Counter-PoMo Activism Guide
This section is continually under revision. All incomplete sections will be marked as such.
1. What’s not working?
Trying to debate postmodernists into agreeing with you
If there’s one thing you should understand about postmodernist-influenced “social justice” activists, it’s that they don’t have a lot of regard for facts – especially scientific facts.
This isn’t because they’re stupid or irrational. On the contrary, their justification for ignoring “facts” and “science” is quite sophisticated.
Here’s an attempt at a steelman argument from their perspective;
- “Science”, as a discipline, has only existed for a couple of hundred years.
- The obsession with “truth” is a product of Western European civilization, which came about during the so-called “Enlightenment”.
- While the West was championing concepts like truth and liberty, they were busy slaughtering and enslaving entire civilizations around the world. Scientific concepts like Darwinism were often used to justify such dominance.
- This is called colonialism, and it’s the process that forced the West’s way of life on other people from “inferior” cultures. Ever since then, things like “science” and “truth” have been used as tools to justify oppression of minorities (see; phrenology and homosexuality as a mental disorder).
- Thus, people who cling to things like science and truth are probably just using them to justify and defend the privilege they earned from the unjust application of those very concepts.
Anyway, what this means is that burying postmodernist activists under a mountain of facts and statistics isn’t going to change their mind.
At this point, the only thing I have seen that successfully “convinces” activists that their views may be flawed is them getting fed up with the excesses and insanity of their fellow activists.
Because of the above, the only time you should debate someone is when you are in a public forum and have an opportunity to be seen by an audience.
“It is important, as a privileged person, to constantly hedge marginalized person according to both your class and your expectations of them. Even though the conversation taking place is reflective of or about real life circumstances and situations for human beings, you must be careful to first insist on placing it within an academic framework. If the marginalized person involved is speaking in vernacular and placing too much emphasis on personal experience, you must swiftly impress that you cannot consider it a proper “debate” unless theory and philosophy play a key component, complete with big words normally not found outside of academic papers.
This is another way of pressing home your own privilege by demanding the conversation take place on terms the marginalized person may not be intimate with. After all, academia has little to do with reality, but pretending that it does is sure to undermine your opponent.”
– Derailing for Dummies –
“Derailing Using Intellectualism”
Being needlessly provocative or antagonistic
As they say, “it takes all kinds”. The true is same for activist movements; there are the vocal and visible people, and those who work quietly and diligently in the background.
Some of the most visible “anti-social justice” figures are YouTube stars like Milo Yiannopoulos, Lauren Southern, Gavin McInnes, and Ben Shapiro.
Although their antics may garner publicity and provoke social justice activists into looking stupid, if the goal is to change hearts and minds, writing “FUCK ISLAM” on your face is probably counterproductive.
Even folks like Ben Shapiro, who is a brilliantly smart Harvard Law alum and comes across as an intellectual commentator, is often antagonistic and seems to take special enjoyment in making liberals look stupid. Shapiro is also massively insensitive when it comes to things like transgender issues (which he is demonstrably wrong on).
Being a clever jerk, and/or going out of your way to make others look stupid, is not going to reflect well on you or the counter-PoMo movement. This is especially true when the number-one thing driving social justice activists away from their movement is the movement itself.
2. General Principles: What’s working so far?
Although best practices are very much unknown at this point, here’s a couple of things that seem to be working:
Speak Up & Go Public
Postmodernist tactics tend to confuse and alienate the general public, and are even starting to alienate mainstream feminists like Laci Green. If you are a victim of postmodernist attacks, it seems the best thing you can do is spread your story as widely as possible.
For example, Dr. Jordan Peterson’s stance against Bill C-16 was picked up by many news outlets, catapulting him into a position as one of the most sought-after cultural thinkers in the West.
Similarly, when Bret Weinstein went on a Fox News interview, he drew widespread attention to the fact that he has been driven out of the Evergreen State College campus. As a result, people across the world are now aware of the many issues being faced by an otherwise tiny university in Washington State.
Although being the target of such attacks from “social justice” activists is terrifying, the good news is that the general public will condemn such behaviour. Pictures of student groups patrolling campus with baseball pats drew nationwide condemnation, including from a former Provost.
Be Reasonable & Generous
How you conduct yourself is based on your values. If you believe that truth is important, then you should act that way.
Don’t just yell and scream about issues, and accuse postmodernists of being stupid ideologues.
Counter their sloppy and accusatory speech with better speech. This “misogynist” Google document is a good example of how to come across forcefully but respectfully (although that’s not how it was received).
Give credit when credit is due, and acknowledge when people have a good point, or when you have reached the limits of your knowledge.
Habits like this make it easier for other people to converse with you, which makes it easier for you to gather support and get other people to see your point of view.
Identify Root Causes
Identifying postmodernism as the root cause of a lot of these issues is one thing that seems to be working.
The tactics that postmodernists use tend to alienate the general public, especially when activists start claiming that everyone is racist.
Pointing out the philosophical and ideological roots of these tactics helps to clearly defining the problem.
Similarly, if you encounter postmodernist tactics in your day-to-day life, identifying them for what they are (and what they are meant to accomplish) probably won’t hurt, either. If I am accused of being sexist/racist/transphobic/Islamophobic now, I make a point of stating that I won’t be intimidated or silenced by such false accusations.
Example: In the video to the right, Dr. Jordan Peterson spent about 10 minutes speaking on postmodernism to a group of Canadian conservatives.
3. Required Reading & Watching
If you’re really serious about opposing postmodernism (or if you don’t have a choice in the matter), the following are pretty much mandatory so you can understand what you’re up against.
Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
“Tracing postmodernism from its roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant to their development in thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty, philosopher Stephen Hicks provides a provocative account of why postmodernism has been the most vigorous intellectual movement of the late 20th century.
Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the contemporary intellectual world? Why do they have that power in the humanities but not in the sciences? Why has a significant portion of the political Left – the same Left that traditionally promoted reason, science, equality for all, and optimism – now switched to themes of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism?
Explaining Postmodernism is intellectual history with a polemical twist, providing fresh insights into the debates underlying the furor over political correctness, multiculturalism, and the future of liberal democracy.”
Post-Modernism vs. Modernism at the Toronto Action Forum
An excellent speech from Jordan B. Peterson talking about postmodernism, its history, and its ties to Marxism.
If you’re tight for time and can’t read all of Explaining Postmodernism, watch this. Ideally, consume both.
4. Highly-Recommended Reading
As someone who has successfully & unsuccessfully been an advocate for many issues over the years, I am recommending the following books. In order to be an effective activist, there is a certain attitude and demeanor one must possess, and it’s also important to make an honest attempt to read the original source material.
The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict
This is a supremely important book about how to conduct yourself in the world, particularly as an activist. Written as a kind of parable. Life-changing.
“The Anatomy of Peace asks, What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstand that cause? And what if, as a result, we unwittingly perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?
Through an intriguing story we learn how and why we contribute to the divisions and problems we blame on others and the surprising way that these problems can be solved. Yusuf al-Falah, an Arab, and Avi Rozen, a Jew, each lost his father at the hands of the other’s ethnic cousins. The Anatomy of Peace is the story of how they came together, how they help warring parents and children come together, and how we too can find our way out of the struggles that weigh us down.”
A Manual for Creating Atheists
This is a book that provides methods for getting people to question ideological beliefs. The book is about religion, but the ‘street epistemology’ tactics translate well to talking with postmodernists.
“For thousands of years, the faithful have honed proselytizing strategies and talked people into believing the truth of one holy book or another. Indeed, the faithful often view converting others as an obligation of their faith—and are trained from an early age to spread their unique brand of religion. The result is a world broken in large part by unquestioned faith.
As an urgently needed counter to this tried-and-true tradition of religious evangelism, A Manual for Creating Atheists offers the first-ever guide not for talking people into faith—but for talking them out of it. Peter Boghossian draws on the tools he has developed and used for more than 20 years as a philosopher and educator to teach how to engage the faithful in conversations that will help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their religious beliefs, mistrust their faith, abandon superstition and irrationality… “
A Selection of Postmodernist Texts
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion… Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them…he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”
– John Stuart Mill –
- Jean-François Lyotard, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge” (.pdf link)
- A “concise and excellent summary of the postmodern view of science” (Twitter link)
- Michel Foucault, “Discourse on Language” (Excerpt link)
- Jacques Derrida, “Of Grammatology” (Excerpt link)
- Richard Rorty, “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity” (.pdf link)
- More to Come