“You don’t know about me,” Mark Twain wrote, “without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.'” So begins one of the great American novels. Lately I’ve been blogging about some problems in Unitarian Universalism, and today I’m going to suggest that you won’t know nothing about what’s going on without you have read a book called Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay.
Much that would otherwise be inexplicable snaps into focus. As Sherlock Holmes said, “Every problem becomes childish when once it is explained to you.” Pluckrose and Lindsay map the links between the playful and seemingly innocuous academic postmodernism of the Sixties and the vile authoritarian putsch of Critical Race Theory as it is being used today to stifle dissent and ruin people’s lives.
You must read this book.
Of course, the Social Justice crew won’t want you to. They will marshal all sorts of specious but impressive-sounding arguments about why you shouldn’t. Part of the thesis of Critical Race Theory and the Social Justice movement is that dissent is not allowed. Nor is logical analysis. Logic is a tool of White Supremacy, you see. Your only option, in the view of these latter-day Inquisitors, is to bow down before their superior wisdom. The fact that I’m white means if I dare ask questions, I’m being defensive. I’m manifesting “white fragility.” My only proper stance is to feel guilty and remain silent.
You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not.
If you’re too nervous to buy and read the book, they have won. They have convinced you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
When I first read the Open Letter signed by hundreds of Unitarian Universalist ministers in which they attacked one of their fellow ministers, Todd Eklof, for having written his book The Gadfly Papers, I was baffled. How could these supposedly educated ministers possibly denounce the use of logic and reason? How could they say they were going to “name the harm” caused by a book and then never name the harm? How could they denounce a book without, in many cases, even having read it, and without quoting a single thing that it said?
Cynical Theories makes all of that dismally clear. Cynical Theories never even mentions Unitarian Universalism, but it’s as if Pluckrose and Lindsay were reading Todd Eklof’s email. They totally nail the toxic mindset that now governs the UU denomination — a mindset in which hounding a fellow minister and ruining his career while refusing to explain why or how you’re doing it is deemed a virtue.
I could go on. Maybe I should. I’m one of the few people the Social Justice warriors really can’t get at, because I’m retired and all. I guess they could get me kicked out of my local UU church, but only if I don’t quit first. I mean, I like the people and all, but the minister signed the Open Letter, so what are you going to do? For some reason this whole mess reminded me of a scene in Catcher in the Rye. You remember the scene. “Old Spencer started nodding again,” Holden Caulfield says. “He also started picking his nose. He made out like he was only pinching it, but he was really getting the old thumb right in there. I guess he thought it was all right to do because it was only me that was in the room. I didn’t care, except that it’s pretty disgusting to watch somebody pick their nose.”
It’s like that. These Social Justice people are picking their nose, they’ve got the old thumb right in there, but it doesn’t matter because it’s only you that’s in the room.