It's important to understand the machinery of reactionary thinking so that we can see it as it's happening. The reactionary fears change that is disruptive to the social institutions they value & which undermines the cultural power they wield via control of those institutions.
Take the recent debate in conservative & Christian circles over Critical Race Theory. For those of us with scholarly training, this is bizarre not least because CRT (and the intellectual headwaters from which it flows, critical theory and the Frankfurt school) are old news;
they are products of theoretical trends in the mid-20th century. It's a bit like if your preacher, today, suddenly started decrying the trend of women with bobbed hairstyles and wearing flapper dresses.
But what you're watching is not a good faith engagement with a complicated set of theoretical propositions in an attempt to extract value while parsing out areas of fundamental disagreement. No, we're watching reaction in real time.
CRT is just a handy locus for a broader set of concerns about the transformation of society in ways that challenge a particular conservative worldview and cultural influence. It's not *about* CRT in its own right; it's become a shorthand for the broader reactionary turn.
Indeed, it's notable that there was a window of time, between say Ferguson and the fall of 2020, when even many conservatives were willing to consider that something was rotten in the state of...well...all the states.
I had conservative clerical friends reaching out & asking for books on the issue of race and the church. Evangelical ecclesiastical leaders were openly calling for at least some kind of accounting for the church's complicity in erecting and maintaining structural racism.
That feels an age ago now.

That's because a set of bad faith actors are weaponizing anti-CRT reaction in order to expiate their fears for the future. They are worried about the falling status of Christianity in American society...
...worried about the rising status of previously marginalized groups, worried about declining adherence rates, worried about the rise of the "Nones," worried about the continued decline of the post-Cold War era of evangelical consensus, just worried about SO MUCH.
CRT is thus deployed tactically. The goal is to turn every dissident into a proponent of CRT (whether or not they actually are), create a simplistic boogeyman out of it, and then use it to go on the culture war offensive. Ban it from churches! Ban it from schools! Ban it by law!
It doesn't really matter if those bans work. The ultimate goal is to scare off laity and clergy who might otherwise be open to listening and changing their priors as a result of exposure to these ideas. It's a self-policing function, not, shall we say, an evangelistic function.
Of course, this is hardly the first such reactionary moment. You can find a similar response in the reaction against "social gospel" in the 1930s/40s, "integration" in the 50s/60s, "secular humanism" in the 70s, and "post-modernism" in the 90s/00s.
In each case, a concept is weaponized by reactionaries, made into a gross misrepresentation of the underlying concept, and used to discipline on-the-fence moderates.
Does all this sound cynical or outlandish? Well, if you don't trust my professional opinion as a scholar of religious history, here's a receipt from a reactionary who very clearly lays out both the tactics and intent behind the weaponization of CRT.
On the utility of mobilizing conservative activism around opposition to CRT, see @theodavid:…

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10 May
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This cleared the way for the next item on the agenda, which was to create a nationalized, public radio network to counter-balance conservative broadcasters.
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Having spent 2020 telling covid denalists that they were overly optimistic about the pandemic, I now look forward to spending 2021 telling covid maximalists that they are overly pessimistic about the end of the pandemic.
Telling a denialist in May that we shouldn't open bars back up = telling a maximalist in February that we should open schools back up.
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The New York Times article about SlateStarCodex is finally out and it is...bad. There's a lot I could parse, but let me just walk you through one paragraph that is so misleading as to be deceptive.…
Take the first sentence of this paragraph. Now, technically the clause--"who proposed a link between race and IQ"--could simply modify "Murray" and have nothing to do w/ SSC.
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