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Idea laundering--a very useful concept

(50 Posts)
Glinner Sun 05-Apr-20 22:15:04

Has anyone ever wondered why so many people believe such crazy crap at the moment? The 'female penis', and so on? This short video is a very good starting point to understanding what has gone so terribly wrong. We're literally losing the ability to think thanks to a form of corruption in academia. youtu.be/NelsKQQDTxU

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Germ1360 Mon 06-Apr-20 01:43:19

I think there's been a reluctance or fear to say, "no, that's bullshit"/ "no, that doesn't stand scrutiny". But where the idea that everyone's perception is equally accurate, even when demonstrably skewed came from, I'm not sure.

Incidentally, the physical sciences are also prone to dogma, though it's less political (in terms of papers, anyway). As regards gender bullshit, physics depts tend to fall like dominos. sad

MoleSmokes Mon 06-Apr-20 04:20:54

I hadn't come across that term before, "Ideas Laundering" - yes, it describes the process perfectly.

Universities, academics and Publishers are so vulnerable to this because of the need to rack up "papers" and citations - and academic publishing is a gluttonous money-printing machine, hungrily gobbling up whatever swill it is fed.

Then news outlets use the crazy "studies" to prop up click-bait stories and the next thing you know some batshit nonsense becomes "common knowledge" backed up by "research shows . . . ".

TheBewildernessisWeetabix Mon 06-Apr-20 04:37:17

Years ago I asked a friend who worked at a major publishing house how publishers determined if a book is non fiction.
She said she would get back to me because she was not entirely sure what the process was and wanted to be sure of what she told us.
There is no vetting process. She was shocked and so were we.

"Common literary examples of nonfiction include expository, argumentative, functional, and opinion pieces; essays on art or literature; biographies; memoirs; journalism; and historical, scientific, technical, or economic writings (including electronic ones)."

TreestumpsAndTrampolines Mon 06-Apr-20 08:37:39

I think this happens in every subject - I'm a computer programmer, and there's lots of people in academia (or in the kind of job where they have the time to do it) come up with crazy/purist ideas of how things 'should be done', they write papers, do conferences, create frameworks, expound at length on forums and in blog articles about how their way is clearly the way it should be being done

Eventually students start coming out of uni thinking this is the way it's done - until they come crashing into the real world and discover that 'the cake pattern' or whatever adds so much complexity for so little benefit that they become disillusioned by the whole idea of patterns, or they join the cargo cult programmers and program everything that way without thought about whether it's suitable to the situation.

Personally I believe it's because thinking is hard, and lots of people just decide to let someone else do their thinking because they have enough thinking to do in other bits of their life. We all just pick where/if to spend our thinking energy - the trouble is that this particular think delegation is dangerous for women. Whereas in programming it just creates more work for me.

Glinner Mon 06-Apr-20 15:27:10

I just read this in the introduction of the book about the Sokal hoax, 'Fashionable Nonsense'. 22 years old and it could have been written yesterday.

"There is nothing truthful, , wise, humane or strategic about confusing hostility to injustice, which is leftist, with hostility to science and rationality, which is nonsense."

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newrubylane Mon 06-Apr-20 15:44:52

@TheBewildernessisWeetabix what do you mean 'how they determine if it is non-fiction'?

fimax Mon 06-Apr-20 16:17:05

‘Idea laundering’ - that’s a very interesting way to look at what is in effect a propaganda of sorts from the TRA. Changing the language by trying to ensure what we’re previously clear descriptive words become pejorative (see the madness around pronouns and ‘woman’) is akin to the marketing spin of politics and advertising. If the mantra is prayed often enough it becomes the new normal. Any argument becomes hate speech.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Mon 06-Apr-20 19:51:46

Very interesting idea. Academia (at least chunks of it) is fucked. I hear this from academic friends; we can see it happening in front of our eyes.

What we need is enormously refined and rigorously applied critical thinking skills. The trouble is we can end up a bit ... twitchy/cynical because of it.

FloraFox Mon 06-Apr-20 19:57:21

There is a lot of pressure in academia to come up with something new. When it comes to arts subjects in general, there is the temptation to argue a quite bizarre position in the pursuit of a new development. Surely this must be what led Butler to conclude that biological sex itself is a social construct.

I read with interest that KCL legal study when it was first launched. The danger of a project like that is that if the researchers conclude that there is a good reason to maintain the status quo legal position, the study will not advance the careers of the researchers.

I read a Ph.D. law paper recently (subsequently published in a peer reviewed journal) which took the position that copyright is not consistent with certain other legal rights. The paper was poorly argued and the analysis did not support the conclusion (IMO) but if, after three years or so of work, the student had concluded that there is no conflict or the status quo position was correct, he might not even have been awarded his Ph.D.

TheProdigalKittensReturn Mon 06-Apr-20 20:07:24

I think a lot of us are now wishing that we'd been paying more attention to what was happening in literature departments when "critical theory" was first getting a foothold there.

yormaw Mon 06-Apr-20 23:31:19

Critical theory proper is fine imho (by which I mean Frankfurt school).It was the influence of post structuralists and post modernists that was so damaging. The likes of Foucault, Baudrillard, Derrida and Butler wrote about “sexy” topics and discourse in a way that was clearly appealing in its obscurantist tropes.Being pretty impenetrable, there are nice slogans and exciting proposals that students have latched onto care of Wikipedia and third rate academics, looking for some sort of rationale for their political beliefs.

Those who have properly read any of this stuff, and I have only a bit so I rely on cleverer people than me, showed that whilst there is some value in some of their observations, they have no substantive arguments. I studied philosophy 30 years ago and we actually read the texts (no internet) and had to engage with the arguments. I’d concluded that these guys to some extent described something like late capitalism & consumer culture but they had no way back to anything solid and therefore no means to tackle the problems they elucidate.

Tbh, I thought they’d been debunked and were only read in literary theory circles where all they were talking about was books. It turned out they’d been picked up by failing sociology departments (there are some brilliant sociologists) who took over women’s studies with all these awful gender studies courses. I’d stupidly assumed they were just talking about gender inequality in these things but no, they were busy soaking up idiots guides to philosophy rejects. It’s only in the past couple of years I’ve noticed this and took me by surprise 😳

Glinner Tue 07-Apr-20 12:56:24

What I found most interesting was Helen Pluckrose essentially saying we are losing our ability to think because of these people.

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ScrimpshawTheSecond Tue 07-Apr-20 20:30:30

Yes, although I am not entirely convinced the majority of people have a great capacity for original or critical thinking anyway. I think most of us are far more easily manipulated or influenced than we realise; not sure if the identity politics/grievance studies things isn't just a recent fad in a long line of terrible ideas to fail the logic test.

Glinner Wed 08-Apr-20 17:57:41

I think everyone is capable of original or critical thinking but I can understand people not wanting to do any. It's hard and unrewarding work for the most part and many people have lives that are hard enough. I get that people are outsourcing their morals to people who they think have a better handle on it, like Stonewall. But when systems of thought become corrupted, and spread like wildfire through wider society, you have a duty to oppose it.

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Glinner Wed 08-Apr-20 17:58:32

Sorry, bit garbled. I mean you have a duty to expose these corrupted systems of thought.

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BolloxtoGender Wed 08-Apr-20 18:12:24

I think when academia deviate from truth, reality or integrity they basically start wearing emperor s new clothes. But there’s is just so much pressure to just churn out non sense regardless. So much of postmodernism seems to be word salad, build upon words, upon definitions that are divorced from reality (e.g. TWAW) with Difficult to spot logical fallacies Thrown in, such that the ‘logical’ conclusions end up being nonsense. But it’s difficult to unpick why.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Wed 08-Apr-20 19:35:34

Don't forget it's in some people's interests to obfuscate and confuse, Bollox! I am thinking particularly of an academic friend who is basically a professional bullshitter. Churns out what sounds like quasi profound sound bites and name drops - when you question it everything falls apart. Of course, this is - conveniently -because I am too dense to understand such difficult concepts. smile

ScrimpshawTheSecond Wed 08-Apr-20 19:38:40

'Outsourcing morals' is an interesting idea, OP. Again, though, I do wonder if this isn't also fairly common - cf religion.

Goosefoot Wed 08-Apr-20 20:02:34

I have wondered from time to time if a problem with a democratic society that tries to use mass education to make people capable citizens might not be that most people are essentially followers. While I do think that a good education can make a huge difference for people generally, it also seems like most people end up believing something fairly close to what the social consensus is, be that some sort of religious perspective, or a non-religious perspective, or some weird social customs or structures, or whatever. It's remarkable in a way what kinds of ideas that seem strange a whole society can embrace, and that always raises the question, what ideas seem logical to us that might equally be strange to people living 500 years in the future or past or in some other circumstances? Looking at it that way can make one feel a little unmoored.

But it does seem that people outsource morals. And that's not attached to religion, it happens just as often in a secularised society. If we think about the breadth of human moral views, it's pretty clear that our modern views are closely related to each other and aren't all that original or different from each other. We mostly share the same moral sense as the people around us.

BolloxtoGender Wed 08-Apr-20 20:51:00

@Scrimpshaw - I agree, it absolutely is in people's interest to obfuscate, whether it is to confuse, or for kudos, financial gain, or appearing to sound clever. I had a Prime example of that from a rather arrogant young work colleague today on Teams, dismissing someone's simple answer, then went on to explain the REAL issue of printing money and national debt, sounding impressive all the while but clearly didn't really know what he was talking about.

@floradox -I completely agree, you've articulated what are jumbled thoughts in my head.

Problem is the 'Status Quo' might, just might, already be the optimal position. Academia, of all people, should be able to recognise the reality that change doesn't always mean progress, it could also be regress. Western Civilisation which took centuries of development and bloody history, the resultant privileges that we enjoy are so taken for granted that people don't realise how fragile it all is and how quickly it could all unravel.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Wed 08-Apr-20 21:12:54

No, not solely attached to religion, Goosefoot, but a lot of people are very happy to completely accept a readymade morality as offered by most religions. I'm not even saying it's necessarily a bad thing - we have to learn morals from somewhere, and it's a fine line between learning for ourselves and learning from someone else. As you say, most of our shared morals are roughly and broadly similar to those of our culture.

Lots of academia is a game, Bollox, as far as I can tell. You win at that by playing by the rules - even when the rules are ostensibly 'creative thought', there's often a consensus that subtly and overtly exercises influence over students & academics. Consensus for some time has been post-modernist thought, which includes moral relativism and a distinct lack of 'real life' common sense.

I think the hothouse bubble of academia is actually potentially detrimental to rigorous critical thinking.

I say this as someone who has only had a relatively brief skirmish in academia, fwiw. And failed at it. grin So, pinch of salt and all that.

BolloxtoGender Wed 08-Apr-20 21:19:36

much of academia not fit for purpose then.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Wed 08-Apr-20 21:44:39

Well, I would say it could certainly use an overhaul.

DoctorDoctor Wed 08-Apr-20 21:50:53

Lots of grants or funding of whatever kind though is awarded on the basis of the research being utterly ground breaking and thinking beyond boundaries. It can't 'just' be something interesting that extends current research in a modest way. This pushes people to make more and more outrageous assertions.

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