I went back and looked and am surprised that I have not written about Critical Theory here on the blog. It is the child of Marxist theory. After Marxism was finally thoroughly discredited, the Marxists on campus changed a few words here and there but kept the centerpiece idea that truth has no practical reality, all ideas that seem true are rather rooted in power. For those who espouse Critical Theory, it is incumbent on them to either condemn or desconstruct all ideas that are rooted in power. That would include white male professors and their acolytes (this is primarily a university phenomena, after all), government officials (although in practice we should be more specific and here in the U.S. say Republican government officials – I never did see a take-down of either Bill Clinton or Barak Obama using Critical Theory, although they might exists), corporations, etc.
Critical Theory, with its Marxist roots and rejection of truth in favor of power, has primarily been the playground of liberals and radicals. More recently it has become more mainstream and C.T. analyses can be found in the Black Lives Matter movement, Antifa writings, and more surprisingly, in various alt-right writings. It is the latter that was a wake-up call for me. Given the pervasiveness of what might be called sloppy Critical Theory (that is, using C.T. principles in an amateur or armchair manner, without understanding the theory in and of itself), it turns out all of us fall victim to using it without understanding precisely what we are doing.
My work environment is often quite uncomfortable – I might even say hostile, if I wanted to make it a political issue. This is not surprising because it is located in Northwest Iowa where Congressman Steve King reigns supreme. I have always considered myself a conservative, but I find that sort of bile reprehensible, but it is the pervasive attitude of the region. So by the standards of the office I’m a raging liberal.
A month or so ago the anti-vaxers were on the war path. Our insurance company provides flu shots for free and strongly encourages all of us to get one. (For the sake of my survival in the office, I will neither confirm nor deny the presence of vaccine in my blood system.) Turns out that flu shots are an epidemic, the dangers of which, to be understood, should be compared to Zika and Ebola. (At least that’s what I’ve heard with great authority on the other side of the cubicle.)
I will grant that there are potential side effects to flu shots and if I had read the disclaimer that a person receiving a flu shot had to sign, I would have seen that in a very tiny percentage of people receiving the shot, side effects, some of them serious, possibly even requiring hospitalization and long term health issues, might occur. Historical studies show that the side effects affect far fewer people than the 5,000 to 49,000 people (on average) a year that die of influenza related issues (according to the CDC).
The anti-vaxer sensibility is rooted in a profound distrust of corporate America. Anything that Monsanto, or AstraZeneca, or Wal-Mart (corporations possessing power) do is highly suspect. Any research or science that they have a hand in is automatically rejected as false, rooted in a naked grab for money or power. There is a grain of truth in this sensibility. (I admit that I have a deep distrust and dislike for Monsanto, for instance, because they have record of abuse that rivals the likes of Enron, Wells Fargo and Robert Mugabe.)
But being wary of things a drug company or chemical company says and does is different than allowing that wariness to devolve into an outright rejection of science. (And granted, science is far from perfect. Pasta, butter, meat, wine, coffee, aerobics: the list of scientific flip flops could go on for a long time.)
But back to the anti-vaxers. The ones I know (and there are, frighteningly, a lot of them), have reduced the whole difficult and muddled problem of scientific discovery down to analyzing the whole scientific endeavor with Critical Theory (even though they may never have heard of CT – it seems to been the air these days). Drug Companies make a profit on flu vaccines. Drug Companies are huge, powerful, and spend a lot of money lobbying congress. The inescapable conclusion is that the flu vaccine is an epidemic every bit as bad as Zika and Ebola.
Karl Marx and the 5,000 to 49,000 or so people who died of influenza must be rolling over in their graves.