Sunday, October 4, 2020

"The Cult Dynamics of Wokeness"

Contrary to my expectation which was generated by a superficial emotional reaction to the title and my own biases, this is not yet another attempt to shoehorn a critique of Wokistan into an existing academic field of study but is instead a first rate comparison of the outrage mob, and their psychological and sociological characteristics, with the characteristics of other types of cults.

There are two takeaways from this type of analysis: First, because Wokism is most easily identifiable by its hyper-exaggerated level of faux and feigned outrage, it is phony and thus an expression of an underlying mental defect in the woke.
And as Grandmother always said, "Don't argue with crazy people".

In Wokistan the rhetorical game is always about power. The woke are never happier than when they can assume the moral high ground. I say assume because possession of said moral high ground is belied by the attempt to use same as a weapon.
These are the crybullies.

Second, the tricks of cult rhetoric are some of the nastiest you are likely to come across. Manipulative is just the beginning of the descriptors.
I. There is lots of "Kafkatrapping", the term being based on Kafka's story The Trial, where any attempt by the accused to defend himself was taken as agreement with the premise and proof of guilt.

II. The rhetorical manipulation continues with a favorite of wife-abusers and other nasty critters: passive aggressive argumentum: "It's your fault, you misunderstood what I (said, meant, did, etc.)"
They will slide very easily into straight up gaslighting where the intent is to portray the victim of the attack as crazy/delusional/a bad person, whatevs.
I should probably do a post on all this but for now some seriously good analysis of the psychological manipulations to expect when engaging with the Woke.

From New Discourses:

Before I got involved in studying Critical Social Justice like I do now, I mostly studied the psychology of religion. I took particular interest in the more authoritarian and cultish elements that can spring up within otherwise more reasonable faith traditions. Cult indoctrinations, in particular, tend to follow very predictable stages. First, there is initiation; then there is indoctrination; and then there is reprogramming. These three phases are distinct and must be understood on their own terms.
I. Cult Initiation 
One thing I learned through all that study is that most fundamentalist religious (in the colloquial, not technical sense) and cult conversions, especially in adults, occur by using doctrine to resolve some core emotional vulnerability. That is, cult doctrine, and I include extreme fundamentalist interpretations of religious doctrines as cultish, exists to resolve a particularly powerful emotional vulnerability in an unhealthy way (this adds another layer of defense for responsible faith, which does so in a healthy way to the degree that it does the same things).

The question is where that emotional vulnerability comes from because with cults it is always exploited. Sometimes, the underlying emotional vulnerability is there for personal reasons, or as a result of life events. People turn to various doctrines to explain and contextualize the major events in their lives or to understand who they are. Again, this can be healthy or unhealthy. Vulnerability is also often deliberately inflamed or manufactured for the purpose of doing a cult initiation, however, especially in unhealthy cases. Would-be indoctrinators ask manipulative questions and try to catch people on the spot in a feeling of discomfort that is usually rooted in their morality and sense of being a good or adequate person.

With religions in general obviously, many of these vulnerabilities are evoked by asking about one’s fears of death. These leave much room for manipulations by more cultish sects. With religious cults, as I’m using the term, however, they can also center directly on making their mark feel morally deficient or unacceptable. “Did you know you’re a sinner?” is an example, when a lot of emotional pressure is added about how bad that makes you as a person or in the sight of God. “Did you know you’re complicit in racist systems?” is another obvious example.

Once this vulnerability has been successfully manufactured in the mark (or identified and inflamed, if already present), cult doctrine is given as a potential resolution to the emotional distress. “Christ died for your sins, so you can be forgiven” is a Christian example, and “Be an antiracist. Help us dismantle the system and build a better world” is an “antiracist” example. One will note that this can occur in a healthy context or an unhealthy one, and that these can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from one another. The cult application will always be unhealthy in the end, and it can be known by the further manipulations it uses. It must be understood that this is merely the initiation either to a religious or moral conversion or to a cult, in which case the word “initiation” resonates more strongly.

Once the doctrine is initially accepted by the cult’s mark, the next step is to make the mark feel (morally) welcome and good. The goal is to give them resolution to the vulnerable and dissonant emotional state that was utilized previously. The mark will be made to feel like they’re now doing the right thing where they were doing the wrong thing before. This can still be done in healthy ways, and almost all genuine interventions proceed in this manner. Cults don’t diverge from religions and other moral systems at the outset, or they’d never get any marks to convert. For examples of the relevant kind of language, however, consider: “You can be one of the saved and be forgiven for your sin” and “You’re on the right side of history.”

Once the person feels morally welcome and the feeling of vulnerability gets its first hit of calming resolution through the doctrine, the cult indoctrinator will start to increase the depth of the doctrine, usually a little at a time. With a cult, this will involve beginning to teach the “quieter” parts of the cult worldview that would scare off potential new recruits. And this is where we can find the first clear sign that we’re dealing with a cult rather than something healthier, though there is still much overlap and some ambiguity. They will deepen the doctrine while informing their mark that they’ll be surrounded by temptation, especially from broader society. This gets us to the surest first sign that a cult initiation is taking place, though. It is when this warning starts being applied to friends and family who will be described as failing to understand the depth and value of the cult’s doctrine and, in fact, the mark themselves.

Another clear sign that one is dealing with a cult indoctrination rather than something healthier is making the mark live up to contradictory demands. You must understand racism and admit that you cannot understand racism. You must admit to your complicity in racism and pledge to do better knowing that it is impossible to do better. You must be an ally but accept that you will always do your allyship wrong. Impossible demands would scare off a potential cult initiate at the beginning, but once a sufficient level of commitment to the cause has taken place, the effect is the opposite. Rather than making the mark reject the cult, these impossible and paradoxical demands dramatically deepen commitment to the cult. They do this by re-invoking and massively inflaming the feeling of vulnerability at the core, making the mark burn with a desire to “do better” to resolve the emotional dissonance and white-hot feeling of inadequacy (as judged against the cult’s impossible standards). Outsiders see through this emotionally abusive tactic immediately. Cult initiates see it as a kind of ritual hazing and demand to prove the faith, very much like an abused child or spouse always trying to do better to live up to the unmet demands of their abuser.

The concept of “white fragility” in the antiracist Woke cult is exactly this sort of emotional shakedown. White fragility separates white people and their “adjacencies” into exactly two types: racists (who admit it) and racists (who are too emotionally fragile to admit it). It is obvious which side the cult doctrine favors. In fact, the cult doctrine in this case is that every white (and white adjacent) person is a racist by default, and there are only those with the moral and emotional fortitude to face that (which is good, according to doctrine) and those who lack the necessary moral fiber.

Every reaction to a person accused of racism or white fragility itself is proof of this moral failure and a need to “do better” unless it is a full-on assent to the cult doctrine, including a promise to consume more of it, change yourself accordingly, do the work it demands, and to “do better” anyway. White fragility as a concept is explicitly a cult indoctrination technique into the “antiracist” cult.

Speaking more generally, this is all a process that evolves over time, and when dealing with a cult, it is a largely willful move to bring the mark further into the cult while separating them from other social, emotional, and personal ties. Depending on the degree of vulnerability generated at the outset, this process can go quite quickly, taking only weeks, though months is more common. The process is summarized as such: lead the mark to take a step further in, coach them into rationalizing why that step was good, and then repeat with a further step. Every step in means more investment in the cult and a harder path back out. Meanwhile, separating the mark from trust in outside influences becomes increasingly necessary. Those might cause the mark to doubt their new faith position while it is still shaky, which would prevent their submission to the cult ideology. At this early phase in cult indoctrination, where initiation is effectively complete but indoctrination hasn’t fully begun, the mark hasn’t devoted enough of themselves to the cause to be fully committed yet.

II. Cult Indoctrination
Thus, the next step in cult indoctrination is to get people more fully committed. This is actually rather easy, as we tend to commit to new groups fairly quickly under certain well-known conditions. Usual cult-deepening methods include public pronouncements of faith before the in-group community, which bonds the mark to them socially and emotionally. This will often involve rituals such as group prayers, singing, or outright initiation rituals, which dramatically deepen commitment to a group very quickly. There will also be requests to make costly personal sacrifices to be considered a full part of the new group.

This can also include requests for money, cutting ties with relations, making pledges, doing “the work,” and more (including, in many cults of personality, allowing the cult leader to have sex with the marks of the desired sexes). Making sacrifices and working on behalf of a group, including a cult, creates deep ties of commitment to the group, its mission, and its community, and it evokes the “sunk-cost fallacy” mechanism, which prevents people from leaving. This fallacy is a reasoning error that basically says, “I’ve invested so much already that it must be worth it, so I’ll keep going.” It keeps people committed to failing projects, failing relationships, and, as it happens, cults long after they should have abandoned them.

So we hit a particular and important point here. When people like the “critical whiteness educator” Robin DiAngelo tell us things like that “antiracism is a lifelong commitment to an ongoing process of self-reflection, self-critique, and social activism,” she is providing a mid-level cult indoctrination path. The demand is to change yourself for life in alignment with the cult’s doctrine, including how you think, how you see yourself, and how you operate in the world, and make that change a permanent part of who you are. Notice that it also demands you do the work on behalf of the cult and its objectives, which ties you more tightly to it.

This process progresses over time, usually months, demanding more costly sacrifices, costly signals, and doing work for the cult and its doctrinal mission. Costly sacrifices and signals are particularly powerful displays of commitment, and when the mark rationalizes these objectively bad decisions and the cognitive dissonance that doing them causes, they nearly always rationalize themselves much further into the cult. These demands must be made fairly slowly and carefully, and they are meant to increase emotional investment and commitment. One thing the Woke cult is doing wrong is suddenly demanding too much too fast, partly because it can and partly because it’s trying to do so universally rather than in personal one-on-one settings. This push is breaking the spell for many people who would otherwise have been going along and being seduced further into the cult. This may result in its downfall.

At this point, cult indoctrination can begin in earnest, and the mark will be urged to consume more doctrine, possibly in immersive quantities. It will be expected to be consumed uncritically, looking only for areas of agreement and assent, which will be reaffirmed in the mark by other members of the cult and its leadership. With the Woke cult, the immense and widespread push to get people reading “antiracist” and other Woke literature in mass quantities right now is consistent with this step. (These include the following currently bestselling books, among many others: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, How to Be Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.) When the mark is sufficiently committed to begin uncritically consuming massive quantities of the cult’s doctrine, they are well into the indoctrination phase.

Simultaneously, to prevent critical interpretations of the cult doctrine and to ensure full affective immersion in the cult community, marks will be urged to cut more ties with outside voices of reason and dissenting opinions. Broader society itself will be construed as bad, evil, complicit, depraved, and any number of other terrible things that the cult’s doctrine is adamantly against (systemically racist, anybody?). The mark will thus be encouraged to segregate from broader society as much as possible, even possibly becoming hostile to its potential intrusions. This will eventually include encouraging cutting ties with family and friends outside of the cult, which is fairly easy to achieve because the indoctrinated cult convert is almost insufferable to be around by that point anyway. Before long, the cultist will convince the mark that every voice that disagrees w/ the cult is somehow “demonic” and out to pull the mark away from the cult. This is relatively hard during the cult initiation phase, during which the increasing sunk cost of participation is mostly what keep marks in, but it becomes very easy once the mark is taught to “see it” (meaning the way outsiders try to get them away from the cult for “bad” reasons, as the cult defines them), at which point they lose all trust in outsiders.

Once the cultists start to turn on outsiders as though they are bad influences only trying to pull people out of the cult, it is extremely difficult to get them to change course. They’re more or less indoctrinated by that point completely and very stuck. Then the project changes completely. With indoctrination complete, the cult reprogramming phase begins in earnest. (Note: Of course, these phases have much overlap and are fuzzy, but the descriptions and progression largely hold.)

III. Cult Reprogramming 
Once the mark is properly indoctrinated, the objective becomes to reprogram the mark to get them to think differently. The goal is no longer to indoctrinate on what is “rightthink” and “wrongthink.” It is to make the mark’s thinking be completely in line with the view of the world described by the cult doctrine This will let the mark see the “truth” of the doctrine for themselves everywhere in the world. That’s being “Woke.”

In the case of Woke cult programming, there is an older and more formal name for that view of the world, which is having a “critical consciousness.” Having a critical consciousness occurs when one is able to see the “problematics” in everything, where “problematics” are any deviation or potential for deviation from the cult doctrine anywhere in any aspect of society. This includes in speech, writing, institutions, thoughts, people, systems, knowledge, history, one’s past, and society itself....