Indeed the debate about critical race theory is filled with the Selfish Fallacy. CRT is now a completely floating signifier thanks to the motivated reasoning of those who defend it. Conventional center-left liberals feel compelled to defend CRT because conservatives attack it, but some aspects of that academic field are sufficiently extreme to make advocacy for them unpalatable, so the definition of CRT simply morphs to fit their boundaries for legitimate opinion. For many or most of the people defending critical race theory today, the tradition is just a vague assertion of the prevalence of racism, dressed up in a little academic jargon - because this conception is far more convenient for them than grappling with what CRT actually is.
Which is funny because these liberal defenders act like they alone know what critical race theory really means. A lot of liberals suddenly find themselves not just defending CRT and pretending that they have read deeply in the field but also pretending that they always have known what it means. (This stems from one of the most deeply-ingrained aspects of progressive culture, the addiction to knowingness - the imperative to not only have an opinion on everything but to act like you have always had this opinion because everything is obvious and banal to you.) You can study people’s records on social media or in their written work and find that they never referenced critical race theory before it became an important social signifier in liberal spaces, but that’s easily waved away. In any event, it has become a cultural and professional imperative that good liberals embrace CRT, so they have embraced it.
But as Yglesias points out here, a big part of CRT involves a skepticism towards, or an out-and-out rejection of, some elementary aspects of liberal society. This is part of a broader academic left tendency; certainly when I was in academia in the humanities a half-decade ago it was considered terribly embarrassing to believe in individual rights and the Enlightenment etc. But a lot of ordinary everyday progressives still embrace that tradition. Rather than let their social need to defend CRT conflict with that attachment, they simply invent an imaginary CRT in their heads so there’s no conflict. And this is the Selfish Fallacy.
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