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Culture Friday: Unjust war theory


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Unjust war theory

Critical theory used to push sexual liberation is now justifying the actions of radical Islamists like Hamas

Palestinian Diana A. holds a "Free Palestine" sign during a pro-Palestinian rally in Seattle. Associated Press/Photo by Lindsey Wasson

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 3rd of November, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.


And I’m Nick Eicher. Jewish voices on campus at Cornell.

AUDIO: Attacks on Israel are usually followed by an attack on the Jewish people around the world...

We’ve really seen the normalization and acceptance almost of anti-semitism, whether it be professors glorifying violence, or… organizations chanting vocally anti-Semitic slogans.

Police arrested a student at Cornell for making threats against Jews on campus.

AUDIO: Like why would you do that? I think it’s really ridiculous / It’s really an attempt to tear us apart.

And tearing down posters …


… with the names and faces of those taken hostage and held by Hamas. Jewish students paste them up … protesters rip them down …


… leading to confrontations.


Anti-Israel rallies have broken out worldwide, but also in the United States. This demonstration was near an appearance by President Biden this week in Minnesota.

Biden had been strong in supporting Israel in its efforts to destroy Hamas after a barbaric attack on Israel on October 7th by Hamas militants.

Now, Biden’s calling on Israel to make what he calls a “humanitarian pause” in the war. But he stops short of calling for a ceasefire.

Well, it’s Culture Friday, and today, the unusual ideology that is bringing together an unlikely alliance: Western sexual liberationists taking up the cause of radical Islam.

Joining us now is Katie McCoy. She has a PhD in theology and is author of the book titled To Be A Woman. Good morning, Katie!

KATIE MCCOY: Good morning, Nick, and Myrna.

BROWN: Katie, I read your social media post saying:

“Same brand of identity politics that can’t condemn Hamas can’t define a woman.

“Yes, they’re related.”

Would you expand? I’m curious how you get there.

MCCOY: Yeah, it seems like such disparate views, doesn't it? But the truth is, October 7th, the attack that we saw done by these Hamas terrorists against the nation of Israel, it caused an eruption of beliefs that had always existed, but maybe they were on the fringes, underneath the surface, perhaps dismissed as extreme. But now we're seeing the fruit of ideas and ideologies. And it's essentially this, that the root cause of injustice in the world is all about power. Who has power and who doesn't? And therefore, like we know from all worldview conversations that how you diagnose the problem of the human condition determines how you prescribe the cure. It also claims that the cure to the problem of the human condition is simply to rearrange who has that power. Essentially, it's reducing all of the human problem to a power conflict or a power dynamic. And when you have that, you categorize people in terms of oppressor and oppressed. So really, what we're seeing here is the effect of social intersectionality. We've talked about intersectionality on this show, and that it's been expanded from being a legal theory back in the 90s as it started out, to being a social theory writ large as we have it today.

EICHER: I wonder whether that accounts for President Biden’s falling poll numbers among Democrats. I half thought he’d benefit from the one-time truism, “politics stops at the water’s edge.” But Democrats, particularly young Democrats, are splitting from Biden over his support for Israel.

I guess it just doesn’t matter, though, does it, that a lot of the intersectional groups: Gays for Gaza, Reproductive Rights Equal Palestinian Rights, that kind of thing, wouldn’t be welcome for one second in a place run by Hamas.

MCCOY: Oh, precisely. It's such an irony. But you know, this is part of what this identity politics, oppressor and oppressed worldview does, is it doesn't have to make logical sense. It certainly doesn't have to make moral sense. It just has to make political sense. And we are seeing supporters of President Biden split by largely generational lines. And it's this more progressive wing that has been influenced by this worldview. That's part of why we're seeing such widespread protests that are anti-Israel on these college campuses. So one thing that stands out to me is this Queers for Palestine. Perhaps you saw that poster? And it's such a head scratcher, because you're going, do they know, do they realize that if they were in Gaza, they would likely be executed? There was a military leader in Hamas who was brutally tortured and eventually killed in 2016 because he was homosexual. Now, these identities conflict, but they don't have to be logically consistent. They just have to claim to stand up against what is either the majority culture, the perceived majority, or anything that would aid or abet it. And that's part of why we see the justification of immorality or the hesitancy to condemn such atrocities. Like we're still learning about what of Hamas did to the people of Israel. That's also why we see The New York Times can justify those who tear down posters of Israeli hostages, many of these hostages women and children, and say that they're just engaging in their own form of protest. So they don't look at the morality or the ethical character of one's actions through the lens of human dignity. Certainly not an absolute sense of right or wrong. But whether it's justified in this power dynamic framework of viewing the whole world.

EICHER: Katie, about when would you say this started to break out into the mainstream of academia? You know, I'm, I'm quite removed by many years from what we're seeing on college campuses. Now, 40 years ago, I was on a State campus moving between the economics department, which was very conservative, and the journalism department which was, I would say, conventionally liberal, but certainly not radical. I did find myself having to take an interdisciplinary course on feminism. And if I'm honest, I just wasn't paying very close attention. Maybe chalk it up to senioritis. But I'm curious when this ideology broke out of those kinds of majors and really into the mainstream of campus life?

MCCOY: Well, that's an interesting question, because my background is more in feminist and gender studies. And so I can point to the critical theory in feminist thought as coming into social consciousness in the 1960s, and 70s. And then it metastasized in the universities in the 1970s, and especially the 80s,  90s and beyond. And so we saw a critical gender theory applied to man and woman, essentially, that if you are born a woman, you are de facto oppressed. And if you don't realize you're oppressed, then there's one of two options: either you just need to have your consciousness raised, and understand how oppressed you truly are, or you are a traitor to your sex. You are part of the Phyllis Schlaflys of the world. And so we saw feminist Critical Theory take root and really grow in the university settings about a generation before mine.

And then Critical Theory simply expanded. And this is where we have different aspects of critical theory applied to economics, to race, to family. And it is essentially anything that is part of the majority is automatically oppressive. And if it is part of that majority oppressive culture, then it needs to be decentered by a minority. And now of course, as we come full circle, talking about queers for Palestine, and things like transgender issues. Now there is a new gender minority in town, so to speak, and we now have transgender. Women who biological men claiming to be women believing themselves to be women, saying that females no longer have the right to their own social spaces. They don't even have the right to their own terms and words, because with critical theory, you're always another minority away from being displaced.

BROWN: Yeah, what I'm seeing Katie on college campuses, this terminology aligning with freedom struggles against settler colonialism, imperialism, and a group of sociologists from universities around the country really, I don't know maybe even around the world, getting together, calling for others to join them as they take this stand. What do you make of that?

MCCOY: Well, here again, it's another irony. But first, let me give a caveat. The history of this region is fraught and complex. And it's the stuff of researchers and dissertations to understand, I wouldn't begin to understand it. What I do know is that any organization or any person that truly does value Palestinian life will be anti-Hamas. So why in the world is it so difficult to get everybody on the same page of condemning it? Why do we have this so-called progressive wing of one of the parties in our country reluctant to condemn this violence? Because again, it's not a moral framework of any type of absolute right and wrong, as in human dignity exists and human life has value no matter what one's race, creed or religion, but instead, all seen through this lens of oppressed versus oppressor.

Now, when we start getting into this conversation about Israel and Palestinians, it gets very complex very quickly. But of all people, not exactly a bastion of conservative thought, Hillary Clinton has recently been in the news talking about how when Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas took over, there's a reason why Palestinians want to go over the border to get medical care in Israel. These things are not something that we can reduce to a quick show except to say that what you're hearing. this rhetoric, words like genocide, apartheid, colonialization these are the new buzzwords, buzzwords that don't require you to think. buzzwords that don't require you to even define what you mean. It's just conjuring up a lot of emotion. Whether it is trans genocide or Palestinian genocide. Again, it doesn't have to come with any facts. It just has to come with a political identity. Truth in our culture is not grounded in evidence. It's grounded in narratives, and that is the effect of what we're seeing today.

BROWN: Alright, Katie McCoy. Her PhD is in theology, and she’s author of a book just released, titled To Be A Woman. Thanks Katie!

MCCOY: Great to be with you all.

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