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When Dave Chappelle’s sold-out comedy show was recently canceled by First Avenue theater, we saw some strange rhetoric from the online mob that orchestrated the cancellation. The petition by these 128 activists stated that Chappelle has “a record of being dangerous to trans people” and his “actions uphold a violent heteronormative culture.”

This curious newspeak is borrowed from the language of Critical Theory, a supposed scholarly field that has matured over the past decade. While you may be familiar with Critical Race Theory, another main category is Queer Theory. This is where the First Avenue activists got their inspiration and rationalization for their actions.

Critical Theory, rooted in postmodernism, has produced a radical political sect that can be called the Illiberal Left. Highly visible on some college campuses (famously at Evergreen College in 2017), they seek to stamp out speech that counters their idea of absolute truth. They are modern-day thought police with the power of social media.

A profound examination of Critical Theory is found in the book Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody. It dismantles the flimsy assumptions of Theory and separates the noble idea of social justice from the quasi-religious zealotry of Social Justice.

Wokeness is a more familiar term alluding to the new speech police and victimization movement. To resist this ideology, it helps to understand the Critical Theory underpinnings which explicitly reject reason and science to push the idea that truth comes from identity or “lived experience.”

Indeed, the Illiberal Left denies classic liberal tenets such as individuality and universal truth developed by Enlightenment thought. Ironically, our modern systems of reason and science stemming from Enlightenment rationalism give them the equal rights enshrined in law which permit their vociferousness.

Stephen Pinker, cognitive psychologist and leading intellectual, authored a book called Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress. It details the amazing progress humanity has made on all fronts, with an entire chapter showing how equal rights have fully taken hold in countries ridiculed by Critical Theorists.

The Civil Rights, Feminism and Gay Pride movements of past decades have brought crowning achievements in equal rights under liberal democracy, but this progress is not enough for Critical Theory proponents.

To see how the opposite works, they should consider Saudi Arabia where 41 citizens were recently beheaded for taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations. Or how Salman Rushdie was just stabbed on stage for speaking against Islamic theocracy.

Now that equal rights are guaranteed by many countries to all people of all types—and society has shown great progress in embracing diversity—the Illiberal Left has a strategy to maintain cynicism. Racism and bigotry exist everywhere in society, and all people are categorized as either oppressors or oppressed. It’s their duty to root out hidden weaves, using the assumption that oppressed identity or lived experience bestows absolute truth.

Critical Theory claims that simply because science, reason and humanism were developed largely by white men of the 18th century, these systems are illegitimate. What they ignore is that, unlike Critical Theory, Enlightenment systems are self-correcting/self-examining and evolve as universal truths are uncovered.

While it’s true that science was bastardized by ruthless power seekers in the past (their arguments would now be immediately and totally debunked), the story of Enlightenment is one of positivity and inclusiveness. Liberal democracy has dismantled oppressive structures in many, if not most, countries over the past two centuries—such as colonialism, monarchical rule and even slavery.

Critical Theory seeks to cynically “problematize” every scrap of writing and speech, scrutinizing all present and past words to find hints of underlying systemic prejudice, leading to the separation of people into oppressors and oppressed based on skin color, gender or other identity. In essence this reestablishes race-based systems, which is what we’ve been extinguishing under liberal democracy.

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Since government codifies equal rights to all and there’s nothing more to do than root out hidden agendas among made-up categories of people, the movement is perpetuated in a grievance industry. Millions are paid every year to those whose job is to categorize people and assign traits based on identity. They act as institutional thought police and thought trainers, prosecuting reports of “bias” or “oppression,” or teaching students and workforce how to shame yourself or victimize yourself.

Author Ibram X. Kendi earns large sums of money in book sales and government-corporate presentations arguing for a new “antiracism” based on Critical Theory. It’s not good enough to have equality under law regardless of race, creed or gender. Kendi calls for a Department of Antiracism to suppress “racist ideas,” stating “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”

For a true champion of civil rights, turn to Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

This beloved statement is turned on its head by Critical Theory, which holds that people should instead be judged by the color of their skin or other identity, regardless of their character. Ethnicity, gender identity or one’s lived experience are the only things that give people access to truth. Individuality is erased in favor of group dynamics; universal truth is denied in favor of identity-based collective truth.

Even if someone possessing the proper credentials to be labeled as “oppressed” does not want to be categorized as a victim under Critical Theory, that person is accused of “internalizing oppression” and accepting their subordinate status. See, those ignorant souls must be wrong—because Critical Theory doesn’t allow for individuality or questioning of its premises.

To see how ludicrous things can get, there is a newer subcategory known as Fat Studies. Here too, science is rejected, leading to the position that obesity is actually not unhealthy and should instead be embraced as an oppressed identity.

Contributing to the degradation of reason and science is the idea of “research justice.” Critical Theory proponents argue that the mere identity of an author should grant publication in peer-reviewed journals. Authors in oppressed categories should automatically be given preference over other authors, no matter how rigorous the research.

Why does all this matter? The toxicity of the Illiberal Left is appearing more often in the public discourse and becoming more entrenched at universities and tech corporations. Reasonable people are afraid to speak their mind because their careers could be ruined via social media and cowardly bosses. Diversity of opinion declines, and everybody suffers as a result.

In a panel discussion at Harvard, Steven Pinker gave an excellent summation of why no one should be denied the opportunity to freely ponder and debate any issue. By attempting to silence speech about certain issues, woke mobs actually breed extremist positions which they hope to eradicate.

Speech is violence and therefore should be suppressed, according to Critical Theory and evidenced by the First Avenue folks. Chappelle has never advocated violence toward anyone, but they say he is “dangerous to trans people” for the jokes he tells in his comedy routine. There is no debating this accusation, because gender identity bestows absolute truth for the First Avenue petitioners.

The fallacies of Critical Theory-based Illiberal Leftism are easy to see, but there is cowardice in those who lead institutions to confront the issue.

Universities have traditionally been bastions of free speech and crucibles of ideas, but now there are “bias hotlines” and speakers are routinely canceled because a feeling might get hurt. Tech companies and other corporations have tremendous influence over our lives, and they’re increasingly populated by managers who stamp out opinions that don’t adhere to the Truth According to Social Justice.

So, it’s up to us to be informed and not stay silent. We must not be bullied by accusations of “phobia” because we don’t agree with a theory that doesn’t allow for questioning. By guarding the ideals of free speech, humanism, science and reason we can effectively and peacefully preserve the greatness of modern society.