The Influence of Critical Theory on our Ability to Object

Is it time to Push Back?

In recent years, it has become apparent that many on the right are now cautious, even timid about opposing views they disagree with. This fear has arisen out of being criticised as either being racist or homophobic due to the deeply seated theory that now presides in western society as Critical Theory. Critical Theory has many approaches, but there are three that we  now understand as Critical Race Theory (CRT), anti-colonialism, and LGBTQ issues.

What is Critical Theory? Critical Theory emerged out of the Marxist tradition and was developed by a group of sociologists at the University of Frankfurt who referred to themselves as The Frankfurt School. In summary, critical theory is any approach to social philosophy that focuses on society and culture to attempt to reveal, critique, and challenge power structures and to change society, by overcoming social constructs that oppress people in society. Easily identifiable examples of critical approaches are Marxism, postmodernism, and feminism. These critical theories expose and challenge the communication of dominant social, economic, and political structures.

A potential weakness of critical theories is their dependence on social values. While empirical laws theories seek an objective reality, critical theories highlight subjective values that guide communication behaviors. When values conflict the question of, “whose values are better?” emerges. Thus, Critical theorists tend to reject any notion of permanent truth or meaning, and they use theory to reveal unjust communication practices that create or perpetuate an imbalance of power. In essence Critical Theory aims to unmask an ideology that falsely justifies some form of social or economic oppression – to reveal it as ideology – and, in so doing, to contribute to the task of ending that oppression.

“Over the years, many social scientists and philosophers who rose to prominence after the Frankfurt School have adopted the goals and tenets of critical theory. We can recognize critical theory today in many feminist theories and approaches to conducting social science. It is also found in critical race theory, cultural theory, gender, and queer theory, as well as in media theory and media studies.”1

We have seen Critical Theory emerge in our health system, where CRT has been applied to the health-based algorithms to prioritise Māori and Pasifika over other races. Interestingly, when I discussed this with eight friends, none of us agreed with this approach. Our political views ranged from the left to the right, and even our Māori friend disagreed with this approach. We all saw it as divisive and confronting.

The implementation of CRT in our hospitals has led to a fear by nurses and doctors if they speak out and object to this approach. Those who messaged radio talkback feared for their jobs and potential repercussions if they identified themselves. This highlights how pervasive and damaging this theory has become to the ability of free speech and the need to challenge ideologies we may disagree with.

CRT now permeates our education system. This can easily be identified in our history curriculum where there is now only one truth. The deconstruction of our collective history to be seen through the lens of one ethnic group, denying the history of all those that comprise our society. The statement that our history starts with Māori denies the history of those who arrived from Europe, China and India, for example to settle in New Zealand.

The history curriculum moves further into the sphere of the Critical Theory process of deconstructing the impact of colonialism on the indigenous race without providing an equal balance on the benefits of colonialism. We can see this process in the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the western world after Floyd’s death, that his death was the result of racism, colonialism, and slavery. These are all basic tenets of CRT. Any attempt to deconstruct this narrative as wrong is met with calls of racism from those on the liberal left who obviously and probably to a degree, do not understand that their views have been unwittingly shaped by Critical Theory.

Our education system is now widely impacted by Critical Theory, with the need to enforce the indigenous language and culture above all other cultures that exist in the education system. I have heard many times how parents from up and down the country are anguished and fearful of this approach. Fearful to challenge the pervasiveness of this enforcement of one culture over all others for fear of being called out as racist or even losing their jobs. It will take a strong person to stand up to such indoctrination. CRT also appears in the science curriculum, and when this was rightly challenged by Richard Dawkins, the howls of racism came screaming out across the pages of our media.

Queer Theory is impacting school children as young as eight. They are being told that there are many sexual identities and that simply being a boy or girl is not right. It is a deliberate indoctrination of the young to overthrow the normalisation of sexuality as a process of Critical Theory, including the existing values of sex itself. Furthermore, children as young as nine are being taught about puberty blockers (of course large pharmaceutical companies love this approach – an ironic twist in itself).

We saw the worst aspects of Queer Theory in the Poise Parker “riots” in Auckland, when the LGBTQ movement infamously drowned out any discussion on what a woman was. It was an extreme version of how Critical Theory can be expressed. No one is allowed to express an opposing view. It simply demonstrated that Critical Theory believes there is only one view, which of course is the anthesis of free speech.

Then there is the mainstream media (msm). Trust in the media is falling for an obvious reason. Critical Theory has found its way to media studies. It is no surprise that our media is now mainly left leaning. “The Worlds of Journalism Study in late 2022 has …provided some useful data through their survey of working journalists.

“The study found a massive 81% of NZ journalists classified their political views as left of centre and only 15% as right of centre. So rather than have a 1:1 ratio of left-leaning journalists to right-leaning journalists, you have a 5:1 ratio.

“This is in stark contrast to the New Zealand population. The 2020 election survey by Auckland University found 28% of respondents identified as left of centre and 43% as right of centre. So, journalists are very unrepresentative of New Zealand in terms of political views.

“New Zealand journalists were also far more likely to hold extreme left views. 20% of journalists said their political views are hard or extreme left, compared to 6% of adults. On the other side of the spectrum, only 1% said their political views are hard or extreme right compared to 10% of the adult population.” *2

The “Curia poll in March 2022 found that 59% of New Zealanders believed government funding of private media companies undermines the independence of media. This view was shared by people across the political spectrum by a majority of National and Act voters and a plurality of Labour and Green voters. The same poll found only 24% of New Zealanders support the Public Interest Journalism Fund.

The third and final piece of data of interest also comes from a Curia poll, which was conducted in early April 2023. It asked New Zealanders to state whether they thought various media outlets leaned right or leaned left or were neutral. The net leans left (so left-leaning minus right-leaning) for each outlet were:

  1. Stuff +18%
  2. The Spinoff +15%
  3. One News +14%
  4. Newshub +13%
  5. Radio New Zealand +7%
  6. NZ Herald +0%
  7. NewstalkZB -37%
  8. The Platform -30%

So, the only major media outlet seen as broadly neutral was the NZ Herald. The two talkback stations were seen as leaning right, while both main television networks, Radio New Zealand, Stuff and The Spinoff, were seen as leaning left.

It was fascinating that a greater proportion of New Zealanders regard Stuff as leaning further to the left than The Spinoff.” *3

As such, msm is providing a very distorted political view because of their potential influence of Critical Theory. Fortunately, most New Zealanders are potentially seeing through this bias. However, sadly, Critical Theory now permutates through our whole society as it tries to deconstruct our existing values with something that is more dangerous and that could ultimately lead to something more harmful than what we know now. That could be the deconstruction of democracy, free speech, ethnicity, science, maths and culture.

*1 Ashley Crossman – October 15, 2019 (Updated by Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D.)

*2 David Farrar, Curia Market Research 25 June 2023

*3 David Farrar, Curia Market Research 25 June 2023