRT, the existence of a whole category of human-beings deemed immutably inferior to the white race, makes it easier for white workers to accept their own socio-economic subordination. At a stroke, Marxism is reduced to just another prop for white supremacy!

By stripping away all moral and practical grounds for unified struggle, CRT can only strengthen the elites’ grip on contemporary society. The abdication of SSFCA offers a textbook example of this phenomenon. The moral force of the nation’s secondary students in the fight against climate change has been significantly compromised. Doubts and resentments will spread swiftly through the SSFC Movement, making it a pretty safe bet that the turnout for any future demonstrations will be only a fraction of its former efforts. If the oil companies had set out to sabotage the domestic movement against anthropogenic global warming they could hardly have done a better job than these local adherents of CRT.

Black American progressives have themselves noted the dangerous ironies inherent in CRT. As Mitchell Dean and Daniel Zamora note in their recent Guardian article “Today, the self is the battlefield of politics. Blame Michel Foucault”:

Despite the ever-growing presence of this politics, its shortcomings are growing clear. “White guilt and black outrage,” as Cedric Johnson, professor of African American studies, has recently pointed out, “have limited political currency, and neither has ever been a sustainable basis for building the kind of popular and legislative majorities needed to actually contest entrenched power in any meaningful way” ….. In fact, he added, this “militant expression of racial liberalism” will “continue to defer the kind of public goods that might actually help” all those who are “routinely surveilled, harassed, arrested, convicted, incarcerated and condemned as failures”. With material stakes of politics growing ever more urgent many in the liberal centre would much prefer us to busy ourselves with loud rituals announcing our inner battles.

It would be unfair, however, to heap too much blame upon the young students at the heart of this story. One can only imagine the emotional intensity of the “struggle sessions” required to induce the activist core of SSFCA’s abject capitulation. During the infamous “Cultural Revolution” of the 1960s, the brutality of similar sessions, at the hands of Mao Zedong’s fanatical “Red Guards”, was sufficient to break Communist Party veterans of the “Long March”. What chance had an well-meaning, idealistic bunch of middle-class Auckland kids against such tactics?

We conclude, therefore, where we began. In its coverage of the SSFCA’s self-immolation, the mainstream news media touched upon none of the issues featured in this post. Why? Because, bluntly, any such investigation would be severely career-limiting for the young (or old) mainstream journalist who undertook it. This is unfortunate, because arising out of this story are a number of important questions.

Does it mean, for example, that in spite of being disadvantaged and under-resourced by colonisation, and only responsible for a small part of the local climate problem (which tends to be correlated with income, as well as population) Maori and Pasifika will also now bear the burden of solving the whole of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s climate change problem? Does it mean that Pakeha climate change activists will no longer accept historical responsibility for persuading the country’s farmers – overwhelmingly Pakeha for obvious colonial reasons – to do their bit to reduce biogenic methane and plant more trees? (Hat-tip to Dr Chris Harris.)

Don’t hold your breath for the answers. Like it or not, the precepts of CRT are now accepted as holy writ in the newsrooms of the nation. Guilty white journalists may cheer-on the Revolution as loudly as they wish, but they must not, under any circumstances, interrogate it.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 18 June 2021.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

For Christ's sake Chris they're kids. Do you not remember being young and stupid? Just at the moment you're coming across as if you were born old. :)

In a nutshell, CRT operates according to the principle: “If you’re white, you cannot be right.”

No it doesn't. Some individuals might say this, but almost certainly they themselves don't know a great deal about critical race theory. You should be criticising the individuals, not the theory.
At the risk of invoking Godwin, Hitler said we should kill all the Jews. I wouldn't dream of blaming all conservatives for this.
The problem with conservatives and CRT is that they want racism to be individual acts, because then they can say well I don't do this so I'm not racist. CRT says the system is racist and it's true so they think they have to take the blame. And given their performance in the US on voter suppression I suspect that it might well be a good thing if they did.
I could dump a bibliography on you if you like. But probably the best place to start is a book called "Racism without Racists." by Bonilla-Silva It's in my local library funnily enough. Many people on this site would benefit from reading it, including you.

greywarbler said...

I throw a question into the pot. What did the Nazis do that enabled them to take over the hearts and minds of a majority of Germans so that those who objected, tried to denounce the tactics, were silenced and perhaps imprisoned? It only took about six months once Hitler got going to wipe democracy out from destroying its shaky foundations. The first excuse was getting rid of Communists, then further 'clearances' were followed. We shouldn't let cliches about 'Godwins law' distract us referring to the terrible example of Nazism in Germany prior to WW2, and the fact that it happened and therefore can occur again with similar stimuli. Indeed we have experienced Roger Douglas et al over-ride our Prime Minister, and then overturn our economy at relentless speed, for the benefit of a minority of influential businesspeople.

Historians point out that Hitler’s political position upon his appointment as chancellor in January 1933 was precarious. Yet, by July of 1933, Hitler and the Nazis had succeeded in dismantling democracy and laying the foundation for dictatorship in Germany. Few Germans believed this could happen. In fact, many did not believe Hitler would remain in power for long. After all, in the 14 years since the creation of the Weimar Republic, Germany had had 14 chancellors, most of whom served for less than a year. ...

In the first six months of Hitler’s chancellorship, the Nazis also stepped up violence, intimidation, and terror toward the German people. The SA and SS attacked political dissenters in the streets, and the secret police force known as the Gestapo was created in April to spy on, interrogate, and imprison citizens in order to “protect public safety and order.”

The Nazis initiated attacks on homosexual men, imprisoning dozens under a long-existing law (Paragraph 175) that was not regularly enforced by the Weimar Republic. The Nazis also targeted Jews, imprisoning Jewish immigrants and attacking Jewish judges, lawyers, and shopkeepers. On April 1, the Nazis called for a nationwide day-long boycott of Jewish businesses.

The boycott did not receive the widespread support the Nazis had hoped for; in some places in Germany people embraced the attack on Jewish businesses, but in other places people deliberately shopped in Jewish-owned businesses in defiance. Regardless, the event signaled the Nazis’ intent to target German Jews and foreshadowed the onslaught of discrimination that would soon follow. On April 7, a new law to “restore” Germany’s civil service went into effect, forcing the firing of Jews (and individuals deemed disloyal to the nation) who worked for government institutions.

In addition to people, the Nazis also began to attack ideas. On March 13, 1933, Hitler established the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and put Joseph Goebbels in charge. The ministry set out to coordinate every form of expression in Germany—from music to radio programs to textbooks, artwork, newspapers, and even sermons—crafting language and imagery carefully to praise Nazi policies and Hitler himself and to demonize those who the Nazis considered enemies. On May 6, Goebbels led the first book burning, which the German Student Association declared was a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit.” https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-holocaust-and-human-behavior/dismantling-democracy

Students in the White Rose movement, printers who published opinions not flattering, dissenters were imprisoned early in the 30's. People have studied psychology and 'mass hysteria' as a manufactured force behind what was happening. Jews started leaving early on in the 30's as the sanctions against them began indicating that there was no respect for them, their good citizenship, and the human rights that those in a 'civilised' country would expect. There was a mass scapegoating, a target deliberately set up that those with a beef about anything could look to to blame.

greywarbler said...

Thinking about the rise of the Nazi Party as referred to below, could the ACT party follow a similar pattern here. It certainly has been a haven for distressed rentiers and individualistic Randians, 'randy' about money and having all they can get in whatever field of enterprise they follow.

A relevant question for NZ now is posed in the link below.
How did the Nazi Party, a small and unpopular political group in 1920, become the most powerful political party in Germany by 1933? I can not imagine NZ following a similar trajectory, but understanding the events and personalities behind the Nazi growth would be useful education for alert citizens.

The Barron said...

Critical Race Theory has been around since 1989, and simply gives an analytical tool for factoring the socially constructed concept of race into institutional and policy analysis (especially legal institutions). In this, it shows that the perception of 'race' must be factored in when looking at deprivation and privilege.

If we look to Britannica -

'critical race theory (CRT), intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.'

As you note Chris, the United States has an on-going struggle with colonialism and slavery, and a dominant population immersed in divine purpose wrapped in providence. The American liberalism and democracy is birthed parallel to racialized slavery.

The best book on this study is American Slavery, American Freedom, Edmund S. Morgan (1975), in which he shows the development of settler democracy in Virginia (crucial to the 'Founding Fathers), in conjunction to the emancipation of bonded labour and the dependence on the growth of slavery.

We would, therefore, expect that some of the language of some proponents in the USA is more direct.

As far as I have seen, there is no implicit individual 'blame game', instead it is a model for showing how institutions have developed to perpetuate bias in the development of deprivation and privilege. There seems nothing which would exclude class, gender or disability from being factored in. Further, if conclusions lead to institutions moving towards equity, these factors must be ultimately considered through a similar model.

That 'race' does not exist as a biological or scientific classification has been long proven. That institutions continue to structurally benefit those empowered and have bias against those disempowered is proven without doubt. That those culturally and ethnically outside the dominant groups are reflected as statistically deprived in relation to the services of the institution (be it legal, education, health, housing etc) is proven. That the concept of 'race' mirrors these statistical inequities is proven.

Rather than attack the model, it may be more constructive to provide suggestions which may enhance the transfer of the model from American to one that can help equity in NZ.

greywarbler said...

Isn't this movement a re-run of the 60's? Deja-vu. Same outrage and stylish differences; rejection of norms. Joining cults with parents concerned and getting agents to get their children back and deprogram them. It never went away completely. We've got cults here based loosely on 60's ideas. There was The Family in Australia, that looked influenced by the blonde children in John Wyndham film Children of the Damned.

And the uncertainty of life now, with no definite paths to follow, can't get anywhere to live in the midst of so-called prosperity and good stats on the financial markets. How to cope with tv images with the extremes that the media feeds to us. And being on the out if you don't have a device always at your side replacing previous methods of communication. It's very discombobulating, and possibly the young aren't able to develop a sense of the ridiculous, as the whole world is, actually.

greywarbler said...

The Family Trailer in case I didn't put it up before.

John Hurley said...

Spoonley's crowd have a lot to answer for, you can see the change in the whether across the country here (question time)

and in the Landmarks Series

Landmarks: The You Tube legacy
The influential geographer David Harvey (1990) notes that ‘the study of historical geography … has a major role to play in understanding how human societies work’. Landmarks describes how a small number of individuals altered the landscape of New Zealand in a shorter time frame than anywhere else. This is a compelling narrative but a simple question remains: Why are the mobile-phone using, iPod carrying, internet savvy, Facebook tweeters in my classroom so engaged by this story teller, an older bespectacled man dressed in a jacket and with an English accent?


....because he say's they are alright

New Zealand Left Reacts to Donald Trump - Critical Race Theory

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus wept, I think I might retire. Barron is to the point, logical, lucid – not a great strength of some people here – and pretty much correct. I must confess I'm a little tired of jousting with racists and the like in a place where there is so little humour.

John Hurley said...

Bonilla-Silva gets a reference here

David George said...

While there is a measure of truth in it, like all simplistic explanations for the complexity of human interaction, critical theory easily falls apart with a little critical thinking and scientific analysis. The central claim, that power is the overwhelming human motivation, the explanation for all differences in outcome is so obviously wrong it's difficult to believe that it could gain the following it has from the IYI cohort.

A doctor has greater authority and power than a nurse but how often is that even a tiny factor in their interaction. They have common cause and their own separate fields of allied expertise, they are cooperating, combining their skills and experience for the good of the patient. It gets even more complicated; the doctor is likely to be a woman (victim?) and the nurse a man (oppressor ?)or any one of hundreds of combinations of race, age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and so on. The critical theorist claims they can explain all that with their mad theory?

Seen through the lens of CRT Jacinda's "They are us" is patronising colonialism, her sorrow simply white women's tears, a manifestation of her white fragility, her deserved racial guilt. It's absurd, de-humanising, disgusting and dangerous yet this is what we are subjecting our children to. The climate kids capitulation is fully understandable in light of the bullshit they've been fed by people who should know better.

David George said...

GS: "I'm a little tired of jousting with racists and the like"

You don't see what you're doing?
The assumption that folk that don't agree with you can only be motivated by racism or some other moral failing is offensive and dehumanising. No wonder you're attracted to the confirming delusions of CRT.

David George said...

The current embrace and endorsement of CRT is, perhaps, understandable given our human propensity to look for simple explanations for complex problems. The search for the Holy Grail that will unlock the secrets of the universe? It's failure to stand up when confronted with proper empirical research easily dismissed when it carries the enticing bonus of moral superiority.

Where is the truth that will help us ameliorate "the suffering and malevolence that still so terribly and unforgivably characterizes the world" (JP). The great black conservative intellectuals Thomas Sowell or Shelby Steele and their "get your shit together" approach? Or the progressive, maternalist, "it's not your fault, let us help you"? Or something else?

Here's a great essay examining that question and coming up with some surprising answers.

Nick J said...

Id suggest that your model and framework are not proven. You only need to read people like Thomas Sowell to understand that one size definitely does not fit all. As a black American (his self definition) you might find his counter narrative instructive.

You mention a group of long term issues that do exist. I dont think it at all helpful to ascribe this all to one model, it is surely far more multi dimensional than that. Using CRT as a catch all is rather like claiming that the economy runs solely on the "invisible hand". Seems to me academia has allowed itself once again to hold all wisdom to itself in declaring the "One truth". Sorry, nobody except extreme authoritarian personalities can claim monopoly on truth.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

David, please explain to me where I said that people who disagree with me are racists? There are racists on this site. There are people who I disagree with on this site. There is some overlap. So is your invalid assumption a question of emotional reaction, or simply a lack of reasoning?
I'm also a little tired of arguing about CRT with people who can't even define it when asked, and who don't understand it. Of which you may indeed be one. Maybe you need to change your sources of information a little.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


It's a pity we get better analysis of critical race theory from comedians than from pundits. But I guess the whole idea of reason has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

David George said...

A chap I know runs his family's farm, a good sized dry stock unit, he's a really decent man.
I had him on over the fact his two staff were Filipinos, what about all the local lads out of work and wasting their lives and getting into trouble as a consequence?
He said he felt a genuine obligation to help, to offer them work, and had had a series of locals (5?) but had been badly let down in every case. Unreliable, uncooperative and disinterested plus a problem with missing gear including a quad bike and a couple of chainsaws that indicated insider knowledge.
I have a lot of sympathy for our farmers, always at the mercy of a lot beyond their control; the weather, the markets, diseases, new regulations and so on and pretty poorly rewarded for the work and worry involved. A bad employee can put the livestock at risk, put the whole enterprise at risk. So he resolved not to employ the local lads any more. He's not a racist, far from it, in the sense of an emotional dislike or hate but what he did is, technically, racist.

The CRTists would say he is a bad person, that even his requirement for punctuality and conscientiousness is, therefore, a manifestation of systemic racism, of whiteness (he's not actually white but never mind) and of his failure to incorporate the cultural values of the oppressed. That is what they say.

Where to from there God only knows but CRT is utterly and unquestionably mad in it's attempt to attribute a single cause for everything.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus wept David, the "CRTists" would have absolutely nothing to say about this, because it doesn't say anything about individuals. Isn't it about time that perhaps people who can't actually define CRT shut up about it? Although I guess it does fit in with the general conservative zeitgeist to weaponised it.
After all:
Critical – they don't believe in critical thinking.
Race – always a good snarl word or scare word for conservatives.
Theory – as in "evolution is only a theory". Please enter the antiscience element.
Honestly, this theory is been around academia since the 1970s and no one gave a shit. But I guess conservatives in the US are having a bit of trouble criticising Biden considering all they can usually find as his dog biting people or something, so they have leaped on this bandwagon. And of course when America sneezes we all catch a cold.
I would like to say again – CRT says nothing about individuals, it pertains to the system. Incidentally David still waiting for some evidence that I accuse everyone who disagrees with me of racism – all I've had at the moment is crickets.