Bret Weinstein is a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington State who ran afoul of student and faculty social justice warriors when he objected to a proposal to have white leave campus for a day.

Weinstein’s reasonable and nuanced objection was met with confrontation, as we documented many times. See our Evergreen State College tag for all the posts, including these:

As Prof. Weinstein himself has explained, the context of the day without whites was a larger administrative push to impose racial mandates in hiring faculty. Those mandates were euphemistically called “equity” hiring. Prof. Weinstein explained in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, The Campus Mob Came for Me—and You, Professor, Could Be Next (emphasis added):

It would would shift the college “from a diversity agenda” to an “equity agenda” by, among other things, requiring an “equity justification” for every faculty hire.

The plan and the way it is being forced on the college are both deeply authoritarian, and the attempt to mandate equality of outcome is unwise in the extreme. Equality of outcome is a discredited concept, failing on both logical and historical grounds, as anyone knows who has studied the misery of the 20th century. It wouldn’t have withstood 20 minutes of reasoned discussion.

This presented traditional independent academic minds with a choice: Accept the plan and let the intellectual descendants of Critical Race Theory dictate the bounds of permissible thought to the sciences and the rest of the college, or insist on discussing the plan’s shortcomings and be branded as racists. Most of my colleagues chose the former, and the protesters are in the process of articulating the terms. I dissented and ended up teaching in the park.

It would would shift the college “from a diversity agenda” to an “equity agenda” by, among other things, requiring an “equity justification” for every faculty hire. The plan and the way it is being forced on the college are both deeply authoritarian, and the attempt to mandate equality of outcome is unwise in the extreme. Equality of outcome is a discredited concept, failing on both logical and historical grounds, as anyone knows who has studied the misery of the 20th century. It wouldn’t have withstood 20 minutes of reasoned discussion. This presented traditional independent academic minds with a choice: Accept the plan and let the intellectual descendants of Critical Race Theory dictate the bounds of permissible thought to the sciences and the rest of the college, or insist on discussing the plan’s shortcomings and be branded as racists. Most of my colleagues chose the former, and the protesters are in the process of articulating the terms. I dissented and ended up teaching in the park.

Prof. Weinstein’s opposition to racism both at the event and administrative level led to Prof. Weinstein being labeled a racist. Some faculty members have been Prof. Weinstein’s most vocal critics, and have blamed him for bringing unwanted attention to the racial politics at Evergreen.

(Language Warning)

Michael Zimmerman, a former Provost of Evergreen wrote about the situation in Huffington Post, The Evergreen State College Implosion: Are There Lessons To Be Learned?

So why was Professor Weinstein the epicenter of the student protest and why did it occur when it did, so long after he offered his critique of the Day of Absence?

The answer to the first question revolves around the unique role that Professor Weinstein has played on campus during his time on the faculty. As much as it might like to think of itself as an open and tolerant environment, Evergreen isn’t very accepting of voices that question the Evergreen orthodoxy. While this might be seen as a terribly ironic situation for a liberal arts college to find itself in, this has been the Evergreen reality for quite some time and the result is that a large number of faculty members, perhaps the majority of them, simply absent themselves from most discussions. Professor Weinstein is not one of those who have opted for self-censorship. He has always been willing to ask questions, to point out what he sees as flaws in ideas, and to offer suggestions for improvement.

Zimmerman relates how the faculty turned on Prof. Weinstein. The following account is chilling (emphasis added):

n response, he was branded a racist and an obstructionist.  A faculty member who sat on the Equity Council explicitly called him a racist in two different faculty meetings. When Professor Weinstein asked for an opportunity to defend himself, he was told that a faculty meeting was not the appropriate venue for such a defense. When he asked what the appropriate venue was, he was told that no such venue existed because he was a racist. Neither the president nor the interim provost interceded to make it clear that leveling such charges against a fellow faculty member was unacceptable within the college community. When Professor Weinstein spoke privately with both of those administrators about these incidents, they both acknowledged the inappropriateness of the behavior but each said that it was the responsibility of the other to do something about it. Neither administrator took any public action in response.

I’ve tried to think of a construct for being accused of being racist, but told there is no venue to defend oneself because you are a racist. When I posted the quoted language on Facebook, someone used the term Kafkatrapping.

I’ve written about Kafkatrapping before, based on this reader email I received in 2013:

In White-liberal white-baiting link-baiting gone wild you mentioned this:

Make an outlandish statement about White people.

Watch White people react in denial.

Use denial reaction as proof you were right all along.

There’s a word for this logical Fallacy. It’s called Kafkatrapping.

In short it takes the form of using denial of guilt as proof of guilt. Here’s the blogthat explains it very well.

I think the term should be used more widely.

Here is one explanation of Kafkatrapping:

One very notable pathology is a form of argument that, reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap….

My reference, of course, is to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”, in which the protagonist Josef K. is accused of crimes the nature of which are never actually specified, and enmeshed in a process designed to degrade, humiliate, and destroy him whether or not he has in fact committed any crime at all. The only way out of the trap is for him to acquiesce in his own destruction; indeed, forcing him to that point of acquiescence and the collapse of his will to live as a free human being seems to be the only point of the process, if it has one at all.

This is almost exactly the way the kafkatrap operates in religious and political argument. Real crimes – actual transgressions against flesh-and-blood individuals – are generally not specified. The aim of the kafkatrap is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt in the subject, a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals. Ideally, the subject will then internalize these demands, and then become complicit in the kafkatrapping of others.

It seems that’s the situation in which Prof. Weinstein finds himself. His denial of being racist, including seeking media attention to clear himself because there was no other forum available, was used as proof of his racism.

That defending oneself against false accusations of racism would be used as proof of racism is nothing new. It’s an experience with which conservatives on campus are familiar.

The situation is not likely to improve. Former Evergreen Provost Zimmerman notes the situation at Evergreen, which is all too common:

The Evergreen campus has become a place where identity politics takes precedence over every other aspect of social intercourse. It has become a place where it is acceptable for colleagues to levy personal attacks on colleagues in response to differences of opinion and even in response to calls for dialogue. It has become a place where it is acceptable to shout down those with whom you disagree. And it has become a place where the administration watches from the sidelines, apparently fearful of antagonizing anyone.

Kafkatrapping is here to stay on campuses.