Thursday, May 13, 2021



Via Theories of Media and Communication/University of Westminster.

This is really interesting, from a Rectification standpoint, on North Carolina's ban of "critical race theory" in the schools, from State Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg County, and running to replace retiring US Senator Richard Burr, with a good chance of winning, and you might want to show him some love):

That's not just a self-own, it's a new word, or at least a new meaning for "decodify", which used to just be a four-syllable way of saying "decode", though it can also be for removing a provision from the law (as in being the secretary whose job is to pull some language out of the code after the legislature has repealed it, which isn't sinister), or doing it without the legislature (which is kind of sinister), as in this dire, but possibly accurate, prediction from Sarah Kendzior, October 2020:
What the Supreme Court––this new hard-right, white supremacist court––is going to try to do is decodify all of those protections. They're going to do this to gay and lesbian people, they're going to do this to a variety of ethnic and racial minorities, and it's going to eventually come down into voting rights.
And this thing from wingnut welfare beneficiary Christopher Rufo (filmmaker, "investigative journalist", and since last month the "senior fellow and director of the initiative on critical race theory at the Manhattan Institute") seems to be about pulling items out of the lexical code of English—quietly removing the word from your interior dictionary and then slipping it back into your head with a new meaning. Sort of a theoretical account of how Newspeak was created under the rule of Big Brother, come to think of it.

Dr. Google unexpectedly turned Rufo up in my search for the history of "decodify", in his revelations on the wickedness of Critical Race Theory and Wokeness as expressed or potentially expressed in the school system of Santa Clara County, California and its ethnic studies initiative, and the curriculum's adviser, Jorge Pacheco, Jr., who, Rufo writes.

explained [in a teacher-training session] that the ethnic studies curriculum is based on the work of Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, who invented the concept of the “pedagogy of the oppressed,” which holds that students must be educated to understand their oppression and develop the practical skills, or “praxis,” to challenge and eventually overthrow their oppressors. Pacheco acknowledged that the Marxist underpinnings to ethnic studies “scare people away” but insisted that teachers must be “grounded in the correct politics to educate students.”...

Pacheco argues that teachers must “awaken [students] to the oppression” and lead them to “decodify” and eventually “destroy” the dominant political regime. The first step in this process is to help students “get into the mind of a white man” such as Christopher Columbus and analyze “what ideology led these white male settlers to be power and land hungry and justify stealing indigenous land through genocide.” Pacheco describes this process as transforming students into “activist intellectuals” who “decodify systems of oppression” into their component parts, including “white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, genocide, private property, and God.”

Freire's "critical pedagogy" is indeed the source of "codification", in the three-stage model of intellectualization: codification-decodification-praxis. The object of intellectualizing is indeed to enable students to "destroy" systems of oppression, for instance by stronger laws against domestic violence, which will destroy sexist oppression, the only example explicitly presented in Pacheco's slides, as Rufo has revealed them (the teachers were invited to do their own codification and decodification for classism and racism). I can easily see why persons of a "conservative" bent might be disturbed by some of these ideas, though of course I also think they're disingenuous, stupid, or both. 

But the concept of the process—identify the words, decode the words, figure out what you can do with the knowledge you have attained to improve people's lives—seems really solid to me.

(I should say I'm a little interested in the concept of "critical theory" itself as it emerged in Frankfurt at the Institut für Sozialforschung and in wartime exile at the New School for Social Research in New York, and with the activist take that with research on society, as Marx put it, "the point is to change it". So I tend to get impatient with the understandable conservative view that such ambitions are illegitimate,  and whatever "critical race theory" may be, I figure I probably feel the same way. But my other thought on that is that it continues to be somewhat obscure what critical race theory is, and I don't think it's hugely influential even in San Jose.)

And the process described by Rufo to explain what he wants to do with the expression "critical race theory"—identify the words, eliminate the (relatively benign) meaning, and endow them with a new meaning that will make everybody hate them—describes the making of Big Lies.

Upon which we can see that what he has done already, with poor Pacheco's teacher training exercise, is an appalling example.

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