We first wrote about Kafkatrapping in September 2013:

A reader writes:

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 blog that explains it very well.

I think the term should be used more widely.

Here’s an excerpt from the referenced blog post explaining it, 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.

In July 2017, we applied the Kafkatrapping analysis to the treatment of Bret Weinstein at Evergreen State College, where his vigorous defense of himself, including on Tucker Carlson’s show, was used against him as proof of his racism. We wrote, Kafkatrapped at Evergreen State College:

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…

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.

Fast forward to Attorney General William Barr’s press conference just before release of the Mueller Report, where he noted that Trump acted out of frustration at the false accusations, something that was important as to whether Trump had sufficient corrupt motive to obstruct justice (emphasis added):

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context.  President Trump faced an unprecedented situation.  As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.  At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.  Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.  And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.  Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.  And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

Jeffrey Toobin, Chief Legal Analyst at CNN, used Barr’s words about how upset Trump was to Kafkatrap Trump in this tweet (emphasis added):

Happy people don’t obstruct justice. Trump’s frustration at leaks and investigation are evidence of guilt, not innocence. But let’s see the report . .

This legally significant as to whether Trump had a corrupt motive or sufficient intent to constitute obstruction.


Toobin repeated it on air after the Barr press conference:

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Particularly about the issue of intent. You know, did the president intend to obstruct justice. And, you know, the most extraordinary paragraph of the attorney general’s statement is, you know, the sort of “woe is me” problem —


TOOBIN: — that the president — you know, there were leaks and there were people around — around. He was frustrated. And that’s evidence of guilt. That’s not evidence of innocence.

You know, happy people don’t obstruct justice.

Judd Legum at Think Progress joined in, tweeting about the correctness of Toobin’s analysis right at the report was released (emphasis added):

Barr then holds another press conference this morning and declares Trump innocent of obstruction again, dismissing an obstructive conduct as the product of “frustration.”

As Jeffrey Toobin said, this is evidence of guilt. Happy people don’t obstruct justice


This is no joke, though it does sound like a line from Legally Blonde (h/t Twitchy)

Not a strong day for legal analysis, as Seth Mandel noted:


As funny and stupid as the arguments of Toobin and Legum are, their willingness to Kafkatrap people is dangerous, and embodies so much of the media attitude toward the Russia collusion hoax.

Make false claims against someone, amplify the false claims, then use the denial as proof of guilt. A perfect synopsis of the actions of Democrats and the media since Trump’s 2016 election win.

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