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Kafkatrapping: The Argument from ‘You’re Guilty’ 

“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. In this essay, I will show that the kafkatrap is a form of argument that is so fallacious and manipulative that those subjected to it are entitled to reject it based entirely on the form of the argument, without reference to whatever particular sin or thoughtcrime is being alleged. I will also attempt to show that kafkatrapping is so self-destructive to the causes that employ it that change activists should root it out of their own speech and thoughts.

“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.”

There’s more at Eric Raymond’s <strong>Kafkatrapping | Armed and Dangerous

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BillH September 8, 2017, 7:26 AM

    CNN Playbook and NBC Playbook are much easier to pronounce than Kafkatrapping.

  • Patrick Albanese September 8, 2017, 10:11 AM

    I often like to rebut this argument with, “Your refusal to admit you are a moron confirms that you are in fact a moron.”

    It’s good for a laugh if nothing else.

  • Eskyman September 8, 2017, 12:44 PM

    A course in criminality that I once took gave me much to think over, and this may be a Kafkatrap example:

    A couple is getting divorced. The man doesn’t want it, but the wife is determined. She accuses him of child molestation of their 5yo daughter.

    In the sealed court, the female judge finds the man guilty, although there is no evidence and no witness but the aggrieved soon-to-be-ex wife. He is imprisoned, and is examined by social workers who are tasked with determining his attitude to find out whether parole can be granted. The man continues to swear that he is innocent of this charge; the social workers conclude that he is in denial, and won’t accept his guilt, so he cannot obtain parole.

    He may spend many years in jail, as each time his case comes up for review the same thing occurs. His only way out is to agree that he is indeed a molester, and that he desires to be “cured,” and to throw himself to the tender mercy of the social workers.

    This case (and many others like it) actually happened in Australia. Is this merely a catch-22, or is it a Kafkatrap? I see no way it can be falsified, but maybe I’m missing something.

    My professor was a female lawyer, who took great pleasure in recounting this case. She saw nothing at all wrong with it, and said that she thought most men were abusers and child molesters, and that women were fortunate that society now has laws (and closed courts, with biased female judges and prosecutors) which can remove these men from society.

    I was, and still remain, horrified. You’re guilty if someone says you are, and you can’t even get out of prison without denying your innocence, even though you may well be innocent.

  • Bill Jones September 8, 2017, 5:23 PM

    Your defence, is, on its own, proof of at least unworthiness.

  • Fuel Filter September 9, 2017, 6:27 AM

    AA is entirely dependent on this model of Kafkatrapping to keep their business and cult (yes, it fits that definition to a tee) running.

    Even though their relapse rate is equal to, or even higher than quitting booze on your own they continue on in their own world.

    When they convinced the medical establishment they were the only way, truth and light, they were on a roll. They then got all the insurance companies under their thumb and now there is not God but the hallowed 12- Step program and there is no God before it. Anything else is blasphemy.

    When I taught a grad school class on behavioral analysis I set aside a two hour presentation on AA with facts, stats and first-hand accounts demonstrating all this. Most of my students were dumfounded. They had been thoroughly brainwashed all their lives by the incessant propaganda. There were always a few who reacted in anger, sometimes severe, at even questioning the efficacy of AA. It was as if I were debunking their religion, proving my point that AA is akin to a religious cult.  

    Bill Wilson was a drunk (and serial adulterer) when he started AA, relapsed many times and ended his life begging for whisky on his death bed. A morally bankrupt man. Tells you all you need to know. 

  • Any September 9, 2017, 12:19 PM

    I’m 100% glad that my x did not use that route on me and she was cruel enough that she would have stooped that low but by the time she wanted out my daughter was way old enough to testify and blow her lies out of the water and she knew it. I think that’s the only reason she didn’t pursue putting me in jail for being male.

  • A. Foster-Grant September 10, 2017, 3:42 AM

    Kafka did not invent it. He reported it. Now it is everywhere.