Kafkatrapping

Good causes sometimes have bad consequences. Blacks, women, and other historical out-groups were right to demand equality before the law and the full respect and liberties due to any member of our civilization; but the tactics they used to “raise consciousness” have sometimes veered into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism.

One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap. In this essay, I will show that the kafkatrap is a form of argument that is so fallacious and manipulative that those subjected to it are entitled to reject it based entirely on the form of the argument, without reference to whatever particular sin or thoughtcrime is being alleged. I will also attempt to show that kafkatrapping is so self-destructive to the causes that employ it that change activists should root it out of their own speech and thoughts.

My reference, of course, is to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”, in which the protagonist Josef K. is accused of crimes the nature of which are never actually specified, and enmeshed in a process designed to degrade, humiliate, and destroy him whether or not he has in fact committed any crime at all. The only way out of the trap is for him to acquiesce in his own destruction; indeed, forcing him to that point of acquiescence and the collapse of his will to live as a free human being seems to be the only point of the process, if it has one at all.

This is almost exactly the way the kafkatrap operates in religious and political argument. Real crimes – actual transgressions against flesh-and-blood individuals – are generally not specified. The aim of the kafkatrap is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt in the subject, a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals. Ideally, the subject will then internalize these demands, and then become complicit in the kafkatrapping of others.

Sometimes the kafkatrap is presented in less direct forms. A common variant, which I’ll call the Model C, is to assert something like this: “Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}, you are guilty because you have benefited from the {sinful,racist,sexist,homophobic,oppressive,…} behavior of others in the system.” The aim of the Model C is to induce the subject to self-condemnation not on the basis of anything the individual subject has actually done, but on the basis of choices by others which the subject typically had no power to affect. The subject must at all costs be prevented from noticing that it is not ultimately possible to be responsible for the behavior of other free human beings.

A close variant of the model C is the model P: “Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}, you are guilty because you have a privileged position in the {sinful,racist,sexist,homophobic,oppressive,…} system.” For the model P to work, the subject must be prevented from noticing that the demand to self-condemn is not based on the subject’s own actions or choices or feelings, but rather on an in-group identification ascribed by the operator of the kafkatrap.

It is essential to the operation of all three of the variants of the kafkatrap so far described that the subject’s attention be deflected away from the fact that no wrongdoing by the subject, about which the subject need feel personally guilty, has actually been specified. The kafkatrapper’s objective is to hook into chronic self-doubt in the subject and inflate it, in much the same way an emotional abuser convinces a victim that the abuse is deserved – in fact, the mechanism is identical. Thus kafkatrapping tends to work best on weak and emotionally vulnerable personalities, and poorly on personalities with a strong internalized ethos.

In addition, the success of a model P kafkatrap depends on the subject not realizing that the group ascription pinned on by the operator can be rejected. The subject must be prevented from asserting his or her individuality and individual agency; better, the subject must be convinced that asserting individuality is yet another demonstration of denial and guilt. Need it be pointed out how ironic this is, given that kafkatrappers (other than old-fashioned religious authoritarians) generally claim to be against group stereotyping?

There are, of course, other variants. Consider the model S: “Skepticism about any particular anecdotal account of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression,…}, or any attempt to deny that the particular anecdote implies a systemic problem in which you are one of the guilty parties, is itself sufficient to establish your guilt.” Again, the common theme here is that questioning the discourse that condemns you, condemns you. This variant differs from the model A and model P in that a specific crime against an actual person usually is in fact alleged. The operator of the kafkatrap relies on the subject’s emotional revulsion against the crime to sweep away all questions of representativeness and the basic fact that the subject didn’t do it.

I’ll finish my catalog of variants with the verson of the kafkatrap that I think is most likely to be deployed against this essay, the Model L: “Your insistence on applying rational skepticism in evaluating assertions of pervasive {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia, oppression…} itself demonstrates that you are {sinful,racist,sexist,homophobic,oppressive,…}.” This sounds much like the Model S, except that we are back in the territory of unspecified crime here. This version is not intended to induce guilt so much as it is to serve as a flank guard for other forms of kafkatrapping. By insisting that skepticism is evidence of an intention to cover up or excuse thoughtcrime, kafkatrappers protect themselves from having their methods or motives questioned and can get on with the serious business of eradicating thoughtcrime.

Having shown how manipulative and psychologically abusive the kafkatrap is, it may seem almost superfluous to observe that it is logically fallacious as well. The particular species of fallacy is sometimes called “panchreston”, an argument from which anything can be deduced because it is not falsifiable. Notably, if the model A kafkatrap is true, the world is divided into two kinds of people: (a) those who admit they are guilty of thoughtcrime, and (b) those who are guilty of thoughtcrime because they will not admit to being guilty of thoughtcrime. No one can ever be innocent. The subject must be prevented from noticing that this logic convicts and impeaches the operator of the kafkatrap!

I hope it is clear by now that the particular flavor of thoughtcrime alleged is irrelevant to understanding the operation of kafkatraps and how to avoid being abused and manipulated by kafkatrappers. In times past the kafkatrapper was usually a religious zealot; today, he or she is just as likely to be advancing an ideology of racial, gender, sexual-minority, or economic grievance. Whatever your opinion of any of these causes in their ‘pure’ forms may be, there are reasons that the employment of kafkatrapping is a sure sign of corruption.

The practice of kafkatrapping corrupts causes in many ways, some obvious and some more subtle. The most obvious way is that abusive and manipulative ways of controlling people tend to hollow out the causes for which they are employed, smothering whatever worthy goals they may have begun with and reducing them to vehicles for the attainment of power and privilege over others.

A subtler form of corruption is that those who use kafkatraps in order to manipulate others are prone to fall into them themselves. Becoming unable to see out of the traps, their ability to communicate with and engage anyone who has not fallen in becomes progressively more damaged. At the extreme, such causes frequently become epistemically closed, with a jargon and discourse so tightly wrapped around the logical fallacies in the kafkatraps that their doctrine is largely unintelligible to outsiders.

These are both good reasons for change activists to consider kafkatraps a dangerous pathology that they should root out of their own causes. But the best reason remains that kafkatrapping is wrong. Especially, damningly wrong for anyone who claims to be operating in the cause of freedom.

UPDATE: A commenter pointed out the Model D: “The act of demanding a definition of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} that can be consequentially checked and falsified proves you are {sinful,racist,sexist, homophobic, oppressive}.”

UPDATE2: The Model M: “The act of arguing against the theory of anti-{sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} demonstrates that you are either {sinful,racist,sexist, homophobic, oppressive} or do not understand the theory of anti-{sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression}, and your argument can therefore be dismissed as either corrupt or incompetent.”

Model T: Designated victims of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} who question any part of the theory of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} demonstrate by doing so that they are not authentic members of the victim class, so their experience can be discounted and their thoughts dismissed as internalized {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression}.

339 thoughts on “Kafkatrapping

  1. I think you are right, but one should go deeper. It is late here so I’ll make this comment very short: in kafkatrapping the roots of Marxist “false consciousness” theory are obviously showing: you cannot be right because you do belong to a certain group and thus your circumstances have programmed your consciousness to filter out certain things.

    Of course it if was truly impossible to get over one’s social programming then argument in itself would be pointless, this is where the weakness of the “false consciousness” theory lies.

    Actually there is an interesting kind of doublethink going on with it – you actually can fix your “false consciousness” but it requires completely severing your connection to the group you belong to – you must condemn the whole group, deny it and be “born again” (i.e. remake your identity as someone who is not a member of that group, but a member of the elect group who do see the light) – and this almost obviously, has religious origins and I think (with Eric Voegelin) that it has Gnostic roots.

  2. Another aspect of kafkatrapping is that the sin in question is one that you can never disprove. It’s impossible to disprove one is a racist, etc. because it’s impossible to prove what you think. I think that is one of biggest reasons why these charges are made. There is no defense against the charge, and few people acknowledge the utter fallaciousness of the charge itself. It’s a win-win situation in the court of public opinion because the only proper response is to ignore the attacker, which is difficult to do. Truly our public discourse has devolved to the level of the playground.

  3. >ignore the attacker

    Ignore? My response to kafkatrapping has generally been extreme, intentional rudeness. The verbal equivalent of a kick in the teeth.

    One of the purposes of this essay is to give people a more precise language with which to object. Now you can say “Oh, I see. That’s a Model P kafkatrap. Go fuck yourself.”

  4. esr:

    Related, but with this NAACP vs Tea Party controversy, that the NAACP is a cathedral, and the Tea Party movement is a bazaar, so the NAACP is lashing out at the TPM because that’s the apprehension that any cathedral has for a bazaar.

  5. I like this meme and will do my best to help its spread. Perhaps your model A should be re-christened the model T; it is, after all, the most “transparent” of kafkatraps.

  6. Finally, a label for this despicable social phenomenon.

    Of course, the weakness of such a political strategy is readily apparent: it only takes one prominent member of the aggrieved group to let whitey/male/heterosexist off the hook, and the marketplace of the mind surely has such niches to fill.

  7. There’s at least one more piece to kakfa-trapping: ignorance (whether of real injustices or the current rules about what may or may not be said) is culpable in itself.

  8. >Of course, the weakness of such a political strategy is readily apparent: it only takes one prominent member of the aggrieved group to let whitey/male/heterosexist off the hook, and the marketplace of the mind surely has such niches to fill.

    I’m surprised at your naivete. What actually happens in these cases is that the grievance peddlers read the traitor out of their group and continue as before.

    Cf. the feminist who actually said that Sarah Palin is only pretending to be a woman.

  9. >There’s at least one more piece to kakfa-trapping: ignorance (whether of real injustices or the current rules about what may or may not be said) is culpable in itself.

    Quite.

    Nancy, in case you were wondering: yes, your stories about the “race fail” flame-wars and my skim of the LJ thread were substantial sources for this essay.

  10. So one variety of this argument is, “You must be racist because all people of your race are?” ???

  11. “Related, but with this NAACP vs Tea Party controversy, that the NAACP is a cathedral, and the Tea Party movement is a bazaar, so the NAACP is lashing out at the TPM because that’s the apprehension that any cathedral has for a bazaar.”

    Tactically, I see it as a last-ditch attempt to influence public opinion before Tea Party-friendly non-whites (such as Nikki Haley and Tim Scott in SC and Col. Allen West in Florida) win major public offices and blow up the narrative.

    Warming up in the bullpen: the Uncle Tom card.

  12. This is related to a form of silly argument that C. S. Lewis called Bulverism. The story is, one day Mrs. Bulver remarked that the angles of a triangle always add up to 180 degrees, and Mr. Bulver retorted, “You say that because you’re a woman!”

  13. “I’m surprised at your naivete. What actually happens in these cases is that the grievance peddlers read the traitor out of their group and continue as before.”

    Oh, I absolutely agree that this is what happens, as I wrote above before seeing your reply. I’m just not sure that it’s very effective, especially if the person in question takes the fight head on. These types of strategies appear to work best when ranks are tightly closed.

  14. Eric, I’m not sure if both sides of what I said registered– I believe strongly that RaceFail was an emotionally abusive effort to address real issues, and even if my emotional emphasis was on the emotional abuse (I’m still fried about it), I think that low grade prejudice is fairly common, and it adds up to substantial costs for people on the receiving end of it.

  15. There’s at least one more piece to kakfa-trapping: ignorance (whether of real injustices or the current rules about what may or may not be said) is culpable in itself.

    You’ve only discussed forbidden ignorance, but with ignorance as with other things, that which is not forbidden is mandatory. God forbid anybody point out any systemic injustices against the oppressors.

  16. >So one variety of this argument is, “You must be racist because all people of your race are?” ???

    No, kafkatrapping is more specific than that. The common feature of kafkatraps is the form of the argument is constructed so that they’re unfalsifiable. This claim isn’t.

  17. >Eric, I’m not sure if both sides of what I said registered– I believe strongly that RaceFail was an emotionally abusive effort to address real issues, and even if my emotional emphasis was on the emotional abuse (I’m still fried about it), I think that low grade prejudice is fairly common, and it adds up to substantial costs for people on the receiving end of it.

    I got both sides all right. One of the points of my essay is that kafkatrapping is wrong and corrupting and abusive even when it’s enlisted to combat a real problem.

    Though perhaps I would be helping you more if I asked you to consider why you’re still identifying with your oppressors….

  18. >I think that low grade prejudice is fairly common, and it adds up to substantial costs for people on the receiving end of it.

    On reflection, I think I have a different response to this. It’s in two parts.

    1. You’re right.

    2. I’m still not interested in discussing the matter with kafkatrappers. Their tactics condemn them. The correct response to such abusers and mindfuckers is not to try to understand their point of view, it’s to do as much violence to them as you can get away with.

  19. >A Unitarian opposes anti-racism– of interest, not that I think you’ll agree with all of it.

    I don’t. But some of it is brilliant, especially her description of “privilege” as a negative.

  20. well-expressed, esr — thanks for the addition to the lexicon.

    the kafkatrap was a favored tactic of those at my university who were peddling — and later, justifying — multicultural studies. i saw this weapon used ruthlessly against a lot of impressionable undergrads who (unlike me, as i was a bit older than either side) didn’t have the proper logical or linguistic tools at hand to mount an effective defense.

  21. There’s a hybrid of what you label model and A and model P which I think is more common than either pure form. It goes, “it’s essentially impossible for anyone who has grown up as a member of [privileged class] to not be a [classification]ist”. I think anyone with enough experience at model-A kafkatrapping has moved to this hybrid, since it avoids the pitfall of people “noticing that this [model A] logic convicts and impeaches the operator of the kafkatrap”, provided that the operator is a member of [victim class].

  22. How about the argument that black people cannot be racist, or if they are it does not count, because they have historically not had the power to keep whites or others own?

    I also love how the MSM is constantly ringing their hands about the racism and violence of the tea partiers, while the real violence comes almost exclusively from union goons.

  23. Here is the Kafkatrap Model P as seen in the field. It incorporates the simple sales trick of presenting some things that are true, followed by a condemnation that only the White targets have to suffer.

    The Undergirding Factor is POWER: Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism
    By Caleb Rosado, Department of Urban Studies, Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA [edited, emphasis added]

    Prejudice by itself does not constitute racism, however. Neither does power by itself. But when people use their position of power, be it political or institutional, to reinforce their prejudices and to enforce them so that as a result of their racial prejudices the life chances, rights and opportunities of others are limited, the result is racism.

    Racism is prejudice plus power. While all people can be prejudiced, only those who have power are really racist. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and American Indians (the powerless in American society) can be and often are most prejudiced toward Whites on an individual basis, but they are not racists at the structural, institutional level.

    Within this understanding of racism, to be a racist you have to possess two things: 1) socioeconomic power to force others to do what you desire, and 2) the justification of this power abuse by an ideology of biological supremacy.

    What often is described as racism in society today, is really nothing more than prejudice and discrimination. While a Black or Latino person, through the use of a gun and/or intimidation, can force a White person to do as he desires, this is an individual act of aggression, not a socially structured power arrangement.

    At present, only Whites have that kind of power, reinforced by a belief in an ideology of supremacy, both of which constitute the ba sis of racism in America today.

  24. I agree with almost all of this, but it should be pointed out that the concept of “privilege” as employed in the Model P is not per se a kafkatrap. The existence of group prejudice means that people in privileged groups benefit from certain advantages, even if they don’t set out to get those advantages or deliberately assert their racial prejudice. This should be obviously true, and it’s not a fallacy to point this out. The kafkatrap only arises when members of privileged groups are required to feel guilty for others peoples’ racism, and when any argument from a privileged person is dismissed as fatally tainted by racism.

    ESR says: Agreed.

  25. >How about the argument that black people cannot be racist, or if they are it does not count, because they have historically not had the power to keep whites or others own?

    Not a kafkatrap, because it doesn’t depend on being formulated in such a way as to be unfalsifiable.

  26. >Here is the Kafkatrap Model P as seen in the field.

    No, this is not the Model P. It’s a superficially similar argument that depends on special pleading; it doesn’t have the essential kafkatrap property of being unfalsifiable.

  27. @JS Bangs:

    I agree with almost all of this, but it should be pointed out that the concept of “privilege” as employed in the Model P is not per se a kafkatrap. The existence of group prejudice means that people in privileged groups benefit from certain advantages, even if they don’t set out to get those advantages or deliberately assert their racial prejudice.

    True in theory, but for some “privileged” people the advantage is vanishingly small. Also, in the aggregate, the group advantages are getting smaller every year. For example, the outcome of the OJ trial showed that a rich black man can now buy the same amount of justice as a rich white man.

    This should be obviously true, and it’s not a fallacy to point this out.

    True, but it’s worth carefully examining everything else in the argument once the privilege has been pointed out, for the simple reason that if the privilege is relevant to the argument, the argument is likely either a kafkatrap or some other specious species.

    The kafkatrap only arises when members of privileged groups are required to feel guilty for others peoples’ racism, and when any argument from a privileged person is dismissed as fatally tainted by racism.

    That’s the model P. But (if I understand Eric’s nomenclature correctly), in my experience, the pointing out of privilege is much more likely to be associated with a model C. But perhaps the distinction between a model P and a model C is sometimes only made in the recipient’s head. Sure, “You don’t know what it’s like” could be a direct attempt to instill guilt by association, but to me it usually sounds more like “Your opinion on this matter is flawed, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t really put yourself in my shoes.”

    This allows the kafkatrapper to self-identify as a victim without directly attempting to force any kind of group identity on his audience. The group identity self-chosen by the audience is often far more effective than any the kafkatrapper could provide. Feeling guilty because you’re doing better than X only requires that you can self-identify with some group that usually does better than X, not necessarily a group that is the proximate cause of X’s problems.

  28. Hey, what if one actually is a bit of a racist, without being a nasty mean person about it? Say, (for example) “We Han folks are obviously superior in every way to those palefaces and black people, but we don’t want to hurt them, just guide them for their own good!” I betcha there are lotsa Han who’d subscribe to that.

  29. First, models C & P are not kafkatraps if the accused person is indeed an active beneficiary of the incriminated group. Allegedly Eichman kept Jews in high esteem and was not interested in their killing (at least not in the beginning, before all the other major stakeholders in Nazi Germany agreed to participate in it). However he was not a mere idiot but a racist one because he benefited from actively contributing to the Holocaust. The key word here is active.

    In all other cases my position has always been to call the person making such claims a “racist” (prejudiced is a more a appropriate word since discrimination is not always based on race or even ethnicity as such). By resorting to a kafkatrap a person discriminates against individuals based on their belonging to group to which they attache collective identity and guilt. Thus that person is actually part of the problem, as they exploit the legitimate or perceived grievances of a group only to advance themselves. It is not reductio ad Hitlerum to say this is precisely Hitler’s (or Lenin’s for that matter) argument in favor of his criminal policies.

  30. Why do we really need new terminology to describe what we already know is the favourite weapon of politicians all over the world regardless of ethnicity, sex, age, religion and so on?

    Eric, you need to devote some time to study the Indian political system. You might gain a lot of insights into your problems in the USA today by studying a multi-cultural society like India.

  31. esr:
    > The correct response to such abusers and mindfuckers is not to try to understand their point of view, it’s to do as much violence to them as you can get away with.

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
    Isaac Asimov

    “Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.”
    Oscar Wilde. Sexual-minority Kafkatrapper. or not.

    “Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person.
    Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”
    Erich Fromm. Mindfucker.

  32. >Notably, if the model A kafkatrap is true, the world is divided into two kinds of people: (a) those who admit they are guilty of thoughtcrime, and (b) those who are guilty of thoughtcrime because they will not admit to being guilty of thoughtcrime. No one can ever be innocent. The subject must be prevented from noticing that this logic convicts and impeaches the operator of the kafkatrap!

    Oddly enough, I think it’s this problem with the kafkatrap that makes its users so comfortable using it. Many truly see the world in those colors. As an exercise, point out the implications of the model to them — namely that there are two kinds of people: those who are X, and those who are X because they will not admit to being X — and many will proudly proclaim that they were once X, or that they still are X (though usually only for X = sinner, polluter, or some other humbled corrupter).

  33. Wow. This is all incredibly well thought out and all but it seems like everyone here including the poster doth protest too much. It’s like everyone here has just been looking for the perfect construct to use to deflect any criticism ever leveled at the behavior of any group. Who but an incredibly guilty mind would spend this much time thinking about this.

  34. I would also propose Model O: “Your specific behavior x was highly offensive to me as a member of oppressed group y. You couldn’t possibly have been aware of how offensive your behavior was, since you are a member of privileged group z.”

    This is the mechanism of political correctness. It arrogates power over the rules of discourse to the trapper. It uses the guilt to try to force the trapped party into ceding control over the rules of interaction to the trapper. Also note how the trapper claims privileged knowledge over what is and isn’t offensive behavior, so the trapped party will now have to walk on eggshells in order to avoid breaking some undisclosed rule.

    Closely related is Model N: “Being a member of privileged group z, you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to suffer as a member of oppressed group x.”, where in this case the behavior belongs to someone other than the trapped party. Model N shuts down the conversation, as it removes the power of compassion and empathy from the trapped party. It ensures that members of z and x can’t relate to each other, and preserves the victim status of the trapper.

  35. Andrew_M_Garland:

    I agree with ESR; that’s not a kafkatrap per se. It’s really a combination of two claims, one of which is unfalsifiable but relatively innocent and the other of which is both falsifiable and batshit insane. The unfalsifiable part is the semantic claim, which defines racism oddly to suit the author’s agenda, but does so in a forthright enough manner to be acceptable for the purpose of the particular discussion. The batshit insane part is the claim that only whites have political power.

  36. >How about the argument that black people cannot be racist, or if they are it does not count, because they have historically not had the power to keep whites or others own?

    Not a kafkatrap, because it doesn’t depend on being formulated in such a way as to be unfalsifiable.

    But it is so formulated. The definition of “racism” is constructed such that only whites can be racist (often explicitly in the proffered definition) and we are no more allowed to argue that definition than to complain to the ump about ball/strike calls.

    Having noticed that some people in Colonial/Antebellum US owned black slaves, and that most of the owners were white (but, curiously, not the first slaveowner, who was himself black), they go on to reason that even the poor whites who couldn’t afford to buy slaves somehow shared the guilt for what the rich ones who bought slaves did.

    When a reasonable person notices that this is the same sort of reasoning that leads “typical white people” to be apprehensive about criminal propensities of melanin-enhanced strangers (based on what they’ve heard about criminal perpetrators), he is caught in the Model L, which I’ve heard stated “Your ‘logic’ and ‘scientific method’ were all created by Dead White Guys, and are no more valid than my people’s technique of feeling something, which you white people suck at anyway.”

    And to take this off of *ism for a moment, I’d like to point out that anyone not in the “consensus” on AGW is caught in Model S.

  37. Perhaps your model A should be re-christened the model T; it is, after all, the most “transparent” of kafkatraps.

    No, I think it needs to be reserved for

    Warming up in the bullpen: the Uncle Tom card.

    This is arguably related to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy; any member of the designated victim group who strays from the assigned position is declared “inauthentic” and worse.

  38. @pm:

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
    Isaac Asimov

    Yeah, that’s why Eric didn’t say wait until all else fails, and then commit violence. He said that we should come to a quick realization when we are confronted with someone who will only understand violence, and then give them what they need to further their understanding.

    “Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.”
    Oscar Wilde. Sexual-minority Kafkatrapper. or not.

    Eric didn’t say we have to lose our tempers.

    “Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person.
    Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love.”
    Erich Fromm. Mindfucker.

    Yeah, but there are over 7 billion people on the planet, and I don’t have time to love them all.

  39. @Brian:

    Who but an incredibly guilty mind would spend this much time thinking about this.

    You have this exactly backwards. If you feel guilty, you won’t be able to reason this out. It takes a certain detachment to realize that you’ve been wasting an awful lot of time dealing with people who are trying desperately to make you feel very guilty.

  40. >Yeah, that’s why Eric didn’t say wait until all else fails, and then commit violence. He said that we should come to a quick realization when we are confronted with someone who will only understand violence, and then give them what they need to further their understanding.

    While that’s true, I’d put it differently. Abusers and power-seekers should be met with violence in order to prevent them from succeeding. They’re not engaged in rational argument but in manipulation for the purpose of control; treating them as if they are engaged in rational argument is a courtesy they do not deserve.

    >Eric didn’t say we have to lose our tempers.

    In fact, it is very important that we use violence, when we do, calmly and mindfully. Otherwise we are likely to make dangerous errors in judgment.

  41. >But it is so formulated. The definition of “racism” is constructed such that only whites can be racist (often explicitly in the proffered definition) and we are no more allowed to argue that definition than to complain to the ump about ball/strike calls.

    I agree. But I’m trying to be strict and careful; a kafkatrap has the property that it is unfalsifiable regardless of how the -ism is defined; it’s not the meaning of the terms but the form of the argument that does the job.

  42. a kafkatrap has the property that it is unfalsifiable regardless of how the -ism is defined; it’s not the meaning of the terms but the form of the argument that does the job.

    I’m not sure how you can separate the two. The definition of the -ism is an integral part of the argument.

    Tell me if the statement “You are a $foo” is falsifiable without any knowledge of the definition of $foo.

  43. >Tell me if the statement “You are a $foo” is falsifiable without any knowledge of the definition of $foo.

    It isn’t. Now study the Model A for a while and notice the structural difference. The model A is unfalsifiable regardless of the definition of $foo.

    The reason to be strict about this is that, in analyzing kafkatraps, it’s not helpful to get dragged into definitional arguments about terms like “sin”, “racism”, and “sexism”. By getting the definitional analysis tangled up with the form-of-argument analysis, we create excuses for partisans of various causes to ignore the form-of-argument part of the analysis.

  44. > treating [abusers] as if they are engaged in rational argument is a courtesy they do not deserve.

    Certainly. When we extend this courtesy, we do it for ourselves, not for them. The meme of being nice to the bad guy so that we can be completely blameless is drilled into us from a very early age. I blame Disney.

  45. Puggg: Related, but with this NAACP vs Tea Party controversy, that the NAACP is a cathedral, and the Tea Party movement is a bazaar, so the NAACP is lashing out at the TPM because that’s the apprehension that any cathedral has for a bazaar.

    Really? That’s the only reason you could think of? It was just a big honking coincidence that the NAACP went trolling for racism, and Mark Williams obliged with a spectacular racist flameout? Was the movement going to kick him out any minute now before the NAACP forced the matter?

    ESR says: This is off-topic for the thread. Both of you, stop now. Further off-topic flamage will be deleted.

  46. esr: In fact, it is very important that we use violence, when we do, calmly and mindfully.

    Could you be a bit more specific with what you mean by “violence”? My first impression is that you think RaceFail, for example, could have been averted if you’d punched enough people, but I feel like this can’t possibly be correct.

  47. >Could you be a bit more specific with what you mean by “violence”? My first impression is that you think RaceFail, for example, could have been averted if you’d punched enough people, but I feel like this can’t possibly be correct.

    Not possible. First, I wasn’t involved in RaceFail. Second, supposing I had been, I couldn’t reach them to punch them – I would have had to be content with hostile speech.

    But that would have had some point. In dealing with kafkatrappers and emotional abusers, the first thing is to establish that you do not accept that they get to set the terms of the conversation, or even to manipulate you into behaving as though they are engaged in rational argument. “Fuck you and the theory you rode in on” is the appropriate response.

  48. esr: In dealing with kafkatrappers and emotional abusers, the first thing is to establish that you do not accept that they get to set the terms of the conversation, or even to manipulate you into behaving as though they are engaged in rational argument. “Fuck you and the theory you rode in on” is the appropriate response.

    So… by “violence”, you meant insults and invective? I only saw RaceFail in bits and pieces from the outside, but my first reaction wasn’t that it needed more people angrily telling each other to fuck off.

  49. These feel a little strawmannish. They’re all slightly modified versions of legitimate critiques of various forms of oppression, and I wonder if their real purpose is to handily shut down claims of, as you put it, sin, racism, sexism, homophobia, and oppression. I may go through these a bit slowly, but I’ll try to consider each of them. In no particular order, then.

    Consider the model S: “Skepticism about any particular anecdotal account of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression,…}, or any attempt to deny that the particular anecdote implies a systemic problem in which you are one of the guilty parties, is itself sufficient to establish your guilt.”

    I’m sure you’re aware that a major mechanism of oppression is the denial of said oppression, right? The way that women always deserved violence done to them, that good men didn’t rape women, and if they did, only bad women who were asking for it were victims, for example. So, clearly, at one point, it was correct to say that someone’s assertion that, for instance, “Don couldn’t have raped you–he’s an upstanding citizen, and you’ve clearly beaten yourself up and risked societal disapproval because you’re a dirty harlot, rather than as the result of a violent assault!” did illustrate a systemic problem in which the speaker was part of the problem. But, of course, this has its limits. I chose rape as my illustrative example here because Andrea Dworkin, near the end of her life, stirred up a gigantic shitstorm by writing a weirdly implausible article about having been raped; there was considerable division over whether to believe her story because that’s what she’d campaigned for her whole life, or to show some skepticism–in essence, this was the question: is it possible to show skepticism towards a woman’s account of her rape without automatically outing oneself as a great big fan of rape?

    The results, if I remember it clearly, were that Dworkin’s feminist detractors wrote her off as unhinged, her feminist fans tried to be understanding of whatever had caused her to crack, and a very small core of her supporters claimed that this proved that they were the only true feminists and that everyone else was clearly rapetastic.

    The legitimate and illegitimate forms of this critique, then, can be distinguished by the following test: Describe a real-world case (ideally three) where skepticism was reasonable, and explain how that case differs from the one under consideration.

  50. The model A is unfalsifiable regardless of the definition of $foo.

    I’m not sure how that’s possible:

    “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {murder} confirms that you are guilty of {murder}.”

    Let us construct a Gedankenexperiment in which a child is raised under constant surveillance, rather like the protagonist of the The Truman Show. When the child is sufficiently mature to understand the meaning of the word “murder” (itself as defined per the statutes of his state of residence), we ask him “are you guilty of murder?”. If he replies truthfully, he will say that he is not guilty, and because of the unbroken record of his life, we can determine that he has never murdered anyone.

    Thus, I submit that despite the proverbial burden to “prove a negative”, the form of the Model A kafkatrap is indeed falsifiable for some definitions of $foo. IMO, the core of the Model A is use of a word or phrase to denote the alleged crime which has been redefined for the purposes of the kafkatrap to be either unfalsifiable or tautological (my current operative definition for “racist” as used in modern discourse is “opposing Leftism”: “You who oppose Leftism are racist” becomes tautological). This is done to convict the trapee of another crime entirely, which bears the same name, but a different definition.

    Return to our young Truman. If we teach him that eating a candy bar when Mom says “not until after dinner, young man!” is a violation of Mum’s Order to the contrary, which we’ll just abbreviate “Mu’rder”, and he admits his guilt to that crime, to someone raised normally, who didn’t know of this peculiar definition, he’s just confessed to killing someone!

    What makes something truly Kafkaesque is precisely that there is no single clear definition of what behavior proves the crime. Instead, there are vague, shadowy epithets that can’t be pinned down. The very act of demanding a definition of $foo is itself proof that one is a $foo. This probably deserves to be a Model D (See: Porn — “I know it when I see it”).

  51. I’m sure you’re aware that a major mechanism of oppression is the denial of said oppression, right?

    You just proved ESR’s point, but I doubt that you can see how.

  52. The Monster: You just proved ESR’s point, but I doubt that you can see how.

    I don’t think so… unless you think his point was that there’s no grain of truth obscured by the epistemic closure of these arguments. But he claims in the very first sentence that “good causes sometimes have bad consequences”, and later mentions that these ideas started from “worthy goals”. Did you read through the whole comment? I know I used a lot of words, but if you pay close attention, you’ll see that the whole idea was to trace the provenance of the idea and isolate the point at which is goes from a useful determinant of prejudice to a panchreston.

    That, or you’re just being snippy and pretending to see something I missed when, really, you didn’t even understand what I was saying in the first place.

  53. >“Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {murder} confirms that you are guilty of {murder}.”

    Murder isn’t a thoughtcrime. The relevant thing about {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia} (I admit I threw in “oppression” as a catchall) is that they’re mental states. So the model A unpacks as “Your refusal to admit that you have mental state X confirms that you have mental state X”.

  54. >So… by “violence”, you meant insults and invective? I only saw RaceFail in bits and pieces from the outside, but my first reaction wasn’t that it needed more people angrily telling each other to fuck off.

    Oh, but it did. The abusers needed to learn that their tactics weren’t going to be accepted by anyone. The people who bought in merely enabled future abusive behavior.

  55. >The very act of demanding a definition of $foo is itself proof that one is a $foo. This probably deserves to be a Model D (See: Porn — “I know it when I see it”).

    On the other hand, you’re quite right about this. I accept this definition of the Model D: “The act of demanding a definition of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} that can be consequentially checked and falsified proves you are {sinful,racist,sexist, homophobic, oppressive}.”

    Feminists seem especially prone to this one.

  56. esr: Feminists seem especially prone to this one.

    I’ve seen it more in discussions of race, especially because of the two very popular and completely opposite definitions of racism people seem to have. I’ve seen racism defined as “carrying the race meme”, under which definition, everyone in our whole culture is racist in the sense that we have ideas and prejudices about race which we need to be aware of in order to work around them and avoid injustice. I’ve also seen it defined as the sorts of things Klansmen do, things that are beyond the pale in mainstream society. Taken individually, these make sense, but they get mashed up somewhere between academia and public discourse so that the whole thing becomes a mess.

    So, folks of a liberal bent are raised to believe that racism is one of the worst things one can possibly do, and that everyone is racist. This, of course, leads to people flipping the fuck out when someone says they said or did something racist, a reaction that helps precisely no one (the originally-cited issue disappears rather quickly under a flood of indignation), and ends in the pointless circlejerk of shame you described in the original post.

    What was the definitional problem that you saw with feminists?

  57. Consider the model S: “Skepticism about any particular anecdotal account of {sin,racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression,…}, or any attempt to deny that the particular anecdote implies a systemic problem in which you are one of the guilty parties, is itself sufficient to establish your guilt.”

    He doesn’t say that no such denial is ever part of a systemic problem, so your counterexample proves nothing about the validity of the Model S.

    Skepticism about any particular anecdotal account of Whitey raping a black woman, (Tawana Brawley, Duke LAX) or any attempt to deny that the ${some case where a white man did in fact rape a black woman, on camera so that there is no doubt of his guilt} implies a systemic problem in which you are one of the guilty parties, is itself sufficient to establish your guilt.

    The reply “but we know that the phenomenon of racist cops covering up for white perpetrators is a major mechansim of good-ol-boy oppression” is a logical fallacy. One does not disprove ~(X->Y) by pointing out one case where X and Y are both true. The only rational response to such a fallacy is to demonstrate that it is a fallacy, not to dignify it with any value.

    No further effort should be wasted discussing fallacies. That’s a big part of what I take from ESR’s “Fsck you and the theory you rode in on”. I would also be tempted to ask “Did you stop beating your wife?”.

  58. >What was the definitional problem that you saw with feminists?

    My report is that the only time I’ve ever personally encountered the full-blown Model D was from a feminist writer, and the definition in question was of patriarchal oppression. I don’t doubt that it occurs elsewhere, I just haven’t tripped over it myself.

  59. So the model A unpacks as “Your refusal to admit that you have mental state X confirms that you have mental state X”.

    Since a mental state cannot be directly observed, but can only be inferred from observable behavior, we have to examine the definitions of those mental states, and any experimental evidence tying them to behaviors, to determine whether any behavior can be observed to falsify the proposition that someone is in a particular state. I’m not even certain that we can scientifically establish that any particular mental state X exists, which puts me into the S and D traps.

    I’ll agree that it looks bad for falsifiability of any statement regarding someone else’s mental state.

  60. >I’ll agree that it looks bad for falsifiability of any statement regarding someone else’s mental state.

    Right. This is exactly why the Model A is so vicious and so effective – it declares the subject’s report of his/her mental state out of bounds.

  61. >He doesn’t say that no such denial is ever part of a systemic problem, so your counterexample proves nothing about the validity of the Model S.

    That’s correct. The Model S could be rephrased as “It is not possible for you to express skepticism about an anecdotal report of ${X}ism without confirming that you are an ${X}ist.”

  62. Unfortunately, when I attest that racism is likely to exist, and that I have personal anecdotes and years of observations to support this, I seem to be shoved into this cubbyhole of “kafkatrapping.” The key assertion that triggers this is often that it’s very hard for persons who carry certain social signals (white males of high status) to understand my point of view. This is not in itself a fallacy! It’s only a fallacy when it is turned into an emotional weapon.

    I have often experienced white males interrupting me in mid sentence when starting to talk about this, fabricating a “kafkatrapping” straw-man position for me and shoving those words into my mouth. This has happened to me literally dozens of times. I think this is also an important bit of data!

  63. The Monster: He doesn’t say that no such denial is ever part of a systemic problem, so your counterexample proves nothing about the validity of the Model S.

    I really don’t think you’re reading the same things that I’ve been writing; I don’t think that “the Model S” is a legitimate argument. It’s clearly a panchreston, as described in the article. I’m not contesting its validity.

    What I’m trying to point out is that the arguments (“kafkatraps”) laid out in the original post are extensions of legitimate arguments beyond the bounds of legitimacy; hence, I took one, described its rational basis, pointed out the boundary between disprovability and nondisprovability with an example, and constructed a distinguishing question.

    No further effort should be wasted discussing fallacies.

    Eric mentions at the very beginning that these fallacies grew out of laudable goals. If your goal is to have memetic shorthand to shut down people who are trying to speak out against bias as well as people who are just trying to get a rise out of you, then no further examination is necessary, but I think it’s a shame to discard the wheat along with the chaff–hence my interest in distinguishing between the original forms of these critiques and their epistemically-closed mutated variants.

  64. Right. This is exactly why the Model A is so vicious and so effective – it declares the subject’s report of his/her mental state out of bounds.

    Remember, kiddos: “I don’t believe you” is a legitimate, effective refutation.

  65. >The key assertion that triggers this is often that it’s very hard for persons who carry certain social signals (white males of high status) to understand my point of view. This is not in itself a fallacy! It’s only a fallacy when it is turned into an emotional weapon.

    True, and to become an actual kafkatrap it has to change from a contingent falsifiable claim to an unfalsifiable one. So, for example, suppose you said “White males of high social status who claim to understand my point of view are necessarily lying.” At this point, the only alternatives the white male of high status has are (a) grovel, (b) kick you in the teeth, or (c) leave. He is entitled to a suspicion that what you wanted was not understanding but groveling.

  66. Kafkatraps are best defined as statements that, if assumed true, provide a framework to prevent their falsification.

    The murder examples falls apart because it is so obviously false. The mental state ones are more subtle and easily held together by good old doublethink.

    Eric, could you be more specific about the use of violence? My response to such violence would be “Your claim must be really flimsy if have to get violent in response to me criticizing it”. What do you mean by calm? The very act of punching someone causes an adrenaline rush that precludes calmness?

  67. >I think it’s a shame to discard the wheat along with the chaff

    I don’t. Not if the goal is to teach people not to be abusers and manipulators. The message is “You crapped on your own case by trying to jerk me around with fallacies, so you don’t get to waste my time any more.” This is an exact analogue of violence in physical self-defense; the purpose is to both prevent manipulation in the present and deter it in the future.

  68. esr: The message is “You crapped on your own case by trying to jerk me around with fallacies, so you don’t get to waste my time any more.” This is an exact analogue of violence in physical self-defense; the purpose is to both prevent manipulation in the present and deter it in the future.

    By “wheat”, I meant legitimate arguments from any source. As StCredZero pointed out, it’s unfortunately easy to jam falsifiable arguments into these boxes and use them to shut down debate. (I’m reminded of the idea that power makes you stupid.)

    I can see why you’d consider any individual who tried to pull this sort of thing to be tainted and no longer worth listening to, but surely you don’t think that the presence of a cadre of loud and obnoxious jerks somehow invalidates the legitimate concerns of other people who make arguments which are similar on the surface, do you?

  69. suppose you said “White males of high social status who claim to understand my point of view are necessarily lying.”

    “It’s a Black Thing™. You wouldn’t understand.”

  70. >Eric, could you be more specific about the use of violence? My response to such violence would be “Your claim must be really flimsy if have to get violent in response to me criticizing it”.

    Kafkatraps aren’t properly claims at all, they’re (a) fallacies with zero content and (b) attempts at manipulation that are aimed at control rather than persuasion. To respond to them as though they are rational arguments is mistaken on all levels – a better analogy would be attempted rape. Your answer is like suggesting that someone who has just spotted and evaded a rape attempt should continue to be interested in the good opinion of the rapist.

  71. “I would also be tempted to ask “Did you stop beating your wife?”.”

    Mu.

  72. >I can see why you’d consider any individual who tried to pull this sort of thing to be tainted and no longer worth listening to, but surely you don’t think that the presence of a cadre of loud and obnoxious jerks somehow invalidates the legitimate concerns of other people who make arguments which are similar on the surface, do you?

    Logically, no. However, there is often value in taking this rejectionist position towards entire movements on the basis of their jerks. The goal is not simply to teach individuals not to be manipulators, it’s to create a semantic environment in which, if cause activists don’t keep their act clean, they know their movement can lose the option to persuade even with sounder arguments. It’s called “acquiring negative credibility”.

    This is why I am rather notoriously hard on people on my own side who make fallacious arguments in my hearing. Ethical rationalism would require it anyway, but I expect the movements I’m part of to be judged by their jerks. I don’t even think this is wrong, exactly; it’s an effective way for outsiders to limit their downside risk in the presence of limited information.

  73. Not to odiously call attention to my own post, but I would offer that Model D is more typically phrased as (proposed) Model’s N and O.

  74. > I think it’s a shame to discard the wheat along with the chaff

    If confusing the two is a shame, shouldn’t you work to keep them from being confused?

    Instead, you want to shift that burden to others.

    > Eric mentions at the very beginning that these fallacies grew out of laudable goals.

    Did he? Or did he say that anti-racism is a laudable goal? Lauding anti-racism is a long way from lauding thugs who latched onto anti-racism as a mechanism for their thuggery.

  75. >Lauding anti-racism is a long way from lauding thugs who latched onto anti-racism as a mechanism for their thuggery.

    There’s that, but there’s also this. There is no shortage of social-change movements vying for my attention. As long as any of them don’t engage in kafkatrapping at all, my interest in movements that I have seen do it frequently is zero. Sure, some of them might have valid arguments, but I have to prioritize. Once I’ve given as much as I can to movements that have sane presentation, then if I have time left over maybe it’s worthwhile trying to sort wheat from chaff.

  76. “This is why I am rather notoriously hard on people on my own side who make fallacious arguments in my hearing.”

    Lemme test it. One thing that bothers me about many Internet Libertarians is that they often tend to be too supportive of big business even in cases when when it is clear that the success and power of said business has much more to do with governmental interventions than with honest competition, such as, fiat money, lack of clear property rights and thus having a blank check on causing negative externalities, or the kind of regulation that actually prevents consumers or third-parties from suing big business f.e. replaces potentially unlimited torts with very limited fines, case in point, BP leak. Can you link to an article of yours when you criticized this sort of thing?

  77. >it’s an effective way for outsiders to limit their downside risk in the presence of limited information.

    And even more effective for judging who to spend their even more limited time paying attention to.

  78. The kafkatrap sounds a lot like what Suber describes as logical rudeness. Suber points out that assuming rudeness implies falsehood is also rude, but I can’t see a problem with refusing to direct your attention towards rude arguments, as long as you’re not also mentally downgrading your estimate of claims merely because they are claimed by rude people: reversed stupidity is not intelligence, and neither is reversed rudeness.

  79. >Eric, I agree with your premise, but I think it should be taken further.

    I have deleted your comment, even though I agreed with much of it. It is exactly the sort of veering off into argument about isms that we do not need in this thread, and I had already issued a warning about this. A kafkatrap is an invalid form of argument. The particular, contingent form of thoughtcrime alleged in it is not for discussion here, because any ax-grinding or political particularism is too good an excuse for people on the other side of the debate to ignore the whole thread.

  80. > I don’t even think this is wrong, exactly; it’s an effective way for outsiders to limit their downside risk in the presence of limited information.

    and

    > As long as any of them don’t engage in kafkatrapping at all, my interest in movements that I have seen do it frequently is zero. Sure, some of them might have valid arguments, but I have to prioritize.

    There’s also, for lack of a better term, “respect”, specifically respect for my attention.

    If someone claims that their position is rock-solid, their first argument better be decisive because anything else indicates that they’re wrong or they don’t place any value on my attention. And no, I’m not obligated to help them improve their argument.

  81. esr: There is no shortage of social-change movements vying for my attention. As long as any of them don’t engage in kafkatrapping at all, my interest in movements that I have seen do it frequently is zero.

    If one asked me for ways to categorize the relative importance or worth of social-change movements, I don’t think “which ones contain the fewest assholes?” would have cracked the top ten. It also makes your attention incredibly vulnerable to poison-pilling. I don’t think I can point to examples without pulling in the “argument about isms” that you wanted to avoid in this thread, but it seems like you’re putting control over whether certain people are treated justly in the hands of people who truly don’t deserve to make that determination.

    Andy Freeman: If confusing [wheat and chaff] is a shame, shouldn’t you work to keep them from being confused? Instead, you want to shift that burden to others.

    And you apparently think that the burden for determining whether a social-change movement is worthwhile is too darn hard unless you can indulge in some cognitive shortcuts to discount whole classes of people because someone’s advocated for them poorly at some point. There’s a certain point beyond which it’s just plain laziness on your part.

  82. I should also clarify my point by saying that of course I have a duty to call out bad arguments in movements which I’m involved in, and I am making no excuses in any fashion for bad arguments–it should go without saying, but yes, they obscure good arguments, they create cognitive noise, they lead to self-congratulatory epistemic closure, and they’re stupid. What I’m saying is that the presence of bad arguments, of what Eric calls “kafkatraps”, shouldn’t act as an excuse to dismiss the entire movement, for the reasons I’ve given above.

  83. A kafkatrap is an invalid form of argument. The particular, contingent form of thoughtcrime alleged in it is not for discussion here, because any ax-grinding or political particularism is too good an excuse for people on the other side of the debate to ignore the whole thread.

    Oh, they don’t need an excuse. The meta-Kafkatrap is that talking about Kafkatraps is evidence that you’re guilty of whatever.

    His larger point, that the label itself is invalid, however, is on topic. Because it’s “thoughtcrime” being anathematized, there can’t be any meaningful objective definition of the crime. We’ve already identified the trapper’s need to prevent such objective identification, and react against it with a Model D trap.

    I think he’s pointing us to one of the fundamental parts from which the various Kafkatraps are assembled. We may need a Mendeleev to make sense of them.

  84. >If one asked me for ways to categorize the relative importance or worth of social-change movements, I don’t think “which ones contain the fewest assholes?” would have cracked the top ten.

    Perhaps not. But “Which movement tolerates sloppy thinking and abusive mindfucks?” is about second on my list of discriminators.

  85. >What I’m saying is that the presence of bad arguments, of what Eric calls “kafkatraps”, shouldn’t act as an excuse to dismiss the entire movement, for the reasons I’ve given above.

    It’s not just an “excuse”, it’s nearly a duty. Otherwise what selective pressure will act on the movement to make it clean up its act?

  86. “Oh, I see. That’s a Model kafkatrap. Go fuck yourself.”

    Nice work. Good to see this laid out so well :)

    Been doing this kinda thing for a while, mon frere.

    My strategy was to call my accusers “liars” and watch them spasmodically dislocate themselves.

    “You’re a racist”

    “You’re a liar”

    “What?”

    “You’re lying, ergo, you’re a liar”

    “What am I lying about?”

    “Your conviction (and accusation) that I am ‘racist’ is a lie”

    “No it isn’t”

    “Yes it is. You do not believe that I am ‘racist’, therefore, representing yourself as an individual that believes me to be so is a lie. It is also a lie that makes you guilty of slander, and – should you publish this accusation – of libel…both of which I am legally able to sue you for.”

    “But I do believe you are racist”

    “Prove it.”

  87. It’s not just an “excuse”, it’s nearly a duty. Otherwise what selective pressure will act on the movement to make it clean up its act?

    Absolutely correct – I can hardly believe the pathetic appeal you were responding to!

    If you truly believe in the virtue of your position, there is NO excuse for tolerating fraud in your ranks. To do so is tacit affirmation of such fraud. THAT is where your cause/well becomes poisoned.

  88. ‘ but the tactics they used to “raise consciousness” have sometimes veered into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism.’

    Why do you think they were so successful.

  89. or that blacks at tea parties are “Uncle Toms” or “Jewish Concentration Camp Guards.”

    ESR has yet to accept my suggestion that be designated the Model T Kafkatrap (for Uncle Tom and No True Scotsman) that excommunicates a member of the designated victim class

  90. >ESR has yet to accept my suggestion that be designated the Model T Kafkatrap (for Uncle Tom and No True Scotsman) that excommunicates a member of the designated victim class

    You need to formulate the Model T in a way that’s unfalsifiable and independent of any particular thoughtcrime.

  91. How about this: “your refusal to self-identify as a victim of [classification]ism makes you a traitor to your [classification]. Deep down you are really a [oppressor classification]“.

  92. your refusal to self-identify as a victim of [classification]ism makes you a traitor to your [classification]. Deep down you are really a [oppressor classification]

    If this is enough different to merit a separate model letter, then the “T” should simply stand for “traitor”.

  93. >How about this: “your refusal to self-identify as a victim of [classification]ism makes you a traitor to your [classification]. Deep down you are really a [oppressor classification]“.

    I applaud this effort at the Model T, but as phrased it is not quite succinct enough. It doesn’t demonstrate the panchreston quality of the claim very well. I’ve hacked at this a bit but not yet come up with a satisfying formulation, alas.

  94. I applaud this effort at the Model T, but as phrased it is not quite succinct enough.

    I’m not sure the Model T can be phrased succintly. Since one of the standard elements of an ${ism} is that there exists an oppressor class and an oppressed class, and that only members of the oppressor class can be guilty of ${ism}, the Model T exists to explain away how a person who would be assigned to the oppressed class by the casual observer is in fact not part of that class.

    Let’s give it a shot
    “A person otherwise qualified to be a member of ${oppression}.victim who denies ${oppression}[${instance}] is thereby disqualified for membership.”

    As all who are not victims are oppressors and/or enablers of oppression, the Model T negates the Absolute Moral Authority of someone who would otherwise be a member of the victim group. This means that if you tell a {racist|sexist} joke and your {ethnic|female} friend laughs at it instead of denouncing you, they are either secret victims who are afraid to tell the truth, or magically transubstantiated into traitors.

  95. >As all who are not victims are oppressors and/or enablers of oppression, the Model T negates the Absolute Moral Authority of someone who would otherwise be a member of the victim group. This means that if you tell a {racist|sexist} joke and your {ethnic|female} friend laughs at it instead of denouncing you, they are either secret victims who are afraid to tell the truth, or magically transubstantiated into traitors.

    Of course; I think we all understand the mechanism. The problem is that none of the proposed versions of the model T close the circle by denying the subject’s authority to reject the kafkatrapper’s ascription.

    This one is difficult.

  96. I seem to have stepped across some boundary as my post re: the drumming out of dissenters is no longer up. After further looking over the posts I believe I know why. My apologies.

  97. How about:

    “She/he isn’t really {oppressed} because she/he denies {oppression}, which makes her/him no better than {oppressor}.”

    Is that more like what you’re driving at? In otherwords, “Bill Cosby isn’t really Black, because he criticizes black people who don’t get an education, which makes him just like whitey.” (I can’t believe I’ve actually heard that … freakin amazing!)

  98. The problem is that none of the proposed versions of the model T close the circle by denying the subject’s authority to reject the kafkatrapper’s ascription.

    How did this one fail?

    A person otherwise qualified to be a member of ${oppression}.victim who denies ${oppression}[${instance}] is thereby disqualified for membership.

  99. esr: It’s not just an “excuse”, it’s nearly a duty. Otherwise what selective pressure will act on the movement to make it clean up its act?

    I think that this very succinctly describes the difference between your perspective and mine. If you think that social-change movements are amusing hobbies, something to do on a lark, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for wasting your time. If you think that social-change movements are vital engines of liberty and justice, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for screwing over the people they’re supposedly helping.

    Dan, above, seems mainly to be pleased with a cute bit of rhetorical jujutsu he pulled; note here that the priority is less on the uselessness of those arguments, e.g., “How exactly do the contents of my head, as opposed to my actions, make the slightest difference to your struggle or goals? Why are you wasting time and energy which could presumably be advancing those goals? Are you accomplishing anything other than making yourself feel superior while alienating me?”, and more on how, whew, Dan doesn’t have to think about racism now because those guys were idiots and the NAACP didn’t slap them with a C&D or something. As StCredZero mentioned, this line of thought seems to be used rather easily as a cheap way to dismiss movements based on the actions of people outside of any given hierarchy.

    And as I keep pointing out, implementing this strategy makes you vulnerable to attack via poison-pilling. It’s like saying that I’d reject the idea of free software in its entirety if I encountered a single insufferable proponent. You’d think I’d already made up my mind, and if someone wanted to discredit the movement, it would be unbelievably easy with a small number of loud agents provocateurs, especially in movements where anyone can claim to speak for the whole like free software. You seem remarkably blasé about the downsides here.

    I applaud this effort at the Model T, but as phrased it is not quite succinct enough. It doesn’t demonstrate the panchreston quality of the claim very well. I’ve hacked at this a bit but not yet come up with a satisfying formulation, alas.

    It’s not really a panchreston, because there are two possible outcomes: either the subject is a victim, or the subject is an oppressor. I think this edges into more legitimate territory, i.e., “everyone in the group is affected somehow by prejudice against it”, which is an arguable proposition, though it contains so much gray that it might not be very useful.

    So, for example, suppose you said “White males of high social status who claim to understand my point of view are necessarily lying.”

    See, this is obviously false, but it’s not like it necessarily comes out of nowhere. Let’s say that this person has experience with white males of high social status who claim to understand their point of view, and that they’ve repeatedly and impressively shown themselves to not really understand much. Perhaps the louder they make this claim, the more quickly and obviously their jackassery would assert itself. It would be ridiculous for this person to not form some kind of expectation and learn from this experience. The more precise version of the original statement might be “I’d be really surprised if a white male of high social status who claimed to understand my point of view didn’t shortly reveal himself as ignorant.”; given the level of understanding of semi-formal reasoning among the general public, I think you can imagine how this could morph into the tautological variant.

  100. I think this edges into more legitimate territory

    I should clarify this–I don’t think that the “Model T” is a legitimate argument; it’s clearly a closed-circle, though one that sorts its targets into one of two boxes instead of just one. What I mean here is it seems to derive very closely from an actual bit of reason, one which, of course, is rather useless for browbeating people into anything much at all, since it’s a pretty vague statement and can point to a thousand different interpretations and opinions.

  101. > And you apparently think that the burden for determining whether a social-change movement is worthwhile is too darn hard unless you can indulge in some cognitive shortcuts to discount whole classes of people because someone’s advocated for them poorly at some point.

    Not at all. If something is actually worthwhile, it’s horrible to waste resources on stupid games.

    We’re not talking about 10 social change movements, we’re talking about thousands. Since most of them are disasters waiting to happen, you should be grateful to get any chance.

    Here’s another valid shortcut – if someone doesn’t act as if some thing is important, it’s safe to ignore them when they say that said thing is important.

    And, I’m not dismissing people, I’m dismissing their causes. Of course, I’m not obligated to not dismiss people. You want respect – earn it.

    Of course, given the history of “social change” causes, dismissing them all outright is a reasonably good idea. In general, they’re not chaff, they’re poison. The wheat is fairly rare and not very substantial.

    > If you think that social-change movements are amusing hobbies, something to do on a lark, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for wasting your time. If you think that social-change movements are vital engines of liberty and justice, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for screwing over the people they’re supposedly helping.

    Either way, rage should be directed at the trapper. You’re so annoyed that we’re doing it for the wrong reason that you think that we should direct rage at the trapper.

    Curious.

  102. >How about: “She/he isn’t really {oppressed} because she/he denies {oppression}, which makes her/him no better than {oppressor}.”

    Closer:

    “She/he isn’t really {oppressed} because she/he denies {oppression}, which makes her as guilty as {oppressor}.”

    Still not quite right, though.

  103. >How did this one fail?

    It doesn’t get all the way around to assigning guilt and denying that the person’s reports of experience have any validity. It’s not wrong, but it’s incomplete.

  104. Your subject-verb-object grammatical niceties are breaking your ability to close the loop.

    She/he isn’t really {oppressed} because she/he denies {oppression}, which makes her as guilty as {oppressor}.

    becomes

    “Because he/she fails to criticize {oppressor}, in spite of being of{class}, he/she is complicit in spreading {oppression}.”

    The other variation on this is:

    “Because he/she criticizes{class}, in spite of being of{class}, he/she is complicit in spreading {oppression}.”

    It’s a positivist spin on a type A.

  105. >I think that this very succinctly describes the difference between your perspective and mine. If you think that social-change movements are amusing hobbies, something to do on a lark, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for wasting your time. If you think that social-change movements are vital engines of liberty and justice, the rage would be directed at the ‘trapper, for screwing over the people they’re supposedly helping.

    Actually, I think social-change movements are “vital engines of liberty and justice” about 1% of the time. The other 99%, they’re corrupt vehicles for sociopaths seeking power over others. This makes them exactly like normal politics of the non-reform kind. Next question?

  106. >“Because he/she criticizes{class}, in spite of being of{class}, he/she is complicit in spreading {oppression}.”

    Yes, that is better than any of the previous proposals. I’ll see if I can polish it some.

  107. Andy Freeman: We’re not talking about 10 social change movements, we’re talking about thousands. Since most of them are disasters waiting to happen, you should be grateful to get any chance.

    Has Eric’s decision to disallow specifics led to some kind of confusion here? When I’m talking about social-change movements, I mean things like feminism or anti-racism. Yes, these are subdividable (fighting discrimination against Hispanic people has common cause with fighting discrimination against black people, but it’s not the exact same thing), but I was under the impression that, for instance, Dan was convinced that the anti-racism movement had lost itself an ally there and would never get the time of day from him again. What’s the size of the movements you’re talking about?

    And, I’m not dismissing people, I’m dismissing their causes.

    This is precisely backwards. If someone uses an invalid argument, you can justifiably dismiss them. If I say that Free Software will take over the globe because capitalism is evil and the Free Software movement mirrors the glory of socialism, this isn’t a good reason for you to dismiss Free Software; it’s a good reason for you to dismiss me, as I’m clearly, in this example, a kook.

  108. Eric, your blog software is dropping longer comments on the floor; I’ve gotten redirected to URLs ending in #comment-259420 and #comment-259431, but no comments have appeared. I’ll try again later.

    ESR says: Apparently akismet thought your comment was spammy. I’ve approved it.

  109. Hm. Usually when it’s in moderation, the comment appears with a note about it being in moderation. Weird. Well, here’s the second half.

    Andy Freeman: Of course, given the history of “social change” causes, dismissing them all outright is a reasonably good idea. In general, they’re not chaff, they’re poison. The wheat is fairly rare and not very substantial.

    I suppose you’re thinking of something different in terms of “social change causes” than what I was thinking of, but still, wow. I think it’s rather substantial, and hardly poisonous, that gay people aren’t routinely driven to suicide, that black people aren’t bought and sold as chattel, that a husband can’t legally rape his wife, and that the local Jews don’t have to live in a ghetto. These were all social changes, and they were all quite controversial at the time; people fought for them.

    Either way, rage should be directed at the trapper. You’re so annoyed that we’re doing it for the wrong reason that you think that we should direct rage at the trapper.

    I’m unsure how I’ve failed to communicate this clearly enough, but again: I’m annoyed because this (justified) rage easily serves as an excuse to dismiss the entire movement. It’s the difference between dismissing the person and dismissing their cause.

  110. >Dan was convinced that the anti-racism movement had lost itself an ally there and would never get the time of day from him again.

    A friend who is not Dan, reacting to this thread, told me that whenever he hears “You’re white and cannot possibly know how it feels to be black.”, he is tempted to reply “You’re black, and can’t possibly know how it feels to have every achievement of your ancestors smothered under a festering pile of (largely undeserved) racial guilt.” I don’t agree with Dan’s complete rejectionism, but I can’t condemn him for being angry about this either.

  111. >I think it’s rather substantial, and hardly poisonous, that gay people aren’t routinely driven to suicide, that black people aren’t bought and sold as chattel, that a husband can’t legally rape his wife, and that the local Jews don’t have to live in a ghetto.

    The distinguishing feature of bad social-change movements is that they seek coercive power over people who are not themselves coercing. The distinguishing feature of good social-change movements is that they seek to limit and prevent coercion. The tragedy is that good social-change movements almost invariably get seized from inside by high-functioning sociopaths and turn into bad ones.

  112. > The distinguishing feature of bad social-change movements is that they seek
    > coercive power over people who are not themselves coercing. The distinguishing
    > feature of good social-change movements is that they seek to limit and prevent
    > coercion. The tragedy is that good social-change movements almost invariably
    > get seized from inside by high-functioning sociopaths and turn into bad ones.

    Interesting parallel there: s/social-change movement/government/g
    Although you could argue that they are ultimately equivalent anyway…

  113. So, if blacks are incarcerated at 4x the rates of whites relative to their percentage of the population, and men are incarcerated at 18x the rates of women, why aren’t there organizations demanding that there be gender balance in the prison populations, much as there are organizations demanding racial balancing?

    For that matter, prison populations skew even more disproportionately towards people in their 20s. Clearly we need to incarcerate more 83 year old grandmothers to bring true social redress…

    It seems like a lovely nucleus for a social reform movement to aggregate around…

    (Me, I’m gonna stand somewhere else. With popcorn. And some good cover.)

  114. Aye, it sounds like your interactions with ‘kaftatrappers’ has been very much like my own. A bit in the form of racial politics in highschool, much more from feminists after.

    I think most free thinkers are aware of this phenomenon, but I like how you pointed out the breakdown of logic it begins to create in the user. I’ve grown so frustrated trying to talk or debate rationally with these people, and I literally do just get mouthfuls of incoherent jargon and confusion back.

    What would you call the even more general phenomenon of an ideology creating its own system of psuedo-logic so deep, that rational debate outside of their own ideology becomes impossible?

  115. Statistically speaking, black people can’t possibly understand what it is to be black either, and esr’s friend who is not Dan can’t possibly understand what it is to be white. There are maybe a billion black people in the world and a billion white people as well. One black man has one one billioneth of an understanding what it is to be black, which is only one billioneth larger than my zero one billoneth. I (and the friend who is not Dan) each have only one one billioneth of an understanding what it is to be white, so we don’t understand much more than any black man.

    I’d say we are all about equal in our ignorance, thank you very much.

    Yours,
    Tom

  116. BTW, you can see that what I said was true, by seeing how individual blacks (and asians and whites, etc.) are uncomfortable always being put on the spot as having to speak for their race.

    Yours,
    Tom

  117. >What would you call the even more general phenomenon of an ideology creating its own system of psuedo-logic so deep, that rational debate outside of their own ideology becomes impossible?

    “Theology.”

    :-)

  118. I wouldn’t describe myself as subscribing to complete rejectionism (whatever that is) or much any other kind of -ism for that matter. By the time any movement I can be logically affiliated with starts to be recogized as an -ism, I’m usually to be found on the outside lokking in…usually shrugging my shoulders and walking away. Herds of humans with a sacred mission usually end up turning my stomach.

    The friend that is not me may appreciate considering the counter-reparations debate. Not that it has any serious traction, but the fact that it isn’t loudly laughed off the planet says much about how deeply the inflicted ‘white guilt’ has permeated. Try asking an advocate to describe the calculus they would use to determine individual loss due to slavery/racism. What proof must be presented for blacks and whites to determine the correct apportionment of reparations? Over what period of time? How much wealth would they have now had their ancestors been left in their native lands? How much do the descendants of the black slave traders – that bonded and sold their ‘bruthas’ like cattle – have to contribute?

    What if it turns out that the indignity of slavery was actually of net benefit, and that the whining losers asking for checks only have their wretched selves to blame?

  119. I’d say we are all about equal in our ignorance, thank you very much.

    I’d never thought about it in those terms.

    Actually even more amusing to me is the implication that anyone suggesting they understand what it is to be black based on their 1 in one billion sample should really be considered racial stereotyping (if not textbook racism).

    And of course waiting in the wings is the no true scotsman…

  120. The distinguishing feature of bad social-change movements is that they seek coercive power over people who are not themselves coercing. The distinguishing feature of good social-change movements is that they seek to limit and prevent coercion. The tragedy is that good social-change movements almost invariably get seized from inside by high-functioning sociopaths and turn into bad ones.

    Your tragedy sounds much like Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy (emphasis mine):

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent.The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

  121. > Actually even more amusing to me is the implication that anyone suggesting they understand what it is to be black based on their 1 in one billion sample should really be considered racial stereotyping (if not textbook racism).

    Wow. Hadn’t even thought of that.

    Yours,
    Tom

  122. Shorter esr: You might think that racism is a problem, but the real problem is that someone once called me a racist. I will now develop an elaborate theory of my hurt feelings. The good news is, it gives me an excuse to ignore social problems and movements that might otherwise cause me discomfort.

    ESR says: Go away now, child. The rest of us are trying to think, here.

  123. Of course we can move beyond this statistic. Any random black man really learns what it is like to be black by communicating with other blacks about what it is like to be black. But I can do the same thing! So what really matters is that this random black man almost certainly knows and communicates with more black people than I do. Even, so his fraction of one billion is still tiny, even though bigger than mine. (And perversely, a white kid who grew up among lots of blacks may know more about being black than a black kid who grows up among a lot of whites – which may explain some of Barack Obama’s behavior as an adult.)

    And this gets us to my final points: that what really allows a black man to understand what it means to be black is the same thing that allows a white man like me to understand what it means to be black – our shared humanity. This is why it stings when someone says “You don’t understand what it is to be {group designation}! You aren’t {group designation}!” It stings because it is a denial of our shared humanity.

    Yours,
    Tom

  124. Even, so his fraction of one billion is still tiny, even though bigger than mine.

    The interesting thing to me about the thought of “reducing” experience to statistical samples is that we have established and objective mechanisms for measuring the value of a sample. Actually performing those reductions is probably improbably difficult but it’s an idea that could be very .

    This is why it stings when someone says “You don’t understand what it is to be {group designation}! You aren’t {group designation}!” It stings because it is a denial of our shared humanity.

    The grandest irony of all is that the “don’t understand {group} because you aren’t {group}” declaration is probably one of the most blatantly segregationist statements imaginable because its whole premise is that the group in question and the target can have no common ground for understanding.

    Food for thought.

  125. >>“Because he/she criticizes{class}, in spite of being of{class}, he/she is complicit in spreading {oppression}.”
    >
    >Yes, that is better than any of the previous proposals. I’ll see if I can polish it some.

    Ok, then how about a more general form:

    “One who criticizes {class} can never be a member of {class} and is therefore an oppressor.”

  126. Actually, come to think of it, that last is not even necessary, making this a kt against members of ones own class.

  127. Though you didn’t mention it explicitly, I’ll assume this post flows from my pointing out Derailing For Dummies to you last week, and thereby take full credit for it.

    See current post about Knuth. :-)

  128. >Though you didn’t mention it explicitly, I’ll assume this post flows from my pointing out Derailing For Dummies to you last week, and thereby take full credit for it.

    Sort of. I’ve been unsconsciously tooling up to write something like this for a long time. The reports I heard of RaceFail. and looking through part of the thread, convinced me that something deeply dysfunctional and wrong was going on there, and moved the priority up several notches. Derailing for Dummies was sort of the last straw; I think I took from it the idea of bullying with panchrestons, and voila.

  129. goddinpotty, Eric was riffing off of a discussion of sexism which he wasn’t directly involved in. So, sexism, not racism. And you’re apparently not far off in describing it as a method for handily dismissing movements which one doesn’t want to participate in; see my above notes on Dan, for example.

    Tom DeGisi: Statistically speaking, black people can’t possibly understand what it is to be black either, and esr’s friend who is not Dan can’t possibly understand what it is to be white.

    You’re being intentionally obtuse. The thing that’s missing is precisely that which is very difficult to get by talking to people rather than by subjective experience. (I don’t think I’m talking about qualia, but I suppose it’s close.) John Howard Griffin and Norah Vincent both described their experiences going undercover (as, respectively, black and male) as being more profoundly enlightening about the subjective experience thereof than their reading had been.

    esr: The distinguishing feature of bad social-change movements is that they seek coercive power over people who are not themselves coercing. The distinguishing feature of good social-change movements is that they seek to limit and prevent coercion. The tragedy is that good social-change movements almost invariably get seized from inside by high-functioning sociopaths and turn into bad ones.

    The problem, I think, is that this invariably changes as movements achieve success. What’s obviously coercive to us now (e.g., all schoolkids must recite the Lord’s Prayer) wasn’t then; the reverse was seen as coercion. I have some trouble fitting the arguments into my head because they seem so damned ridiculous, but this just seems to reiterate what I said back here: after they’ve succeeded, social-change movements are obvious and right, but before they do, they’re anything but obvious, and their opponents will paint them as the rise of a terrible tyranny.

    I don’t think this “distinguishing feature” you cite is particularly useful in distinguishing anything; it’s certainly useful in standing athwart the history, though.

  130. Kafkatrapping is, indeed, an odious technique; however, it’s also quite deeply embedded in the memetic genotype of many movements, and so people who are otherwise well-intentioned and espousing worthwhile positions may use it simply as part of the ‘accepted toolkit’ of people arguing those positions, perhaps not even understanding its problems. In such instances, it may well be worth reasoned explanation of why the kafkatrap is a problem. If the ‘trapper then explodes and says that the discussion of kafkatrapping is further evidence that you are guilty of $THOUGHTCRIME, then yeah, immediate and extreme rudeness is probably the correct response. However, it’s also possible that you might get someone not to use it in the future, who would simply write you off and keep using it if you are immediately rude to them.

  131. esr: I’ve been unsconsciously tooling up to write something like this for a long time. The reports I heard of RaceFail[...]

    Well, that’ll teach me to assume. Pardon me.

    Dan: By the time any movement I can be logically affiliated with starts to be recogized as an -ism, I’m usually to be found on the outside lokking in…usually shrugging my shoulders and walking away. Herds of humans with a sacred mission usually end up turning my stomach.

    That’s rather interesting. Usually people tend to identify pretty strongly with social-change movements which have become part of the mainstream of our thought; this is, for instance, why Rand Paul believes he could have marched with King, had he been around in the 1960s, and why most people believe they’d have been abolitionists in the 1850s.

    (On reparations, I’ve seen nothing substantial or serious; it seems to exist primarily as a concept for starry-eyed black activists to rally around and for white people to get their hackles up over, possibly while using the word “shiftless”.)

    What if it turns out that the indignity of slavery was actually of net benefit, and that the whining losers asking for checks only have their wretched selves to blame?

    Judging only the ends and not the means, the Holocaust was awesome for Jews. Someone finally stomped them hard enough that they got their own state, something which had been a pipe dream for around two thousand years. (There was a bit of “indignity” involved in the process, though.) Oddly enough, none of the arguments against reparations from Germany to Israel (money which pretty much built the country) were that, when you added everything up, the Nazis had really done the Jews a favor.

    Why do you think that your attitude toward black Americans (one which I’ve seen from other sources, such as David Horowitz; it’s by no means uncommon) is so different from the prevailing attitude toward Israelis?

  132. >after they’ve succeeded, social-change movements are obvious and right, but before they do, they’re anything but obvious, and their opponents will paint them as the rise of a terrible tyranny.

    Nonsense. Sometimes, after they’ve succeeded, they were obviously wrong. Consider, for example, the early history of Italian Fascism. Or the Muslim Brotherhood. Or Bharatiya Janata. These are only recent, obvious examples; I could multiply them by a thousand – all social-change movements, all very far from virtuous. You’re applying a positive selection bias – you’re invested in the idea that struggle against the Man is a good thing, so you automatically discard instances like these.

  133. > You’re being intentionally obtuse.

    No, I’m intentionally devaluing generalizing from personal experience. It may lead to lots of insight, but it also leads to lots of gratuitous errors. I’ve been reading Eliezer Yudkowsky. Can hardly wait for the next installment.

    > John Howard Griffin and Norah Vincent both described their experiences going undercover (as, respectively, black and male) as being more profoundly enlightening about the subjective experience thereof than their reading had been.

    Good point. It doesn’t really invalidate my point, although it does put my point in it’s proper place. I don’t know what being white is like. I know what being Tom DeGisi, who happens to be white, is like. John Howard Griffin knows what being John Howard Griffin, who happens to be eithter white or black is like.

    Yours,
    Tom

  134. esr: Nonsense. Sometimes, after they’ve succeeded, they were obviously wrong. Consider, for example, the early history of Italian Fascism. Or the Muslim Brotherhood. Or Bharatiya Janata. These are only recent, obvious examples; I could multiply them by a thousand – all social-change movements, all very far from virtuous.

    I think my bias here is more the Enlightenment things-invariably-improve bias, but it doesn’t break my point. Social change movements which are currently regarded as obviously virtuous weren’t regarded as such before they were absorbed into the culture. Specifically, movements that you think were virtuous (I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest abolitionism) were very controversial in their day, among people who were reportedly making the exact same distinction that you are now.

  135. >(I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest abolitionism)

    Yeah? Well, to my knowledge the abolitionists never kafkatrapped anyone. They didn’t have to. They had a valid argument.

    That’s why your whole elaborate edifice crashes down. Because I’m not trying to reject all social-change movements, nor do I advocate that others should do so, even though I think 99% of them are corrupt. The 1% really matters. What I am advocating is that we reject all the ones which tolerate kafkatrappers in their midst.

  136. esr: Yeah? Well, to my knowledge the abolitionists never kafkatrapped anyone. They didn’t have to. They had a valid argument.

    And your whole elaborate edifice crashes down if anyone ever made an invalid argument against slavery. Your knowledge of the subject comes a hundred and fifty years after the fact, when the good arguments were self-evident. This is just more of what I was talking about–these things weren’t obvious then, any more than the social-change movements which the Erics of the future will accept as self-evident are now.

    Again, your rationale for rejecting social-change movements is a paper-thin excuse; it implies that you’d rather not deign to consider their arguments if you can find one jackass who doesn’t meet your standards for rational debate. You’re saying that if you found one abolitionist who was an insufferable self-righteous prig about the matter, you’d consider abolitionism a movement not worth your time.

    You’re assuming that the presence of someone debating in poor faith implies that there exist no good arguments and that the cause itself is worthless.

  137. >You’re saying that if you found one abolitionist who was an insufferable self-righteous prig about the matter, you’d consider abolitionism a movement not worth your time.

    No, insufferable self-righteous prigs I can handle – I’m well aware that abolitionism was full of those, it jumps right out of the primary sources. Emotional abusers relying on logical fallacies are another matter. A movement that fails to police such out of its ranks – that doesn’t show any sign of even wanting to do so – forfeits my respect.

  138. @grendelkhan”
    [quote]
    fighting discrimination against Hispanic people has common cause with fighting discrimination against black people”
    [/quote]

    You’d think so, wouldn’t you.

    White Protestants are some of the *least* prejudiced people on earth.

    Note that that statement does not assert that White Folk ain’t prejudiced.

    @ Tom Dickson-Hunt:
    [quote]
    Kafkatrapping is, indeed, an odious technique; however, it’s also quite deeply embedded in the memetic genotype of many movements, and so people who are otherwise well-intentioned and espousing worthwhile positions may use it simply as part of the ‘accepted toolkit’ of people arguing those positions, perhaps not even understanding its problems.
    [/quote]

    In general these people are not THINKING and are not ARGUING, they’re just regurgitating talking points. Once this has been established the proper response is “I’m sorry, I make it a policy of not having [ political | social ] disagreements with people who are ideologically blinded or ignorant. In otherwords, I don’t argue with morons. Wonderful weather we’re having here, aren’t we…”.

    @ESR:
    [quote]
    Nonsense. Sometimes, after they’ve succeeded, they were obviously wrong. Consider, for example, the early history of Italian Fascism. Or the Muslim Brotherhood. Or Bharatiya Janata. These are only recent, obvious examples; I could multiply them by a thousand – all social-change movements, all very far from virtuous.
    [/quote]

    Or like Prohibition/The War On drugs. Presented as virtuous but with VERY, VERY bad side effects.

  139. > When I’m talking about social-change movements, I mean things like feminism or anti-racism.

    Do you really want to claim that a majority of social-change movements are beneficial?

    Communism is a social change movement that has killed upwards of 100M people. What was the overriding benefit? Nazism was a social change movement.

    What? Those aren’t “real social change movements”? On what basis? One true scotsman and all that.

    And, I’d argue that feminism and anti-racism aren’t themselves single movements, but are actual multiple movements, and most of them are odious.

    You’re free to disagree, but then you get to explain what benefit overrides the evil of quotas. Of course, you could argue that quotas are a benefit.

    > These were all social changes, and they were all quite controversial at the time; people fought for them.

    As I said, there have been good social change movements. My claim is that they’re fairly rare, that the class as a whole has been a disaster.

    “he meant well” is an insult for good reason.

  140. esr,

    > Emotional abusers relying on logical fallacies are another matter. A movement that fails to police such out of its ranks – that doesn’t show any sign of even wanting to do so – forfeits my respect.

    Only if they know that’s what they are doing. People manipulate other people. Babies pretty much start manipulating their parents at birth, if not before, and their parents do the same. You are asking people to be Spock, or Eliezer Yudkowsky. Or you. Very, very few people are even close. I’m not. I need someone to point these things out! People have to understand kafkatrapping first. Until you made this post I was perfectly happy trying to trap people who make false accusations of racism in traps very similar to these. I don’t think I went this far, but when I was really mad I probably came close. Now I know to be more careful. But this kind of meta analysis is really rather rare. Mostly people just flail away. Don’t you ever visit websites frequented by lesser mortals?

    Yours,
    Wince

  141. Eric, would you mind elaborating about Bharatiya Janata? I skimmed their Wikipedia entry. If there’s something particularly odious about them, that article seems to have whitewashed it.

  142. >Eric, would you mind elaborating about Bharatiya Janata?

    Racists, frequently implicated in violence against Indian Muslims They’re a sort of Aryan purity movement for dark-skinned Aryans, all about the virtues of “hinduttva” with internal propaganda that’s deeply creepy. They have a paramilitary youth wing. If this is sounding familiar, it should; the BJ organization, like the Muslim Brotherhood, was consciously modeled on Italian fascism during its formative period in the 1930s.

  143. How about this.
    We can generalize it somewhat:

    “Your criticism proves you are an oppressor.”
    “Your denials prove your guilt”

  144. > These were all social changes, and they were all quite controversial at the time; people fought for them.

    Let us not forget that segregation/Jim Crow was a Progressive social change movement.

    There aren’t many large scale humanitarian disasters that weren’t social change movements. We’ve yet to see a situation that someone didn’t try to make worse via a social change movement.

  145. >“Your criticism proves you are an oppressor.” “Your denials prove your guilt”

    The second form is a straight Model A. And the first doesn’t capture the essence people were aiming at for the Model T, which is foreclosing the testimony of “traitors” from within the victim group who might otherwise disrupt the victimological narrative.

  146. This is a reminder that I am policing this thread closely against attempts to rathole the discussion, especially with respect to political particularism and most especially with respect to current political controversies. Offtopic and abusive posts will be deleted without warning and there will be no appeal. Persistent attempts to get such posts past me will be cause for banning the poster.

  147. One of the fundamental premises of anti-*ism is that the members of the official victim class are defined to be incapable of *ism. When a person ostensibly a member of that class then criticizes any particular instance of alleged *ism, it presents a problem for the anti-*ism activists.

    So the Model T is brought in to resolve the cognitive dissonance. It is the epicycle of the ${ism} theory.

    A complete workup therefore includes the Model T per se as well as the antecedent Model V that makes it necessary

    Model V: “Members of ${ism}.victim cannot be guilty of ${ism}. In all disputes between ${ism}.victim and ${ism}.oppressor, the latter is guilty and the former is innocent.”

    This is how the actions of the ${ism}.victim, which would clearly be ${ism} if committed by a ${ism}.oppressor, can be excused.

    Model T: “A person otherwise qualified to be a member of ${ism}.victim, who challenges the validity of any part of the theory of ${ism}, including any specific instance of alleged ${ism}, by doing so becomes instead a member of ${ism}.oppressor.traitor.”

  148. > What I am advocating is that we reject all the ones which tolerate kafkatrappers in their midst.

    How many tolerate but don’t encourage?

  149. @Andy Freeman:

    How many tolerate but don’t encourage?

    You don’t want to go there. That in itself is a kafkatrap: Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of encouraging the proponents of your position who do X confirms that you are, in fact, a proponent of your position who believes that X is a good thing.

    Gets back to the whole mental state thing. You don’t have to go there. You don’t need to go there. Just rejecting tolerance is sufficient.

  150. Of course, the whole problem with rejecting groups that tolerate bad behavior is that some groups will soon enough develop codewords and actions to condemn without truly condemning. I’m not completely sure how you handle this — it’s sort of a kafkatrap jujitsu, where public and private actions are completely different. The opponent might know about the dichotomy, but it might be hard to fight without an argument inferring a mental state, and then the opponent of the kafkatrapper is himself caught kafkatrapping. In this, the internet is our friend, because it’s increasingly hard to organize without it, and with it, it is very difficult to keep in-group communications from leaking to the public.

  151. > Of course, the whole problem with rejecting groups that tolerate bad behavior is that some groups will soon enough develop codewords and actions to condemn without truly condemning.

    No, this is an utterly minor problem. The real problem is that groups are made up of human beings and we are proposing such a high standard of behavior that 100% of groups will fail. Does anyone here really think that FOSS advocates don’t kafkatrap? Does anyone here really think there has been a concerted effort to repress such kafkatrapping? Maybe via guilt trips? Kafkatraps are just a specific instance of guilt trip Catch-22s. Guilt trips are laid on people to manipulate their behavior. Guilt trips are a good thing to lay on people who are actually behaving badly.

    Here’s the real reason kafkatraps are tolerated. It’s because the behavior kafkatraps condemn is so common and difficult to avoid that everyone does it – at least a little bit. Thus, you really are in a Catch 22 situation. Take bigotry. What’s bigotry? Discrimination against out groups. Why do we have it? Well humans like being in groups – small groups. It’s built into our biology. But there are lots of humans, so we can’t all be in the same small group. But we all like to think that our group is the best group. I think this may be built into our biology. We certainly want to favor our small group (think nepotism and tribalism). I’m almost certain that is built into our biology. We also naturally make all kinds of confirmation bias errors and classification errors and logical errors of all kinds.

    We are all going to be a little bigotted, just out of group pride, group loyalty, group solidarity and just by mistake, ALL THE TIME.

    The real problem we have is over reacting to truly minor bigotry, like Trent Lott’s unfortuneate loyal compliment to Strom Thurmond, and under reacting to truly major bigotry, like the disasterously common genocidal bigotry against Jews.

    Yours,
    Tom

  152. >Does anyone here really think that FOSS advocates don’t kafkatrap?

    Yes, I do. And I challenge you to exhibit an example.

  153. Yes, I do. And I challenge you to exhibit an example.

    Precisely the correct response to any unsubstantiated assertion, particularly when someone tries to sneak it through with “as everyone knows”, “the scientific consensus is clear”, or similar Emperor’s New Clothes wording.

    If it’s so bloody obvious to everyone, it should take a NY minute to think of three examples.

  154. esr and the Monster,

    FOSS advocates make all kinds of pathological arguments. Some flame like rocket engines, just like some language bigots. Are you really saying that with all that flaming they don’t kafkatrap? Never? Not even against Microsoft and Apple, the perennial oppressors?

    > If it’s so bloody obvious to everyone, it should take a NY minute to think of three examples.

    I made NO predictions as to frequency.

    Yours,
    Tom

  155. >Are you really saying that with all that flaming they don’t kafkatrap?

    Yes, I am. We have too many good arguments to need to.

    Now, produce an example of a kafkatrap used by a FOSS advocate, or retract your claim.

    (Tangential note: I hate the “FOSS” acronym.)

  156. > Yes, I am. We have too many good arguments to need to.

    That has not prevented anyone else from making bad arguments. Nor has it prevented open source advocates from making other bad arguments. Do you require an example of one of those, too?

    > Now, produce an example of a kafkatrap used by an open source advocate, or retract your claim.

    That may take time. Google has not added “form of argument” search.

    > (Tangential note: I hate the “FOSS” acronym.)

    What do you prefer that unites the open source camp and the free software camp, especially since Stallman won’t accept the phrase “open source”?

    Yours,
    Tom

  157. esr,

    Care to comment about anything else in my comments? That was a rather picky detail. Open source is a social movement. You have claimed that social movements tend to be captured by high functioning sociopaths who turn them to their own ends. Surely there are some manipulative jerks among open source advocates already….

    Yours,
    Tom

  158. I mean, it would seem to be almost axiomatic, given what you have said about social movements in this very thread, that open source, if it has not already produced people who use kafkatraps, that it would soon do so, given the obvious success of the open source movement.

    Yours,
    Tom

  159. Right now I’m looking at the intersection of open source and other movements which practice kafkatrapping. People are great learners. They even learn to imitate manipulative arguments, especially if they appear to help to reach their goals, and if no one has pointed out why those arguments are unethical.

    Yours,
    Tom

  160. >Do you require an example of one of those, too?

    No. I’m not denying that our advocates sometimes make bad arguments, because I know they do. I am denying the specific and much stronger claim that they employ kafkatraps. Kakatrapping has to be associated with a kind of thoughtcrime about which people can be made to feel guilty and accused of committing even when they deny it, and there is no relevant kind of thoughtcrime for our advocates to seize on. To support it, you would at the very minimum to show an example of a bad pro-FOSS argument that is unfalsifiable. Not just contingently false, mind you: unfalsifiable.

    In your eagerness to appear humane and balanced, you have made a claim that is both false and, when examined at all closely, rather idiotic. You should produce an example or retract it.

    >That may take time.

    Until you have found such an example, you cannot claim that our advocates use kafkatraps. You can claim that you *believe* our advocates use kafkatraps, but you also could claim that you believe the Moon is made of gargonzola and would mean just as little.

    >What do you prefer that unites the open source camp and the free software camp, especially since Stallman won’t accept the phrase “open source”?

    Different thread. For now, consider your position before you get in any deeper. You have been reduced to uttering a blatant stupidity by your desire to sound reasonable and fair. That is a bad habit that I think you are rather prone to, which is why I am being merciless about calling you on it.

  161. Here’s an example of a bad argument from an open source advocate:

    > Hi, Brenda, I found this page from the “Harming the Community” page on the geekfeminism wiki.

    > I was churlish enough to criticize Richard Stallman’s “EMACS virgins” “joke” during the Gran Canaria desktop summit, and received a similar negative backlash, amounting to hundreds of comments and emails, almost all anonymous.

    > I learned that when someone asked about this incident at the most recent Software Freedom Day in Boston, Mr. Stallman replied that “The person who brought that up seems to be a troll-like enemy of the free software movement.”

    > I guess that’s the equation: “trying to support women in FLOSS” == “troll-like enemy of the free software movement”.

    > Keen.

    I think bad arguments made by open source advocate might be pretty easy to find.

    Yours,
    Tom

  162. Surely there are some manipulative jerks among open source advocates already

    Of that I have no doubt, but it is unresponsive. Open Source includes a lot of people who know how to program computers. The art of programming forces a certain logical discipline onto people; all the handwaving in the world doesn’t produce functional code. People who have trained themselves to ruthlessly eradicate illogical thinking that will lead them away from that goal of functional code are veterans at detecting illogical arguments.

    In short, it’s not that the manipulative jerks lack the motive to Kafkatrap, they simply don’t have the opportunity to do so when their audience comprises technically-competent people. We just don’t BS easily. Furthermore, I think that the people who excel at manipulating people tend to focus their efforts on doing so, rather than the work of understanding how computers work well enough to command their obedience.

  163. >Surely there are some manipulative jerks among open source advocates already….

    Oh, no you don’t. You’re still on the hook for having made a strong claim for which you can produce no evidence. Don’t change the subject.

    Are you really so confused that you think kafkatrapping is the only form of bad argument used by manipulative jerks?

  164. > You have been reduced to uttering a blatant stupidity by your desire to sound reasonable and fair. That is a bad habit that I think you are rather prone to, which is why I am being merciless about calling you on it.

    Drives my wife crazy sometimes.

    Yours,
    Tom

  165. > Just rejecting tolerance is sufficient.

    I’m not suggesting using “do they encourage kafkatrapping” as a test, I’m asking about behavior.

    Hypothesis 1: Behavior that is somewhat common in a group is somewhat encouraged by said group.

    Note that said behavior need not have anything to with what defines said group. A group may have exactly the same amount of a given behavior as its enclosing society.

    Hypothesis 2: the relative-to-society occurrence of a behavior by group members is somewhat influenced by the relative-to-society encouragement/discouragement of said behavior.

    Both hypotheses tolerate folks who belong to multiple groups.

  166. >I think bad arguments made by open source advocate might be pretty easy to find.

    I agree. But you didn’t merely claim “bad arguments” in use, you claimed kafkatraps were in use. I’m still waiting for you to produce an example or retract that claim, rather than frantically waving your hands and trying to change the subject.

  167. > Are you really so confused that you think kafkatrapping is the only form of bad argument used by manipulative jerks?

    No. Look, you are being subjected to stream of consciousness because searching for open source advocates who have used kafkatraps is really, really boring, especially since I have never haunted those sorts of discussions, and I’m hoping for someone to pick up on the generalized bigotry meme I keep plopping down in related threads. But it has not caught on.

    That’s pretty self-centered of me. Sorry.

    Yours,
    Tom

  168. > I’m still waiting for you to produce an example or retract that claim, rather than frantically waving your hands and trying to change the subject.

    You’ll have to wait a bit longer. It’s not boring enought to give up yet.

    Yours,
    Tom

  169. Well, I have something which may qualify under Model T:

    Model T: “A person otherwise qualified to be a member of ${ism}.victim, who challenges the validity of any part of the theory of ${ism}, including any specific instance of alleged ${ism}, by doing so becomes instead a member of ${ism}.oppressor.traitor.”

    On Mono, Miguel, Stallman and Fusion with Microsoft: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090927151401988

    Miguel is normally qualified to be a member of the open source movement (a closed source victim), because he works on open source projects. But Miguel does not have pure thoughts with regard to patents and says you can just go to Novell for a second source. And he is being called a traitor.

    Please do not argue that he is not being called a traitor: Key graf:

    “But rather than tell you what I think, let’s let Miguel speak for himself. You can then judge for yourself how accurate, or not, Stallman was, if he said what has been reported. For the exercise, we’ll assume he did.”

    That’s sly, but the author is calling Miguel a traitor.

    I think the motivation to read out traitors and to defend our heroes is enough to overcome our (I advocate for open source, just not exclusively) logical bent so that even people who wouldn’t normally kafkatrap will still do it.

    Yours,
    Tom

  170. Tom, ESR hasn’t accepted that definition of Model T, but since I’m the one who proposed it, note that it is part of a larger pattern that includes the Model V. For a Model T Kafkatrap to exist, the corresponding Model V must also exist, or the assignment to a class isn’t relevant.

    I don’t see the Model V. Can you point that out?

  171. I like this idea that accusations of kafkatrapping require actual concrete examples. It’s a pity it only applies to Tom’s claims though!

  172. Tom: I have to agree with Monster there. What you’re seeing is Miguel being called a blasphemer.

    I actually bait those psychos in all my email messages with this tag line: “I don’t necessarily believe all software should be free… but if you pay for it, it should work.”

    That has gotten me into at least a half a dozen arguments, these folks are also the same folks who insist that “Open Source” isn’t valid and that GPL is the only acceptable license. The arguments are generally short. Most of them think Eric’s a blasphemer too (which I’m sure he finds entertaining as hell, give his regious views :^).

    I finally just stopped being involved in those organizations that attracted this type of person. I decided life is just too damned short.

  173. Monster> ESR hasn’t accepted that definition of Model T

    I think demurring on that score would be unfair to Tom. We know what we’re trying to capture with the model T, even if we don’t have a compact enough expression of it that I’m willing to add it to the list yet. The fair thing to do is to engage Tom’s example on its intention and fix the technical problems with the (as yet nonexistent) Model T formula later.

    Tom, what you have here is a pretty ordinary case on an in-group anathematizing a heretic. What’s missing to make it into a model T is that model-T-ness would require open-source practitioners to be a victim group against whom oppressors can practice thoughtcrime even though they deny it – which is, frankly, ludicrous. To see why, imagine this exchange:

    Open-source kafkatrapper: “You advocate closed source, and by doing so oppress users and open-source programmers everywhere!”

    Subject: <cringes with guilt>

    Pretty ridiculous, and we’re not even to the Model A yet. Here’s what that would look like:

    Open-source kafkatrapper: You advocate closed source, and by doing so oppress users and open-source programmers everywhere!

    Subject: I deny it! I am as purely open-sourceist as the driven snow!

    Open-source kafkatrapper: (Darkly) Your denial that you harbor closed-sourceist tendencies proves your guilt!

    Subject: <cringes with guilt>

    To get to a model T. you’d have to push the theory that closed-sourcism is a culpable thoughtcrime beyond to a level of absurdity even RMS’s nuttiest acolytes don’t occupy.

  174. Tom, your quest is futile, and here’s why. Kafkatrapping can’t be performed in a memetic vacuum. You need a narrative first. The narrative goes pretty much the same way regardless of the grievance. Victim class, oppressor class, history of oppression going on for somewhere between decades and millennia, and a peculiar, ineffable, grueling, and intrinsically virtuous “experience” of being a member of the victim class. In order for this narrative to take shape, it needs to bounce around for a while in an appropriate echo chamber. Every kafkatrap implicitly invokes this narrative. It would never occur to someone to attempt a kafkatrap if that someone didn’t already have the narrative in his head. Even if someone somehow formed the whole narrative in his own head out of whole cloth and then attempted to kafkatrap someone, then neither the intended target nor anyone else would have even a vague clue what he was getting at. Therefore, a lone few muddled thinkers within a movement is never sufficient to result in kafkatrapping. You need a critical mass of them in order to build the narrative.

    ESR says: Well put, Daniel.

  175. I’ve been away in the middle of composing this, so I apologize for and cross posting caused errors.

    Racism is only a thoughtcrime?

    Nepotism is the in group / out group equivalent of racism where the family is the favored race. People don’t care about racism or nepotism because of what people think. They care about it because of what they do. You are contending that there are no tribal aspects to the open / closed source dicotomy which would cause closed source advocates to discriminate against open source.

    That sounds very dubious.

    So let’s pull this apart.

    Narrative, huh?

    Boy, you guys must not make up enough stories.

    Victim class, (check – virtuous hard working programmer) oppressor class, (check – the suits who lock up the code – some of whom are former programmers) history of oppression going on for somewhere between decades and millennia, (check, although I don’t see why this amount of time is required. I have children. You would be amazed.) and a peculiar, ineffable, grueling, and intrinsically virtuous “experience” of being a member of the victim class. (Death march projects. Crazed, late nights. Who was writing recently about how badly programmers were treated as a reason for women to avoid the field. Some guy I know.)

    Critical mass. Hmmm. Programmers have been telling stories like these for decades.

    I don’t think I’m having a failure of logic. I think you all are having a failure of imagination. Kafkatrapping is low cost. It is easy. It has a high payoff. DeGisi’s First Hypothesis: If you can think of it, and it’s possible, people will do it. Hang out on the internet a bit and you’ll think it’s proven. DeGisi’s Second Hypothesis: People are pretty much the same. We aren’t building the perfectly logical New Open Source Man. The same reptile brain lurks under the logic and the rhetorical skills. It just means we can be a little more sophisticated. Hang out on an internet flame war, and you’ll think this one is proven too. DeGisi’s Third Hypothesis: Groups of people are pretty much the same. They react lke all tribal units. Again, the internet provides a world of examples.

    Put your economics together with your evolutionary biology, Eric. You gave me words for half this stuff. I never thought my idea that open source advocates practiced kafkatrapping was silly. I thought it was obvious. I was stunned you did not agree.

    You can draw the lines. Given the cost / benefit ratio, you are going to throw a lot of perfectly good groups under the bus, because people will not be able to avoid the temptation. I bet kafkatrapping is almost addictive in some circumstances. That self-righteous rush….

    Yours,
    Tom

  176. Maybe you’ve been looking too far afield, Tom, in your search for evidence. Maybe all you needed to do was look at the thread on this very blog, not very long ago, about TurboHercules and IBM. I guess PJ’s been rehabilitated, or more likely, redefined.

  177. I have an idea for how to respond to kafkatrapping.

    How about anyone who does this, you respond by accusing them of being a pedophile.

    So if they wonder why you have a problem with a black president, or a black whatever, when race really has nothing to do with it, you immediately counter-attack by wondering why they think pedaresty is just great.

    Another point about this: liberals are the ones who do this. Conservatives really do not do kafkatrapping. If you doubt me on this, just Google the recent disclosures about the JournoList. Liberal journalists openly admitted on this email serve that they should accuse people on the right who were making an issue of Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright of being racist, when they knew damn well it had nothing to do with race.

    Those of us on the right should begin a narrative wondering why people like Eric Alterman, Matthew Yglesias, and all the rest think it is ok to have sex with kids. I don’t really have any proof of this, but proof is not required. The kafkatrappers have shown us that.
    Some may think I am going too far, or this is too harsh. But being falsely accused of racism is pretty harsh too, and there is a certain rough justice in giving them a taste of their own medicine. After all, NAMBLA is a liberal organization, and so were all the members of JournoList. Personally I think being a pedophile is disgusting, but then again I am a right wing neanderthal.

  178. >Maybe you’ve been looking too far afield, Tom, in your search for evidence. Maybe all you needed to do was look at the thread on this very blog, not very long ago, about TurboHercules and IBM. I guess PJ’s been rehabilitated, or more likely, redefined.

    There’s stuff going on behind the scenes that I can’t talk about yet. Sorry.

  179. >Racism is only a thoughtcrime?

    Of course it’s not only a thoughtcrime. But kafkatrapping isn’t the only kind of bogus argument, either.

    >I don’t think I’m having a failure of logic. I think you all are having a failure of imagination.

    I think you’re having a failure to produce any evidence for your claim, and spinning frantically to avoid acknowledging that it was bogus. And I’m disappointed in you.

  180. Eric reckons:

    >There’s stuff going on behind the scenes that I can’t talk about yet. Sorry.

    Fair enough. Not my purview, and not my point.

    Just looked like that in that IBM/TurboHercules threads a number of commentators made comments that accused PJ of making arguments very similar to what you’re calling “kafkatrapping” here. Could be that you don’t think PJ is an advocate of open source, free or software libre. Could be that calling the defensive reaction of someone accused of being a Microsoft stooge a sign that they’re a Microsft stooge isn’t in fact one of the arguments modelled above. Prima facie though, a thread full of “it’s terrible that PJ makes us feel bad for defending an innocent project and takes everything we say as proof that we’ve been bought off by Bill” suggests that Tom might not be as short of evidence as you’re saying.

  181. >Prima facie though, a thread full of “it’s terrible that PJ makes us feel bad for defending an innocent project and takes everything we say as proof that we’ve been bought off by Bill” suggests that Tom might not be as short of evidence as you’re saying.

    That is the closest to an actual kafkatrap anyone has come to yet. If PJ were asserting that anyone defending IBM has necessarily internalized the values of the Big Blue oppressor and therefore nothing they say can be credited (rather than asserting that it is merely contingently true that dome defenders have been bought) it would be close enough. Remember that a kafkatrap has to be unfalsifiable. That doesn’t just mean “hard to disprove”, it means the speaker (and anyone who buys the argument) cannot accept contrary evidence.

  182. Eric, I’ve found your bit about not letting kafkatrappers define your group identity quite useful.

    Still, at this point, what I find attractive is giving up on purity tests. and I’m going to try that out and see where it takes me.

  183. >Liberal journalists openly admitted on this email serve that they should accuse people on the right who were making an issue of Obama’s relationship to Jeremiah Wright of being racist, when they knew damn well it had nothing to do with race.

    Didn’t take long for people to use your idea as a tool for defending racism.

  184. “Didn’t take long for people to use your idea as a tool for defending racism.”

    What racism?

  185. To clarify, the people I know who oppose Obama do so because of his policies, his (cult of) personality, and his actions, not his race. Race has nothing to do with it, other than its use as a bludgeon by the media and the left. So, again, what racism?

    On a more general note, is there any good language to differentiate between rejection of a cause and rejection of a specific movement supporting it? Unless a specific group or organization is the sole case of that cause out there, there’s no reason not to weed out the shoddy ones.

  186. > I think you’re having a failure to produce any evidence for your claim

    Assuredly I am. Google really hasn’t set up a form of argument search, and you are coming up with a very specific detailed definition, and I know that any examples I come up with are going to generate a load of argument, so I have to be careful. I plan on changing my approach. Flailing around with a few words and scanning long threads has a horrible big O. My new plan is to generate a kafkatrap that matches one of your models and matches some open source memes and present it here. Then I’ll ask the people who have been engaged in more open source arguments than I have if they have ever seen something like it, and I’ll go look for it myself. My first glimmering is to start with the phrase “Microsoft shill” in place of “racist”. Shilling is thoughtcrime and it does mean you have either internalized the oppressor’s rhetoric or that you are secretly colluding with the oppressor.

    My backup plan is to admit failure and switch to gun control / gun rights. I have been more engaged on that topic myself, and am much more a gun rights supporter than I am an open source supporter. If that plan fails I do not plan on creating a “form or argument” search. I don’t think I’m that smart. I’ll have to admit it and go back to hand waving.

    > spinning frantically to avoid acknowledging that it was bogus

    Maybe, but from inside my head I’m trying to do the fun part, which is have the conversation, and hope to convince you of my real point by argument. Searching for evidence is not the fun part. I had thought this particular point was only a minor part of my argument, and searching for evidence to satisfy you on this point alone somewhat detracted from my goal. But it is a wonderful exercise in discipline, so I was planning on continuing. However, I just realized that this particular evidence would be very persuasive, it is not a minor point, and that’s why you focused in on it like a laser. Thanks for the (indirect) heads up.

    > And I’m disappointed in you.

    You should be. It isn’t my spinning. It’s my laziness.

    Yours,
    Tom

  187. Let’s see. That would be:

    Model A: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of shilling for Microsoft confirms that you are guilty of shilling for Microsoft.”

    That part was easier than I thought.

    Model C: “Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of shilling for Microsoft, you are guilty because you have benefited from the other Microsoft shills.”

    Model P: “Even if you do not feel yourself to be guilty of shilling for Microsoft, you are guilty because you have a privileged position in the closed source system.”

    Anybody ever see any of these in the wild?

    I’m going to stop this for a while, although I’ll be back. In the link I gave, I think I have some at least partial matches. http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090927151401988

    “Update: Jason Perlow has responded to this article in an audio discussion with Ken Hess. They agree that I do not understand that Miguel has to feed his family and pay his mortgage. I believe that is called the Yuppie Nuremberg Defense.” There’s the privileged position – and there’s even a Nazi reference!

    “Like cocaine or heroin, I avoid Microsoft software. The bosses at Microsoft are like Ellsworth Toohey in “The Fountainhead”. They want power. And too many “sheeple” are like Peter Keating. They just lazily follow Toohey (Microsoft).” Sheeple are guilty of thoughtcrime – lazily letting their thinking follow Microsoft’s advertising.

    And that part was easier, too, because I accepted partial matches. Maybe the hard part is dissecting the argument, making sure it matches the definition and the qualifiers above, and that it has no disqualifiers.

    It occurs to me that if I hadn’t been so afraid of work I could have had the fun conversation I wanted.

    Well, gotta pay MY mortgage.

    Yours,
    Tom

  188. P.S. After all, this is a group with lots of open source people who enjoy working together, do it by conversing and are often even helpful to people they disagree with. All groups are also alike in their positive attributes, too. What was I thinking?

  189. Observed in the wild: Type ∇, where denial that you are a member of is taken as proof that you are a member of hypocritically trying to pass as a member of for social benefit. I call it Type ∇ because it is often employed by members of the gay community, where gays themselves are the oppressed group.

    And forget Sarah Palin not being a real woman — one of the weirdest instances of Type ∇ I’ve seen is the rumors that Ann Coulter is an MTF transsexual — and a quarter-black one at that.

  190. denial that you are a member of is taken as proof that you are a member of hypocritically trying to pass as a member of for social benefit.

    “denial that you are a member of [oppressed group] is taken as proof that you are a member of [oppressed group] hypocritically trying to pass as a member of [oppressor group] for social benefit”

  191. > I’m hoping for someone to pick up on the generalized bigotry meme I keep plopping down in related threads. But it has not caught on.

    Maybe because that meme is a product of your imagination and doesn’t reflect reality?

    FWIW, it’s pretty obnoxious for you to assert a theory that makes other people look bad and then demand that they produce supporting evidence.

  192. > To clarify, the people I know who oppose Obama do so because of his policies, his (cult of) personality, and his actions, not his race. Race has nothing to do with it, other than its use as a bludgeon by the media and the left. So, again, what racism?

    You don’t understand. Racism has been expanded to include opposition to anything that a “good person” does, especially an off-white one or someone speaking on behalf of off-white ones. Sexism is pretty much the same with the relevant substitution.

    That being the case, neither racism nor sexism are real problems in the US.

    If someone thinks that racism and/or sexism still are real problems in the US, they get to deal with the hijackers.

    Cry wolf and all that.

  193. Anybody ever see any of these in the wild?

    It’s not up to us to find examples to prove your assertion “Does anyone here really think that FOSS advocates don’t kafkatrap?”. If it’s really so blindingly obvious that no one would really think otherwise, then you should be able to rattle off several examples of it without anyone’s help.

  194. > FWIW, it’s pretty obnoxious for you to assert a theory that makes other people look bad and then demand that they produce supporting evidence.

    Haven’t done that.

    1) I’m a member of the group. I’m not other people.
    2) Look up thread. I’ve admitted that I think I have come close to kafkatrapping myself. Given the difficulty of identifying subtle kafkatraps that really means I may have kafkatrapped.
    3) Requests for assistance are not demands.

    > It’s not up to us to find examples to prove your assertion “Does anyone here really think that FOSS advocates don’t kafkatrap?”.

    Who said it was? I’m thinking that if you realize you’ve seen one you will want to mention it.

    > If it’s really so blindingly obvious that no one would really think otherwise, then you should be able to rattle off several examples of it without anyone’s help.

    That’s true for simple things. I cannot rattle off several examples of species which live in the canopy of the Brazilian rainforest and never touch the ground either, but I am confident they exist. Google would help. You go, identify a new form of argument, give it a new name, and find an example in a new context you hadn’t originally thought of. Google is not much help.

    Then again, maybe the Higgs bosun was immediately obvious to Higgs, and I won’t find any either.

    I’m asserting that groups behave badly. You all are asserting that one particular group manages to completely avoid a particular type of bad behavior that we just got through identifying with a name. This is a completely new study, and you are willing to assert a negative? I’m on pretty good ground here. Did you look at the examples I’ve given so far

    Here’s another one:

    Lee Harvey Oswald was *not* a Microsoft shill – http://ruminationsonthedigitalrealm.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/lee-harvey-oswald-was-not-a-microsoft-shill/

    He seems to believe people want to call him an unreliable proponent of open source.

    and

    Embrace and extend: a non-binary approach to open source promotion – http://ruminationsonthedigitalrealm.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/embrace-and-extend-a-non-binary-approach-to-open-source-promotion/

    > It is a serious weakness of our binary outlook when we, as open source world, automatically condemn open initiatives of ‘suspicious’ or ‘wrong’ corporations as being part of some ‘hidden agenda’.

    There’s the thoughtcrime.

    Again, these are probably only partial matches, but I am working the problem. I will keep you updated.

    Yours,
    Tom

  195. Here’s an “oppressor gonna get you” argument denigrating a thoughtcrime. Not kafkatrapping, but a distant and probably harmless relative:

    http://www.theopensourcerer.com/2008/08/04/how-to-remove-mono-m-from-ubuntu-hardy-heron/

    > “I am not a MS fan and have put my money where my mouth is because of it, Vista was the final push for me. That said I develop in Mono. Why because as long as I do not use MS patent encumbered stuff, the bits they have not given over to ISO, I have no patent issues.”

    > Ah, the curtain is lifted. You’re a Mono developer. You’re just trying to defend a huge mistake you’re making. Be careful, in a few years Microsoft might actually own your ass when they decide .NET shouldn’t be “open” anymore. It doesn’t matter if .NET isn’t patent encumbered, it’s still controlled by one company who has the power to patent the whole damn thing whenever they want to, MSECMA standard or not. And I repeat, .NET is NOT NOT NOT an ISO standard.

    Yours,
    Tom

  196. It’s important to point out that what I have found so far is people complaining about partial kafkatraps and not the actual trap being sprung.

    Here is Glynn Moody pointing out that we have a better argument than branding Miguel de Icaza as guilty of a thoughtcrime because he praised Microsoft. So he agrees with Eric that we have better arguments. (Although I advocate for open source, I’m not particularly doctrinaire.) Again this is probably just a partial match.

    Why Mono and Samba Are Patently Different – http://www.computerworlduk.com/community/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=1380&blogid=14 and http://blog.linuxtoday.com/blog/2008/10/whats-so-evil-a.html

    I have to say, I may never find an open source kafkatrap, but at least I get to read new authors on new subjects.

    Yours,
    Tom

  197. > > FWIW, it’s pretty obnoxious for you to assert a theory that makes other people look bad and then demand that they produce supporting evidence.

    > Haven’t done that.

    Oh really?

    > 1) I’m a member of the group. I’m not other people.

    Since there are other people in the group, trying to make the group look bad is trying to make other people look bad.

    > 2) Look up thread. I’ve admitted that I think I have come close to kafkatrapping myself. Given the difficulty of identifying subtle kafkatraps that really means I may have kafkatrapped.

    So now your behavior is evidence for the bad behavior by the group ….

    > 3) Requests for assistance are not demands.

    Requests are optional. You suggested that others were obligated, which makes those “requests” demands.

    Yes, you expressed some embarrassment and did say that you were looking too when someone pointed out your assertion of obligation, but that doesn’t change the fact that you made it.

    Care to stop defending it?

    Better yet, why are you so insistent on branding FOSS as kafkatrappers? FOSS doesn’t have near the influence on the body-politic as the race mafia. Are you trying to discredit ESR?

    Surely you realize that whether or not ESR engages in kafkatrapping has nothing to do with whether or not it’s good or what one should do about it. (The fact that Hitler was vehemently anti-smoking tells us nothing about the virtues of smoking.)

  198. @Tom DeGisi:

    (Apologies to Eric if this is too far off-topic — please remove at will)

    Your Mono argument is completely off-track. Not only (as you point out), is this not a kafkatrap, it is not even remotely in the same ballpark as a kafkatrap. Mono is, AFAIK, still subject to Microsoft/Novell patent FUD. It is indisputable that Microsoft has used and continues to use patent FUD against Linux. The latest in this battle is secret licenses with major hardware manufacturers (maybe for only a dollar? who knows?) that are publicly described as licenses to Linux technology.

    So you’re right when you say we don’t need to infer mental state to Microsoft. OTOH, not all examples of ascribing mental state to somebody can be described as kafkatrapping, or even, in the normal course of things, as wrong. If somebody dons white sheets and a white peaked hood with eye and mouth slits and meets once a week with his hundred closest friends deep in the woods where they burn effigies of black men and talk of doing the same to real people, I could describe that person as “racist” and most would agree.

    Now, if it turned out that that person sold some sort of special ointment, and you were a distributor of that ointment, it certainly would not be inaccurate for me to describe you as someone who sold a racist’s ointment, and it would not even be beyond the pale to suggest that if that racist’s actions ever matched his words, he would be going to jail, and your source of ointment would dry up, and so you should really try to find some other ointment.

  199. First, a general statement.

    If my periodic progress reports are irritating to you, give me some sort of final goal when you want me to report and I’ll wait till then.

    > Since there are other people in the group, trying to make the group look bad is trying to make other people look bad.

    I’m not trying to make the group look bad. I’m trying to make a point about groups.

    > So now your behavior is evidence for the bad behavior by the group ….

    Not at all, especially since I wasn’t advocating for open source at the time.

    > assertion of obligation, but that doesn’t change the fact that you made it.

    I made no such assertion. Requests and hope are not assertions of obligation.

    > Care to stop defending it?

    No. Not until I have satisfied myself that I won’t find any open source kafkatrapping. Right now I’m getting too many partial matches – and reading to many interesting writers on all sides – to give up. One of the behaviors groups do is say “oh, we aren’t like them”. So far, I have not found a group which accuses another group of a particular behavior which doesn’t also behave like that and have many rationalizations for why it doesn’t count. This is a constant theme of mine. Why should I abandon it in this case?

    Of course, I could be suffering from confirmation bias. It’s not like I’ve done an appropriate study.

    > Better yet, why are you so insistent on branding FOSS as kafkatrappers?

    Eric asked for an example. I’m looking for it. I’m considering it a combination of an assignment from my sensei in the art of thinking and a penance from my confessor. Is that a bad idea?

    > Surely you realize that whether or not ESR engages in kafkatrapping has nothing to do with whether or not it’s good or what one should do about it.

    I do realize and I don’t think ESR engages in kafkatrapping. I think he has been successfully avoiding it, in small part because he has other rhetorical outlets for his anger which he thinks are appropriate and I do not and avoid, but mostly because he is a clear thinker. Here’s what I think. Kafkatrapping is wrong. I believe it should be condemned. I don’t believe we should shun groups which practice it. Shunning is the social equivalent of the death penalty – people who practice shunning say “He is dead to me.”

    Shunning does have the singular advantage that “resurrection” is easy.

    I think the following may be the best example of all, although it is a variation of Model T, which I think has not been confirmed. Unlike many of my examples it is one where someone directly makes the accusation. And it is not falsifiable.

    Mark Shuttleworth’s Stance on Mono Inside Ubuntu – http://techrights.org/2008/02/22/mark-shuttleworth-on-patents/

    > Personally, I dont trust Miguel “OOXML is a superb standard” Icaza because of many of his stances. He’s tried so hard to be Microsoft that he seems to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Of course, he is also a di**..

    Yours,
    Tom

  200. >(Apologies to Eric if this is too far off-topic — please remove at will)

    It isn’t. You’re doing a good job of illustrating the flip side of what I’ve been trying to explain: a kafkatrap is an unfalsifiable claim, about thoughtcrime, intended to induce guilt so the subject becomes manipulable.

    If the claim can be falsified, it is not a kafkatrap. Claims about actions rather than mental states are falsifiable, and anyway by definition aren’t kafkatraps.

  201. >If my periodic progress reports are irritating to you, give me some sort of final goal when you want me to report and I’ll wait till then.

    Your progress reports are useful in one respect; so far, they’re turning up stuff that cosmetically resembles a kafkatrap without actually being one. By examining these, we become clearer about the definition and its consequences.

  202. @Tom:

    I’m still not seeing it with your latest example:

    > Personally, I dont trust Miguel “OOXML is a superb standard” Icaza because of many of his stances. He’s tried so hard to be Microsoft that he seems to be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Of course, he is also a di**..

    Let’s break it down:

    (1) Microsoft does evil things. You can agree or disagree with this, but it’s falsifiable, given even minimal agreement on a working definition of evil.

    (2) Miguel has said and done a lot of things in furtherance of Microsoft’s agenda. Again, disagree or disagree, it’s still falsifiable.

    (3) Someone doesn’t trust Miguel because of (1) and (2), and says as much, and adds some nasty invective.

    Where’s the kafkatrap?

  203. Patrick,

    I’m not talking about Microsoft, or real Microsoft shills, who are paid to shill for Microsoft. I’m talking about the mental state of open source people like Miguel. Miguel is building Mono, an open source project. People are calling people traitors and shills and adressing their mental state, not Microsoft.

    > It is indisputable that Microsoft has used and continues to use patent FUD against Linux.

    I just read a very long and well written comment by an open source advocate who disputes this indisputable thing very effectively.

    If I go way back to this comment (I’m going to try a block quote, hope Word press likes it).

    it into a model T is that model-T-ness would require open-source practitioners to be a victim group against whom oppressors can practice thoughtcrime even though they deny it – which is, frankly, ludicrous. To see why, imagine this exchange:

    Open-source kafkatrapper: “You advocate closed source, and by doing so oppress users and open-source programmers everywhere!”

    Subject:

    Pretty ridiculous, and we’re not even to the Model A yet. Here’s what that would look like:

    Open-source kafkatrapper: You advocate closed source, and by doing so oppress users and open-source programmers everywhere!

    Subject: I deny it! I am as purely open-sourceist as the driven snow!

    Open-source kafkatrapper: (Darkly) Your denial that you harbor closed-sourceist tendencies proves your guilt!

    Subject:

    To get to a model T. you’d have to push the theory that closed-sourcism is a culpable thoughtcrime beyond to a level of absurdity even RMS’s nuttiest acolytes don’t occupy.

    Here’s the problem. I think I’m seeing some of this. They only sound ridiculous because open source advocates use other terms, not Marxist style rhetoric, and because the reaction isn’t guilt, it’s the same way most people react when kafkatrapped – angry, defensive and hostile, or the second way people react when kafkatrapped – with rolled eyes.

    Here’s the thing. Veteran internet flame warriors are not going to cringe with guilt, no matter how carefully kafkatrapped. To maintain that would be ridiculous.

    The first part is easy to see:

    Open-source kafkatrapper: “Miguel, you advocate for software which isn’t truly free because it is encumbered by patents, and by so doing you enable Microsoft to destroy open source everywhere through embrace, extend and eliminate!”

    Miguel: Rolls eyes.

    Open-source kafkatrapper: “Miguel, you roll your eyes, but you have tried so hard to be Microsoft that you are suffering from Stockholm syndrome.”

    Miguel (who cannot prove he is not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome): Rolls eyes.

    It may not be a complete match, especailly since it should be really easy to argue about the proper definination of a word just coined, but I think I have it this time. Well, and it’s always easy to argue.

    Yours,
    Tom

  204. Oh, and if I may make a couple of suggestions. First, I can switch groups away from the inflammatory open source advocates if we can find another (large) group which you think won’t contain any kafkatrappers.

    Second, inducing guilt is not the only reason people kafkatrap. It doesn’t work often enough for that to be the sole reason. People do it for the self righteous rush, to play dominance games, and to try to foreclose debate. It works well to foreclose debate on two levels. First, it is unfalsifiable, and second, it is very unpleasant, even when you successfully and reflexively think, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I’m not an {oppressor}.” I suspect that’s the simple innoculation that has been successful for thick skinned flame warriors against personal attacks since early modern humans began arguing about the best techniques for chipping flint.

    For example, I bet bet Eric thought something like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. FOSS advocates aren’t kafkatrappers. Does he have to use FOSS?”

    The immediate “Oh, that’s ridiculous” thought has well sheilded many an internet warrior, even when it wasn’t ridiculous.

    Yours,
    Tom

  205. >> So now your behavior is evidence for the bad behavior by the group ….

    > Not at all, especially since I wasn’t advocating for open source at the time.

    When I said that you were trying to make other people look bad, you claimed that you weren’t because you were talking about a group that you belonged to. Now you’re claiming that you weren’t a member.

    Your desire to have a cogent argument does not imply that anything you throw out is cogent.

    > > Care to stop defending it?

    > No.

    “it” is your insistence that other people provide evidence supporting your theory….

    > So far, I have not found a group which accuses another group of a particular behavior which doesn’t also behave like that and have many rationalizations for why it doesn’t count.

    Even if we assume that said theory is true, it doesn’t imply that FOSS is guilty of kafkatrapping. Yes, ESR is a member of FOSS, but he’s a member of lots of other groups as well. His kafkatrapping could easily come from some other group.

    Except that your claim is even more bizarre. You claim that ESR does not kafkatrap, so why does that theory lead you to look at FOSS for kafkatrappers? FOSS isn’t accusing the race-baiters of anything.

    > I don’t believe we should shun groups which practice it. Shunning is the social equivalent of the death penalty – people who practice shunning say “He is dead to me.”

    The second sentence doesn’t support the first. “he is dead to me” is perfectly appropriate in some circumstances.

  206. > Second, inducing guilt is not the only reason people kafkatrap.

    True, but no one claimed that it was.

    > People do it for the self righteous rush, to play dominance games, and to try to foreclose debate.

    Most everyone else started out thinking that those were the dominant reasons….

    > For example, I bet bet Eric thought something like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. FOSS advocates aren’t kafkatrappers. Does he have to use FOSS?”

    > The immediate “Oh, that’s ridiculous” thought has well sheilded many an internet warrior, even when it wasn’t ridiculous.

    However, in this case it was. How about explaining why you chose FOSS?

  207. >For example, I bet bet Eric thought something like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. FOSS advocates aren’t kafkatrappers. Does he have to use FOSS?”

    No. My first thought was, rather exactly, “Tom is trying so hard to be humane and reasonable and fair and nobody’s-better-than-anyone-else that he has uttered an idiocy.”

    This is one of the modes of excess that people who value tolerance highly are prone to.

  208. I am still reading open source threads. No news to report.

    > When I said that you were trying to make other people look bad, you claimed that you weren’t because you were talking about a group that you belonged to. Now you’re claiming that you weren’t a member.

    > Your desire to have a cogent argument does not imply that anything you throw out is cogent.

    No, but I thought that one was. Maybe I left out too many steps for the reader. Example: If I find a feminist who kafkatraps as a feminist, and who advocates for open source, but who does not kafkatrap as an open source advocate, that is not, for purposes of this discussion, an open source kafkatrapper.

    Where I was tempted to kafkatrap, and came close, was in an argument against a race baiter, cause race baiters really make me angry. I do advocate for open source but I have not come close to kafkatrapping when advocating for open source.

    Is that cogent enough?

    > “it” is your insistence that other people provide evidence supporting your theory….

    Quote me. My exact words, please. I did not intend to insist that other people provide evidence supporting your theory. I did intend to ask. I’ve looked at my words. I’m not seeing insistence. I’m seeing asking. So quote me, and maybe I can see where either I failed to communicate then or where I’m failing to see or remember now.

    > Even if we assume that said theory is true, it doesn’t imply that FOSS is guilty of kafkatrapping.

    Absolutely right. I was not claiming it did, although I can see why you would think that. It is a hypothesis in the clan of group behavoir hypotheses I believe. It bears on the discussion, but not directly on that argument.

    > FOSS isn’t accusing the race-baiters of anything.

    No it’s not, just as you say. Kafkatrapping is not solely a race baiting tactic.

    > The second sentence doesn’t support the first. “he is dead to me” is perfectly appropriate in some circumstances.

    No, they are seperate points in support of the same point. I believe in shunning where appropriate. I believe in not shunning where not appropriate. By comparing shunning to the death penalty I am claiming shunning can be too harsh.

    > How about explaining why you chose FOSS?

    Because Eric is a notable open source advocate. He will not simply reject (shun) open source advocacy because some advocates kafkatrap. Instead, he may agree with me that kafkatrapping should be roundly condemned, but that we cannot simply reject someone’s advocacy because someone else who agrees with them kafkatraps and because they don’t spend sufficient effort combating that kafkatrapping.

    Shoot, that position of Eric’s is certainly a Catch 22. How much time are Tea Partiers supposed to spend denouncing racism anyway? What about people who really have to fight racism? How much time are Afrikanners and southerners supposed to spend denouncing racism? How much time are Russians supposed to spend denouncing Communism? How much time are race-baiters supposed to spend denouncing kafkatrapping?

    Those all sound like equivalent Catch 22 like demands to me.

    > This is one of the modes of excess that people who value tolerance highly are prone to.

    It’s called bending over backwards for a reason, no?

    Yours,
    Tom

  209. Holy cow. Try this one.

    Dan O’Brian said,

    February 23, 2008 at 11:30 am

    @Alan: Get used to it, Roy Schestowitz is a known for being a fear monger. Google his name and you’ll find plenty of evidence of this.

    As some have suggested, it is likely that Roy himself is paid by Microsoft to try and discredit projects like Mono. I can’t think of anyone who has more to gain from the destruction of Mono than Microsoft, so it makes a lot of sense.

    Roy likes to point out that this notion is absurd because he spams comp.os.linux.advocacy with “rah for linux!” news, but being that no one but linux users actually read comp.os.linux.advocacy, it’s hardly helping to promote Linux at all.

    Here’s a conspiracy theory for ya:

    Roy pops up out of no where 2 years ago when Novell and Microsoft made their deal and begins spamming comp.os.linux.advocacy to give himself “street cred” (precisely so he can point to it and say “see? I’m a Linux supporter, I advocate the use of Linux” and thus try to avert speculations that he’s actually a Microsoft paid troll[1]) while simultaneously working to discredit Microsoft’s biggest competitor/projects.

    With Novell, it was easy because they had made a deal – and so he played the typical Slashdotter’s hatred of Microsoft and used it to fuel his anti-Novell campaign.

    Time passes and he starts attacking GNOME, Mono, Mandriva, Fedora and Ubuntu.

    Oh sure, he claims that he was a big fan of OpenSuSE, GNOME, etc etc before the Microsoft-Novell deal, but talk is cheap and a common ploy used by trolls like Roy to try to establish a form of credibility – the idea is to make people assume that you are a reasonable person and that whoever you are speaking out against has crossed some line.

    In fact, Apple used a similar ploy in some of their commercials a few years back to get people to switch from Windows to MacOS.

    1. whenever someone proves that the view that Roy is trying to push is based on misrepresentations of the facts (or outright lies), Roy turns around and accuses them of being paid Microsoft shills in an attempt to discredit all that oppose him while simultaneously changing the subject and confusing the issue.

    As someone wiser than I once said, “those who scream the loudest are often the most guilty”.

    …And no one screams louder than Roy Schestowitz.

    In How GNU/Linux Gets Contaminated with Software Patents from the Back Door – http://techrights.org/2008/02/15/mono-contamination-in-ubuntu/#comment-5915

    Here Roy is, arguing against a particular open source project as not being pure enough, and the fact that he arguing against the project because it isn’t pure enough is given as evidence that he is against open source.

    At this point I would be tempted to say that Dan O’Brian is a Microsoft shill, not an open source advocate, who is kafkatrapping Roy. But that sounds like a kafkatrap too. Now my head is spinning. Googling “Dan O’Brian open source” did establish some contrary evidence, but of course Dan O’Brian could have spent some time building up open source cred in the same way he accuses Roy. No, my head is still spinning. Conspiracy theories like this one, which require only one conspirator, are about as unfalsifiable as you get.

    I think I need to write some nice straigtforward Perl right now. I have a good example, I think, and even if not, it’s mind blowing disgusting beauty should justify a break.

    Yours,
    Tom

  210. I don’t know if Dan really is an open source advocate, but the recursion and complexity and twirling awfulness of that comment tells me that people who are good with words and logic can use them to mind—- people in ways that make your typical race baiter look like a five year old.

    I’m sorry to keep going on like this, but mind is well and truly blown.

    OTOH I am saying this on the blog of the inventor of INTERCAL.

    Yours,
    Tom

  211. >>> I don’t believe we should shun groups which practice it. Shunning is the social equivalent of the death penalty – people who practice shunning say “He is dead to me.”

    >> The second sentence doesn’t support the first. “he is dead to me” is perfectly appropriate in some circumstances.

    > No, they are seperate points in support of the same point.

    The first statement isn’t a “point” – it’s an unsupported position. Such statements are traditionally surrounded by supporting arguments.

    > By comparing shunning to the death penalty I am claiming shunning can be too harsh.

    That follows only if you believe that the death penalty is always too harsh. Even if you believe that, you then pointed out that shunning is not much like the death penalty.

  212. >> When I said that you were trying to make other people look bad, you claimed that you weren’t because you were talking about a group that you belonged to. Now you’re claiming that you weren’t a member.

    >> Your desire to have a cogent argument does not imply that anything you throw out is cogent.

    > Where I was tempted to kafkatrap, and came close, was in an argument against a race baiter, cause race baiters really make me angry. I do advocate for open source but I have not come close to kafkatrapping when advocating for open source.

    That shows that you’re even more confused than I suggested.

    Recap: You’re looking for kafkatrapping among FOSS advocates and wanted them to provide examples. This would make them look bad. When I pointed out that it’s poor form for you to ask people to damn themselves, you said that you were one of them. When I pointed out that that was irrelevant, you opted out.

    Now we find that you picked FOSS because you’re an FOSS advocate and were tempted to kafkatrap in an argument that had nothing to do with FOSS.

    Why didn’t you pick pants wearers as the group? Or males? Or folks who spout random arguments?

    Okay – the last was unfair. Surely you wouldn’t pick a group that had some relationship to kafkatrapping.

  213. > > Even if we assume that said theory is true, it doesn’t imply that FOSS is guilty of kafkatrapping.

    > Absolutely right. I was not claiming it did, although I can see why you would think that.

    Except that you did. One of the more recent times was

    > First, I can switch groups away from the inflammatory open source advocates if we can find another (large) group which you think won’t contain any kafkatrappers.

    > > FOSS isn’t accusing the race-baiters of anything.

    >No it’s not, just as you say. Kafkatrapping is not solely a race baiting tactic.

    You miss the point. FOSS and race-baiting groups don’t interact. While ESR is accusing the race baiters of something and ESR happens to be a FOSS advocate, his accusation has nothing to do with FOSS.

    Yes, some folks who are FOSS advocates engage race-baiting groups and some FOSS advocates who happen to be members of such groups engage in kafkatrapping, but that’s because FOSS advocates are members of multiple groups.

  214. Andy Freeman,

    >>> I don’t believe we should shun groups which practice it. Shunning is the social equivalent of the death penalty – people who practice shunning say “He is dead to me.”

    > The first statement isn’t a “point” – it’s an unsupported position. Such statements are traditionally surrounded by supporting arguments.

    Yes, you are correct. The first sentence is my belief and the second sentence supports it. But you were incorrect earlier. Because the second sentence clearly supports my belief. It supports it by making the claim that it is too harsh.

    > That follows only if you believe that the death penalty is always too harsh.

    No, you making a false argument. It also follows if the death penalty is sometimes too harsh. It is an argument from analogy.

    > Even if you believe that, you then pointed out that shunning is not much like the death penalty.

    No, I made a joke. Notice the qualifier: the social equivalent of the death penalty. It was intended to point out the first important difference between between shunning and the death penalty. The second is the ease of resurrection. The point is simple. It is difficult to implement a non-coercive social means of sanctioning another human being that is more severe than shunning. Social sanctions are nearly always milder than state sanctions. Don’t you agree?

    > That shows that you’re even more confused than I suggested.

    See below. You have been furiously agreeing with me.

    > When I pointed out that that was irrelevant, you opted out.

    Where’s the opt out?

    > Now we find that you picked FOSS because you’re an FOSS advocate and were tempted to kafkatrap in an argument that had nothing to do with FOSS.

    No. I told you why I picked it. I said, “Because Eric is a notable open source advocate. He will not simply reject (shun) open source advocacy because some advocates kafkatrap. Instead, he may agree with me that kafkatrapping should be roundly condemned, but that we cannot simply reject someone’s advocacy because someone else who agrees with them kafkatraps and because they don’t spend sufficient effort combating that kafkatrapping.”

    > > > Even if we assume that said theory is true, it doesn’t imply that FOSS is guilty of kafkatrapping.

    > > Absolutely right. I was not claiming it did, although I can see why you would think that.

    > Except that you did. One of the more recent times was

    I’m sorry, the referent of the word ‘it’ in my sentence was this entire line, “Even if we assume that said theory is true, it doesn’t imply that FOSS is guilty of kafkatrapping.” That is, I never claimed that the theory implied that open source advocates were guilty of kafkatrapping.

    However it is clear as a bell that I have been saying that I thought an unspecified number of open source advocates practiced kafkatrapping with regard to open source an unspecified number of times. And now I have found one really good example.

    > You miss the point. FOSS and race-baiting groups don’t interact. While ESR is accusing the race baiters of something and ESR happens to be a FOSS advocate, his accusation has nothing to do with FOSS.

    > Yes, some folks who are FOSS advocates engage race-baiting groups and some FOSS advocates who happen to be members of such groups engage in kafkatrapping, but that’s because FOSS advocates are members of multiple groups.

    Good. I’m glad we agree. I made the same point when I said:

    No, but I thought that one was. Maybe I left out too many steps for the reader. Example: If I find a feminist who kafkatraps as a feminist, and who advocates for open source, but who does not kafkatrap as an open source advocate, that is not, for purposes of this discussion, an open source kafkatrapper.

    Where I was tempted to kafkatrap, and came close, was in an argument against a race baiter, cause race baiters really make me angry. I do advocate for open source but I have not come close to kafkatrapping when advocating for open source.

    Is that cogent enough?

    I am very pleased we have reached agreement on at least one point. I really thought the bit I just block quoted made that clear. Did you happen to miss it, or was it still unclear?

    > Recap: You’re looking for kafkatrapping among FOSS advocates and wanted them to provide examples. This would make them look bad. When I pointed out that it’s poor form for you to ask people to damn themselves, you said that you were one of them. When I pointed out that that was irrelevant, you opted out.

    I am going to make some new arguments now. First, kafkatrapping has just been identified, and it has just been explained why it is unethical. If any group has practiced kafkatrapping in the past, we can hardly blame them, or say that what they have done is bad. You cannot blame someone for behavior which has never before been indentified as bad. However, once you have discovered a new form of bad behavior, and shown it is bad, not only are you doing that group a service to identify that bad behavior, members of that group should be motivated to find such behavior and condemn it.

    Until open source people identified knowingly utilizing your own software patents in open source code when such patents can be avoided as bad behavior you can hardly blame people for doing it.

    Thus it is good for open source advocates to point out both their own bad behavior and that of other open source advocates when advocating for open source as a means to persuading others that open source is good, as well as on general principles.

    Yours,
    Tom

  215. >OTOH I am saying this on the blog of the inventor of INTERCAL.

    Correction: I did not invent INTERCAL. I merely resurrected it from the dead.

  216. > Correction: I did not invent INTERCAL. I merely resurrected it from the dead.

    So, before then it was shunned?

    Yours,
    Tom

  217. First, kafkatrapping has just been identified, and it has just been explained why it is unethical. If any group has practiced kafkatrapping in the past, we can hardly blame them, or say that what they have done is bad. You cannot blame someone for behavior which has never before been indentified as bad. However, once you have discovered a new form of bad behavior, and shown it is bad, not only are you doing that group a service to identify that bad behavior, members of that group should be motivated to find such behavior and condemn it.

    What we are attempting to define here as the various species of genus “Kafkatrap” do not represent “new forms of bad behavior”. The behavior has existed for a rather long time, and has always been bad. It was bad when the Inquisitions and Salem Witch Trials did it, when revolutionaries from France through China through Iran did and do it.

    ESR is not declaring as bad a behavior that was formerly thought to be harmless. He knows it as a ravening carnivore that has ruined countless people’s lives, when it has not taken those lives outright. His reaction to it is not to negotiate with it or try to appease it (which only strengthen it and weaken its opponents), but to kill it the moment it appears. Having done that, he’s placed its carcass on a slab to dissect it, identify its internal organs, draw careful sketches of its circulatory, nervous, respiration and lymph systems, put its very cells under his best microscope and invite the rest of us to join him in the laboratory, where we might find out the most efficient ways of dispatching its kin when next we encounter them in the wild.

  218. > The behavior has existed for a rather long time, and has always been bad.

    I don’t disagree. What is new, I think, is that it has been named and identified as bad. There was a time when racism, for example had not been named and identified as bad. It was always bad, but human beings had not figured it out yet. Once they did it could be condemned.

    Now, I could be making this error. Racism, for example, is a specific case of “God is not a respecter of persons”. As such it was identified as bad in the New Testament. Similarly, kafkatrapping is a specific case of an unethical argument.

    However, this just pushes things back a level. If no one realized that racism falls under “God is not a respecter of persons” even though it had not been named it as a specific case, no one can be condemned for it. Similarly, if no one realized that kafkatrapping falls under unethical arguments, even though it had not been named it as a specific case, no one can be condemned for it.

    Just because no one liked kafkatrapping does not mean it was considered an unethical argument. People don’t like it when you point out their actual faults. If kafkatrapping had been widely considered an unethical argument, people would have been complaining about it every time someone tried it. They would have said, “That’s an unethical argument!” They might even routinely used the simple response, “That’s not fair!” Why, if we knew it was wrong, and since it is so common, weren’t people commonly being called out for it?

    I think Eric has advanced the state of the art in identifying unethical arguements.

    Do you still disagree? Why?

    Yours,
    Tom

  219. >So, before then it was shunned?

    By all persons with a modicum of sanity, yes. Dr. Knuth being a…notable exception.

  220. They would have said, “That’s an unethical argument!”

    “You’re a witch, in league with Satan, the Father of Lies. The fact that you attack our authority to judge you, conferred upon us by God Almighty, is simply an echo of your vile master’s original rebellion against the authority of God Himself. Now, we’ll throw you in this pond, and if you sink and drown, you’re innocent, but if you float, it’ll prove you’re a witch, so we’ll dry you out and burn you at the stake.”

    Anyone who raised his voice to defend you would be caught in his own Kafkatrap, (see also: Atticus Finch) so despite the fact that a lot of people already knew it was a bogus argument, they couldn’t articulate how without being trapped themselves.

  221. > Anyone who raised his voice to defend you would be caught in his own Kafkatrap, (see also: Atticus Finch) so despite the fact that a lot of people already knew it was a bogus argument, they couldn’t articulate how without being trapped themselves.

    This is a possible explanation for that behavior then. But most of us are living now, when kafkatrapping appears to be most commonly practiced by practioners of various social justice movements. We are not at risk of drowning or burning at the stake, and we are quite aggressive at pointing out both unethical arguments and simply bad ones. Where is the indignation now?

    Yours,
    Tom

  222. I think Eric has advanced the state of the art in identifying unethical arguements. [sic]

    He’s certainly helped to classify a very specific sort of attack. I’ll not dignify it with the name “argument”; one of the identifying characteristics of a Kafkatrap is that it is a logical fallacy, if not a package of ad hominem, petitio principii, bare assertion, and Catch-22; the precise proportions yet to be determined.

  223. Trust me, Monster, if I had known how to argue against these kafkatraps, I would have been doing it. That’s why I found this post so helpful! And if I had seen it done, I would have known how. And I have been haunting raucous political sites since 2001. So, why haven’t I seen it. You think this is so obvious, right? Now it’s your turn. Find me the brave people (and there have always been such brave people) who have been arguing against these kafkatraps. The cost is so much lower now, and the opportunities so frequent, it should be easy.

    Yours,
    Tom

  224. P.S. It will also have the side effect of giving us more carcasses to dissect. And you can pick the most despicable group of kafkatrappers you like for the examples. What’s not to love?

  225. But most of us are living now, when kafkatrapping appears to be most commonly practiced by practioners of various social justice movements. We are not at risk of drowning or burning at the stake, and we are quite aggressive at pointing out both unethical arguments and simply bad ones. Where is the indignation now?

    The indignation is all around you. You seem to have expressed your fair share of it. Unfortunately, advocates of those “social justice” movements dominate the world of higher education. It is undeniable that people who attend post-secondary school long enough to receive a baccalaureate degree are, as a group, more sympathetic to $Cause than those with a high-school education or less. The effect seems to be weakest in the hard sciences, mathematics, and computer science, but even there, the longer one marinates in the indoctrination, the more likely to submit to it.

    That leaves the opposition seriously outgunned when it comes to intellectual warriors capable of explaining why these tactics are so dishonest. Many if not most of the grassroots leaders in the indignation movement have no formal training in debate, logic, nor political science. The imbalance in educational achievement between the two groups makes it easy for the better educated folks to dismiss the inarticulate roars of the hoi polloi.

    And that’s why this sort of discussion is so important. If we can devise methods for those state-college graduates to disarm the Ivy Leaguers whenever they attempt a Kafkatrap, we act as force multipliers.

  226. > The indignation is all around you. You seem to have expressed your fair share of it.

    Fair enough.

    > If we can devise methods for those state-college graduates to disarm the Ivy Leaguers whenever they attempt a Kafkatrap, we act as force multipliers.

    OK. Now that I think about it, this is good:

    “You would have to be able to read my mind to know that.”

    It’s simple, and takes out the unfalsifiable bits.

    Yours,
    Tom

  227. “You would have to be able to read my mind to know that.”

    But I think that’s already been covered by the Model C and P which, like many others we’ve discussed, exist to deny a straightforward defense.

    Together, the Kafkatraps form a system under which your mere membership in the $ism.oppressor class is evidence of your guilt. The criteria for inclusion in that class may be quite vague, of course, so that the persecutor has maximum latitude to grant dispensation to his friends.

  228. Assertions concerning the mental state of another w.r.t. racial bias may not be as unfalsifiable as you think…

    The really interesting part of your example is that the members of $ism.victim show the same response when they see fellow members of $ism.victim as when members of $ism.oppressor demonstrate. This one gets tricky to explain away, but it goes something like this:

    “$ism is so pervasive that it causes members of $ism.victim to distrust other members of that class. Once they have had their consciousness raised, they’ll realize that this is yet another way in which they’ve been made the victim of $ism, so instead of them being guilty for not trusting other victims, they’ll recognize that members of $ism.oppressor are in fact responsible for turning them against their fellow victims.”

    I leave it as an exercise to anyone still reading this to figure out how $ism.victim-on-$ism.victim crime is explained as Someone Else’s Fault.

  229. @Jeff Read:

    Did you see this link, posted by one of the commenters? I saw it when it first came out. It’s pretty hilarious.

    But even if the technology were 100% accurate, it’s hard to get from “you’re obviously more cautious and alert when you see an unknown black person than when you see an unknown white person” to “you’re racist” — especially if the exact same thing, as the article you referenced said, is true of blacks as well as white.

  230. > > That follows only if you believe that the death penalty is always too harsh.

    > No, you making a false argument. It also follows if the death penalty is sometimes too harsh.

    Nope. If it’s only sometimes too harsh, bringing up the death penalty without additional information doesn’t tell us if the comparison is to one of those times or to some other time when it is completly appropriate.

    > It is an argument from analogy.

    Actually, it’s not. An argument by analogy starts with a listing of similar properties. Saying that the death penalty is like shunning is an assertion that such properties exists.

    Remember what I wrote about your desire for a cogent argument doesn’t imply that you have one? This is an example. You want an argument by analogy but you didn’t bother to actually produce one.

    > No, I made a joke. Notice the qualifier: the social equivalent of the death penalty.

    If by joke you mean “dumb statement that I don’t want to be called on because of some unfixable problem”, yup, you made a joke. You’ve made many such jokes.

    > Social sanctions are nearly always milder than state sanctions. Don’t you agree?

    Yes, but irrelevant. Note that you seem to oppose shunning. We’ve yet to hear what social sanctions that you do approve of. In fact, it would be fair to say that you’ve been trying to defend kafka trappers by various means throughout this discussion.

    > First, kafkatrapping has just been identified, and it has just been explained why it is unethical.

    False. The only novelty is the naming. Yes, ESR’s suggested response has been suggested elsewhere. That response is accepted in some places and in others they go through the argument each time.

    > Until open source people identified knowingly utilizing your own software patents in open source code when such patents can be avoided as bad behavior you can hardly blame people for doing it.

    Umm, no. The point of open source is that other people can use it without asking permission. The fact that some forms of open source use copyright law to try to achieve that goal does not imply that open source was solely about copyright until someone explicitly mentioned patents.

  231. > If kafkatrapping had been widely considered an unethical argument, people would have been complaining about it every time someone tried it.

    Actually, complaints about it are fairly common.

    Since kafkatrapping is effective at shutting down opposition, it’s absurd to insist on “complaining about it every time”.

  232. Andy Freeman,

    > Actually, it’s not.

    Actually it is. You are defining a long argument from analogy, as one might develop in a post or thesis. Mine is a short argument from analogy, as one might find in a conversation, which is what you and I are having.

    > If it’s only sometimes too harsh, bringing up the death penalty without additional information doesn’t tell us if the comparison is to one of those times or to some other time when it is completly appropriate.

    Sure. We are engaging in a conversation, not writing a treatise. I’m assuming that you will make a good faith effort to understand what I’m saying and vice versa. I could write longer much more explicit arguments, but I don’t want to. And since you aren’t writing long explicit arguments I’ll assume you don’t want to either.

    > Remember what I wrote about your desire for a cogent argument doesn’t imply that you have one?

    I remember. My arguments generally have been perfectly cogent in their conversational context and more cogent than yours.

    > If by joke you mean “dumb statement that I don’t want to be called on because of some unfixable problem”, yup, you made a joke.

    No, I mean a time I was trying to be funny. I am uniquely qualified to report on that. And you have yet to report an unfixable problem.

    > Note that you seem to oppose shunning.

    Under some circumstances, yes, others no. Do you?

    > We’ve yet to hear what social sanctions that you do approve of.

    Actually I repeatedly stated that I want kafkatrappers to be condemned. That is a social sanction.

    > In fact, it would be fair to say that you’ve been trying to defend kafka trappers by various means throughout this discussion.

    No, it would be fair to say the opposite. I’m not sure you are attempting to be fair. I think I’ve upset you by choosing open source advocates for an experiment (first, a thought experiment, now an observational one) and you are reacting. Tactically choosing open source advocates for this experiment may have been a mistake. It certainly has been imflammatory. Strategically though it may have worked out, purely by mistake, since I was actually forced to do useful work because of it. Feeling thankful?

    Those last two words were another joke. I didn’t say everyone would find them funny. That’s another one.

    > Umm, no.

    Umm, yes. It took awhile for people to identify patents as a threat. For one thing, once they did not apply to software. There was open source software which was written when patents did not apply to which patents were later applied. Do you believe that a patented mechanical device with an open source software component is unethical? In any case, it wasn’t the best example. I thought so at the time, but let it stand, since it was sufficient. As I said, not a treatise.

    > The fact that some forms of open source use copyright law to try to achieve that goal does not imply that open source was solely about copyright until someone explicitly mentioned patents.

    You are right. It does not imply that. Software protected by trade secrecy is assuredly not open.

    > “complaining about it every time”

    That’s hyperbole. You use it. May I?

    Yours,
    Tom

  233. Is this a kafka trap?

    “By raising any argument against {theory|doctrine|social justice movement x} you just prove your misunderstanding of the {theory|doctrine|social justice movement x}

  234. >“By raising any argument against {theory|doctrine|social justice movement x} you just prove your misunderstanding of the {theory|doctrine|social justice movement x}

    This slight alteration makes it unfalsfiable and a genuine kafkatrap:

    “Arguing against the theory of anti-{ism} demonstrates that you are either an {ist} or do not understand the theory of anti-{ism}, and your argument can therefore be dismissed as either corrupt or incompetent.”

  235. Oh thanks. I think I am just beginning to understand the finer nuances of this… still trying to get my head wrapped around it.

  236. I’ve found one very effective rejoinder to Kafka-trapping, which is to treat it as H. L. Mencken urges us to treat superstion:

    The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.

    Whenever someone tries to guilt-trip me for the actions of any other person (such as members of my “race”, etc.), I throw it right back in their faces (e. g. pointing out that “affirmative action” is in fact legalized, institutionalized racial discrimination).

  237. Daniel Franke and Aptronym made good points I would like to add to. If a kafkatrap is used by one or more unaffiliated allies or individuals in a group, I don’t think it means much, beyond Daniel Franke’s point that it shows the narrative has reached a certain mass. There are fools and fanatics everywhere, so shun the individuals, but not necessarily their group or cause.

    However, a critical threshold is reached once official group dogma includes kafkatraps. E.g., kafkatrapping is now thoroughly embedded in today’s anti-{racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} groups and establishments. It’s policy, taught in universities and in mandated seminars, in HR materials and in watered-down and candy-coated form in award-winning “relevant” children’s books. This is when it becomes most obnoxious.

    A current example is the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Insiders report it is split into two factions: one believes that their institutional purpose should be to protect everyone’s civil rights. The other faction, now in control, believes their institutional purpose is to protect the civil rights of minorities when they are threatened by white racism, and perhaps the civil rights of women when they are threatened by men. I doubt that the second faction consists only of reverse racists and reverse sexists. Instead, they use a series of intellectual justifications from their group dogma, which crucially includes kafkatraps, to justify their beliefs that only whites can be racists, etc.

    I’d also suggest that kafkatrapping in official dogma is good evidence that a group has been hijacked by their most extreme elements. That’s when I think shunning the group and even the cause is fully justified.

  238. > However, a critical threshold is reached once official group dogma includes kafkatraps. E.g., kafkatrapping is now thoroughly embedded in today’s anti-{racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} groups and establishments. It’s policy, taught in universities and in mandated seminars, in HR materials and in watered-down and candy-coated form in award-winning “relevant” children’s books. This is when it becomes most obnoxious.

    A useful distinction. I would support shunning such groups.

    > I’d also suggest that kafkatrapping in official dogma is good evidence that a group has been hijacked by their most extreme elements. That’s when I think shunning the group and even the cause is fully justified.

    Yes.

    One thing I worry about is that the shunning itself could degenerate into kafkatrapping. This is probably just me being a worry wart, but it does sound like what happened in the case of anti-{racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} groups and establishments. They like to shun {racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression}, and the kafkatrapping makes the shunning permanent.

    Yours,
    Tom

  239. “One thing I worry about is that the shunning itself could degenerate into kafkatrapping. This is probably just me being a worry wart, but it does sound like what happened in the case of anti-{racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression} groups and establishments. They like to shun {racism,sexism,homophobia,oppression}, and the kafkatrapping makes the shunning permanent.”

    True. The advantage here is that we’ve already identified kafkatrapping for what it is. If the anti-kafkatrappers begin to use kafkatrapping themselves, it shouldn’t take more than a few voices of reason to call them out on it. It’s worrisome that so many anti-{X} social movements succumb to {X}, but a movement built on monitoring its arguments will have a harder time than most about falling into this hypocrisy.

  240. I don’t believe that most people who deploy the “kafkatrap” would deny that they are racist/sexist etc.

    They usually say “we” (the collective) are all guilty. They take their admission as a kind of therapeutic step that somehow will lead to closure or redemption.

    One form this takes to envisage an invisible knapsack (Peggy McIntosh) which contains all the advantages granted to one by birth. Thus your success cannot be ascribed to effort. It is due (at least in large measure) to that invisible knapsack. It seems a plausible argument because undoubtedly some people are born with a silver spoon. However, that applies to individuals, not groups. As applied to groups the invisible knapsack becomes this vague thing that no one can pin down and therefore no one can deny.

    This is exactly what you are supposed to own up to. It is non specific guilt that cannot be corrected except at a collective level.

  241. > I don’t believe that most people who deploy the “kafkatrap” would deny that they are racist/sexist etc.

    I don’t see how you come to that conclusion at all. In my experience, most kafkatrappers firmly identify with the victim group, and may even have logic in place that denies that the victim could ever be an oppressor (see, e.g. definitions of racism requiring a combination of prejudice and some nebulous “power”).

    > It is non specific guilt that cannot be corrected except at a collective level.

    In my experience, guilt doesn’t actually work very well at a collective level. Shame often does, but that’s probably not nearly as useful to a kafkatrapper. People who feel guilty are usually angry/upset/distressed at themselves, while shamed people are usually angry/upset/distressed at others. Internal vs. external. It’s the difference between a suicide and a suicide bombing.

    Hmm, perhaps that’s actually one of the reasons for some of what we see in political discourse today. People find that kafkatrapping can work at a personal level, one-on-one, and then try to scale it up. The targets know they are being targeted, and made to feel bad, but since they’re not guilty, they don’t feel guilty. Instead, they feel shamed. Collectively, they lash out. That could never end well, because it just feeds back into the kafkatrap, perhaps, in the worst case, with real *-ism actions, from the mindset of “if I’m going to be accused of X anyway, what’s the harm in doing X?”

  242. In my experience, guilt doesn’t actually work very well at a collective level.

    Counterexample: Christianity.

  243. > don’t see how you come to that conclusion at all.

    Well experience for one
    eg. http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2005/12/02/we-are-all-racist/
    http://www.google.co.uk/search?aq=f&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=we+are+all+racists

    And I would have thought the Peggy McIntosh example is a perfect exemplar.

    The fact that Peggy acknowledges the benefit she received/receives from racism doesn’t mean she doesn’t identify with the victim group. Quite the opposite.

    The admission of racism serves several purposes
    1. It is a psychodramatic expression of higher wisdom – “see I can even detect racism within me – it’s so ubiquitous”. I’m better than you because I can see my own guilt.
    2. It grounds the fight in terms of atoning for one’s own sins
    3. It grants the user a moral advantage “the first step to reform is to admit the crime”.

    Also look at the willingness of leaders to apologise for their country’s past sins. eg. Tony Blair apologising for slavery/Irish famine. They don’t apologise because they feel guilty. Rather they do it to display their own superiority.

    The purpose of this type of discourse is not to eliminate racism/sexism/et al Rather I believe it is to differentiate between the people who can spout this crap unbidden and those who either won’t or do so reluctantly. You have to accept certain views to be accepted into polite governing society, and if you don’t, your career will stall. Imagine being a university lecturer who didn’t talk and act as if racism were still at 1910 levels. You are obliged to discover racism in homoeopathic quantities in order to progress. Of course you can work outside the state (for the moment).

    In the UK there used to be a column in one of the papers (Telegraph I believe). In it a series of fictional characters would be used to spoof the platitudes of the day. One was called Dr Heinz Kiosk and he always ended his pieces with the phrase “We are all guilty”. I suspect the writer would be horrified at the worsening situation today.

  244. This post might also be of interest as it illustrates both the kafkatrap and “we are all guilty”
    http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/10/soft-student–1.html

    >REVERSE RACISM: A term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege.
    >A NON-RACIST: A non-term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of colour

    http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/11/emasculated-lia.html

    >The second paragraph below was brought to mind by Dr Shakti Butler’s claim that “all white people” are racists.

  245. @TDK:

    I said that in my experience, most kafkatrappers firmly identify with the victim group. You then posted 6 links purporting to disprove this. I read the first one: http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2005/12/02/we-are-all-racist/ I didn’t read the comments but I didn’t see the kafkatrap. What am I missing? Spell it out for me.

    @Jeff Read:

    I think Christianity does a really good job of conflating shame and guilt. It tries to keeps us guilty for what we have done individually and shameful for who we are collectively, e.g. descendants of those who nailed Jesus to the cross.

  246. @TDK:

    It appears there could be some kafkatrapping in your University of Delaware example, but since the actual deployer of the kafkatrap (who has apparently done it well enough to co-opt a huge organization) appears to be Shakti Butler, and since she appears to be black, your essential thesis, that kafkatrappers would not deny that they are racist/sexist, fails, since she has deliberately constructed the definition of racism in a way that would exclude her as a racist.

  247. > think I’ve upset you by choosing open source advocates for an experiment (first, a thought experiment, now an observational one) and you are reacting.

    I’m not upset. I’ve pointed out that there’s no basis for your choice, that it would have made just as much sense to have chosen Pennsylvanians or people named Eric (if you insist on a connection to ESR). Or, more likely, that your choice is more about you.

    I’m not an open source advocate.

    > Tactically choosing open source advocates for this experiment may have been a mistake. It certainly has been imflammatory. Strategically though it may have worked out, purely by mistake, since I was actually forced to do useful work because of it. Feeling thankful?

    Thankful for what? Repeated stupid arguments?

    As to your “just a joke”, perhaps you should describe the sense in which it was a joke.

    I’ll help – “it’s a joke” is often used by folks to distance themselves from something stupid that they said without taking responsibility for said stupidity.

    Eric got it right. You really want to protect racialists. Your strategy was to find some other group and say “they do it too”.

    If you want racialists to be taken seriously, shouldn’t you work on helping them fix their arguments instead of defending their stupid arguments?

    Oh wait. You are better off doing what you’re doing.

  248. >Eric got it right. You really want to protect racialists. Your strategy was to find some other group and say “they do it too”.

    That’s not what I think Tom is about at all.

    Rather, I think he’s one of those people who has assimilated the “tolerance” meme so completely that he reflexively thinks it’s wrong to assert that any side of a conflict really has a superior moral or methodological position. His instinct is to claim “everybody does it” in order to put all sides on the same level so they can negotiate. It’s the opposite error from dehumanizing your opponents, but it’s an error nevertheless.

  249. @Tobias: That’s an excellent catch. I find Lewis’ final sentence here a helpful summary of the inherent problem with thoughtcrime:

    The Professor has his own explanation … he thinks that I am unconsciously motivated by the fact that I ‘stand to lose by social change’. And indeed it would be hard for me to welcome a change which might well consign me to a concentration camp. I might add that it would likewise be easy for the Professor to welcome a change which might place him in the highest rank of an omnicompetent oligarchy. That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits. I decline the motive game and resume the discussion

  250. > I’m not upset.

    Good.

    > I’ve pointed out that there’s no basis for your choice

    Wrong. I’ve pointed out my basis for the choice. It was chosen as a particular tactic to attempt to reach a particular point with a particular person. I explained this. Here, I’ll quote myself:

    > Because Eric is a notable open source advocate. He will not simply reject (shun) open source advocacy because some advocates kafkatrap. Instead, he may agree with me that kafkatrapping should be roundly condemned, but that we cannot simply reject someone’s advocacy because someone else who agrees with them kafkatraps and because they don’t spend sufficient effort combating that kafkatrapping.

    > Thankful for what?

    Finding a lot over partial matches and one good, solid, horrifying kafkatrap.

    > I’ll help – “it’s a joke” is often used by folks to distance themselves from something stupid that they said without taking responsibility for said stupidity.

    That’s true. It’s also true that people say, “It’s a joke” when they want to say something that they think is important but might offend someone. And it’s also true that people say, “It’s a joke” when they are trying to make a joke. I like to make jokes to lighten the mood. Of course this does not work when others don’t think they are funny. Does that help?

    I’m afraid on this point you have to trust me about my motivations, since you possess no mind reading devices. I was trying to be funny – and to point out that shunning is only roughly analagous to the death penalty.

    > You really want to protect racialists.

    You are partly right. I wanted to protect them from shunning for kafkatrapping, but still condemn them for it. I have since changed my mind. I agreed, above, that if kafkatrapping has become part of the racialists standard modus operendi that they should be shunned. I strongly suspect that kafkatrapping has become part of the racialists standard modus operendi, but I’m not certain yet.

    > If you want racialists to be taken seriously

    I want them to stop being racialists. After that it will be much easier for everyone to take them seriously. I’m not sure what you want. BTW, have you read what I wrote at the top of the thread? The parts where I was specifically critical of racialists?

    > Rather, I think he’s one of those people who has assimilated the “tolerance” meme so completely that he reflexively thinks it’s wrong to assert that any side of a conflict really has a superior moral or methodological position. His instinct is to claim “everybody does it” in order to put all sides on the same level so they can negotiate. It’s the opposite error from dehumanizing your opponents, but it’s an error nevertheless.

    It really does drive my wife crazy. I’ve got to train myself out of the reflex. Part of the problem is that it’s often good tactics “to claim “everybody does it” in order to put all sides on the same level so they can negotiate”, and it comes across as being nice, so I get rewarded for the reflex. It needs to be a conscious choice and avoided when inappropriate.

    It’s also weird because I frequently believe that one side really does have a superior moral or methodological position.

    Say, I wonder if there is an equal but opposite habit which is not dehumanizing so I can automatically try to find a proper balance? What you really want is a set of mental habits which makes it easier to get to the truth.

    Yours,
    Tom

  251. >I said that in my experience, most kafkatrappers firmly identify with the victim group. You then posted 6 links purporting to disprove this.

    No I didn’t – I firmly agreed as indicated by “The fact that Peggy acknowledges the benefit she received/receives from racism doesn’t mean she doesn’t identify with the victim group. Quite the opposite.”

    Nor did I think that I was deliberately giving examples of kafkatrappers – I believed I was demonstrating that “anti-racists” frequently claim to be guilty. All the links illustrate that point. I don’t think identification with the “victim” and admission of guilt are mutually exclusive.

    Look, point of fact. I was making a light hearted contribution that I viewed as supportive. That you don’t view it as such is a pity.

  252. >Excellent. I would go further than “prof” above and submit that “Kafkatrapping” is itself a subcategory of C. S. Lewis’s “Bulverisms.”

    Having read the essay, I don’t entirely agree. The model C and the model P kafkatraps partake of the Bulverism-nature pretty strongly. But the models D and L do not, and you have to reach a little to find it in the basic model A. The focus of the model D in particular, isn’t on dismissing the speaker being addressed (“because you’re a man”) but on dismissing the possibility that any speaker can legitimately counterargue. They’re an assault not on motives but on rationality itself.

  253. @TDK:

    We’re talking at cross-purposes. You said “I don’t believe that most people who deploy the “kafkatrap” would deny that they are racist/sexist etc.”

    Then I replied: “I don’t see how you come to that conclusion at all. In my experience, most kafkatrappers firmly identify with the victim group, …”

    I could have been more clear, but seriously from the context, identify –> “feel they belong to”, not, as you later use it, “feel they can relate to.”

    Then, you replied, quoting my “don’t see how you come to that conclusion at all.” with “Well experience for one”. Now, I could be too pedantic, but to me, that says you are reiterating your original position and disagreeing with my rebuttal of it. Then you post lots of links and lots of text, which I naturally assume is supporting material for your position. I look at the first link, don’t find the kafkatrap, and made a reply, with a plea to fill me in on what I’m missing.

    Then you said you agreed with me, ignoring your previous posting of “experience for one”, and using a completely different definition of “identify” than I was using. But, if you haven’t retracted your original assertion, then you’re not agreeing with me.

    Then you say stuff like “Nor did I think that I was deliberately giving examples of kafkatrappers” when your initial statement to which I took exception was “I don’t believe that most people who deploy the “kafkatrap” would deny that they are racist/sexist etc.”

    Then you say “I was making a light hearted contribution that I viewed as supportive.” Whatever. I saw an unsupported assertion and I called you on it. You responded with 3 posts and 6 links, none of which appeared to support the assertion, and I asked for clarification, which was not really forthcoming. I suppose that’s some sort of contribution, but I didn’t find it very useful, and the light-heartedness didn’t jump out at me. Of course, I must confess that it’s a personal weakness that when I wade through a bunch of irrelevant links with no indication of why a poster seems to think they’re relevant, and aren’t able to immediately discern the relevance myself, I sometimes get testy.

  254. >We’re talking at cross-purposes.

    Agreed

    >I could have been more clear, but seriously from the context, identify –> “feel they belong to”, not, as you later use it, “feel they can relate to.”

    And this is the nub. I was using it in the sense of empathy.

  255. Looking for something else altogether, I stumbled upon this explanation for the source of the Kafkatrap in Leftist group identity politics (emphasis mine):

    This sort of “race, class, and gender” theory is typically a dangerous form of political moralism, with the same totalitarian characteristics as other versions of Marxism have proven to display. One consequence of this is that the substantive content of criticism is rarely addressed but that it is considered sufficient to vilify critics as, in effect, “class enemies,” i.e. directing ad hominem arguments against them that their status, in terms of race, class, or gender, or simply in terms of their critical attitude, is sufficient to refute their arguments.

    “You are a member of ${group}.enemy. You are now invited to confess your guilt, and spend Eternity atoning for it by serving ${group}. Otherwise, in addition to your original guilt, you get bonus guilt for the failure to confess.”

  256. I actually enjoyed this entry. Thank you.

    There is one thing though (and admittedly it may be _my_ issue), for some reason I get this sort of looming dehumanization from reading what you write. I am one of the historically out “Blacks.” I don’t take offense or get angered by what you write, but it often does depress me for reasons I can’t always put my finger on. Your overall worldview is coherent and you are admittedly mostly consistent. I don’t think you are disingenuous either (I hope I am not wrong). It’s just that every time you try to tackle a race issue it _seems_ like I am a non-person to you (again maybe I am generating this myself). I have actually met you in person and the experience was consistent with your writings here. For the record (and stated plainly), I don’t assume you are a racist, and that is not my point.

    Sorry for being a bit off-topic but, am I missing something?

  257. Having read the essay, I don’t entirely agree. The model C and the model P kafkatraps partake of the Bulverism-nature pretty strongly. But the models D and L do not, and you have to reach a little to find it in the basic model A. The focus of the model D in particular, isn’t on dismissing the speaker being addressed (”because you’re a man”) but on dismissing the possibility that any speaker can legitimately counterargue. They’re an assault not on motives but on rationality itself.

    I don’t think we have the same understanding of what Bulverism is. The “because you’re a man” example is but one form of Bulverism (a form which doesn’t go after motives per se), just as the details of the various models of Kafkatrap vary.

    Ultimately, Bulverism says: “I want A to be true. You believe A is false. Therefore you are evil.” The second sentence may take the form of “You want A to be false“, in which case it expresses itself in terms of motive. But that’s a detail, just as are the particulars you’ve declared off-topic for this thread. Bulverism doesn’t need your silly “logic”, “science”, or any of that other Dead White Guy stuff. J’accuse! is the “argument” in its entirety.

    …there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and the world will be at your feet.

    The Kafkatraps are used to rationalize away all opposition to the truth of A, and whenever possible, silence it.

  258. The Monster,

    If j’accuse is the argument in its entirety, then unlike a kafkatrap it doesn’t bother to rationalize anything, so Eric is right, they aren’t same. Both do work to silence opposition.

    Yours,
    Tom

  259. >Sorry for being a bit off-topic but, am I missing something?

    [irony]Er, how could I tell if you were?[/irony]

    If you feel “dehumanized” by what I write about race, then maybe you have way too much of your humanity tied up with what race you think you are.

  260. >If you feel “dehumanized” by what I write about race, then maybe you have way too much of your humanity tied up >with what race you think you are.

    Well said. Thanks for your response.

  261. Tom, let me put it this way. Bulverism is a spec. Real-world implementations of that spec require Kafkatraps, because Bulverism demands that opponents stop thinking.

    Kafkatraps are the epicycles of Bulverism, introduced in the vain attempt to retain some semblance of consistency in the face of contrary evidence (by preventing the latter’s introduction). The base asserts the innocence of ${ism}.victim members requiring the Model T (excepting traitors against The Cause) to explain the contradiction.

    We recognize epicycles and other “special cases” as horribly inelegant, carrying extra suspicion that they aren’t true, and look for simpler rules that don’t require as many exceptions. To the Kafkatrapper, the more complex the system, the more people will be guilty and in need of the special dispensations that they alone have the power to grant. It’s a feature, not a bug.

  262. > Kafkatraps are the epicycles of Bulverism

    OK. They aren’t the same thing, but they are used together.

    Brickmoon,

    Perhaps it would help to remember that some blacks call black conservatives and other blacks, “Uncle Toms”. This is the same as “n—– lover” or “race-traitor”. We immediately recognize white people who call others “n—— lover” or “race-traitor” as behaving very badly, but for some (invalid) reason black people who call others “Uncle Toms” are not recognized for behaving as badly as they are. Eric is fighting for your right not to be suppressed in this way. I don’t know why Eric did not give specific, concrete examples like this as he would in a user’s manual. I suspect he did not want these charged words to attract the wrong kind of discussion.

    OTOH, it could just be that Eric is trying to avoid the “everybody does it” error that I always make, since it sounds a bit like I’m making it again.

    Yours,
    Tom

  263. OK. They aren’t the same thing, but they are used together.

    No. One is a part of the other. The geocentric theory required epicycles. The epicycles weren’t a separate thing; they were a part of the theory. Without them, the predictions made would fail, falsifying the theory.

    Kafkatraps are the epicycles of Bulverism. They are a part of Bulverism, because it cannot stand without them.

    We immediately recognize white people who call others “n—— lover” or “race-traitor” as behaving very badly, but for some (invalid) reason black people who call others “Uncle Toms” are not recognized for behaving as badly as they are. Eric is fighting for your right not to be suppressed in this way.

    That’s where the definition game comes in. The term ${ism} is defined such that when the members of ${ism}.victim maintain tribal solidarity, it is not ${ism}, but when members of ${ism}.oppressor do the exact same thing, it’s just more proof of their ${ism}.

    The Model T explicitly empowers ${ism}.victim members to excommunicate heretics as ${ism}.oppressor.traitor. One might ask whether ${ism}.oppressor members become ${ism}.victim.traitor. You have supplied the answer: Yes, and in doing so they are indeed transformed into members of a subclass of the opposite class. This is where the self-appointed guardians of victim groups earn their moral authority, after all.

    This is why the National Association for the Advancement of White People is considered such a blatantly-racist idea that only a David Duke could advocate it.

  264. > They are a part of Bulverism, because it cannot stand without them.

    I disagree. For example, Bulverism can survive with only a great deal of emotion, a reliance on intution and a distrust of argument. There are so many ways for ignorance and stupidity to result in successful Bulverism it staggers the mind.

    If you mean that a kafkatrap is the only thing that has been successful in getting Bulverism to succeed for people with a certain relatively low level of ignorance and stupidity I’m willing to consider it, but I really doubt it. Confusing, complex, convincing and yet false arguments are legion and any number should be able to support Bulverism.

    Once you have assumed that your opponent is wrong, almost any bad (but convincing) argument will do.

    Yours,
    Tom

  265. That’s where the definition game comes in. The term ${ism} is defined such that when the members of ${ism}.victim maintain tribal solidarity, it is not ${ism}, but when members of ${ism}.oppressor do the exact same thing, it’s just more proof of their ${ism}.

    I can see I could benefit from keeping your email handy. You are good at this.

    Yours,
    Tom

  266. If you mean that a kafkatrap is the only thing that has been successful in getting Bulverism to succeed for people with a certain relatively low level of ignorance and stupidity I’m willing to consider it, but I really doubt it. Confusing, complex, convincing and yet false arguments are legion and any number should be able to support Bulverism.

    My contention is that naked Bulverism without benefit of any support from Kafkatraps cannot succeed against people who have learned enough of logic, mathematics, and the Scientific Method to be able to function in a technological society. Just blatantly saying “You are declared to be guilty” without any evidence at all just doesn’t cut it, even if you are the King or Pope. It worked fairly well when people just didn’t have anything but superstition, and if the Witch Doctor backed up the Chief that the Gods didn’t like you, you were going to be sacrificed under the full moon, and probably no Kafkatraps were needed. And the day may yet return when they aren’t needed, given the ideological control of eduinfotainment. But for now, Kafkatraps have been assimilated into Bulverism and will remain there until we do something about it.

    Take my prior example of the Inquisition and Witch Trials. They used Kafkatraps extensively.

    Take AGW (please!). Those who don’t accept the “consensus” are deemed “deniers”, implicitly equating them with Holocaust deniers. [Model S] They are presumed to be in the pay of Big Oil or other industrial interests (“In league with Satan”) and therefore whatever they say is tainted, and cannot be used to defend against the charge. The flawed logic is obvious to those of us who often trace execution paths in computer code, but it’s just complex enough to confuse those who really don’t understand logic well (no doubt because their public-school education has failed to teach it).

    Hell, even “you just say that because you’re a man!” is a Kafkatrap, because nothing a man says could falsify such a statement. (It is impossible for me to temporarily not be a man, say the same thing, and thereby disprove the assertion.) And if you go find a woman who agrees with you (my high school math teacher would readily agree to the original target), out comes the Model T to declare she isn’t really a woman anyway.

    If that M.O. doesn’t just scream “epicycles” to you, I don’t know what will.

  267. > My contention is that naked Bulverism without benefit of any support from Kafkatraps cannot succeed against people who have learned enough of logic, mathematics, and the Scientific Method to be able to function in a technological society.

    It’s a pretty good contention, but I’m confused about why you think people have to learn “logic, mathematics, and the Scientific Method to be able to function in a technological society.” I think we have almost a billion existence proofs that they don’t. People generally are smart enough to learn logic and math, but they don’t enjoy it very much, so they don’t get good at it. Even people who are good at it aren’t good at applying it to everything. If people were all that logical in their habits, the progressive dream of a rational society would have worked. The New Soviet Man would have been real.

    Look, I love your analysis of the kafkatraps above. I do think simple Bulverism, no epicycles required, is enough to capture some people. But even all those kafkatraps didn’t work for climate change. People were too practical. They just rejected them. Why?

    > If that M.O. doesn’t just scream “epicycles” to you, I don’t know what will.

    I’m not sure anything will ever scream “epicycles” to me. Have you read some great books about Copernicus recently? I love a good book. Maybe that would set the stage so I can hear the shout of “epicycles” ringing forth.

    Yours,
    Tom

  268. @Aptonym:
    > To clarify, the people I know who oppose Obama do so because of his policies, his (cult of) personality, and his actions, not his race. Race has nothing to do with it, other than its use as a bludgeon by the media and the left. So, again, what racism?

    The racism that inspires the bumper sticker I saw on an Isuzs Rodeo the other day, next to the oval ‘W’ sticker, that said, and I quote:

    “Obama was raised on the hatred of white people. What did you expect of him?”

    *That* racism.

    And if you think there’s no anti-Obama racism in the Tea Parties, then you’re either not paying attention or being disingenuous.

    But this is off topic, so let’s pinch if here, or take it private.

  269. Wow. I should have refreshed; I see all of his postings were cut. You can kill that reply, too, Eric; sorry.

  270. Christianity was mentioned earlier, but this sort of thing hasn’t been brought up:

    Consider this bit from the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, where he claims that atheists are not actually atheist, but rather hate God (who, it follows, they believe in).

    This is the canonical form of the trap, as stated in the original post: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you believe in the Anglican God and are therefore guilty of sin confirms that you believe in the Anglican God and are therefore guilty of sin.” This fellow, furthermore, holds a very influential position in the Anglican hierarchy. So, how far does the circle of exclusion extend? Is this cause to reject the archdiocese of Sydney? The Anglican Church? Non-Protestant Christianity as a whole? (I’m pretty sure I’ve heard similar bits from Protestant sects.) Christianity? Abrahamic religions? Any form of vague spirituality whatsoever?

    It seems to fit the bill: as Daniel Franke puts it, this form of argument requires a pre-existing metaphor of victim/oppressor, which Christianity tends to have, and it’s a statement about the opponent’s mental state which they can’t disprove.

    This isn’t just an idle question; the whole point of the identifying-kafkatraps exercise is, according to Eric, the discrediting of movements which engage in it. There’s been no discussion of the bounds of that discrediting, especially when the offenders aren’t part of any formal hierarchy. Clearly the consequences must be greater, if anything, when the offender holds a position of responsibility, like the Archbishop does above.

  271. The Monster: Take AGW (please!). Those who don’t accept the “consensus” are deemed “deniers”, implicitly equating them with Holocaust deniers. [Model S] They are presumed to be in the pay of Big Oil or other industrial interests (”In league with Satan”) and therefore whatever they say is tainted, and cannot be used to defend against the charge.

    Similarly, there’s a common accusation that folks on the other side of things are doing it for the research grant money, or are secret communists, or just hate America, and therefore whatever they say is tainted, and cannot be used to defend against the charge that AGW is a gigantic hoax. I’m not sure what happens when two opposing groups both discredit themselves; Eric hasn’t mentioned that yet. I’m rather curious.

    (It should be noted that the accusation didn’t fly out of nowhere; ExxonMobil funded a number of front groups, which may, now that Eric has pointed this kind of thing out, taint the anti-AGW movement yet further. After all, if they had good arguments, they wouldn’t have to set up front groups, right?)

  272. I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name.

    C.S.Lewis called it ‘Bulverism

  273. ” I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”…” because Kafka wrote whole novels about how the rich and powerful suffered from the sophistical language of the poor and powerless.

  274. Prof. Jacobsen has a doozy of an example, white guilt as compared with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy:

    Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP), a type of factitious disorder, is a mental illness in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when the person is not really sick. The adult perpetrator has MSP and directly produces or lies about illness in another person under his or her care, usually a child under 6 years of age. It is considered a form of abuse by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. However, cases have been reported of adult victims. (The term “by proxy” means “through a substitute.”)

    People with MSP have an inner need for the other person (often his or her child) to be seen as ill or injured. It is not done to achieve a concrete benefit, such as financial gain. People with MSP are even willing to have the child or patient undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill and their families.

    The concept of white privilege as applied by CARW, an organization of only whites (irony alert), reminds me of the diagnosis of MSP.

    The white people at CARW seem to have an inner need for racism to appear to exist in other whites, so as to garner attention for being anti-racist whites.

    Whether racism actually exists in any quantifiable or verifiable manner doesn’t matter. CARW has devised a fluid definition of whiteness and white privilege which cannot be contradicted by evidence. White no longer is a skin color or race, it is a concept.

    The more the evidence points away from actual racism based on skin color, the stronger the white privilege argument gets, because failure to recognize racism is one of the hallmarks of white privilege.

    I don’t usually like psychoanalyzing political opponents, but this seems pretty close to the mark. The only thing to add is that the cost to the CARW members of holding this position is very low, and the psychological benefit does seem as described.

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  277. Lucid and excellent!

    I think there’s one more variant to consider, and that’s the kafkatrapper who freely admits that under the logical terms of the kafkatrap, nobody — including himself or herself — can ever be innocent, and who will accept this and may even revel in this as they try to force you to join them in their guilt.

    Like a suicidal person who grabs another’s arm before jumping.

  278. I recently had a debate where a black person stated that the opposition to Barack Obama was necessarily a result of “deep ceded racism that appears to be at a subconscious level for some white people in this country, especially older white men.”

    I lost it on this witch because I recognized the inherent dishonesty of the argument, but your description covers it perfectly.

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  280. this is at once the best thing i’ve ever read by esr, and also a perfect explanation of how open source will always remain on top of free software.

    the second part didn’t occur to me until i read through it again, but esr himself has been putting rms and (much less appropriately) anyone that sees value in his perspective in an anti-theistic kafkatrap, as is especially damning and potent snare considering that both esr and rms are atheists. that kind of diabolical, fallacious abuse has soured me on esr forever, but i sincerely admire how brilliantly he explains it.

    there are a lot of reasons free software will never rise above open source: it panders less to corporations, it panders *less* to users even while doing more to stand up for them, and as esr correctly notes in revolution os, it’s less marketable. but even moreso, the free software community will never harness the dark art of ad hom with half the mastery the open source community levels against it, decade after decade.

    we’re not just kafkatrapped, we’re fully kafkadefeated. time to bow to our open source masters and count our losses.

  281. >esr himself has been putting rms and (much less appropriately) anyone that sees value in his perspective in an anti-theistic kafkatrap

    That is a bizarre claim. Even supposing I had been kafkatrapping the FSF (which I don’t think I have) how would theism have anything at all to do with it?

  282. it’s something i see all the time. model s kafkatrapping, where skepticism denotes guilt, turns into a system of condemning the guilty in a sort of guilt-by-association with similar concepts, or found guilty by slippery slope.

    in other words, by talking about the emotion or fervor or lack of (perceived) practicality of an initiative, you can paint a “zealot” as religious/crusading/illogical/childish, and being guilty of one means you’re guilty of the list, and being skeptical of one means you’re guilty of the list.

    i’m fairly certain you’ve spoken of stallman “crusading” and it’s popular to compare him to a religious leader (this is where the sort of “ha ha, i get it…” joke about st. ignucious comes from) and anyone who agrees with him to “zealots.”

    but where did that start, anyway, with linus? i thought you were the first to paint him that way. i would agree that stallman’s personality can rub people the wrong way (it’s frequently misunderstood, but that may only count for a lot of it) and still we’re expected to believe his personality has so much to do with his ideas. phipps once told me essentially that to understand stallman, you had to blame not only his autism, but that of his followers.

    i stand by my comments, regarding open source, but would you argue your own position on rms / free software is more subtle or less personal than what i’ve described? because i think perens is a great guy, but i think the open source movement has been very opportunistic along these lines since its inception. if people keep calling us “zealots” no matter what, it tends to stick. no explanation is required on how maintaining a philosophical difference = being a zealot. practical = logical = non-religious, and the fallacy of false compromise wins every argument. (no?)

  283. >it’s something i see all the time. model s kafkatrapping, where skepticism denotes guilt, turns into a system of condemning the guilty in a sort of guilt-by-association with similar concepts, or found guilty by slippery slope.

    You have misunderstood kafkatrapping. A real kafkatrap is unfalsifiable – it’s constructed so as to deny the target the possibility of refuting it. Slippery-slope and guilt-by-association arguments are falsifiable in fairly simple ways.

    >i’m fairly certain you’ve spoken of stallman “crusading” and it’s popular to compare him to a religious leader (this is where the sort of “ha ha, i get it…” joke about st. ignucious comes from) and anyone who agrees with him to “zealots.”

    I don’t think I’ve used the exact word “crusading” (I’m not a Christian and that word isn’t part of my normal production vocabulary), but your charge is correct in essence; I have compared RMS to a religious leader, for the excellent reason that he behaves like one and invites the comparison. Yes, there’s a case that his “St. Ignucious” routine is intentional self-parody, but…have you ever seen him do it live? I have. There’s some serious emotional voltage there. It’s the far end of a continuum of behaviors in which he very seriously inhabits the persona of a holy man or ascetic martyr. And then there’s the moralizing tone of his propaganda, and the way he describes his own conversion experience…

    >i thought you were the first to paint him that way.

    Oh, sweet Goddess no. People had been describing RMS that way since the mid-1980s. I knew him before he grew his hair long, so I can date the emergence of RMS-the-holy-man to about 1983. The first descriptions of him as a zealot weren’t more than a few years later and, IIRC, came out of the BSD crowd. By the time Linus and I were in any kind of public dispute with him the trope had been established for over a decade.

    >phipps once told me essentially that to understand stallman, you had to blame not only his autism, but that of his followers.

    Quite true. RMS’s shtick is to offer people who are too bright and emotionally disconnected from baseline humans for conventional religious community the emotional rewards of belief and belonging. (This is not to say he doesn’t have some rational arguments; he’d have to, considering his target population.) He’s sort of Sun Myung Moon for genius nerds. Now listen very carefully to the next bit: I don’t think this in itself a bad thing.

    The instinctive wiring that holy men activate in human beings is one thing, and in itself relatively value-neutral. The actual content of their beliefs, and the extent to which they exploit that wiring for power over their followers, is another. The right questions to ask about a holy man are (a) is his belief system hostile to rationality, and (b) does he use it to abuse and control his followers?

    What Phipps is pointing out is that once you fall into this role you’ll tend to get caught up in a feedback loop in which the needs and approval of your followers produce a progressive intensification of the belief system, detachment from reality, and increasing grandiosity. For a very close parallel to RMS, read a good biography of Ayn Rand (who appealed to much the same sorts of people RMS does) and observe how being increasingly surrounded by her followers distorted her into a sort of unintentional self-parody. To his credit, RMS is not even nearly as damaged and shows little sign of Rand’s abusive and controlling tendencies – but what Phipps was trying to tell you is that we can see the same process of follower-driven progressive disconnection in operation.

    >would you argue your own position on rms / free software is more subtle or less personal than what i’ve described?

    Yes, very much so. I took RMS’s experience as a warning that the holy-man role is a dangerous psychological trap well before I was required to develop a public leadership style of my own. It led me to study the history of reform movements, cults, and utopian communities in order to understand how such movements succeed or fail, with particular reference to whether having a central charismatic is ultimately helpful or harmful. (Ayn Rand was one particularly instructive case; John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Community was another.)

    I concluded that having a strong central charismatic is helpful in the early stages of a reform movement, but becomes dangerous to the movement’s health in predictable ways later on. This conclusion had powerful and direct effects on my propaganda and my tactics, which were in significant part designed to avoid casting me as the indispensible man. The hacker culture didn’t need a second quasi-religious guru and I would have been serving it very badly if I had settled for becoming one.

    >if people keep calling us “zealots” no matter what, it tends to stick

    I’m afraid this is where my sympathy stops. All that is necessary for the “zealot” label not to stick is that you stop talking and behaving like zealots. You are actually quite right that open-source advocates have been “opportunistic” about this, and we’ll keep doing it for exactly as long as representing ourselves as the sane/rational/pragmatic wing of the movement and you guys as the foaming loons keeps working. If you want this tactic to stop, you have to stop enabling it. Stop with the moralizing, stop with calling people “evil”, stop with the anti-capitalism, and for Goddess’s sake stop cheering the St. Ignucious shtick.

    And note that by “working” I don’t mean “winning some silly little intramural power struggle”. I’m completely uninterested in that. By “working” I mean “winning mainstream acceptance”. See, when I walk into a corporate boardroom or address a roomful of investment bankers, it’s actually quite helpful if they’re vaguely aware that there’s a bunch of hairy religious communards lurking in the background spouting vaguely Marxist-sounding slogans. It makes the most radical things I have to say seem quite moderate and reasonable – especially when I sweeten my pitch with business-school jargon. When you guys were the only advocates we had, it was deadly; now that you aren’t, you can be made useful as comic and distantly menacing foils.

    You guys can end this game at any time. Any time at all. All you have to do is stop being perfect comic foils. No skin off my nose if you do; your zealotry isn’t necessary to the open-source pitch, just really convenient.

  284. “You guys can end this game at any time. Any time at all. All you have to do is stop being perfect comic foils.”

    you give yourself away here, mr. raymond. the moment a person acknowledges himself a free software advocate, you lump him in with zealots by association. clearly it’s not enough to stop acting like a zealot, you have to also stop agreeing with, identifying with, or supporting the free software movement altogether, or suffer the accusation of zealotry by association. the only real way out is to change camps, i.e. the only way to not be a “zealot” is to convert. there’s a world of irony there, unless i’m (i hope!) wrong.

    as for whether it’s kafkatrapping, you wrote the definition and it’s quite possible i misunderstood it. but i think the falsifiability has some circular definition happening: “Slippery-slope and guilt-by-association arguments are falsifiable in fairly simple ways.”

    kafkatrapping as an act is easy to refute by pointing out the fallacy, as are slippery-slope and the guilt-by-association meted out to all supporters of free software. the only difference i can see between the kafkatrap and other fallacies is that people are less familiar with it, but that doesn’t make it less falsifiable. still if i misunderstand it, i won’t troll further by insisting i understand– it would all be reiteration from here. but thanks for your time. i consider you more of an opponent than a hero, but i use curses everyday, so i can’t be entirely ungrateful.

  285. >you give yourself away here, mr. raymond. the moment a person acknowledges himself a free software advocate, you lump him in with zealots by association.

    OK, can you explain to me why I shouldn’t do that?

    That’s not a rhetorical question. The distinguishing feature of “free software” advocates – correct me if you think I’m wrong – is that you frame “free” vs. “proprietary” as a moral question (right vs. wrong in a-priori terms) rather than a pragmatic one to be judged by outcomes. The consequence is that, in the “free software” view, there can never be any edge cases or exceptions.

    That says “zealot” to me, and to lots of other people as well.

  286. i think it’s disingenuous to paint someone with even a “moral” position that it’s wrong to lock people out of their own computers– there’s nothing “morally wrong” with locking other people out of the computers you have– as someone that is irrational, fanatical, warlike, religious, or extremist.

    sure, by taking it out of context, it’s easy to do and we already went over the self-serving benefits of painting things that way. but i don’t understand why i’m painted that way just for thinking it’s wrong for someone to try to lock me out of my own computer– something that happens increasingly, rather than less with time. i think it’s far more zealous of apple to dictate what apps i can install, and keep installed, and that they reserve the right to spy on everything i do.

    and if want to stand against that kind of intrusion, i’m a zealot? how is my feeling about my physical electronic property any different than the “zealotry” libertarians have about their natural rights? if we use the words “infringing on my natural rights” instead of “morally wrong,” does that make all the difference?

    none of the above denies the reason for doing it to stallman. even if free software advocates don’t deserve the label, stallman’s personal actions and tone are sufficient to warrant it. but when the advantage of painting all advocates that way is so beneficial to the image of their opponents, it can still be argued that using it to discredit stallman is unfair. to your credit, you freely admit there’s another side to the issue, but more often i see the label being used to keep everything one-sided, not just against stallman but unfairly against all talk of free software. dirty tricks built over truths are still tricks.

  287. >i think it’s disingenuous to paint someone with even a “moral” position that it’s wrong to lock people out of their own computers– there’s nothing “morally wrong” with locking other people out of the computers you have– as someone that is irrational, fanatical, warlike, religious, or extremist.

    Now you’re changing the subject. The zealotry I have been talking about is the kind that takes a moral position against proprietary software as a general category. Taking a position against locking people out of their computers (a position I fully agree with) is a different argument, and it’s different in a material way.

    We had a rather befuddled fellow calling himself “libreman” show up here recently. He changed his position without acknowledging it several times, but he began by arguing that because {DRM|CarrierIQ|other random closed-source abuses} are evil, then closed source is necessarily evil. I patiently explained to him that this logic is invalid, and actually ended up constructing a semi-formal proof in deontic logic that his assertion was invalid.

    That critique extends to locking people out of their computers. There may be circumstances in which this is actually desirable – firmware for pacemakers comes to mind. But even supposing we ignore this and grant that locking people out of their computers out of their computers is evil, you can’t get from that to “proprietary is necessarily evil”. For that you need the additional premise that there is no possible world in which proprietary software exists but lockouts don’t.

    The same reductio applies to all other consequential arguments against proprietary software. Even if I agree with you about all of them (and I probably do, except in a handful of really unusual edge cases), you can’t get from any one of them – or from the whole collection – to “free software is necessarily wrong”. The logic doesn’t work.

    Now please pay careful attention to this next bit: The emotive leap past where that logic can take you is what defines the zealot.

    >if we use the words “infringing on my natural rights” instead of “morally wrong,” does that make all the difference?

    Yes, it makes a great deal of difference! If we are in the discourse of “proprietary software is necessarily wrong”, then accepting a proprietary license is itself necessarily wrong. OTOH, in the discourse of “natural rights”, I may elect to temporarily surrender some of those rights in trade for something I consider to be of greater value than their exercise. The former position puts an abstract normative principle first; the latter puts my liberty and autonomy first.

    >beneficial to the image of their opponents

    Dude, if you don’t want people to point and laugh, don’t put on the clown nose. Or, better yet, try not thinking of me as an “opponent” at all. I’m not your enemy. Don’t forget who our actual enemies are; in that, in practice, there is very little difference between us.

    >dirty tricks built over truths are still tricks.

    Yes, and I embrace them. I am, in that way, an utterly ruthless bastard and proud of it. If it takes dirty tricks – even dirty tricks using “free software” advocates as foils – to advance the cause of liberty, I will do it and sleep well afterwards.

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  290. You have covered this subject more perfectly than anyone I’ve seen before. Could I ask for your permission to republish on my site?

  291. >Could I ask for your permission to republish on my site?

    Any reason you can’t just publish a link with your commentary?

  292. Just want to join the choir of voices is saying: bravo. Without a doubt the most brilliant analysis of this phenomenon I’ve ever seen. Excellent work.

  293. This essay is a serious philosophical achievement. I have never seen this mentality categorized in a way so concise and elegant. I hope to read more of your writing in the future.

  294. @destroysound: ESR’s argument isn’t the fallacist’s fallacy because he’s not arguing that the cause is *wrong*, but unworthy of his respect. However, I’d consider Kafkatrapping a red flag, since (like censorship of opposing viewpoints) it indicates that they may have an argument that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

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  296. Brilliant article. Excellent analysis and well written.
    Thank you.

  297. This is brilliant. I couldn’t articulate what I’ve been seeing over the last few years, and you captured their ideology perfectly. I’m going to start using this term.

    On the upside, I think you’ll cause some people to read a book or two. :)

  298. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to get my family to understand, but apparently, either A) I lack the abilities to state very clearly what I mean (notice I’m much better at writing), or B) they are so brain washed that they don’t realise it. This is exactly why I hate the white shaming and the male shaming so ubiquitous and accepted and encouraged in this dumbass society. So in order to make up for past injustices (which well, they’re done in over so we can’t do that, now can we?) we have to oppress people born into groups that were formerly oppressive? How the FUCK does that sound fair or even decent to basic human rights? If my father were to go out and rape someone, I should automatically be punished for his crime, yes makes perfect sense. To quote, and I don’t know how I forgot his name: I love mankind, it’s the people I can’t stand. (and as a personal aside: I love individual people, it’s just people in general that make me want to tear my hair out.) peace, and please don’t ever stop questioning the status quo!

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  300. Hello,
    This is truly a thoughtful analysis, and it does show that it is good to police fallacious arguments within movements. However, if one decides that *-ism is OK because some people use fallacious arguments to argue against it, that’s very odd. I do hope nobody here is doing that.

    Although I believe the writer’s account of being accused of stuff directly, I do not believe this guilt was the endgoal – the endgoal is to get priviledged people to see the *-isms that other people face every day. I am white, and I really saw racism for the first time when somebody pointed out to me that all band-aids are white – then it clicked with me, white is the default – that must suck for non-whites, no? (I cannot explain this further, it was a moment when everything clicked for me) I did feel twinges of bad emotions about that, and I did realize that I, am, in fact, racist (from the whole of my behavior and thought patterns), although not the criminal kind, and I should try to change that to become a better person. I do not think hurling guilt at people – ie, “you are supposed to feel guilty for benefitting from white bandaids all these years” works great and if somebody said to me that “I am just as bad as the people who beat up immigrants” that would have been unfair. But I do think me not noticing the bandaid stuff before was a sign that I was content in my priviledge. Some guilt is an inevitable part of understanding what other people go through – if it turns into compassion and action, then that is what is supposed to happen.

    What I take away from this post is that the “you are just as bad as the *-ists for not stopping them” is not a valid argument and should not be used. What I want to give to the community here is this statement: “Guilt is a paralyzing emotion, but if indeed there are oppressed classes, then the way a priviledged individual can deal with this knowledge is to feel some bad emotions, process them, and turn them into action for social justice”.

    Also, there is a way to be innocent – show through your words and actions that you are not an *-ist, or are trying to weed it out of your system, by listening when the oppressed are speaking and managing the feelings this causes you to feel yourself.

  301. I’m a self-kafkatrapper when dealing with people who don’t acknowledge reason:
    You are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} because of …
    Response: Rational counter argument 1.
    Repeats accusation and adds a fallacy.
    Response: Rational counter argument 2.
    Repeats accusation and adds a second fallacy.
    Response: OK, you can say I am guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.
    Repeats original accusation

  302. You forgot category C: People who strawman the entire message and try to rationalize it on blog posts. That includes the author and his followers. All this text, and not one mention of Kimberle Crenshaw or intersectionality. The next time you want to play “poor me” because someone dares to point out how you benefit from the prevailing order, do a little homework first. You’ve embarrassed yourself.

  303. When I first read this piece, I wanted to cling to it like a lifeboat. It is not only political groups who engage in this, but in the academy, this is a frequent problem. I thought that my history education would be bolstered by feminist theoretical courses. I thought I was a feminist. Yet, as I continued to take courses, it became clear that all of my rational arguments against much of the theory we studied were not considered as valid, they were merely arguments which proved my complicit guilt. Many of the arguments I read and heard fit into these kafkatrapping models. The most common, in women’s and gender studies, is that if you do not believe in the fact that we are socially constructed that is because you are so oppressed you cannot see that the system has oppressed you. All human creativity is denied. What is worse (I am trying to avoid a rant here) is that any good that could be done by questioning systems is undermined by the abusive nature of all of their attacks. I do not want to be a feminist because I see no value in blaming ALL men for sexism, in denying hard workers their satisfaction, in demonizing people who marry… it is no longer about learning within women’s and gender studies, it is instead about either becoming a feminist according to their rules or be shunned. My “feminism” is that of Wollstonecraft and de Beauvoir: I seek human equality for everyone, not some sort of reversal where the formerly oppressed come out on top. I believe it is important that you keep sharing this since both the extreme left and the extreme right attack free thinkers and those in the middle with these abusive instruments. If more people could be empowered to speak up when they question the emptiness of these claims, perhaps we could have a strong answer to bipolar politics.

  304. >All this text, and not one mention of Kimberle Crenshaw or intersectionality.

    OK, commenters, I looked up these so you won’t have to. I even watched a highlight video and chased down some writings.

    Ms. Crenshaw, unsurprisingly, is yet another racial victimologist of the academic theory-spouting kind. Convoluted terminology aside, nothing she has to say is in the least original or anything you haven’t heard from other defenders of affirmative action and black privilege. She does have a very soothing and plausible voice well suited for the talk show circuit, which goes some way towards obscuring the vacuity of her thought.

    Not only can you safely ignore her, you can write off anyone who cites her seriously as an idiot or politically addled or both. Bet on both.

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  309. Two-year-old thread and still getting comments and pingbacks. Truly epic.

    Responding to kafkatraps, I can’t help but reminded of one of the funniest lines I ever heard from Norm MacDonald’s The Norm Show, in which his character is being assailed by Max Wright’s:

    MW: “Denial is the first sign of being an alcoholic!”
    NM: “But, it’s also the first sign of not being an alcoholic!”

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  312. I agree that most of the unfalsifiable ad hominem fallacies you describe are conversation stoppers, and shouldn’t be accepted or engaged at face value. In a coffee shop intellectual free for all, a flippant “Fuck you too,” might be as good as any other retort. But you might consider a more compassionate response, and rather than react defensively, pivot to inquiry. What has this person experienced, that leaves them so defiant and guarded about opposing viewpoints like mine, from people like me? There’s often more to be gained from exploring perspectives than battling over logical primacy or justified insults.

    What I disagree with is the prevalence of “kafkatrapping” in discussions of race, gender, and other critical studies or progressive topics. It happens, surely, but not any more often than paleo-conservatives dismissing liberal calls for social justice because “they’re weak and want to punish the strong.” A critique of a priveleged person’s opinion on privilege is entirely valid and falsifiable, unless it takes the absolutist form of “guilty because you’re guilty” that you describe. But that’s the most extreme and weakest form of the critique, which may be most salient because of its provocative condemnation, but isn’t the most common or definitive. Much of the discussion here makes hasty generalizations from the (not totally imaginary) straw man of “guilty ergo guilty” to any challenge for speakers to reexamine how their experience may inform/shape/bias/corrupt their perspective.

    To make a possibly too-loose and too-flippant analogy, I find the histrionics and anthropomorphocizing rhetoric of Peta and Why Vegan to be annoying, illogical, and arrogantly dismissive, but that doesn’t mean all criticism of our treatment of animals is “for the birds.”

  313. This piece reminds me of something Ayn Rand dubbed the “Argument from Intimidation,” in her book “The Virtues of Selfishness.” This was a good reminder though, with more examples of this “kafkatrap.” Well done.

  314. “Kafkatrapping” sounds like a specific instance of what Ayn Rand called, “The Argument from Intimidation.” (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/argument_from_intimidation.html) It’s sort of reversing the ad hominem fallacy: instead of arguing that X is (wicked, stupid, unreliable, etc), therefore X’s argument is false, X’s argument is asserted as false and that is used to argue that X is (wicked, stupid, unreliable, etc). The goal being to get X to withdraw his argument or be called unworthy.

  315. I’ve found a different approach to this. I’m personally a stoic (a pretty bad one, but who is perfect?). Part of the philosophy of a stoic is that other people’s opinions should not matter.

    •”Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise.”
    – Marcus Aurelius

    I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.
    – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    I tend to turn it around a bit. If I am actually a (whateverist), than your saying it has no bearing on that fact. If I am not, then you saying that I am doesn’t make that true. You cannot change a thing. Either I am an Xist and you are correct, or I am not and you are wrong. I know what I believe in, and if you ask I will tell you. Until then I will ignore your opinion and look for the facts.

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