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I have a friend who has pretty much embraced the BlueAnon mentality on Twitter. He delivers standard-order yelling defenses of Critical Race Theory even though he's said nothing about it before until this year. Why? To make himself look good, stick it to the "bad guys," and gain followers I guess. It's sad.

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I know you read Slate Star Codex, and this reminded me a great deal of the "motte-and-bailey" fallacy.

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A motte and bailey implies intentionality - framing something as more extreme or moderate as convenient. The point of what I'm talking about is motivated ignorance, not knowing the boundaries of an idea or set of ideas so that you can remain aligned with it without cognitive dissonace.

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I'm pretty sure that's the likeliest and most common way for a Motte and Bailey phenomenon to occur, though. It describes the resulting observable behaviors, not the intent. What you've done here is explain it.

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Jun 17, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

Hey Freddie, doesn’t selfish fallacy also apply to the current left insistence that the Republican bills/resolutions proposed currently in some states, “ban all teaching about racism” or “ban all teaching about institutional and systemic racism” Parsing the exact text of for, eg., the GA BOE resolution shows this to be a grossly unsupported belief. It’s worth taking a look-

https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/SBOE%20Resolution%20for%20Consideration%20-%2021-0602_1274907q0jrxpftmcfjqupvyr0y5ggb.pdf

Based on what it ACTUALLY SAYS, there is nothing to prevent teaching about slavery, civil rights history etc. Now the vanilla history I was taught about those K12 was inadequate, but it’s standard now to insist on social media and in mainstream liberal media that the bills outright ban even teaching these historical topics. If you even raise this issue for discussion you are of course accused of getting down in the weeds too much with the other team.

This is the obverse of selfish fallacy: refusing to know the boundaries of a set of ideas so you can remain NOT aligned with THOSE PEOPLE.

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This is a better link.

https://simbli.eboardsolutions.com/meetings/TempFolder/Meetings/SBOE%20Resolution%20for%20Consideration%20-%2021-0602_12749071gys03wn0bux32metuz3zkmq.pdf

Google “GA BOE critical race theory resolution “. See the numerous reports with not one linking the actual text and all reporting everything from “CRT” to “teaching history” is banned .

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Motte and bailey would suggest the advocates of CRT in question LIKE the radical, illiberal parts but downplay them in order to win arguments. Freddie is suggesting they actually don't like those at all, and downplay them to pretend they don't exist, as they wish they didn't.

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Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice. You are unlikely to identify even one case of Motte And Bailey that has ever occurred, where there is this kind of "pure" deceptive intent required by your definition. The source of the flip-flopping position turns out to be the identity-protecting cognition described above.

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I disagree with this, because I think in this case intent is irrelevant, and in fact there is no flip-flopping. A motte and bailey here would be someone who insists, “Free speech is racist, because CRT says so!” (bailey) and when pressed upon it, retreats to “CRT just means slavery is bad and racism still exists,” (motte). Here, it’s people who say, “CRT is great!” and when told CRT argues against the liberal order, say, “No it doesn’t, it just means slavery is bad and racism still exists!”, or some more obfuscatory variant on that. This isn’t a case of people giving inconsistent definitions of CRT in different contexts; it’s a case of people acting (consistently!) as if CRT means something very different from what it actually means, so they can get the benefits of embracing the “radical” pose without actually having to embrace the radical implications.

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Granted, but other than the specific examples provided by Nicholas Shackel when he first coined the term, when was the last time the Motte was actually the same arguer as the Bailey? The first discussion involves the "Yes, Virginia, Santa exists in your hearts," and sets a social norm within a group, that it is impolite to deny the existence of Santa. The "Santa literally has real elves at the geographic North Pole" is always a different person, on a later day, during a later debate, exploiting that group social norm, long after it took time to sink in. For those of us not in a debate club, that scenario is where the concept of Motte And Bailey gets the most actual usage.

It appears to me that, typically, the pattern is enacted by differing people within the same ideological affiliation group, playing tug-of-war with the terms in the question under discussion, with the result that the terms of that discussion decohere. I value finally seeing identity-protective cognition as probably central to that group dynamic.

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This is a great post. The Yglesias tweet that discusses Richard Delgado's succinct definition of CRT reminds me that Richard Posner (aka Judge Posner of 7th Circuit fame) had a hilarious takedown of Delgado as part of some law review symposium in the early 90s. I will have to dig up the citation.

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Please do. My, admittedly quick, searching hasn’t come up with it yet and I’d love to read Posner’s takedown. 😄

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I did find this, which is a fun read:

Subotnik, Daniel (1998) "What’s Wrong with Critical Race Theory: Reopening the Case for Middle Class Values," Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy: Vol. 7: Iss. 3, Article 1.

Available at: http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/cjlpp/vol7/iss3/1

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This one reminds me of Freddie’s essay on what forms future anti-Semitism might take.

Suzanna Sherry and Daniel A. Farber, Is the Radical Critique of Merit Anti-Semitic?, 83 California Law Review. 853 (1995) Available at: http://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty-publications/325

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Was it RICHARD A. POSNER, OVERCOMING LAW 106 (1995) (discussing the

marginalization of black law professors into the academic ghetto of critical race theory) or Symposium, InterpretingLegal Citation,29 J. LEGAL STUD. (2000) (citing articles by

William M. Landes, Richard A. Posner, Deborah Jones Merritt, Theodore Eisenberg, Martin T. Wells, Fred R. Shapiro, Ian Ayres, Fredrick E. Vars, Brian Leiter, Frederick Schauer, Virginia Wise, Robert C. Ellickson, David Post, Michael Eisen); Symposium on Trends in Legal Citations and Scholarship, 71 CHI.-KENT L. REV. 743 (citing articles by Richard Delgado, Je34 Stefancic, Fred R. Shapiro, James Lindgren, Daniel Seltzer, R.H. Coase, Gerald Gunther, Charles A. Reich, William M. Landes, Richard A. Posner, J.M. Balkin, Sanford Levinson, Deborah J. Merritt, Mark Tushnet, Frances Olsen, Nancy Levit, William N. Eskridge, Jr., Melanie Putnam)?

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It could have been either one of those. The line I remember: "I have met Professor Delgado. He is as white as I am."

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The selfish fallacy strikes me as a modified True Scotsman fallacy, or appeal to purity: argument by motivated, ad-hoc redefinition of a category or term. If I understand the example here properly, it boils down to "No true CRT practitioner is radically illiberal" when evidence asserts otherwise.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

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author

OK, but what I'm trying to capture here is motivated IGNORANCE - the fact that the kind of person I'm talking about doesn't know the contours of the debate he's taking part in so that he can maintain his position on the "right side" without putting his beliefs into conflict. The person guilty of the Selfish fallacy isn't cynical, they're deluded; they stay uninformed out of a desire to prevent cognitive dissonance and disagreement with their group or tendency.

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Funnily enough (tho I think it's more interesting/fascinating) is that Ayn Rand thought that "motivated ignorance" was a big component of 'evil'.

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Then how about calling it the "motivated ignorance fallacy"? "Selfish fallacy" seems too broad to capture the key idea.

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I like that framework a lot to think of whats going on here (and how you write about it). As well as the mental cirque du soleil we do, I still think a great deal boils down to the "what do my 'enemies think? I will think the opposite' as a crude and overused epistemic heuristic we all fall back on to varying degrees. I would really like to see how many people would respond to the question, "Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump say the sun rises in the East. Do you agree with Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump ?" (Or sub in whoever you despise - "crooked hillary etc)... It reminds me of the dynamic Paul Graham wrote about regarding identity and keeping it small http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html ...

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A similar aphorism is 'the opposite of stupidity is not intelligence'.

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“obscure set of theories from legal education”

Finally... the fact that while in law school I avoided substantive law courses as much as possible in favor of theory & philosophy and tacked on a history master’s degree for good measure will finally be “useful”. 🤪😂

Tbh I find it hilarious that CRT has become ‘a thing’.

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Hmm. We shrinks mostly call this denial motivated by cognitive dissonance.

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Perhaps that's the most parsimonious way to define it.

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I ran into this same issue with “Socialism .” I eventually learned that quoting dictionaries gets you nowhere. I just try to figure out someone’s position without clinging too hard to the actual meaning. And in most cases the discovered difference in positions turns out to be small.

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I’ve mostly avoided this debate because like everything else in our stupid culture war it’s a moral panic that will be over in six months and you’re right that nothing will have changed.

I have no doubt that Jeet is a soggy liberal, but completely devoid of context his tweet seems to be saying that the floating signifier will be used to shape curriculums in ways that really have nothing to do with CRT, which seems like a reasonable expectation. That’s always been a part of conservative culture war since Mccarthyism or even earlier.

The difference today seems to be that now we’re supposed to care about it in order to be “good” and fight back rather than just ignoring Bari and the rest of her clownish cohort and dictating the conversation ourselves. Defending CRT reminds me a bit of the embarrassing woman that wrote the “rioting is good” book this summer. It’s completely adopting the antagonistic framing of the right wing culture warriors and just saying “this is good actually”.

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The cousin to Convenient Ignorance is Denialism. The left pretended cancel culture didn't exist for an entire year. You don't have to look far on blue check twitter to find tons of tweets professing hilarity about something that Doesn't Even Exist! I've noticed there are a lot fewer tweets about Cancel Culture Doesn't Exist because it's so obvious that cancel culture does in fact exist.

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Removed (Banned)Jun 17, 2021
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The US political system is designed to require two, and only two parties. That's why the woke held their noses and voted D.

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Except for the ones that didn't. Personally I know at least one woke person who voted third party in a swing state (for POTUS in 2020, also 2016).

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Haha so true. I love tweets that start with, "I'm an independent" and end with "but Obama is a Muslim agent marxist corporatist in the pocket of big tech oligarchy"

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CRT became a Thing as fast as Judith Butler became The Correct Interpretation of Gender. Super fast, without anyone really reading the underlying body of work (but of course they have snippets they post to Tumblr!). Accepting without thinking means liberals started agreeing with things such as "yeah gender doesn't exist at all, so".... while conveniently ignoring all of the ideas that might flow from that - I recall Bill Nye got in trouble for insisting that biological sex is a scientific fact.

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Speaking of Judith Butler.....she was being interviewed in the Guardian (podcast) and was asked to define "queer". Well, about a minute in you sensed that she struggled to define it and it came out to some sort of sans culottism. It's around minute 1.....Let me know what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXJb2eLNJZE

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While I do enjoy people snarking about CRT, I wonder if the fallacy (& commentary) is entirely correct. Firstly, are we demanding too much of people who are in general support of an idea? Must one find all interpretations of a theory/philosophy and develop rebuttals to them? Is it possible that different things (concepts, organizations, philosophies) mean different things to different people?

Here I note that common definitions are essential to clear communication, but it's possible to support democracy while abhorring mob rule, even if it took men of the Founding Fathers' metal to thread that needle. And I note that many of the common defenses of CRT are indeed claiming that CRT doesn't mean things that it's most vocal & prominent supporters say that, yes, actually, it *does* mean.

Secondly - FdB says "this will all be gone in 6 months." Oh, you sweet summer child. Critical Theory has been a viable thing in academia (started in literature departments, if I am correct, not law, although law is where intersectionality as a discriminations concept was first formalized) since at least the 1970's, growing all along, and has been spreading toxicity in niche online groups since 2004 or so, before exploding into common HR departments in 2014.

It's not going away in 6 months. It may be something that, like socialism and the automobile, is with us for forever. (Making note of the date.)

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I thought FdB meant that "CRT" as a focus-grouped punching bag for the right (that the left feels it has to defend but can't honestly do so) will go away within a few months and that the right will move on to a new focus-grouped target and terminology for "wokeness". Remember how two years ago people attacked "social justice warriors" but now it's "CRT"?

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That's because what SJWs push is CRT. They called it intersectionality in 2005, but it's the same mud puddle.

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We are in agreement. The "this" that will all be gone in 6 months is the argument over "CRT" specifically. Wokeness will still be here and will be argued about using different terminology.

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I think Freddie's wrong about the 6 month timeframe. What else are Republicans going to run on in 2022? It's going to be anti-CRT, pro-Trump, and weird conspiracy theories all the way! I mean Tom Cotton thinks China will "harvest" athletes DNA at the Olympics to create super soldiers. FFS! this dude is a U.S. senator. It's helpful for them if the left gets dragged into a CRT debate rather than focusing on the fact that the most powerful people in America are unhinged wackos who act like characters in a bad sci-fi film.

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Overreach is the liberal problem, their hubris and arrogance and we see it. Overreach that defies common sense is an endless topic for the other half of America - the uneducated people. They see liberals as lying hypocrites and their overly complex plans as idiocy. They see the fancy plans come and go like fashion. They see the elite with their finger on the scale in their own favour. They feel the sting of being spoken down to, of being managed through absurd explanations meant to deceive but hobbled by lack of education they can’t win the argument through argument. And the long came Trump the bloviating ignoramus who mocked and snitched on the fancy pants dummies. Pure joy, schadenfreude for the unwashed.

Raise the minimum wage to 20 bucks you assholes and then leave us alone.

Overreach is your myopia.

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Absolutely essential reading on the subject. This is why I subscribe.

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"the kind of soggy liberals who teach at law schools have decided that they need to look busy when it comes to race or risk losing their cush gigs"

This made me chuckle. Twelve years ago, I found myself drunk for the first time on pineapple margaritas at a fairly tame bachelorette party held in an after-hours art store. As I stumbled out, a magnet caught my eye that's still on my fridge today. It's a very Catholic-looking portrait of Christ, and the caption reads: "Jesus is Coming. Look Busy." I didn't know it then, but that was the first real step I took toward a critical examination of my religious thought, which had dominated much of my life. It took drunken inhibition to get beneath the veneer of unshakable certainty.

Since then, any time I've internally felt the impulse "so-and-so is coming/watching. Look busy" I've stopped and really taken a good hard look at what I'm so invested in covering up with disingenuous supportiveness. You, among a few others, have provided handholds for me to navigate my way out of lazy thinking. Cheers.

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Lovely writing style.

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Yea, what the hell, this comment is so good lol.

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aw you guys stop

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The left's best strategy is to force the conservatives to talk about the unpopular parts of their platform, and the reverse is true too. If the end result of all of this is 'the left further embraces a very unpopular radical worldview and spends time explaining it in detail to America' then it's hard to believe that conservatives are making poor strategic decisions here, regardless of how nonsensical the bills themselves might be. I don't think we should give them too much credit as strategic decision makers, but laughing this off completely as "man these guys didn't even go to grad school!" is also a mistake.

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I think there are historical parallels to the last outbreak of PC lunacy driven by academia back in the 1980's. That movement crashed and burned when establishment Democrats realized that the views were so extreme that they were alienating the bulk of voters and moved (forcefully) to distance themselves from the woke. I have always said that the person most responsible for killing off PC'ism then was Bill Clinton. Or maybe Ricky Ray Rector.

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This post very much reminded me of claims along the lines that 'political correctness just means not being a jerk'.

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Honest question, what do you mean by "best strategy" in this case?

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Just speaking to electoral strategy, sorry if that wasn’t clear

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Gottcha. Probably obvious to others. It was a thoughtful enough post I didn't want to get that wrong.

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I agree. My side of the political fence is always begging the media to reckon with how they cover the GOP. Well, okay, but our side also needs to reckon with how we walk into traps stupidly and then amplify them. Our first line of defense seems to be "tee-hee! They didn't read theory! Dumbasses!"

Then, as the GOP quickly uses their power to enact horrible laws, it turns to outrage, often directed at the media ("look at that headline! CRT is NOT a so-called 'controversial theory'! Fix it, NYT!")

Then finally, Convenient Denial as we fully embrace whatever it is the GOP is railing against. See also the way the left embraced Judith Butler uncritically in gender discussions, without considering the full ramifications of "gender does not exist at all."

Freddie does a good job of asking whether any of these strategies actually work.

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