Streetwise Professor

June 11, 2020

Will Miracles Never Cease? A Voice of Sanity–From Berkeley

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:54 pm

Here is a powerful “UC Berkeley History Professor’s Open Letter Against BLM, Police Brutality and Cultural Orthodoxy.” Let that sink in–a letter from a Berkeley history prof against “BLM . . . and Cultural Orthodoxy.”

Powerful, but understandably–and sadly–anonymous. How many times have you been told we have to have a “conversation about race.” That’s a lie. Anybody saying that doesn’t want a conversation. They want to deliver a lecture. A monologue. And for you to listen, nodding in assent, preferably on your knees.

Here is a person who makes a sincere effort at having a thoughtful conversation, but knows that s/he cannot do so openly except at professional and personal peril.

You should read the entire thing, but I will highlight the most important point:

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians. Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence. This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

Exactly right.

I will go further. The theory of systemic racism is quintessential pseudo-science, an unfalsifiable hypothesis, analogous to Marxism (“scientific socialism”). To which it can trace its roots, via the Frankfurt School in particular.

It has all the hallmarks of pseudo-science that Karl Popper identified decades ago. It purports to be a theory of everything. Those who propound this theory invoke it as an explanation of virtually every aspect of society and social relations. Moreover, those who dispute it are not joined factually or logically. Instead, their disagreement is taken as evidence of proof of the theory (“if you dispute the theory it proves how pervasive racism is and that you are a racist”) just as Marxism dismissed opponents as merely representing prevailing production relationships in society, or false class consciousness, or other such drivel. Opponents are guilty of Wrongthink, to be shouted down, ostracized, and marginalized–if they are lucky.

The last thing that its proponents want is that it “should be vigorously challenged by historians.” Or anybody else for that matter. Those who challenge the revealed truth are heretics, and must be treated accordingly.

Of course it is the current fashion in academia, and among the intelligentsia. But, as Orwell trenchantly said, “Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.”  My modification: “Some ideas are so malign that only intellectuals believe them.”

This has become a new secular religion, like Marxism. And like traditional religions, it has saints and heretics, and especially hell.

Because the theory is unfalsifiable, it is a fool’s errand to argue against it, factually or logically, at least to the people who propound it or claim to believe it. I know many people–smart people–who make gallant efforts to do so. Factually and logically they are persuasive. But attempting to falsify factually and logically an unfalsifiable and logically defective theory is futile, and only brings the furies down on your head. As the Berkeley history prof (an assistant prof, I’m guessing) clearly understands.

Further, note that when it comes to concrete policy choices and decisions, the game is rigged. If you buy into “systemic racism”, no mere reform of a police department or voting procedures or what have you is adequate. The frenzy unleashed on hapless Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey shows that. If you are not with the Jacobins 100 percent, you are an enemy.

Which means that the only prescription acceptable to those who actually believe this theory (or are smart enough to not believe it, but find it politically useful) is a complete revolution in our social relations, our economy, our government, and every institution public or private. No half measures are acceptable. No 99.9 percent measures are acceptable.

This in part explains the appeal of this theory to intellectuals and academics. They like all encompassing, gnostic theories and explanations. (See Thomas Sowell’s indispensable A Conflict of Visions for a trenchant analysis.) Intellectuals also fantasize about being in power, and deeply resent not having it.

The honest advocates of this theory will have no dispute with that: they forthrightly advocate a complete destruction and then reconstruction of society, from top to bottom. Because they think it is “systemically” rotten.

Because such attempts have always worked out great, right?

The iconoclasm and vandalism we are seeing is testament to the totalitarian, millenarian vision. Every monument has been desecrated (including a monument to black soldiers who fought in the Civil War) or is at risk of desecration, because it is the product of an evil past that lives on in an evil present. Year Zero calls!

The more than passing resemblance between the way that “conversations” are carried out today, and they were under the Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution, is further evidence. You must recant every wrongthought and embrace Newthink, or you will be destroyed.

The perversity of all this is too much. The consequences are utterly foreseeable, and dire. Most importantly, realization of only a trivial portion of this vision would hurt most the people whom are the supposed beneficiaries.

Case in point. The Chicago Police basically abandoned most neighborhoods in Chicago during the last weekend in May in the aftermath of the riots that wracked the city. Aldermen from minority wards were apoplectic. Even a hardcore leftist like Michael Pfleger were appalled:

“On Saturday and particularly Sunday, I heard people saying all over, ‘Hey, there’s no police anywhere, police ain’t doing nothing,’” Pfleger said.

“I sat and watched a store looted for over an hour,” he added. “No police came. I got in my car and drove around to some other places getting looted [and] didn’t see police anywhere.”

And on that weekend had the largest number of murders in Chicago’s recorded history. Given that history, that is a truly appalling statement.

Hopefully this episode is like the Ghost of Christmas Future, that will awaken people to where this is headed so that it can be stopped in its tracks. But hope is not a plan. This has to be fought, and the most important strategic move is to not fight this battle on the ground that the opponents choose–the pseudoscientific theory of systemic racism.

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  1. The page at the link containing the letter has been taken down.

    Do you have an electronic copy or another link???

    Comment by Carl Futia — June 11, 2020 @ 6:13 pm

  2. @Carl. Fuck. That has happened in the last 30 minutes. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t save it. I will try to find it.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 11, 2020 @ 6:19 pm

  3. I found a copy here:

    I have also made a PDF copy.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 11, 2020 @ 6:21 pm

  4. Now, removed from Reddit

    Comment by The Pilot — June 11, 2020 @ 9:35 pm

  5. @Pilot. Unfuckingbelievable. I found it here:

    I also PDF’d the Reddit version. I will post that later.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 11, 2020 @ 9:44 pm

  6. Cultural studies, sociology, feminists, and all the rest use “critical theory” to produce subjectivist narratives.

    Subjectivist narratives assume what should be proved, the assumptions have the weight of evidence, and all studies are confirmatory.

    The generalization fully explains Whiteness Studies, White Supremacy, Critical Race Theory, intersectionality, and all the other mindless carping coming out of the academy these days.

    Subjectivist narratives are like crack to lazy minded academics and grievance-studies mongers. You can spin a tale of victimhood and be absolutely certain to get it published. Salaries, grant money, and accolades pour in.

    The entire academy has been corrupted. See #ShutDownSTEM, supported by the AAAS and Science magazine. The hand-wringing, guilt-dripping, virtue-embracing emails I get from a certain major westcoast university that’s not Berkeley, you wouldn’t believe. Even Physics and Chemistry have been poisoned with pathological wokeness.

    It’s like watching someone in a perfervid frenzy living out their own suicide-porn fantasy.

    Comment by Pat Frank — June 11, 2020 @ 11:26 pm

  7. Your spam filter really doesn’t like me, Craig. 🙂

    Comment by Pat Frank — June 11, 2020 @ 11:51 pm

  8. It’s sad that currently in America many academics are afraid of voicing their views, which are in conflict with mainstream thinking. Once such things only happened in USSR.

    Comment by mmt — June 12, 2020 @ 1:39 am

  9. Archive link of the letter on pastebin:

    Comment by anon — June 12, 2020 @ 4:07 am

  10. It’s intriguing that this article was taken down so quickly after you posted the link. Clearly it has caused quite a stir. I wonder if investigations are underway in Berkeley regarding its authorship?

    Regarding the topic in hand, it’s another of these instances where I daren’t intervene in the debate, save I give the game away as to what’s really going on here and spoil the fun. Suffice to say, some people clearly have been busy updating their playbook. Do carry on.

    Comment by David Mercer — June 12, 2020 @ 6:14 am


    Comment by elmer — June 12, 2020 @ 8:17 am

  12. I would not be averse to cancelling Thomas Jefferson – a wildly over-rated bletherskite and slave-driver. Washington was made of better cloth, but was also a hypocrite and slave driver, so maybe he should be cancelled too and the city (and State) renamed. Above all the name of Yale University must be cancelled: Mr Yale was a slave merchant for heaven’s sake.

    Otherwise I merely point out that Lincoln was right.

    Comment by dearieme — June 12, 2020 @ 9:25 am

  13. At this rate I expect the US to break up into different ethnostates some time in the next 10-20 years. It’s simply too large, diverse and fragmented to be run as a unified polity. Marshall McLuhan predicted that this would happen in his 1969 Playboy interview, and he may turn out to be right.

    Comment by Emperor of Ice Cream — June 12, 2020 @ 9:49 am

  14. @Pat–It really doesn’t. I don’t know why. I will see if I can whitelist you. Or would that be a reflection of systemic racism?

    Comment by cpirrong — June 12, 2020 @ 11:46 am

  15. @anon-Thanks.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 12, 2020 @ 11:47 am

  16. @Pat–exactly correct. Very good diagnosis. Subjectivism is the key thing here. Subjectivism is antithetical to science, which is supposed to be objective. Subjectivist theories are not falsifiable. And hence, are not scientific.

    But they have an answer for that too. Science is the product of Western civilization and is oppressive, especially to those from non-Western cultures.

    Then the same people who say that will scream “SCIENCE!” when defending lockdowns.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 12, 2020 @ 11:51 am

  17. Popped would be proud. The problem with the doctrine of falsification is that even when a set of ideas or a philosophy is proven to be false,people still believe it. Popped believed Marx was a great philosopher -I would argue a journalist and in his esoteric writing s extremely effective – but His conclusions and predictions were demonstrably false. That has not prevented whole forests to be sacrificed to the argument that he was right if you accept superprofits from colonialism, blah, blah, blah. If people want to believe, cognitive bias and our infinite ability to deny the obvious will always triumph over empirical evedence.

    In mediaeval Times and before, empiricism was derided as a low form of philosophy. We seem to be regressing to that again. Unfortunately not with the mind of a Plato or

    Comment by Sotosy1 — June 12, 2020 @ 1:22 pm

  18. Continued – sorry but this tablet is killing me – Plato or Aquinas, but with the Verbal vomit of Ice Cube and other some rappers.

    Comment by Sotos y1 — June 12, 2020 @ 1:25 pm

  19. ‘How good bad music and bad reasons sound when one marches against an enemy.’

    Nietzsche, Morgenröte, Book 4, no. 557.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — June 12, 2020 @ 4:07 pm

  20. I’m thinking suddenly that it may be a very good idea to put armed guards on all polling places for the 2020 election.

    The Antifa/BLM/etc./etc. are always planning the next big disruption. The appearance of some sparking event is anticipated, plans are made ready for the opportunistic riot, and then brought out and exploited for the destructive potential.

    They’ll be thinking that re-election of Trump must be stopped at all costs. I would not be surprised to see them suddenly emerge in November to disrupt-suppress-prevent voting, nationwide. By violence, with assaults directed against polling places and voters.

    It would throw the election into chaos, possibly preventing an orderly transition of government. That will be exactly what they’ll want. Whatever happens after a disrupted election will give them shallow cause to scream about illegitimacy and fascism. The riots and burning will start all over again.

    This possibility should be anticipated. Information on their plans should be gathered. Spies and infiltrators sent into their meetings. Squads of troops prepared and distributed nationwide for rapid call and deployment.

    They may not be necessary. They can be quietly disbanded back to base after November, no one the wiser.

    But if there’s any hint of an Antifa/BLM/etc. plan of progressive violence, troops with guns should be there to greet them, with offense-is-the-best-defence rules of engagement.

    Comment by Pat Frank — June 12, 2020 @ 6:18 pm

  21. Thanks for your help, Craig.

    Comment by Pat Frank — June 12, 2020 @ 6:18 pm

  22. Pat, if that happens, it won’t be the Trump voters they’ll disrupt. If they try that in flyover country then I guess the pushback would be rather greater than we have seen. IMHO it’s not a coincidence that the most trouble is in Democrat- controlled states/cities. I’ll be amused to see what happens in Seattle. We have a similar but lesser problem here in the UK with a supine government and supine police preferring a quiet life for themselves but not for the populace.

    Comment by Tractor Gent — June 13, 2020 @ 8:21 am

  23. To expand, @Pat, when everyone has their own “truth” there is no truth.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 13, 2020 @ 11:30 am

  24. @Pat. No problema.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 13, 2020 @ 11:52 am

  25. @Pat–WordPress has a blacklist, but not a whitelist. I think the issue is that the default settings sidecar any comment with 2+ links. Your comments that have gone into moderation have had links. So I’ve bumped up the number of allowable links. Hopefully that will address your issue.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 13, 2020 @ 12:01 pm

  26. We are witnessing a blast furnace in real-time. It is forging some great leaders and melting the imposters. The kneelers character is being unveiled and melted. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was a socialist that mistrusted the police before she became Mayor. During COVID, and the subsequent riots, she showed her true colors. If you were a police person, would you lift a finger for her? IL Gov JB Pritzker’s true character is being revealed as well. So is Gov Megan Whitmer, Northrup, Walz, Inslee, and the mayors that follow them.

    The press too has been revealed for what it was. A PRAVDA like arm of the hard left-wing. In the Democratic Party, if you are not hard left you will be eaten and canceled. Shut out. If you are a Republican, heaven forbid, you must be shunned like the lowest caste in India.

    Republicans that have gone along get marginalized. See the Illinois Republican Party, perhaps the lamest bunch of nitwits in history. There are Republicans in DC that have gone along as well. The Republican Party has its own issues but the alternative is far worse.

    Tell me, where is the compromise between health care being a human right and should be “free”? Where is the compromise on abortion? Where is the compromise on School choice?
    It has become imperative that Trump win a second term if only to hold off the Bill Ayers acolytes for four more years. That’s what they are and that is what the Democratic Party has become.

    This is only going to get worse as we go to November. Do not be fooled. The riots used the cloak of racism to push their agenda and their agenda is totalitarian socialism. Period.

    Comment by jeff — June 13, 2020 @ 1:21 pm

  27. Professor,

    Would you be so kind as to post a few links to studies/stories refuting systemic racism or otherwise noting the pseudoscience science aspects of it?

    I know some people whose instincts tell them that this is left wing propaganda. They are either persuadable or are willing bulwarks of reason. But what they are not are sociologists with access to contrary evidence. These people need assurance; they need rhetorical ammunition. They need something that puts their wokest co-worker on the defensive; something that will earn a few whispered “attaboys.” These people don’t need to win a Munk Debate against a professional sociologist; they just need to bloody the nose of Wokester and thereby let others know that it can be done. They need a Rocky IV-like rally sparked by Rocky’s cutting Drago.

    Comment by Eternal Optometrist — June 13, 2020 @ 3:30 pm

  28. Years ago, Maureen Dowd of the NYT (!) said of Seattle, “jackboots in sandals”. She’s a very “wet” leftie and in the Pravda of the Upper
    West Side, she thought Seattle was too far gone. Let that sink in.

    Comment by The Pilot — June 13, 2020 @ 3:51 pm

  29. In the last Presidential race I thought the Dem Party had pulled off a remarkable coup: it had adopted someone who may have been the only potential candidate so vile that even Trump could beat her.

    This time they have – apparently – opted for an old, corrupt groper who’s lost his marbles. And they’ve prepared the ground for him by burning and looting American cities.

    “That’s not how I would have done it, dear” as my mother used to say.

    Comment by dearieme — June 14, 2020 @ 7:55 am

  30. @25 Craig — thanks very much. I really appreciate your consideration and effort.

    Comment by Pat Frank — June 14, 2020 @ 10:56 pm

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