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Jan 15Liked by Steve QJ

A talented propagandist takes a kernel of truth and cultures it into a mountain of lies. By denying the kernel of truth, his opponents effectively do his job for him by destroying their own credibility and thereby implicitly validating his mountain of lies.

Christopher Rufo is a champion propagandist and much of the Progressive Left his useful idiots. It’s just excruciating to watch him operate. Like a slow motion car wreck.

What is the antidote to the Rufo phenomenon? As you say, it is to cop to the kernel of truth and fight the exaggerations. If you look into the sources Rufo cites, they only rarely support his broad claims. People must scrutinize Rufo like the right wing did Gay. They will find much worse.

I think much can be attributed to the utter unsophistication and dogmatism of the Left. They have forgotten how to argue the facts. And they are so damn loud.

Thank you for being a voice of reason and fact. Maybe you are the first of many!

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15Author

"By denying the kernel of truth, his opponents effectively do his job for him by destroying their own credibility and thereby implicitly validating his mountain of lies."

This whole comment is a fantastic breakdown of the situation. But I think the above is best of all.

Funnily enough, it reminds me of Gay's apology after her congressional hearing. She admitted that she'd gotten drawn into a combative stance where she refused to give ground instead of giving the obvious answer that of course calling for the genocide of Jews was absolutely unacceptable.

I feel like a lot of people on the Left are in the same bind. Instead of just giving the obvious answer that of course kids shouldn't be segregated by race, of course children shouldn't be having their breasts cut off or being given cross-sex hormones, of course societies need police, they argue these brain-dead points because they don't want to feel as if they're giving ground to the "enemy."

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

The Left continues to “argue these brain-dead points” NOT because “they don’t want to feel as if they are giving ground to the ‘enemy’”. It is not “the enemy” they are worried about, but rather their own kind.

They are terrified of being outed as not “pure” enough, or as being “disloyal.” Dogmatists are harshest on apostates. That is why change from within the Left is virtually impossible. They are banished to the cold with no clothes.

Thanks for your comment Steve. I always enjoy conversing with you.

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OK. So if there is such a mountain of lies coming from Rufo, can you name one ?

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Yes. The extent to which the “successor ideology” has percolated into the mainstream of everyday public school instruction around the country. Rufo will claim “it’s everywhere” in an essay and when you look up the cite it’s an isolated power point presentation at some irrelevant administrators conference. It’s laughable. I will go back and find specific examples for you.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

In Canada where I live, I would say it has percolated into the mainstream of everyday public school instruction. It is even on the provincial ministry of education website (over 2 million students) with topics such as SEL. It is a "lens" through which topics are taught and that is how it is everywhere. Not all teachers subscribe to "successor ideology" and others to a lesser degree, but I personally know many teachers who do fully subscribe to it. I do not think it is a lie that he suggests it is everywhere in K-12 schools, at least not where I live.

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That is very sad news and I have no reason to doubt it. I do believe that most teachers are still pretty sane and generally in control of their classrooms. But there are certainly a minority of teachers and administrators who spread this toxic nonsense.

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Miguelito, I would like to ask 3 questions to explore this: more specifically what you believe about current prevalence, what direction you think the numbers are moving, and what evidence inspires your belief.

First let's explore the belief about today's prevalence; I hear you believe:

(1) more than 50% of teachers ("most") do not allow "the successor ideology" into their classroom (ie: are sane & in control), and

(2) less than 50% of teachers ("a minority") and administrators actively spread the successor ideology.

Would that be a fair approximate quantization of your beliefs, or would you like to tweak the (estimated, approximate) numbers, like 70% keep it out of the classroom while only 15% actively push it into the classroom? (The remainder perhaps not actively pushing it themselves, but not in control to keep it out either)

I fully recognize that you can't provide exact numbers, I just want to get a rough sense of how large or small your feel the proportions to be, since for example "a minority" could be 1% (very rare) or 49% (common but still a minority today), but you probably have in mind something between those.

Secondly: do you think the numbers are increasing or decreasing, as new teachers and administrators replace older ones in the system?

Thirdly: what evidence inspires your belief? Not asking you to "prove it", just what suggestive indications you have seen to form your beliefs on this.

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Jan 28·edited Jan 28

Excellent questions. Here are the bases for my guesstimates, because that is the best we can do.

1. This new anti-racist, gender ideology, etc. actually hit the mainstream quite recently. If you go back 10 years, very few people talked like that. The gender stuff took off in earnest after SCOTUS legalized gay marriage and hit overdrive more recently. Anti racism gradually moved from the fringe and splattered onto the mainstream only in 2020 after the Floyd murder. So, all this is very recent, and it is top down, ie coming from elites into the culture. This takes time. So, what you see at the school board and administration level may or may not be reflected in everyday classrooms. I think the majority of everyday teachers are "normies" for the simple reason that they are probably only just a little left of center on average as the population at large.

Obviously, there are going to be regional, and especially class, variations. The percolation will be most complete in affluent, blue areas and especially private schools in places like NYC and my hometown of LA, many of which are thoroughly hopeless.

This process will happen much, much slower, ironically, in the 'hood. My daughter taught HS in West Newark and then in a really tough area in Irvington, NJ from about 2017 to 2022. This stuff was COMPLETELY absent there. Now she teaches in an affluent DC high school, and it is EVERYWHERE. Even though she is a Lefty, she hates it and the micro-managing that comes with it. She has been convicted of a "name-based microaggression." She is heading back to the 'Hood next year.

2. I made a habit of checking Rufo's sources. They did not reflect the pervasiveness he claims. A lot of times he would point to a power point at some conference and then the articvle he wrote made it seem like every teacher was a Red Guard or something. I;m not saying it's not around and influential, I just saying that he did not satisfy my burden of proof that it's "everywhere." Maybe soon, but not yet.

So, on these bases I think that a substantial minority of teachers in Canada and the US have drunk the Kool-Aid, but I believe a majority (over 50%) haven't. Hopefully the backlash we are seeing now will prevent its further spread.

That is the best I can do to answer your excellent question.

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Jan 15Liked by Steve QJ

"Voters don't care about Christopher Rufo, they care about sexually explicit content and racial segregation in classrooms. They care about their children's well-being at school. They care about the idiots campaigning to abolish the police in their neighbourhoods."

Just wanted to repeat this in case someone missed it the first time around.

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True enough, but Rufo has been pretty effective at creating a moral panic on outlets such as Fox News.

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Jan 15Liked by Steve QJ

These fringe issues may not be "mainstream left-wing policy" but unfortunately they are core policies of the very influential ultra-left-wing which is now much larger than you think, and these core policies have, judging from my friend group, been normalized to a certain extent throughout much of the mainstream left.

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"but unfortunately they are core policies of the very influential ultra-left-wing which is now much larger than you think"

I'm not sure how large it is, but there's no doubt that it's enormously influential. That's not lost on me at all. As Ive said many times, the problem is that most sane people on the political left are too afraid to speak up against it. Which is why it's so easy for Rufo to present those fringe issues as mainstream. After all, if hardly anybody on the left dares to speak up about dildos and racial segregation in schools, why would anybody on the right believe they don't support it? I don't know a single person who, when they're not afraid of who might be listening, really thinks the insane stuff is okay.

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But by letting the radicals be the standard bearer of the party they set it as the definition of the party.

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Nobody is perfect, but some people are closer than others on the perfection scale (but even Jesus fucked up sometimes - he could have a bit of an anger management problem sometimes). I don't find Rufo to be the conservative demon others think he is, and Claudine Gay is no angel. As you point out, sometimes he gets it right, at other times....not so much. Even people who are faaaaar away from the end point on the Perfection Spectrum are right *sometimes*. One of my favourite quotes comes from a white supremacist (can't remember his name) who said if you want to know who rules you, look to whom you may not criticize. I'm sure he's an awful person in many ways, and wrong about soooooo, so many things but...he was right about this. And they who *we* may not criticize now is transactivists or transgenderism. But that's changing.

I don't agree with everything Jordan Peterson says, but I think he makes some good points about personal responsibility his young male fan base need to hear, even if I'm not fond of his Judaeo-Christian bent.

I can't stand Jessica Valenti, the uber-victimized babygirl feminist on Medium who so annoyed me with her fragile, women-are-above-reproach criticism, that I muted here there...didn't *block* her, because no one's wrong about *everything*. And once, she did write a good, strong, feminist article. I don't remember what it was about, it was so long ago. She's here on Substack writing only about abortion from what I see so I probably would hate her less. But I'll bet she's still a whiny little babygirl. Still, every once in awhile she gets it right....

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"Even people who are faaaaar away from the end point on the Perfection Spectrum are right *sometimes*."

I really wish this idea wasn't so out of fashion pretty much all across the political spectrum. Like everybody else, I have my thoughts on who does better or worse on the perfection spectrum. But I still listen to people on the far end if I have any reason to believe what they say is true. And if they're right, I'll happily give credit where it's due. You have to reach Alex Jones levels before I'll just dismiss you out of hand.

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One thing I've come around to with Trump on: Immigration. Yeah, Biden, Obama and other Democrats just don't grasp the concept of sane immigration. Even *I'm* wanting a wall now, and I don't even live next door to Mexico! I'm not going to vote for Trump of course (I'm going to vote indy if I can find someone who's not too much of a fuckwit on women's rights) but yeah...he's right about immigration *now*. I'm not at all sure he was when he was PRez. Now, something's gotta stem the Bidentide....I'm hoping it'll be someone other than Trump.

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Jan 15Liked by Steve QJ

I’m just here to say I really like your writing Steve, thank you for sharing it.

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absolutely

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The "Don't Say Gay" thing is what finally made me give up on mainstream media as anything close to reliable journalism. Those three words appear in every headline in every article about that law. Occasionally, somewhere in the body of the article, there would be verbiage like "critics call it the 'Don't Say Gay' bill" but those critics were never named, and the reason for their criticism never explained.

It's one thing to mention a law's nickname in an article, but placing it in the headline is not journalism.

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"𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘵𝘰𝘰. 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘐’𝘥 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘳. 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘐 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘶𝘯𝘧𝘢𝘪𝘳, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦, 𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘶𝘦𝘥, 𝘐 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘎𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘊𝘩𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘙𝘶𝘧𝘰, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘧𝘢𝘭𝘭."

The devil himself can speak truth when it serves his purpose. #𝟏 Is it true? #𝟐 Are knee-jerk assumptions and accusations that the speaker's motivation is the ism of your perceived oppressor helpful or proof of falsehood? #𝟑 Does the purpose or motivation of the speaker make something that is true false?

After saying all that, do the results of something true or false being spoken matter? What is CRT really? My understanding of critical theory in general is a thorough examination of something, often specifically the conventional views of a subject. Honest history is a good goal since history is often biased to the point of falsehood by omission. We should know the truth. If the result is increased hostility, is it helpful in leading to a better society for all? That leads to the question, can honest discussion take place in the 21at century or is that now impossible?

I recently read an article where the idea that many on the right prefer a Trump victory to another Republican victory because if would cause more anguish, wailing and gnashing of teeth on the left. I think it is true. By the same token, many on the left vindictively wish to tear down all things precious to the right to inflict the same emotional anguish. Heavy sigh!

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"Does the purpose or motivation of the speaker make something that is true false?"

This has become an impossible needle for a depressing number of people to thread. Some people simply can't appraise information on its merits anymore. Maybe because they're too lazy to do the legwork required to appraise *any* information. So they just check if the speaker is on "their side" or not and go from there.

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"My understanding of critical theory in general is a thorough examination of something, often specifically the conventional views of a subject."

I think you're thinking of critical *thinking* here. Critical theory is kind of an umbrella term for a range of academic work analysing how different identities and societal constructs create or maintain power dynamics (I swear, I did my best to make that description sound as unpretentious as possible and I'm still slightly upset with my fingers for having typed it).

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My first encounter with critical theory was the writings of Bart D. Ehrman. The key word critical in academic studies can be applied to a broader range than you mention. What you wrote is not so different from where I'm coming from. A sample:

The approach taken to the Bible in almost all Protestant (and now Catholic) mainline seminaries is what is called the “𝐡𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥-𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥” method. It is completely different from the “devotional” approach to the Bible one learns in church.

The devotional approach to the Bible is concerned about what the Bible has to say—especially what it has to say to me personally or to my society. What does the Bible tell me about God? Christ? The church? My relation to the world? What does it tell me about what to believe? About how to act? About social responsibilities? How can the Bible help make me closer to God? How does it help me to live?

The historical-critical approach has a different set of concerns and therefore poses a different set of questions. At the heart of this approach is the historical question (hence its name) of what the biblical writings meant in their original historical context. Who were the actual authors of the Bible? Is it possible (yes!) that some of the authors of some of the biblical books were not in fact who they claimed, or were claimed, to be—say, that 1 Timothy was not actually written by Paul, or that Genesis was not written by Moses? When did these authors live? What were the circumstances under which they wrote? What issues were they trying to address in their own day? How were they affected by the cultural and historical assumptions of their time? What sources did these authors use? When were these sources produced? Is it possible that the perspectives of these sources differed from one another? Is it possible that the authors who used these sources had different perspectives, both from their sources and from one another? Is it possible that the books of the Bible, based on a variety of sources, have internal contradictions? That there are irreconcilable differences among them?

Ehrman, Bart D.. Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) (pp. 4-5). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[Clarification addition: Is critical theory pertaining to America's history "historical-critical" vs the history being challenged as devotional history?]

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I respect Rufo. One thing that might help understanding him is that he was a Seattleite before he moved to Gig Harbor in 2020-ish. I was in a Seattle City Council District 6 race with him in 2019 before he withdrew because of threats to his family by the nihilist leftists here. The reason I say knowing that he was a Seattleite helps understand him better is because Seattle is rife with nihilist lefties. Until this last election in Nov 2023, the City Council had a socialist-communist-nihilist voting block. By nothing short of a miracle, we now have a moderate voting block on the council. Whew! Rufo actually picked up the baton that Conceptual James flailed with. James makes everything so damn hard to understand because he never boils it down to everyman speak. Instead it's always faculty lounge speak. I couldn't even finish his book. Other folks railing against CRT often made the same mistake. Rufo saw that and knew James (et al) weren't going to win anyone's mind and created different strategies. Strategies that work. Do I think Chris gets everything right? No. Do I think Chris is a positive force against the BS going down in our education system? Yes. I'm proud of his work even if he is to the right of me. Go Chris!

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deletedJan 15Liked by Steve QJ
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"Rufo didn't create the problem, he amplified how to counter it"

No, Rufo created the controversy about *critical race theory*.

Almost nobody who spent their time railing against CRT actually knew what it was. I bet only a handful of its critics could define it in anything even approaching precise terms today. As Rufo openly admits, he took an obscure legal theory from the 70s, and used its name as a collective term for all of the race-based insanity happening in schools.

But he (and others) then went on to conflate *all* race based education with the insane stuff by lumping it under the same "brand." This is what was dishonest and manipulative.

Of course, you're right, Rufo didn't *create* the crazy race-based stuff happening in schools. That's why he was able to so effectively generate headlines and outrage. I shared a lot of that outrage. And wouldn't have heard about some of it if not for him. As I say above, he was absolutely right about how insane some of the things happening in schools were. And the political Left made the mistake of denying this and attacking him instead of acknowledging the insanity and fixing it. This is a mistake the Left makes over and over again at the moment.

And yes, racial justice has been left-wing policy for a long time. The civil rights movement was driven almost entirely by the left and opposed almost entirely by the right (yes, I know that the segregationists called themselves Democrats at one point, but the political left/right split was the same). But the stuff we're seeing today is so far removed from those original aims, in many cases so directly opposed to those aims, that I don't think it's at all fair to say that it represents mainstream left-wing policy.

Both the political Left and the political Right have an extremist problem at the moment. But the real problem is that the sane people, on the left and the right, are too busy attacking each other to deal with the problem.

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deletedJan 15
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"Apologies for not agreeing with you this time but not for my knowledge of working the ground game against CRT before it was on the national stage. Because you didn't hear of it before Rufo took it national doesn't mean it wasn't already a problem on a national level."

😁 No worries, we don't have to agree every time. I love that you guys keep me honest. But what you're saying here just doesn't square with the facts.

First, you can literally see online interest in CRT (which was almost non-existent for decades) spike around June 2021 (https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&q=%2Fm%2F06d76c). Rufo wrote his tweet in March 2021. The needle first started to move in late 2020, you guess it, around the time George Floyd was killed.

Second, I didn't claim *Rufo* said CRT was an obscure legal theory from the 70s, CRT *is* an obscure legal theory from the 70s. It was conceived as a tool for analysing how the legal system perpetuates racial inequality. There are a few schools of thought that have come from some of the scholars involved in that original work, Crenshaw's "whiteness studies" springs to mind, but they're not the same thing.

And third, and most relevant, Rufo's tweet spells out in so many words his plans to "put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category." That he has "decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans." If his own words about what he did don't convince you, I guess mine aren't likely to either.

To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying critical race theory is correct. All critical theories suffer from similar fundamental flaws. Sowell, who though wonderful isn’t infallible (while I'm not a conservative seeking a conservative audience, I have a pretty good knowledge of Sowell's work), may well have taken issue with some of Bell’s work. I've read some, but not enough to have a strong opinion. But it has nothing to do with the reintroduction of segregation in schools. It's not the 1619 project. It's not teachers asking kids to “confess their whiteness” in classrooms. It has nothing to do with BLM's disinformation about police brutality. And it's only tangentially related to DEI, which really has its roots in affirmative action.

Again, Rufo was extremely effective in convincing people that CRT was all of these things too. It appears he's convinced you. And as time went by, the term was applied to more and more things, even by people on the left, that were nothing to do with CRT.

But again, here we are arguing about what CRT is, instead of focusing on the "various cultural insanities" that Rufo "froze under its brand." Rufo did this so that it would be more difficult to talk about specifics, and instead, people would just react to all kinds of different issues as if they were the same. This is extremely beneficial for somebody trying to fight a culture war, but not for meaningful discourse.

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deletedJan 17
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"Where does the term 'whiteness' come from? CRT."

No. People had been talking about white people or "the white race" long before CRT. In fact, the concept of "being white" stems all the way back to the 1800s. But "whiteness studies", the idea of "whiteness" as a form of identity, only appeared in the early 1980s. None of Bell's work included the term. It is, as I said, quite distinct from CRT.

The 1619 project focuses almost exclusively on slavery. So that kind of language isn't surprising. But again, the idea that slavery is foundational to America is far older than CRT or Nikole Hannah-Jones. Heck, read Alexander Stephens' 1861 Cornerstone speech.

And yes, there's a strong argument to be made that desegregation *did* fail. That's not to say that he wanted segregation to continue, but that he wanted desegregation to actual lead to an integrated America. If you were a black scholar in the 70s, you could very reasonably argue that this had failed. And that the powers that be were working very hard to ensure that black people didn't succeed. There's simply no way to pin the reintroduction of segregation in schools on his work.

So no, as this conversation is demonstrating, Rufo didn't make it easier to talk about the specifics. Because it made people think that a whole bunch of unrelated things were all "CRT." Again, he literally spells out that he's doing this. Specifics like whiteness studies and racial affinity groups and and DEI and desegregation and especially racism, are much harder to talk about if they're all believed to be the same thing or even coming from the same root.

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deletedJan 19
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Steve> "Rufo did this so that it would be more difficult to talk about specifics"

Marla> "Rufo made it EASIER to talk about specifics"

Steve, could you give a few examples of where you found it more difficult to talk about specifics?

I personally would have absolutely zero problem discussing, say, Ibram X Kendi's prescriptions of present and future discrimination to remedy past discrimination, because Rufo wanted to expand the colloquial term "CRT" to include related concepts like those of Kendi. Nor would I find it difficult to discuss differences between how DiAngelo, Kendi, and the general public conceive "racism".

The closest I can relate is that if I wanted to discuss Bell's concepts, I might need to identify them with Bell, or perhaps to say "CRT per se" in some sentences (to distinguish the academic from colloquial usages). But that's a small cost for me, hardly a major difficulty. Your experience may differ as a writer, and perhaps you have often had such difficulty.

Let's look at another area. Does the existence of an umbrella term like "feminism" make it more difficult for you to discuss specific elements thereof?

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"Steve, could you give a few examples of where you found it more difficult to talk about specifics?"

I already did so in the conversation with Marla:

"Specifics like whiteness studies and racial affinity groups and and DEI and desegregation and especially racism, are much harder to talk about if they're all believed to be the same thing or even coming from the same root."

What ended up happening, and what still happens in some cases, is that a whole variety of topics, some good, some not, some necessary, some not, were all tarnished with this single label. All diversity initiatives and sensitivity trainings, all discussions of racism that went beyond KKK style racism, all discussions of slavery and its impact today, all of them were "turned toxic" to use Rufo's phrase, because most people aren't interested in picking apart the nuances of these topics.

As I've said many times, the Kendis and DiAngelos of the world have at least as much responsibility to bear for the racial exhaustion they created. But that doesn't mean Rufo wasn't transparently dishonest and that he didn't also create a worse discursive climate.

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