THE LOGIC FETISH: Performative Intellectualism as Taught By High School Debate Class, Kept Alive by White Dudes in Tech
Back in high school, whether in English class or Social Studies, usually around one election or another, we learned about “debate,” and one other term: “logical fallacies.” It was a great time, and as we were all young and on the Internet, we started applying them to various topics of discussion, declaring ourselves “winnar!” over our perceived intellectual inferior, as anonymous as they may be. We started to internalize these rules of Internet arguing, and priding ourselves on being “logical,” well reasoned beings. Incorporate this with a media that loves to show angry white men giving long, hateful monologues as they fill rooms and airwaves with blood boiling rhetoric, portrayed by the language of film in a heroic manner, saving the day - and you have a recipe for madness.
From Network to Keith Olbermann to Fox News to Sam Waterson to Jack Nicholson to Mel Gibson to Jean Claude Van Damme to Viggo Mortensen to Clint Eastwood to Charlie Chaplin to General Patton to Al Pacino to Brad Pitt to Gerald Butler to Robin Williams to Sean Connery to Bruce Campbell to Gene Hackman to Bill Pullman, we have been ingrained with an onslaught of angry white men speaking up and heroically speaking “truth.” We learned that these are the heroes, these are the “leading men,” and as white dudes, we learned that we knew to be the truth about the world by following in their footsteps.
Throw in a little Morgan Freeman and Idris Elba, and that picture gets a little less whiter - but it’s still men, highly perched above all, leading and spitting the “truth” about the way the world is.
Tie this in with the rules of debate, which is a competitive practice of “scoring points” by forming the most “logical” arguments, and calling out our opponents “logical fallacies.” The act of debate was never intellectual inquiry or finding out “the facts,” wiping away distortion, or practicing any sort of empathy. It’s preformative intellectualism at it’s finest, and figurative dick waving with zero substance. Thank You For Smoking, a brilliant 2005 film starring Aaron Eckhart, was a brilliant takedown of this bizarre practice, in how the objective was to convince other people, not the person you’re arguing with.
Hell, just look at this last Presidential election, where Tumblr had an official team to “.GIF” soundbites out of context, where both sides could “reblog” and share in their supposed intellectual supremacy.
What’s amazing is how the fetishization of “logic” in tech and science communities became mutated through the Internet into a totally bizarre, irrational beast of emotion and again, figurative dick-waving, between mostly men. There’s no self-criticism, no moments of stepping back and questioning one’s own beliefs and just why they might have them or learned them, no real intellectual inquiry.
Yet they wrap themselves in words like “uncomfortable truths,” “reality,” “logic,” “facts,” already assuming that the world exists by the rules they declare, spewing their opinions in a horde of endless, self-righteous crusades, without the courage of empathy, sympathy, listening, or even self-questioning. It’s a purely intellectually dishonest premise to start from, that would make the likes of Plato and Socrates roll in their fucking graves, you fucking embarrassments to scholardom.
It’s simply a defense mechanism to reinforce one’s own bigotry, mainly from getting to benefit from a horribly bigoted and fucked up society simply because they were born male with white skin. Of course, as minorities start to speak up and make their presence known, men so used to the status quo start to get afraid, start losing ground, start getting upset that the status quo they benefit from is being shifted - and turn to attack.
Anita Sarkeesian, creator of Tropes vs. Women and Feminist Frequency, talks in the most patient, reserved, completely palatable tone that doesn’t look down on anyone, in any real regard - is faced with an onslaught of gendered hate and harassment, from death and rape threats to interactive flash games allowing you to physically assault her. People have accused her of being “clever,” supposedly avoiding “valid criticisms,” stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a public that just won’t listen to “logic,” from mostly white dudes on the Internet who speak primarily in “ragefaces” and slurs.
Yet Anita soldiers on, relentless in her cheerful, rather polite criticism of an artistic medium’s sexist practices - she’s more heroic and “badass” than any actor on a big screen, regardless of what you’ve been taught by the media.
Of course, gender criticism goes both ways, and Tropes vs. Men was a competing project that raised a little over three thousand dollars in funds, which is proudly debating against Ani- no, wait. The creepy, gross men took the money and vanished into the night, with no consequences - not even a single rape threat!
These scoundrels, they never cared about “debate” or “being right,” they quite simply stole from a bunch of creepy males whose brows were so furrowed by their precious artform of videogames being criticized by “feminazis,” a totally fictional boogeyman that again, makes zero logical sense. Again and again you see men riding under the banner of “logic” time and time again being completely illogical and overemotional, spewing hate faster than they can piss.
This is the beauty of performative intellectualism - it’s nothing but self-serving masturbation. Bring in a bunch of other angry men on the Internet, and it becomes a circle jerk. That’s the beauty of a circle jerk - being around other men, doing this thing we’re typically shamed and told to do in privacy, alone - it’s acceptable, it’s great, it’s fun, and maybe some of these men are turned on by the sight of other men in self-serving pleasure, whether it be their technique or the sounds they make.
Now, that’s perfectly acceptable, as circlejerks usually happen in private places - when you’re getting together and celebrated your supposed intellectual superiority, harassing women and racial minorities, throwing around slurs, trying to hinder groups working towards equality - that’s completely unacceptable, something worth scorn, or “shame tweeting” as poor, oppressed white male Steven Wittens writes on his well designed, yet piss poorly written blog: http://acko.net/blog/storms-and-teacups/
What’s amazing is how searching for that article on Twitter leads to almost all white dudes praising it’s “refreshing,” “brilliant,” “great,” “interesting,” “considerate,” “documented,” “provoking,” “beautiful” take on “the bullshit of the ‘social justice’ warrior culture.” Yet it’s a white dude, writing a hilariously long winded jerk off session where he starts off with, and I quote, “I’d like to reflect on the bigger picture instead, and talk about some uncomfortable truths.”
You hear that? That’s the same sound you hear when King James got the wise idea that he was going to guess what God meant to say, and release the international bestseller “The Bible: King James Version.” At least King James had to assume a throne, this pasty white dude just automatically assumed his authority above all his subjects before speaking “uncomfortable truths” - that Steven cannot see himself as something other than what media has taught him - the all knowing leader above the masses, who takes time out of his busy day to bring enlightenment to those “whining” about “storms in teacups,” declaring this problem already irrelevant without actually listening to women, at all.
That kind of self-assuredness sound familiar? Not even considering the possibility they might be wrong? That’s because it’s faith - not in religion, but the status quo that they don’t even realize they benefit from. Obviously if I don’t see anything wrong with it, those speaking up are just “whining,” right? That devotion runs deep, driving someone’s assuredness to everything from lashing out with rape and death threats, to both online and offline stalking, to writing long, masturbatory blog posts calling women “whiners” and “social justice warriors” and using “logic” to try and speak “truth” on the matter.
So now, we have a very loosely held together cargo-cult of horseshit where the only key to entry is subscribing to an utterly nonsensical set of values, and to vocally defend them to the death of their online reputation. This is the thrill of being a white dude growing up drowning in America media - we learn to empathize with nobody except people that look like us - so of course we learn to make excuses for even the most awful of men, lacking the ability to at least attempt the perspective of someone else.
This is the reality of our society, the complete disconnect from the heroes we claim to look up to. We fail over and over again to live up to such fictional ideas, and instead of rethinking our goals, we insist on doubling down becoming monsters. There’s no good monologues for hurting people, as hard as dudes like Wittens want to try. There’s no medal ceremony for carrying the battle standard of bigotry. There’s no dramatic full circle camera turn where you and your fellow programmer stand back to back and you shout that shit just got real, surrounded by legions of feminazi harpies, armed to the teeth in 8 foot tall fusion-powered battle suits with portable artillery handcannons, as much as you may delude yourself typing an “epic logic burn” to some “uppity slag” on Twitter.
How utterly illogical.