May 18, 2023Liked by Michael Nayna

Wow, this is an excellent metaphor to describe the bind we're in.

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That’s a great 4 minute video.

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Honestly, slapping the term Critical before any noun becomes a shibboleth for which conclusions are to be reached by the scholarship. It’s how my well-intentioned/believing fellow grad students distort every complexity into clarity. Conceptual conformity. In English Studies, counterstory methodology redefines data and science so the personal and subjective become valid generalizable proof (not verifiable evidence) positive the oppressive system is alive and well everywhere. The vast scale of decades’ worth of such scholarship (that also practices citation justice) interpellates unsuspecting, gullible students to the ideology. Thx for sharing their unparalleled work!

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Project Luminas, you said that your fellow-students “distort every complexity into clarity”, and I think this is a fantastic way to put what happens. It’s a particularly bad way of doing things in English, given that that’s not the way to read a novel or a poem, or at least that’s far from the best way to read a good novel or a good poem.

What I still don’t understand is where you and Nayna fall in terms of method. In short I’ve never heard an “interpellated” woke student lay out a method for, say, reading a novel. Sure, they go into the novel with those ideologies and theories we’re discussing, and in that way they produce specific interpretations. But if they had to explain the method that underpins the theory, they wouldn’t be able to do so. (I don’t even think most could explain the difference between an ideology and a theory in the first place.)

But here’s a question, in a soft defense, as it were, of such students: Would such a method in a non-physical science be possible in the first place? After all, it’s one thing to use the scientific method to explain the movements of the stars, but there the method comes down to something like an equation.

And even the scientific method itself is in many cases open to some degree of questioning. (Is falsifiability as good as it’s cracked up to be? Is “shut up and calculate” the best way to determine the border between macrophysical and microphysical objects? &c., &c.)

So I don’t see how, on one hand, our hypothetical woke students could detail their method other than by using a set of moral propositions. Which is no method at all. And with no method there is no theory, much less predictions stemming from it.

On the other hand, however, I also no longer think it’s fair for a non-woke student to ask for the exact method in the first place. We don’t have a method of, say, close reading or paying attention to complexity, do we? Something that would bind ourselves and others in every reading of every text?

Last, you, Project Luminas, don’t have a method, and certainly you have no predictive theory, of how the students got interpellated, for instance, in the first place. Althusser, after all, is deliberately obscure on how exactly a person is interpellated. He uses a silly reference to liken the event to a police officer’s shouting to a citizen, which is no method or theory at all; or at best he says ISAs do the interpellating. But how exactly they do this, such that we could predict the interpellation in all cases, he would not have been able to show. So it’s strange that you yourself are appealing to a “theory” that is arguably worse when it comes to containing methods than is the cultural criticism that the wokesters use to interpret the world while often mistaking that criticism for being a theory.

Am I missing something here, though?

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Agreed, Jesse D. Tatum, distortion to clarity is not a great way to do this to anything in general, let alone novels – but we all do it some by virtue of using arbitrary/imperfect languages as symbolic semiotic systems to mediate our own beliefs with experience and by mistaking language as truth in itself. Mitigating distortion motivates me greatly.

Agreed, most can’t distinguish an ideology from a theory, but not having a method is part of the subversive point of the 'woke'. And, writing courses dominate literature courses by the sheer numbers of students (millions of first-year writing students) who ‘Critically examine’ their cultural circumstances to often conclude they’ve lived in a false consciousness (Marxian construct) all along to then accept what the knower/guide (aka professor) can now tell them to believe.

I welcome your soft defense: the Kuhn/Popper debate and Science Studies that question the validity of the enlightenment-based scientific endeavor of falsifiability as one mere paradigm among many, and that argue science does not bring us objectivity, is a compelling argument to me (but I argue fundamentalist objectivity exists even if erroneously reached via social constructionism and subjectivity). How do they explain their method? Explicitly through a binary lens of oppressor/oppressed, normativity/antinormativity, intersectionality yet seldom via the foundational framework (cuz of citation justice) found in a cocktail of Critical theories, feminisms, queer theory, and postmodernism. From experience, I can tell you such hypothetical woke students (real to me, yet hypothetical to you, fair enough) frequently conflate moral propositions (conclusions) with logical premises in part cuz of the umbrella and ethos of the university they attend and whose authority they appeal to. In addition, professors I know are decreasingly citing these foundational theorists (citation justice), effecting a mendacious myopia. This is my larger argument made elsewhere: their woke theories and methods remain untested, unfalsified, unexamined because any criticism of them is roundly mocked and demeaned as white supremacist (immoral) and they lack clear falsifiable methods. Each year, more of the scholarship and pedagogy rely on this feeble moral stance to justify their presence and exploit people’s correct sympathies against racism. Yet, as society sloppily adopts its premises, the censorious consequences are borne out.

As for Althusser, I contend he does use examples to distinguish ideological ISAs from violent/repressive SAs (govt, courts, military, police, prisons, etc.): religious, family, legal, political, press, radio, TV, sports, arts, etc. Those are more concrete cultural identifiers than his clumsy analogy, wouldn't you say, if not a method? The ‘woke’ currently permeates almost all of these now (Black Rock to Berkeley to Budweiser). On one hand, a woke student could not give a method, technically, because Althusser deliberately obscures that, as does the uber-cited Brazilian critical pedagogue, Paolo Freire, whose liberatory pedagogy and criticism of the banking method of knowledge permeate nearly all American education programs (3 of which I attended since 2012). Like Althusser, Freire intentionally withholds creating a specific method so as to prevent oppressors from easily identifying, targeting, and excising his subversive/liberatory educational method from classrooms and communities before it takes hold. Sound familiar? As in arguments like 'CRT not existing in k-12 schools' despite its principles being present in curriculum and books at my kids’ schools and across the country. And Freire’s critical pedagogy has inspired intersectionality, social justice, DEI trainings, and critical race theory in America. Combined with citation justice, wherein any white, male, or European scholar is to be strictly not cited, they are creating an epistemic echo chamber severed from the Critical origins of woke thought and practice. Some might say, Freire succeeded where Althusser failed: because of pedagogy. What, would you say, makes these woke cultural criticisms perform better than Althusser’s (I don’t think it’s the most robust either) to predict interpellation (really interested to know)?

However, I would submit you haven’t shown ISA to be worse or unable to contain/produce a method simply on the basis of Althusser himself refusing to do so; besides, he identifies real-world ISA categories (mentioned above) beyond the police metaphor that can point us to where/how the ideology might live (like John Nada in They Live). I’ve seen woke conversion firsthand, in my graduate programs and in life for the last decade in higher ed. And, although it might not predict interpellation in all cases, I do have a theory (some of which you’ve read tonight) and a method, and I will elucidate it in my coming substack publications. It involves rhetorical genre studies, socio-epistemic rhetoric, discourse, ideology, linguistic awareness, and everyday experience in institutions like education and social/corporate media and good old human nature. Stay tuned because, given your excellent post, I think we’ll have plenty to discuss, and I expect you to poke around at it to inform this emerging theory and method of mine.

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I really appreciate your reply, Project Luminas. And I agree with you way more than I disagree with you on most points here.

You asked, What makes these woke cultural criticisms perform better than Althusser’s to predict interpellation?

Fair dues. This is something I should talk about much more than I do on my Substack. But to answer it briefly, I don’t think either of them perform well at all.

I do think that Althusser claims to explain more than he really can (as the most woke among us do). So, I say he needs to show how overdetermination has happened to everyone but him; because if he were interpellated, then he couldn’t write about it. (See E. P. Thompson’s "The Poverty of Theory" for more on this.)

In short, how would you state Althusser’s fundamental doctrine of how a “cultural identifier” (1) penetrates one’s mind and (2) causes that person to act on this invasion in a specific way without realizing it?

By contrast, cultural criticism, if understood as a moment-to-moment, event-by-event occasion, can be effective because it can be isolated to one historical event at a time, with few presuppositions; and then it can move on to another event, and so on. Sometimes it comes off “woke”, sometimes “liberal”, sometimes “conservative”. But it doesn’t need a fundamental doctrine to get off the ground.

Thanks again for the lively exchange so far!

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May 18, 2023Liked by Michael Nayna

The look on Peter's face when the student suggests the foundational idea behind the "Grievance Studies" 'experiment' you have documented is absolutely priceless!!

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May 19, 2023Liked by Michael Nayna

I’d be wary of attributing intellectual purity to scientists. Most start with assumptions and they aren’t particularly motivated to disprove them. I’d be more inclined to tolerate the challenge of figuring out the functionality of ideas for different groups and how they change over time.

The widespread belief in modern medicine that health can be achieved by eating pills and getting jabs - which is a “scientific” approach - is not a whole lot less dumb than phrenology.

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I am. The comparison has explanatory power. After a lot of poking around it looks to me as though the number of people able to put themselves through the methodological flagellation of actually practicing science is far smaller than the scientism of our time would lead you to believe.

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Too true! The current would-be suppression of huge Random Controlled Studies showing that the dangers of the anti-Covid vaccine far outweigh its so-say benefit indicates a contempt for human life which is without parallel in the West. That doctors are in the dreadful position of having to plead for 'evidence- based medicine against ignorant bureaucras of the WHO is utterly terrifying.

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I recently complimented Michael on his writing. In CAPS are phrases from his description above that have for me the "zow" factor (first in importance is the rendering of the idea, and then, how it is encapsulated/put across, demonstrate some serious writing chops):

"While some scholars working with Critical Theory use these theoretical frameworks as starting points to do real research, the standards of the field have devolved so badly that a fundamentalism has emerged from their vast body of work. This happens through A PROCESS I CALL “THEORETICAL LASER SURGERY,” where a scholar imbibes so much abstract theoretical philosophy that they can’t unsee it. Critical Theory is no longer a lens to apply to particular phenomena but a worldview GRAFTED INTO EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR CONSCIOUSNESS.

"They write papers, books, articles and tweets, devise courses and workshops, create art and films, and contort statistics TO REIFY THEIR BELIEFS AND EVANGELISE THEIR WORLDVIEW.

"THE QUASI-RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT THAT PROCEEDS FROM THIS BODY OF WORK IS MY NARROW DEFINITION OF “WOKE.” They themselves call their worldview a “critical consciousness,” and they seek to create a mass awakening to the oppressive superstructures of patriarchy, heteronormativity, and white supremacy, through our centres of cultural production - academia, law, media, religious institutions, and the arts.

"I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP THIS LABEL NARROW and avoid applying it to the vast array of left-wing sensibilities that are now popularly deemed “Woke.” THE WORK DONE BY THE FUNDAMENTALISTS IN THESE FIELDS, and now far beyond, informs many people I wouldn’t consider fundamentalists at all. IF YOU MAKE [THIS] DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE ACTIVISTS I’ve described above and your garden-variety leftie with technocratic leanings,YOU CAN PAINT A MORE DETAILED PICTURE OF HOW SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAS BEEN ABLE TO CLAIM SO MUCH POWER from within ostensibly liberal institutions."

By keeping things narrow and focused, for instance, James Lindsay has been able to go deep down the rabbit hole and come up with his recent acclaimed address which you can find if you Google james lindsay eu parliament speech

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Where does it fit in a spectrum of ritual conditioning and manipulation? Aka, gaslighting, a term Lefties are suddenly tired of. As in, I haven't had my nap and I'm going to fuss for an hour, then collapse in a wet heap on the middle of the rug. (not my experience, my mother was an expert hypnotist of toddlers in the mid-afternoon)


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This clip should have been first in the whole movie imo… sets up the whole thing

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"How Would You Engage These People?"

With ridicule?

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If one reads Bacon's essay, "The Riches Of Salomon's House", could "Phrenology" be an occult practice; what if by "character" they meant "hybrid" or "clone"? Look at the bunch who used it; what were they all into?

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Well stated. It is most definitely religious in nature and extremely unscientific.

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