PART 2: Wokal Distance: How Woke Ideologues Rig the Rules of Debate
In our previous episode with Wokal Distance, released on Feb. 10, Wokal Distance explained the underpinnings of woke ideology, including its assertions that there is no absolute truth and that all claims to truth are warped by power.
Now in part two, he breaks down the concept of intersectionality and how woke ideologues rig the rules of debate.
“They’re not going to give you a fair hearing, according to your ideas. They’re going to play power games with you,” he says.
“When we speak, these critical theorists are not asking whether or not what we are saying is true. What they’re doing is focusing on who gets power, whose interests are served, and who benefits. And that is what they do with everything.”
Wokal Distance is an expert in postmodernism and critical theory, and a visiting fellow at the Center for Renewing America.
Part 1 review
Jan Jekielek: In our previous episode with Wokal Distance, released on February 10th, Wokal Distance explained the underpinnings of woke ideology, including its assertions that there is no absolute truth and that all claims to truth are warped by power. Wokal Distance is an expert in postmodernism and critical theory. Now, in part two, he breaks down the concept of intersectionality.
Wokal Distance: These identities then are cobbled together in a sort of intersecting hierarchy of oppression.
Mr. Jekielek: And how believers of woke ideology have rigged the rules of debate.
Mr. Distance: They’re not going to give you a fair hearing, according to your ideas, they’re going to play power games with you. You have to be aware that they’re going to use that Kafka trap on you.
Mr. Jekielek: In the face of all this, how can people respond?
Mr. Distance: When the Soviet Union came down, it didn’t crumble because of bombs and guns. It collapsed under the weight of the lies that were propping it up.
Part 2 transcript
Jan Jekielek: This is American Thought Leaders and I’m Jan Jekielek. Wokal Distance, so great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Wokal Distance: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, we had kind of a wonderful tour de force earlier. We were talking about the postmodernist origins of critical race theory and woke ideology permeating the institutions here. We also looked at the anatomy, so to speak of how a cancellation happens and so forth. I really wanted to dive into this whole element of intersectionality because this is something that just isn’t really well understood by most of us. So what is this all about? How does this fit in?
Mr. Distance: Let’s do just a real brief recap. So we talked about last time our analogy of the strawberry. Where we start out with the strawberry, and then we get the genetically modified strawberry. Then we get the pie. Then we get the candy. Then we get the synthetic candy. Then we get the Slurpee. And by the time we get to the Slurpee, we’re dealing with something completely different than the original strawberry.
It’s a completely different thing. So even if you’ve never tasted a wild strawberry in your life, and many of us haven’t, your flavor of strawberry, the paradigm of your flavor of strawberry, what you think of when you think of strawberry is things like the Slurpee and the drink and the candy and the pie, not the original wild strawberry. So we’ve moved away. And what we have is a sort of fake inauthentic copy of the original strawberry.
We talked about that idea. Then we talked a little bit about this idea that comes from Derrida about language, where there are no objective, final, stable, absolute interpretations for words, and there’s no stable, final, absolute interpretation for how to view the world.
And we used, for our example of that, the bucket. Someone picks up a bucket. They say, “This is a bucket.” Another person turns it over, sits on it. They say, “It’s a chair.” Someone else comes along and drums on it. And it becomes a drum. Well, which is it? Is it a chair? Is it a bucket? Is it a drum? Well, say the social constructivists, it is what we say it is. How we use it. We construct the meaning and the purpose of the bucket. And we construct the words that we use to describe it. So there is no fact of whether or not it’s a chair or it’s a bucket.
It can be either or, and it’s entirely dependent on context. And they think that applies to everything. And therefore every book, every poem, every television show, everything that exists can be reinterpreted and interpreted by anyone in as many different ways as is possible, according to the context. Now that sounds like relativism to all of us. They would push back on the charge of relativism, but I don’t think they have much to stand on.
And then we looked at the third thing, which is this Foucauldian view from Michel Foucault, that all claims to truth are in fact warped by and constructed in power. And so what that means is, every time, whoever gets to decide in society what is true, whoever gets to decide what counts as true, whoever gets to decide which statements are true or false, that person has a lot of power.
And the view is that, the old saying absolute power corrupts absolutely. And they say, so whoever is making a claim to truth is going to be warped by the auspices of power, the specter of power, the way that power is wrapped up in truth claims. That’s their idea. So they would say that the interests, biases, limited point of view of the people who are speaking, of the people who decide what’s true warps their judgment, and what they end up doing is deciding and constructing truth according to their interests, biases, and limitations. So what you end up with is you end up in a world that starts with the strawberry world, where everything is socially constructed, and everything is kind of moved away from the real, from the real world, and is now just we have to have constructs and copies and imitations of the real thing-
Mr. Jekielek: Simulacra.
Mr. Distance: … and then move to language where … Yes, simulacra. Everything is a simulacra or a simulation of the real thing. And then we move over and we have the language thing where language is not stable, absolute or objective, and therefore getting stable, absolute universal truth is impossible. There can be no absolute statements that are true at all times and all places, because those statements will be interpreted differently in different places at different times.
So then you take that truth claim, you take that and you add that to the idea that truth claims are wrapped up with power in particular ways. And that truths, or what people consider to be true, are constructed with power, using discourses as ways of discussing or talking about things. And you add all those things together and you begin to have a picture of a very different world.
So, whereas as the enlightenment modern person like myself or like you would look at the world and say, “Well, we can have objective truth about the world through observation and by use of reason and by use of our minds and our epistemic faculties, sight, smell, taste, touch, reason, et cetera. And we can have objective knowledge of the world and then use language to describe that objective knowledge of the world in ways that other people can understand. And we can therefore have a solid foundation to build other truths and we can work our way up.”
The postmodern person says, “You don’t have an objective, neutral view. There is no God’s eye view from nowhere. There is no place where you can stand back and be completely objective. All of your claims to truth and all of your methods which you think create truth or help you discover truth, are really wrapped up in and warped by the interests, the biases and your limitations as a person and therefore you don’t have any of that.” So that’s where we finished up. So I think the next thing is probably intersectionality.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes, exactly. In fact, you’ve set up the discussion. I’m very, very excited to understand how this fits in.
Mr. Distance: So I want to first read about exactly what Crenshaw says, because it’s a perfect quote. This is from her book, “Words that Wound.” She says, “Intersectionality is a core concept, both provisional and illustrative. Although the primary intersections that I explore here are between and will recognize these, race and gender, the concept can and should be expanded by factoring issues as class, sexual orientation, age and color.” Now here’s the money quote. “I conceive of intersectionality as a provisional concept that links contemporary politics with postmodern theory.”
So what she’s going to do is, remember that all that postmodernism we talked about where everything was subjective, there was no objective truth? She’s going to take intersectionality and she’s going to link, she’s going to use that concept to link postmodern theory and politics, and she’s going to link those things together. And the bridge that she’s going to use to do that is intersectionality.
So the basic idea of intersectionality is this, that there are various identities which we have, and we can identify as, such things as I identify as a man, I identify as white or as Black, I identify as gay, I identify as straight or I identify as Hispanic. All these socially salient identities. And they think that society is constructed of various systems, social systems, economic systems, financial systems, linguistic systems, conceptual systems, et cetera, et cetera, institutions. Everything is systems, throughout society. And all of these systems oppress people according to these various identities. And so intersectionality is the idea that we’re going to study the way these various identities intersect with power.
So what that looks like is something like this. You could picture a roadway where you would have the gay road and then you would have the straight road and then you would have the race road and the class road and the disabled road. And all of these roads are going to interlock with each other. So you’ll have a straight white person and then you’ll have a disabled Hispanic person and then a Jewish disabled gay person, and then a poor, disabled, autistic, gay, Black, Jewish feminist, and all of these identities interlock, right? They all stack on top of each other.
And intersectionality is the theory behind this. It’s the theory that says, “Look, your role in society, your position in the social hierarchy, if you can think of it that way, is in part determined by, limited by, controlled by these various identities.” That’s what they think. So they would say that society has socially conditioned us. It has taught us. It has, in some sense, I don’t want to say brainwashed, although that’s kind of pointing in the right direction. The idea is that it has socially conditioned us to accept certain identities and to have certain ideas attached to certain identities.
So as a white man, I’ve been conditioned to behave a certain way. I’ve been conditioned to think and to speak a certain way, and to view myself in a certain way. A Black person has been socially conditioned to have a different way of viewing themselves. A Jewish person has been socially conditioned in another way.
Their view is that all the social systems that exist, the law, the institutions, the financial system, the linguistic system, the education system, all of these various systems in society have been created by and in the interests of heterosexual white men. And therefore everyone else in society who’s not a heterosexual white man, so women, trans people, gay people, Black people, Hispanics, all of the people who aren’t in that are oppressed in various ways.
And if, for example, you have two oppressed identities, suppose you are a Black woman. So you have both Black and woman. The way that society oppresses you as a Black person, they see as one way. The way society oppresses you as a woman is another. And in that cross, in this little area right here, that spot, in that area, that’s the intersection of the oppression of Black people and the oppression of women.
And so a white woman doesn’t face the same oppression as a Black woman, a Black man doesn’t face the same oppression as a Black woman and the Black man and the white woman don’t face the same oppression as each other. And so all of these identities then are cobbled together in a sort of intersecting hierarchy of oppression. Because, again in their view, the entirety of society, from the language that’s used, to the concepts that are dominant, to the ideas which take precedent, to the religion that’s picked, to the way that the infrastructure is set up, to the banking system. All of it has been built for the interests of, and to the benefit of straight white males.
So one of the ways that they try to make this intuitive is to say that as a straight white male, you play the game. You play life on easy mode. It’s like a video game. You play it on easy mode. The Black person or Black male plays it on medium difficulty. The Black woman plays it on hard difficulty and the Black disabled transgendered woman plays it on extremely hard mode. That’s kind of their view.
So that is intersectionality. And so what intersectionality does, is it does this. Remember how we talked before? There was no objective, stable, absolute truths—we discussed that? They would say all the things that we say are true. For example, everything from two plus two equals five to science is the best way to know about physical reality, to the law of non-contradiction, to the rules of logic, to what counts as reasonable and rational.
All of those concepts have been created by white men and are created for white men and use the ideas of white men. And therefore the concept of reason that society says is reasonable isn’t an objective, absolutely true view of reason. It’s just the white male view of reason. And what they think is that we’ve just elevated the white male view of reason and said that the white male view of reason just is reason.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m trying to figure out if this is a test, but you snuck in two plus two equals five in there. Is this a test? Are you testing me here?
Mr. Distance: No, I did a thread on that a while back. We can link it in the description for the video. But they did try to make an argument that two plus two equals, when we say two plus two equals four, all the assumptions that we’re bringing to bear on that are the assumptions from whiteness. And the example that they gave is they said, you could take a square, right? Then you could cut that square into four parts, and then you’d have four squares. But if you take all four squares together like that and put all four of them together, it would form one larger square, right? And so you’d have four small squares and one large square. Well, that’s five squares. So two plus two can equal five.
You sit there and you go, “No, no, no, no, no. Two small squares plus two small squares equals four small squares. That’s what it is.” And they go, “Well, from your white male perspective. But if we include the fact that four small squares can also make, to five, can make a large square, that fourth, that large square is also a square. So we have four small squares in one large square.” And you sit there and you kind of try and follow it and you kind of go, oh, and you kind of scratch your head and you go, “Wait, wait, wait, no, no, no, no. That’s not how this works.” But they would say it is how it works.
Rochelle Gutierrez from, I believe it’s the University of Illinois, said in one of her papers, “Living Mathematics,” that she actually was not trying to pursue any form of absolute truth. She states that explicitly. And she says that she wants to get away from the idea that mathematics can actually solve things, because she doesn’t believe that there is an objective, correct, right, proper way to do math. There’s just different conceptions of math that are different according to different cultures. So we have one idea about math and that’s our cultural conception of math. And someone else could have a different cultural conception of math. And either of those is fine.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, frankly, any conception of math, because there’s, for example, different base numbers that you can build numerical systems on. But any conception of math that actually represents the real world, presumably would be perfectly fine. But you’re talking about something different here, right? You’re talking about the simulacra.
Mr. Distance: What I’m suggesting is, they don’t believe, because what you said there is any math that accurately represents the world. We can change the symbols. Like, I could invent a new symbol for equals. Instead of the two lines, we’re going to use three lines or something. Or instead of having the plus sign, be a little cross like this, we’re going to make it be a little spirally circle. We can change the symbols.
That’s not what she means. What she means is the very conceptual apparatus is entirely contingent. It’s something that we’ve invented for ourselves and that it needs to be challenged because that system was invented by white males and therefore the interests and the benefit of white males has been centered in that system.
And therefore it needs to be deconstructed. Because there is no absolute, objective, universal, eternal truths that can be stated. Because there is no God’s eye view from nowhere to get these absolute truths. You’re a finite, limited, biased, self-interested person who’s been warped by power. And you therefore, without even wanting to, without even realizing it, you have built your own interest and biases right into the mathematical system to benefit white men. You just don’t realize you’ve done it. So this is their view. It’s not simply that, how can I give an example?
There used to be a law, I believe the law was in Alabama, that there needed to be a seven-foot wall between Black and white people. You could say that that law was passed to benefit white people who were racist at that time. I would agree with that. Segregation was a system built to benefit one group at the expense of another—to benefit white people at the expense of Black people.
I don’t think anyone disagrees that that’s why Jim Crow was in place. Their view isn’t merely that laws like Jim Crow are built to benefit white people. Their view is that things like the laws of mathematics, the laws of science, the laws of physics and of thermodynamics have been constructed by white people using conceptual systems that are built for white people. And therefore those systems need to be deconstructed so that they can find the latent bias that must in fact be there.
And they think this is true of everything. They think it’s true of the law. They think it’s true of math. They think it’s true of logic. They think it’s true of physics. They think it’s true of the NFL, roadways, electrical grids, and everything. No matter what system you bring up, whether it’s logic, math, electrical grids, whatever, building codes, whatever you bring up they’re going to say that was designed by white people, using white concepts to benefit white people in the interests of white people. Therefore it needs to be deconstructed so we can find the biases. That’s what they’re going to say about everything.
Right? Right. But that’s it. That’s exactly it. And you can’t argue with it because no matter what you say, “Well, I don’t necessarily agree with you.” And they say, “Well, of course you don’t agree with me. It’s in your interest as a white person not to agree with me, therefore, you don’t agree with me and you’re blinded by your disagreement. So you need to deconstruct your disagreement so you can find your own interests and biases.” So you can’t legitimately disagree with it because anytime you try to disagree with it, they’re just going to use the exact same logic all over again.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, what you’re describing, and this is why I was struggling for a moment there. What you’re describing is, the effect of implementing a system like this would be the complete demolition of society, effectively.
Mr. Distance: Yes. The deconstruction; that’s explicitly stated. They state this all the time that they want a revolution. What’s the phrase they use? They want to deconstruct this society … What’s the phrase they use? Root and branch, everything. The whole thing. It’s right to the bone.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s not just society. It’s reality, right?
Mr. Distance: It is our entire civilization and all the assumptions that go along with it, everything, human rights. In “Critical Race Theory: an Introduction,” Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado explicitly say that they’re skeptical of rights, of human rights, that they want to interrogate and deconstruct … They don’t use the term deconstruct, but they want to interrogate human rights and that they’re skeptical of the value of human rights. Because they would say, “Well, human,” again, and you can see how the concept goes. Human rights were developed by what? By white Western males, therefore they were developed for what? The interests and the biases of Western males, to maintain the power of Western males, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And you can see how that goes all down the line.
So what goes along with that is intersectionality was developed. And as it’s developed, what they do is they use subjectivity as an anchor for their epistemology. So rather than us trying to dig down into reality and then use reason and rationality and logic and science to get beliefs which are warranted, justified, true, correct, we’re trying to dig down to the bedrock and have a solid foundation on which to build up our knowledge and have it be reliable.
They’re not using the objective world as their anchor, because they don’t think there is any objective place to stand. There is no objective foundation. So they use a subjective foundation. And so their epistemology is anchored in their subjectivity. So they would say that a Black person is socialized in a different way than a white person is and therefore can be aware of different phenomena in society than a white person is aware of.
And therefore, a Black person can have knowledge that a white person can’t, a Jewish person can have knowledge that a Buddhist can’t, or a Buddhist might have knowledge that a Jewish person can’t. A woman will have knowledge that a man can’t have, and a Black, transgendered, disabled woman will have all kinds of knowledge about the social systems that a white male won’t have. And so they believe that all knowledge is, all viewpoints are views from a point and all we have is views from a point.
So they would say that in order to have any kind of knowledge at all, you have to have, you first have a viewpoint. And that viewpoint is going to limit and determine what you’re capable of knowing from that perspective. So if you are a white male, your particular observations about say a rock formation are going to be eliminated by the way you’ve been socially conditioned as a white person. A Black person’s going to look at that same rock formation and bring a different socialization to it and bring a different viewpoint to it and be able to get something different from it than you have. And they believe this about everything.
Mr. Jekielek: And you’re basically explaining to me here now where this whole idea of, it’s not the intent that matters. It’s the impact that matters because that person that is having the impact has this subjective knowledge, which is completely unknowable to me, and that’s what matters.
Mr. Distance: Well, so impact not intent is part of that doctrine, right? Because remember we discussed how words can be interpreted and reinterpreted and reinterpreted and reinterpreted, however people want. Well, what they would say is that when I speak, I don’t get to decide what I mean. What I said gets interpreted by other people, and their interpretations of what I said are every bit as legitimate as mine. So what’s important when I speak is not what I intended to say. What’s important when I speak is how what I said impacts other people. And so how they interpret what I say is every bit as important as how I interpret what I say.
In other words, you might put it this way. It’s not what I meant. It’s what they heard. They can interpret it as they wish. So all of the sudden, you’re right, the impact, not intent, doesn’t matter. And you can see here, we’re having a cleavage open up between the critical theory on one hand, which is looking at how power works, who’s in charge, who gets to decide, and then critical thinking on the other hand, which says what’s actually true. And that cleavage is opening up. Can you see that separation beginning to occur? Does that make sense?
Mr. Jekielek: It makes sense to me. It seems like we’re talking about things, we’re basically subsuming the concept of critical thinking to critical theory, basically.
Mr. Distance: Yes. So why don’t I just talk a little bit about critical theory and how that intersects with critical thinking, and then we can get into how they play their game a little bit. So let’s do that. So this is from, I think this is Alison Bailey. Yes, it is. And this essay is called “Tracking Privilege‐Preserving Epistemic Pushback in Feminist and Critical Race Philosophy Class.”
Now. So here’s what she’s going to say. This is the only long portion of a thing I’m going to read today. I’m trying to avoid doing this, but I think that this will be helpful to us, because this is them. They’re explicitly going to say that what they are interested in is not truth. What they’re interested in is power, and she’s going to come right out and say it for us. Now she’s going to nuance it a little bit, but you’ll see what she means.
She said, “Philosophers of education have long made the distinction between critical thinking and critical pedagogy.” So in the Marxist tradition, just so your viewers can catch up, they call things … There’s a critical in the Marxist tradition which is different from critical thinking. And so lots of times they’ll talk about critical pedagogy and they’ll talk about critical theory and they’ll talk about critical race theory and critical dietetics and critical nutrition and critical … When they do that, very often they’re talking the Marxist critical, what she’s going to talk about. So critical pedagogy here is the sort of neo-Marxist pedagogy that comes from Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux. Okay? Just so we have some background.
“Philosophers of education have long made the distinction between critical thinking and critical pedagogy. Both literatures appeal to the value of being critical in the sense that the instructor should cultivate in students a more cautious approach to accepting common beliefs at face value. Both traditions share the concern that learners generally lack the ability to spot inaccurate, misleading, incomplete, or blatantly false claims. They also share a sense that learning a particular set of critical skills has a corrective humanizing effect.”
Now here’s the key. “Their traditions part ways over their definition of critical.” So here’s where they part ways. “The critical thinking tradition is concerned primarily with epistemic adequacy. To be critical,” again, this is the critical thinking tradition, “To be critical is to show good judgment in recognizing when arguments are faulty, assertions lack evidence, truth claims appeal to unreliable sources, or concepts are sloppily crafted and applied.
For critical thinkers, the problem is that people fail to examine the assumptions, commitments and logic of daily life. And the basic problem is irrational, illogical and unexamined living. In this tradition, sloppy claims can be identified and fixed by learning to apply the tools of formal and informal logic correctly.” Sounds pretty good to me.
“Critical pedagogy begins from a different set of assumptions rooted in the neomarxian literature on critical theory commonly associated with the Frankfurt school. Here, the critical learner is someone who is empowered and motivated to think justice and emancipation. Critical pedagogy regards the claims that students make in response to social justice issues, not as propositions to be assessed for their truth value, but as expressions of power that function to reinscribe and perpetuate social inequalities.
Its mission is to teach students ways of identifying and mapping how power shapes our understanding of the world. This is the first step towards resisting and transforming social injustices. By interrogating the politics of knowledge production, this transition calls into question the uses of the accepted critical thinking tool kit to determine epistemic adequacy.”
Let me just focus on that one sentence again. Remember, critical thinking, as she says, is concerned primarily with epistemic adequacy, so we want to show good judgment in recognizing when arguments are faulty, assertions lack evidence, and truth claims appeal to unreliable sources. And in the critical thinking tradition, sloppy claims can be identified and fixed by learning to apply the rules of informal and formal logic correctly.
Now, what does she say about critical pedagogy? “Critical pedagogy regards the claims that students make in response to social justice issues, not as propositions to be assessed for their truth value, but as expressions of power that function to reinscribe and perpetuate social inequalities.” So in critical thinking, what are we doing? We are examining the propositions and we are trying to determine whether they are true by using logic, reason, evidence, and proper concepts.
What are we doing with critical pedagogy? What does the Marxist tradition do? It says, we don’t regard these claims as epistemic claims to be judged for truth. We regard them as expressions of power.
Whoa. When we speak, these critical theorists are not asking whether or not what we are saying is true. What they are doing is focusing on who gets power, whose interests are served, and who benefits. And that is what they do with everything. These people are constantly looking at claims and ignoring whether or not the claim is true and just asking, “Who benefits from us believing that claim?” That’s what they’re doing. They want to know who benefits from believing the claim. Whether the claim is true or not is utterly irrelevant. And they say so explicitly.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, when you think about what you just said, right, you can explain, you can imagine it plays a role in explaining a lot of insanity that we’re seeing in the world.
Mr. Distance: That’s right. And so what you end up with is, you end up with a group of people like, you make a truth claim and then rather than trying to figure out whether or not you’re right, they’re going, “Oh, what are you trying to pull? Who benefits from that?” You can illustrate this nicely, beautifully in fact, with a claim from Kristin Du Mez. She was writing a book, and it’s called “A New Gospel for Women.” She says, “Bushnell denounced the patriarchy. Bushnell situated her ethic of restraint within the theology of women’s social and religious imagination. Bushnell opposed sexual liberation, birth control and abortion not because she feared the emancipatory powers of female sexuality, but because she was convinced that the new sexual ethic would ultimately disempower women and play to the hands of sinful men.”
So again, it’s all about power and just different views of power. So you end up with two types of feminists. You have the secular feminists looking at men saying, “Oh, I see what you’re up to. You’re trying to control women’s bodies by making them use birth control and by forcing them to wear clothes so that you can control their bodies. Oh, I see what you’re up to.” And then Kristin Du Mez comes along and says, “Oh, I see what the sinful men are up to. Oh, you’re trying to undress women so you can sleep with them and oh, and you want to objectify them with your sinful ways.” And then the secular feminists go, “No, no, no, no. They’re not trying to make, that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re trying, oh, they want to cover your body up with clothing and control your body by not letting you have abortions.”
And both of these people are cynically looking at it. And if the guys say, “Well, you should wear more clothes,” they go, “Oh, you’re trying to control my body. “Okay. Well then wear less clothes.” “Oh, you want to undress me and objectify me. Mm. I see what you’re up to.” And no matter what you do, because they’re looking only at the power relations, it just ends up being a fight of cynicism where no matter what you say, or no matter what you do, they view it through the lens of power as though you’re trying to control somebody and take over somebody.
And nobody’s asking any questions about, you know, how should we dress? What’s appropriate? What’s not appropriate? The truth of those questions is thrown away because we don’t care about truth. It’s expressions of power to control people. And that’s how they view everything. So you always end up with this endless back and forth where people are arguing about well, who benefits?
Because remember we don’t have any objective truth and everything can be interpreted. All the critical theorists interpret the question of who benefits differently. You suggest one policy and one group of critical theorists will say, “Well, it’s the men that benefit.” And then another group of critical theorists come along and say, “No, no, no, no, no. It’s the women that benefit.” And then another group of critical theorists will come along and say, “It’s a certain form of patriarchal Catholic men that benefit.”
And they all just go interpreting how they think that the power relations function, who they think benefits. They have this cynical view like they can see through everyone and see what you’re really up to. “Oh, I see what you’re really up to.” And then the question of what’s true gets completely left out of the equation.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and it’s just such a, I’m not saying that it’s not worth at times to look at things that way, right? But if that’s the only way you choose to look at the world that becomes this empty … I mean, it’s almost like the best things of humanity disappear, are sort of sucked out of your life almost. Wouldn’t that be the case?
Mr. Distance: That’s exactly what happens. And normally what you would do, is first you would do the test for truth. And you find out whether someone’s telling the truth or not. Then once you’ve determined that someone got something wrong, then you might say, “Well, why did they make that mistake? Were they biased? Were they engaged in motivated reasoning? Were they blinded by their own limitations? Did they have a hidden agenda?” You can ask those kinds of things once you know that somebody’s wrong.
But first you have to figure out that they’re wrong. You can’t just say, “Well, I think you have a hidden agenda, therefore you’re wrong.” And it turns out that the person’s right. That doesn’t work. That’s not a good idea. You shouldn’t be determined, you can’t determine whether what somebody said is true or false based on whether or not you think they have a hidden agenda.
Because the question just turns back around. Well, you say they have a hidden agenda. Is that true? Because all of their claims are truth claims. Well, it’s for the benefit of white heterosexual men. Is it true that it’s for the benefit of white heterosexual men? Who decided that was true? Whose interest does it serve to believe that that’s true and who benefits? We can turn it right around.
We can look right at the critical theorist and say, “Hey look, Mr. Critical theorist, you sold quite a lot of books about critical theory. And you’ve got tenure at a major university teaching critical theory and you’ll have a job forever teaching critical theory. Maybe we should do a Marxist analysis of your economic interests and discern whose interests are served by your books and who benefits from them. And we can figure that out by analyzing your bank account and how much money you get paid selling your books on critical theory.”
See how easy that is? We can turn it right back around on them because the point is here, that interests are not the whole show. And when you make interests the whole show, the whole foundation that you have to make your own judgements is now on sand because then of course, “Hey, critical theorists. What are your interests?” “Well, I just care about justice.” Wow. That sounds like what, that’s exactly what somebody who’s trying to take power would say. Wow, we could, let’s analyze whether or not you’d like to take power.
Would you like to be in charge? Are you trying to vote for anybody? Are you trying to get elected? Who benefits from you getting elected? You see how that works? This dissolves everything it touches because it gets rid of truth and replaces it with an analysis of interests, and they do their analysis of what they want based on interests, not on truth, and that’s the problem.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and with the unspoken idea being that our way of viewing the world is the just one. Isn’t that the unspoken, you know …
Mr. Distance: Yeah. We might want to ask them where they got their definition of justice, who formed their definition of justice. What amounts of bias were brought into that definition of justice, whose interests that definition of justice serve and who benefits? Because I seem to remember, there were quite a lot of communist dictatorships who really claimed to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed and turned out not to be.
Mr. Jekielek: Well in fact, every time, actually.
Mr. Distance: Yeah. In fact, we could look at, I don’t know, the cultural revolution in China. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Soviet Union in Russia. And we might want to ask, all of those people claimed to be on the side of justice too. Every one of those people claimed to be on the side of the oppressed. And what did they do once they got into power? So we might come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe they had their own interests.
Maybe, maybe if we wanted to be a critical theorist about it. I’m going to put on my critical theory hat and say, “Oh, you want justice for the oppressed, eh? Hmm. And who’s going to dole out that justice? Oh, you are. What are you going to need to dole out … ? Oh, you need power to dole out that justice. Oh. So you’d like us to give you power? Hmm. Interesting.” Because in order for them to dole out their justice, what do they need to do that? Well, they need power. Well, it sounds like they’re just angling for power too.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re also explaining here, I’m sorry to cut in, but why … Frankly, I’ve always wondered why this whole concept of projection is sort of central to people that ascribe to this ideology because they probably truly imagine that every person thinks like them, right?
Mr. Distance: Yes, no, I’m not a psychologist so I can’t speak too much to that, but there is something odd about the fact that these people constantly, constantly, constantly are going on and on about who has power, who gets to have power, how they get to use power. And then they say, “Well, you guys are just after power.” I’m sorry, but you guys are the one obsessing about it, perhaps that’s because that’s what you’re after. And since a lot of these people are in the humanities and since folks like everyone from Lacan to Deleuze to Freud was talking about psychoanalysis, if they deny it, we can just use the psychoanalysis and say, “Well, I know denial when I see it.” Right?
It really, by denying it you confirm it. Why? Well, because saying that you aren’t interested in power is exactly what someone who’s interested in power would say. “Oh, I see what you’re up to.” Right? You can see how this system works. It creeps into absolutely everything and creates this sort of Kafka trap where everything that you say is used as proof of the fact that you’re guilty, that you’re wrong, that what you’re saying isn’t legitimate. So.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and the only thing that is legitimate is the validation of the theory, presumably, or the acceptance of the theory, the acceptance of the ideology. Again, this sort of helps sort of elucidate why it seems to work that way.
Mr. Distance: Yeah. Well, because they start from the premise that they’re just and correct, anyone who comes along and says, no, you’re wrong, that’s an expression of power, as Alison Bailey said. So when you tell them, you critical theists are actually wrong about this, to them that is merely an expression of power. So you can’t legitimately push back on it because the fact that you’re pushing back against them is evidence that you’re just trying to maintain your power. There’s no way out of it. You can’t escape from it.
I’ll give you an example of that. I was hanging out with a guy one time who wanted to hang out with a girl. So he says to her, “Hey, you want to grab dinner?” And she says, “Look, I know you’re just wanting to sleep with me.” And he goes, “No, oh, sorry. I would never do that. That’s not my intention. There’s a group of us going bowling. Would you like to come to that instead?” She goes, “No, I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to sleep with me.” And he goes, “Okay, we don’t need to hang out. We don’t need to do that. I’m sorry. I’ll see you at church next week.” “Oh, you’re going to come to church next week? Well, I know why that is. You just want to sleep with me.” So finally he said, “Look, we don’t need to hang out. I’m sorry for bothering you. We just won’t hang out anymore. I didn’t mean to do that.” She goes, “Oh, you’re not hanging out with me? So now you’re ditching me because I won’t sleep with you.”
There’s nothing he can say. She’s already decided that everything that he’s doing is because he wants to sleep with her. And then he says, “Okay, well then we just won’t talk. I’ll just leave you alone.” She goes, “Now you’re ditching me because you won’t sleep … ” There’s no way around it. There’s nothing he can do. There’s no logic, there’s no argument to it. You’ve already decided that you are correct.
And because you’ve decided that your view is untouchable and can’t be falsified, no matter what I say, you’re just going to analyze it through the lens of, oh, he’s trying to take power away from me. There’s nothing that can be done. And so what this looks like on the ground is any time you say anything, they have a ready made set of concepts and ideas that are meant to delegitimize what you say.
So when they say, you know, “America is racist,” and you say, “I don’t think, America certainly has racism in it. And there were lots of laws that were racist throughout American history. But I don’t think that the idea of the American Constitution is itself racist.” They say, “Well you have white privilege. That’s why you’re saying that. You just don’t want to acknowledge that it’s racist because it benefits you.” Well, what do you say to that? You can’t respond to it. And then you say “No, no I’ve got good reasons for saying that. Here’s my rational argument.” They say, “Well, what you describe as rationality is really rationality that white people invented for the benefit of white people. So it’s racist.” “Okay. Well here’s my evidence.” “Your evidence was cherry picked by white people to benefit white people in maintaining white power so it doesn’t count.”
So then you get upset and you say, “Look, this isn’t very fair.” “Oh, well now you have white fragility. Your white fragility is showing. That’s why you’re upset. And that’s evidence that you’re racist.” So then you get up and you leave and they say, “Okay, these are white tears. You’re crying white tears because of your white fragility and you have white privilege.”
And, there’s nothing that you can do about this. You literally … It’s not that I say, like I can’t argue with that. And I’d be like, no, like literally I can’t, there’s nothing I can say because no matter what I say it does not get viewed for its content. It does not get viewed for its truth. It doesn’t get viewed for its argument. It gets viewed all and only as an expression of power.
The only question that they’re asking is, does that agree with us? And when the answer is no, if I tell them that they’re wrong, then they say, okay, this is an expression of power. And then they analyze it as though it were an expression of power completely apart from whether or not it’s true or false. That’s how the game works.
Mr. Jekielek: But that’s the answer. There is the one thing you can do and that is agree, right?
Mr. Distance: Yes. That’s it. And so this harkens back to, there was an old comment. Do we have time for a communism joke? I’m going to tell a communism joke. So back in the communist Soviet Union, there was a guy who goes down, and he had a car. Now it was very rare to have a car, but [he] was a well connected bureaucrat. And so he goes down to get his car fixed and says, “I’d like my car repaired.” And they say, “Yes. Okay.”
This was in like 1970. Okay. So it’s 1970. And the guy says, “Yes, we can fix your car on May 12th, 1980.” Guy says, “In 1980? That’s 10 years from now.” The guy goes, “Yep. Well this is the Soviet Union. That’s how long it takes us to do things. We’re very slow. We have a planned economy, you know how it is.” So the car owner sits and thinks about it and says, “May 12th, 1980. Morning or afternoon?” And the mechanic says, “Morning or afternoon, what difference does it make?” And the car owner says, “Well, the plumber’s coming in the morning.”
So that’s my communism joke. The other communism joke is that, well, there’s a couple. The first line of thinking is, there used to be a claim that when communists would walk through the streets and they’d see a poor person, they would say, “Don’t help him because it’ll stifle the revolution.” Because the only thing that matters is the revolution. That’s it. And if you help people, they might not revolt, which is the little bit of the deeper point.
And then along with that bit of cynicism comes this other point. And I believe, I can’t remember who gave this exact quote. I think it was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but the quote went like this, “The Soviet Union, the leadership, the Kremlin, they’re lying. We know they’re lying. They know we know they’re lying. We know that they know that we know they’re lying, and yet they continue to lie.”
And that’s a little bit of what goes on, because they’re not interested in truth. They’re interested in power. And they’ve always been interested in power. That’s one of the claims of Marxism and that’s one of the hallmarks of Marxist engagement, the original Marxist engagement, and that original focus on power where the idea, what did Marx say, “Philosophers have already interpreted the world. The point is to change it.” That’s the stage they’re in. They’ve interpreted the world already. Power is always the thing that they’re completely focused on. Right?
So how do you fight back against it? When the Americans got the atomic bomb during World War II and used it, the Soviets saw the power of that weapon and wanted it for themselves. And they had a brilliant scientist named Andrei Sakharov who got it for them. And I want you to listen to this quote. He says, “I have always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb and that’s why I gave it to my people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb. It’s the truth.”
When the Soviet Union came down, it didn’t crumble because of bombs and guns. It collapsed under the weight of the lies that were propping it up. It just crumbled in on itself because it was lies and deceit. It was broken apart because it crashed on the rocks of reality. Because the things they were saying were not true, they were saying things that were false. They were consistently lying and making excuses and coming up with all kinds of reasons why they didn’t need to engage you. And they were propagandizing and hiding things. Consistently hiding their failures. And all of this lying, this dishonesty, unmoored them from reality and that’s why they crashed.
Truth doesn’t care. Reality doesn’t care about your ideology. Truth is unconcerned by whatever you think someone else’s interests are. It persists. Reality is the thing that you run into when your beliefs are false. And the Soviet Union crashed on the rocks of reality, and it was the truth that brought down the Soviet Union. Once the truth came out, there was a revolt.
It’s the truth that stops all of these people. It’s the critical thinking. The epistemic adequacy, the careful consideration, the knowledge of reason and logic, the use of evidence, the cultivation of warrant. These are the things that matter because those are the things that bring us to truth. The myopic focus on power is going to, in the mind of the person who’s chasing it, create for them the illusion that they are justified and indulging in all kinds of fanciful thinking, in all kinds of dishonesty, because of who benefits.
In the name of justice. They want to sacrifice truth on the alter of justice. But as anybody who’s ever looked at history before knows, if you sacrifice truth, if you sacrifice truth for justice, you lose both. That’s the problem. And they’re going to lose both because they have sacrificed truth on the altar of power in order, for the sake of justice and it’s going to fail.
Mr. Jekielek: We already see it failing in various ways and that’s this kind of permeates our thinking, this ideology starts entering and permeating our thinking, there’s more and more of the the consequences of, as you describe it, basically picking power in the name of justice over the truth resulting in all sorts terrible, terrible things. And frankly, and this isn’t a new thing, right? This is the new variant, I think, as you’re describing it, to use a popular term these days, right, of this type of approach to the world.
Mr. Distance: They’ve sacrificed truth in the name of justice. They’ve sacrificed the truth in order to get power so they can enact their vision of justice. And the point that I keep making to people is it’s not like a switch gets flipped on or off. It’s not like pop or like click or like you push a button and ding, the light goes on. It’s not a thing like that. It’s like a fog that rolls in, or like the rust that starts to eat through your axle. It doesn’t happen all at once. What happens is it starts to eat through and eat through and eat through and things still go for a while. Stuff still looks around and you still think it’s pretty good until it cracks and breaks. The structure starts to crack before the dam breaks.
It’s just that it takes a long time. The Soviets were running into financial problems all the way back in the ’60s. In the ’70s, when they were coming up, they were already starting to shift their paradigm and start trying to shift their way of doing things. By the time Yuri Andropov took over, they had long since abandoned early Leninism, and they were attempting to bring [inaudible 00:56:36], but eventually it crumbled. This is always the way that it works.
Things can appear to be just fine right up until the point that it cracks. But by the time it cracks and breaks, it’s been rusting for a very, very long time and weakening. And they’re able to keep themselves afloat for a little while by using force, coercion, by using power, by sticking dissenters in gulags, by arresting people, by starving the Ukrainians. By sheer force and terror, they’re able to keep themselves in power, but eventually everything just crumbles where they can’t, they can no longer to even afford their infrastructure of terror.
They can’t afford their tanks. They can’t keep fixing their guns. The army can’t keep, they can’t keep feeding their soldiers. Eventually this all begins to crumble and fall to pieces. Just the sheer depth of corruption tears it apart and exposes it. It was always already corrupted for the most part. The Soviet Union was corrupted right from the start. Within the first few years, watchers of the Soviet Union were going, “Oh, this is bad. This is not going to work out well.”
But they were able to keep a veneer, a fresh coat of paint on it by using power. And what’s happening in our situation is, we had a good solid society, but it’s being hollowed out. It’s being hollowed out with these ideas. And they’re trying to turn it into the very same thing that the Soviets were trying to create. They wanted this sort of, in the name of justice and equality and all the rest of it.
In fairness, they wanted to build the state where everyone was equal and everyone had every dah dah dah, and of course, what they don’t realize is that the same yearning for power that they think corrupts everyone of us, every one of us pro capitalist guys, they don’t realize that the exact same thing actually corrupts them every bit as much. And because they’ve gotten rid of the critical thinking, which leads to truth, nobody can ever call it out.
So the Soviets erected a corrupt society and then tried to keep it going with lying and propaganda and with sheer force. What we have here is an enlightenment [inaudible 00:58:55] society, which they’re trying to hollow out. And if they ever succeed and get full control and get power the way they want it, they’ll do the same thing. Keep it going with lies, coercion, and force.
Mr. Jekielek: As you’re describing all this, I see … And I’m certainly not the one to be doing this. I’m not great as some of the great comedians are, but there’s a lot to poke fun at here. And this is something that people that I’ve spoken with have identified as a way to challenge this.
Because of course, you’re not going to challenge it by saying, your system doesn’t work, for all the reasons we just described. So let’s talk a little bit about humor and then finally, what is your prescription here? What is it that you tell to the typical person who’s just finding out about all this and how it works, and now they’re faced with the realities in this, in their schools, in their homes, in their communities, and they can see the outlines of this ideology, basically influencing policy, influencing decisions, influencing their children?
Mr. Distance: Oh, I would say a few things to the average person. We’ll talk about the humor thing in just a second. But to the average person, I would say, look, these people will ignore you and slough you off the side and not pay attention to your concerns, according to their principles, when they’re in power. When they lose power, they demand to be heard and they demand to be allowed to explain themselves. And they demand to have their voices be acknowledged according to your principles. You are an enlightenment liberal.
So they will demand to be heard according to your principles, but they will demand to quiet you according to theirs. In other words, they will censor you when they have power, according to their principles. And they will demand free speech when you’re in power, according to your principles. And you need to remember that that kind of thinking permeates absolutely every single thing that they do. Every single one of these people is absolutely, utterly cynical.
They will grant the absolute charitable benefit of the doubt to every single one of their people for absolutely everything they do. And every single person on their side who does anything wrong ever, it will be understood as, for example, when they riot, riots are the voices of the unheard. If you have a protest, well, that’s just an expression of your white fragility. That’s just your white privilege talking. That’s just you trying to maintain power. That’s what they’ll say.
So part of what is going on is you have to be aware that this is how they’re going to treat you. They’re not going to give you a fair hearing, according to your ideas. They’re going to play power games with you. And you have to be aware of that. You have to be aware that they’re going to use that Kafka trap on you. The Kafka trap is like dirty cop logic, is another way to think about it. The cop arrests you. You say, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” “That’s what a guilty person would say.” “Yeah, but I’m actually innocent.” “Oh, that’s what a guilty person would say.” “I don’t deserve to go to jail.” “That’s what a guilty person would say.” “Okay. I want a lawyer.” “Oh, that’s what a guilty person would say.” There’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing you can say that will prove your innocence. Because the fact that you’re claiming to be innocent is proof that you’re guilty because that’s what a guilty person would say.
And the first thing I always tell them is that’s the logic that’s going to be used on you in every case. The second thing is they will always reduce everything to power. And they think of themselves as really getting it, and that everyone who’s pushing back on them is just doing so to preserve their power.
Constantly, they will excuse their worst excesses as merely being, “Well. That’s just because I’m an oppressed person.” And when you do something well, that’s because you’re a bad person. So every standard, it looks like a double standard, but in a weird way, it’s not. It’s not a double standard. It’s one standard. Whatever benefits them is fine. Whatever benefits you is not fine.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, and this is, I always like to sort of remind folks, this is Marcuse’s idea of repressive tolerance, basically-
Mr. Distance: That’s right.
Mr. Jekielek: This is the concept. I was just talking with James Lindsay and he described how we’re living in a world of this logic.
Mr. Distance: We are living in the logic of Marcuse’s repressive tolerance, where they think that they only need to tolerate things which move things to the left, because anything that moves something to the right is considered a step toward fascism and therefore must be repressed.
Mr. Jekielek: So, you know, final thought here, as we finish up, around humor.
Mr. Distance: Yeah. So it was really interesting. Bill Maher talked about how comedians have kind of turned against the left. I think it was Bill Maher who made this insight. And he said that during the Bush years, comedians almost exclusively made fun of the right and got howling laughter from both leftists and from the center and even moderate conservatives. It used to be that in their view, a lot of right wing stuff was excessive. It was over the top.
And so they could make fun of it, right? The excessive Republican attack ads or the bombastic rhetoric or whatever it was, they could make a lot of fun of. And he said, “We just didn’t think we could really make fun of the policies of like Max Cleland or of, I don’t know, Bill Clinton.” I mean, they could make fun of the sex scandal, but in terms of Bill Clinton’s policy, it was fairly moderate. It was kind of milk toast. There’s not a lot to make fun of.
And what he said was, he says, now the excesses and absurdities that they bind to like defunding the police and gender surgery for 13-year-olds and letting three-year-olds pick their gender and saying that men can give birth, that women can have testicles. He said, “There’s a lot to make fun of here. There’s a lot of excesses. We can now make fun of you.” I think it was Bridget Phetasy that said, “It’s not that we’ve turned on the left. It’s just that they’ve given us so much material.” I mean, it’s an embarrassment of riches. The average Republican who says, you know, maybe don’t let 13-year-olds get their genitals removed for trans surgery and maybe don’t let three-year-olds pick their gender. That’s not a crazy position.
That’s the position that everyone in America agreed on until three minutes ago, and a very small group of radical lefties have brought an entirely different conception of the world and are trying to make that center. And they’re trying to act as though all of this new stuff that they invented last week is normal, correct, true, good, right, proper. And it’s absurd. And they can’t see the absurdities.
They’re like the invisible man looking in the mirror, they can’t see themselves. They have no idea. And so they don’t see how ridiculous they look. And so they are, as this stuff is filtering down into regular people you’re starting to see people understand what’s going on and turn on it. The social justice branding and packaging of, “Oh, we just want to be tolerant and kind and caring,” that held for a long time.
But now that people are getting to have a look at what’s inside the social justice box and what they actually believe, people are beginning to see it for what it is, which was a cynical attempt to guilt people into giving these revolutionists, revolutionaries, these critical theorists, power, clout, the benefit of the doubt and everything else. And they now realize that they were brow beaten and morally scolded and shamed into giving people the benefit of the doubt that did not deserve the benefit of the doubt in any way at all.
And this has now come out. And humor exposes it. Making fun of it exposes it. The best way, the reason why the left made fun of Bush so much, is because the best way to take the social power out of something is to mock it. If you can mock something to the point where people no longer take it seriously, you can suck the power out of it. It’s a social move. And the comedians are now making fun of the stuff and kicking and sucking the power out of it. And that’s because it’s so absurd and it’s so easy. And I think that the left doesn’t understand just how easy they’ve made it.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Wokal Distance, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.
Mr. Distance: Thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: And your cats.
Mr. Distance: I appreciate it. Yeah. He caused a bit of a ruckus. We got paid a visit. Thank you so much.
Mr. Jekielek: We live in an age of censorship and disinformation where some of the most prominent voices, most important voices, aren’t actually being heard because they’re being suppressed. I invite some of these people onto the show, onto American Thought Leaders. So to stay up to date on the most recent episodes in our exclusive content, you can actually sign up for our newsletter at theepochtimes.com/newsletter. Just hit the checkbox for American Thought Leaders.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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