Beware of Kafkatrapping
By Wendy McElroy - August 14, 2014

The term “kafkatrapping” describes a logical fallacy that is popular within gender feminism, racial politics and other ideologies of victimhood. It occurs when you are accused of a thought crime such as sexism, racism or homophobia. You respond with an honest denial, which is then used as further confirmation of your guilt. You are now trapped in a circular and unfalsifiable argument; no one who is accused can be innocent because the structure of kafkatrapping precludes that possibility.

The term derives from Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial in which a nondescript bank clerk named Josef K. is arrested; no charges are ever revealed to the character or to the reader. Josef is prosecuted by a bizarre and tyrannical court of unknown authority and he is doomed by impenetrable red tape. In the end, Josef is abducted by two strange men and inexplicably executed by being stabbed through the heart. The Trial is Kafka’s comment on totalitarian governments, like the Soviet Union, in which justice is twisted into a bitter, horrifying parody of itself and serves only those in charge.

Kafkatrapping twists reason and truth into self-parodies that serve victimhood ideologues who wish to avoid the evidence and reasoned arguments upon which truth rests. The term appears to have originated in a 2010 article written by author and open source software advocate Eric S. Raymond. He opens by acknowledging the worth of equality before the law and of treating others with respect. But, he notes, “[g]ood causes sometimes have bad consequences.” One such consequence is that tactics used to raise consciousness can veer “into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism.”

Raymond offers various models of how kafkatrapping operates. He calls the two most common ones A and C.

Model A: The accuser states, “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…).” Harking back to The Trial, Raymond explains how the novel’s plot parallels the structure and purpose of the accuser’s nonargument. No specific acts are named in the accusation, which makes the claim unfalsifiable. The vague charge constitutes a thought crime, which also makes it unfalsifiable. As with The Trial, the process seems designed to create guilt and to destroy resistance so that you become malleable. Indeed, “the only way out … is … to acquiesce in his own destruction.” Even if you are innocent, the only path to redemption is for you to plead guilty and accept punishment. Ideally, for the accuser, you even come to believe in your own guilt.

Model C is a common variant on the same theme. You may not have done, felt or thought anything wrong but you are still guilty because you benefit from a position of privilege created by others. In other words, you are guilty because of your identification with a group such as “male,” “white,” or “heterosexual.” The accusation makes you responsible for the actions of strangers whose behavior you cannot control and who may have died long ago. Raymond writes, “The aim … is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt … a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator [accuser] to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals.” To be redeemed, you must cease to disagree with your accuser and condemn your entire identity group.

What happens when an accuser confronts someone in the same identity group to which he or she belongs? For example, one woman may question aspects of politically correct feminism being presented by another. An entirely different phenomenon occurs. Obviously, the questioner will not be encouraged to condemn herself for being a woman or to excoriate all women. Instead, she will be defined out of the group.

This is called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. It occurs when someone is confronted with an example that disproves a universal claim. The British philosopher Antony Flew described the fallacy, which he also named. One day Hamish McDonald reads an article in the Glasgow Morning Herald which reports on an attack by a sex maniac in England. Hamish declares aloud, “No Scotsman would do such a thing!” The next day, the Glasgow Morning Herald reports on an even worse attack in Scotland. Rather than reject his original statement, Hamish exclaims, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.” Thus, conservative women like Sarah Palin are not true woman; blacks who question the validity of ‘white privilege’ cease to be viewed as truly black.

Other techniques are often associated with kafkatrapping. (Note: For a tactic to be true kafkatrapping, it has to involve an unfalsifiable claim.) Associated techniques that prove your guilt could include:

  • Requesting a clear-cut definition of what you are charged with – for example, homophobia;
  • Pointing out an injustice committed by the accuser’s identity group;
  • Applying a single standard to everyone, e.g., refusing to accept that blacks cannot be racist;
  • Expressing skepticism about any aspect of the victimhood ideology, including the plausibility of anecdotal evidence;
  • Being ignorant of or uninterested in the subject;
  • Arguing against the ideology;
  • Saying “some of my best friends are X.”

Kafkatrapping would seem to be a win-win situation for an accuser. And, in the short term, this may be true but its long-term impact can be devastating.

A movement becomes widespread because its voice is truth – at least, largely so – and its demand for justice is valid: For example, homosexuals have been hideously abused through much of history. When a movement discards the truth and justice that made it grow and favors abusive attacks instead, it is in decline. The abuse also quashes any productive discussion of real issues. Raymond observes, “[m]anipulative ways of controlling people tend to hollow out the causes for which they are employed, smothering whatever worthy goals they may have begun with and reducing them to vehicles for the attainment of power and privilege over others.”

A separate problem arises if the accuser honestly believes the kafkatrapping. A woman who believes all men are oppressors is unlikely to cooperate with them in a good will attempt to solve social problems. She is more likely to seek a position of dominance over men, which she justifies in the name of self-defense or as a payback that is her due. This heightens tension between the sexes and obstructs sincere attempts to resolve problems. A kafkatrapper true believer becomes increasingly isolated from people who are seen as “the enemy” because they disagree; the true believer becomes increasingly unable to even communicate with or have empathy for a broad spectrum of people. The kafkatrapper ‘wins’ the argument but loses a shared humanity.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

When you subscribe to The Daily Bell, you also get a free guide:

How to Craft a Two Year Plan to Reclaim 3 Specific Freedoms.

This guide will show you exactly how to plan your next two years to build the free life of your dreams. It’s not as hard as you think…

Identify. Plan. Execute.

Yes, deliver THE DAILY BELL to my inbox!


Your $50 Ticket to the “$100 Billion Pot Stock Bonanza”

The $100 billion marijuana industry is dominated by penny stocks…

With legalization sweeping the country, these penny stocks have already begun skyrocketing in price…

Take action TODAY, and you have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn a tiny $50 investment into an absolute fortune.

Click here to find out how.

Biggest Currency Reboot in 100 Years?
In less than 3 months, the biggest reboot to the U.S. dollar in 100 years could sweep America.
It has to do with a quiet potential government agreement you’ve never heard about.

  • chuck martel

    Not only Kafka, but Arthur Koestler and even Terry Gilliam in the fabulous “Brazil” provide stunning examples of how this works.

    • Earl of Isadore

      Gilliam’s movies have always featured delicious send-ups of this tactic favored by sociopaths everywhere. Presumably, his new movie, The Zero Theorem will too.

    • Ha. I had not even thought of Brazil in this context but you absolutely right. The movie tends to slip my mind because I found the ending to be so profoundly disturbing. Thanks for the post Chuck.

  • Sydney

    This is a brilliant article!

    There is nothing good natured in Kafka trapping others. Those who practice it “out” themselves. Yes they do BOTH. They claim victimhood while they themselves are the most vile of predators. OK, I will conceed that not all women/men, blacks/whites, homosexuals/heterosexuals, ect. ect. are bad. However within each of those groups are evil people. Who are they? They are the people who FORCE themselves (psychologically, emotionally, economically, PHYSICALLY, intellectually) unrelentingly on others (the weakest of others) all the while screaming they are the victims! There was a notable Russian political philosopher from the early 20th century (can’t remember the name) who gave a name to this: perpetrate vile crimes screaming at the top of your lungs that you are the victim and you will get away with it. It works. Nothing has become more common place than this. Presently this strategy has been perfected by the sociopaths. The sociopath perpetrates vile and vicious crimes that of course to them are perfectly fine and “natural”, then they scream that they are the victims. But they don’t stop here. They then go on to Kafka trap any and all who are not inclined to tolerate it.

    Thank you Wendy! And yes, I am a hater, I hate the vile practice of Kafka trapping others! Ha. But I cant’t forget to mention that I am also a lover. I love your work Wendy! Thank You!

    • Good morning Sydney! If you remember the name of the Russian political philosopher, please post it because I expect a Russian would have a great deal of value to say about kafkatrapping. It is very similar to the Marxist idea of bourgeois logic. This is the claim that logic literally differs depending on the economic class to which a person belongs so that a member of the bourgeois is literally trapped into thinking differently than a member of the working class. For example, A=A will be true for one class and not the other. Thus, when confronted by a knockdown argument from a bourgeois source, the worker need not even consider it but should attack the class status of the arguer instead. The worker vilifies the arguer rather than answers the argument. Whenever I encounter that technique — often now presented as the accusation that a white can’t understand a black, a men can’t understand a woman — I walk away. BTW, and as you know, this is a statement that no one can know precisely another person’s experience. It is a denial of a shared humanity. Only, of course, their humanity isn’t in question. Yours is. What rubbish.

      • Don Duncan

        Once, in the fifties, after years of debating capitalism vs. communism with my communist father I finally won a long debate. He replied: “Yes, but you forget that you cannot use that argument unless you change your economic status. You need to be rich to be a capitalist. We are not rich. You should change your thinking to match your status.” I was speechless.

      • Baldur_Odensen

        I find it humorous when people make such claims to me. I belong to the most vilified class in the modern West. On September 11th, 2001 I heard a commentator on CNN say that the terrorists who had murdered what was thought at the time to be as many as 50,000 people … were ALMOST as bad as me – even though I have never murdered anyone and go out of my way to help people and not harm them.

        But apparently I am unable to understand what it is like to be the subject of prejudice.

        So when they tell me that it is impossible for me to understand what it is like to be a member of whatever class they wish to claim victim status for, I politely tell them I am glad that my circumstances make it impossible for me to believe such nonsense. I am fortunate indeed.

      • Sydney

        Wendy, my mind is not shot! I skimmed an article three years ago and I found it again! Ha. The political philosopher, if that is what one would call him (accomplice in crime may fit as well), was Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov. The article was “Laughing at the Regime.” by Krzysztof M. Ostaszewski mises.org/daily/4479. I also thinks Marx was an advocate of this strategy.

        Good for you Wendy, you called out these villains. I hope your term Kafkatrapping goes viral and your work becomes well known and highly valued as it should be!

  • Earl of Isadore

    Great article, Wendy. Will it make a dent? I hope so.

    • Thank you, Earl. It made a difference with my husband (and others, I hope) in that he now has a response, a powerful defensive tool to use against anyone who tries to kafkatrap on him. I believe all solutions are individual ones and “social solutions” are just practices adopted by enough people to become prominent enough in a society to be common.

  • Bill Ross

    morning Wendy;

    I always like to put matters into context. In this case Kafkatrapping is a subset of the general manipulative method of entrapping the victim into the impossible position of “proving a negative”, a logical impossibility and fallacy.

    I first (officially) ran into this manipulative methodology in my divorce with false allegations of abuse, psychiatric “evaluations” that my personal responsibility and inflexibility of “sticking to facts” dictated my future behavior (fixed as opposed to adaptive nature) and my “issues” with my irresponsible ex-wife was “proof” that I was prejudiced against against females “in general” and would emotionally destroy my daughters by lack of empathy. And, to boot, the implacable determination with which I fought for my daughters was evidence that my motives were to be in a position to sexually exploit my daughters. There was no evidence for any of these allegations / behavior.

    I pointed this out to my lawyer (before I dumped her and represented myself, fighting to a stalemate) that all of these allegations were speculation, zero evidence in support and much evidence to the converse (ex wife’s entire family supported me, opposed ex). My lawyer assured me that lack of defense or demanding evidence to this speculation would be interpreted by the judge as: guilty and this absurd matter proceeded to family impoverishment, the weighing of unsubstantiated opinion, finally resulting in judicial “decree” of full “custody” for my ex-wife, which still stands. That was not the end of the matter. I could not be a slave, paying for the abuse of my daughters by my ex-wife. I quit my career. The money (proceeds of crime) dried up, as did the interest of the “law” and my ex-wife in my daughters. With the playing field finally cleared of predators, I raised them as a single parent. They are now both university educated, happy, productive members of society.

    So, Kafkatrapping is a method of providing the “appearance of justice being done”, a manipulation of fools who believe a “benefit of doubt” should be granted to false allegations, lack of evidence.

    I still have NOT proven that I am not the abusive scumbag that I was falsely accused of. This is impossible. But, there is still zero evidence that I am.

    This is also the reason for “innocent until proven guilty”. Without evidence, there can be no proof of guilt. Conversely, it is the logical fallacy of “proving a negative” to demand someone prove innocence.

    • Paddy

      Bill, that is an inspiring story, thanks for sharing it.

    • Good morning, Bill. I used to think you were prickly — still do, BTW, and it is still an attractive quality IMO as long as it is coupled with intelligence — but now I wonder why you are not much more prickly than you are. I think going through a child custody battle has to be one of the most enraging experiences possible. And, the entire legal profession is becoming increasingly like a kafkatrap as the presumption of innocence is slowly eroded away. In most family court and sexual offenses, there is now a presumption of guilt that is usually directed at men; they are put in the position of proving a negative. — e.g. I am *not* a wifebeater, I am *not* a rapist… The more a defendant argues, the more he may look guilty. Rather like you when your concerted efforts to get custody of your daughters was viewed as proof you were a predator.

      • Bill Ross

        “now I wonder why you are not much more prickly than you are.”

        I calibrate my prickiness to the task at hand. Not many know how big a prick I can be and, few risk a re-run.

      • Baldur_Odensen

        Even more difficult for those of us who are child lovers to defend our innocence. Somehow our society has gotten “love” and “hate” reversed. The willful ignorance is just incredible. The stupidity! it burns! it burns!

        But that’s OK. Our counterattacks on multiple fronts are well under way. Might be best to relocate outside the English-speaking nations, though. Our back-up plan is “Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

  • Good morning all. I’ll be dropping by from time to time today in order to chat and to answer any questions readers might have. BTW, the Daily Belll does not generally post links within their articles, except internal ones, so I’ll post the URL to the article that inspired my own right here: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

    • o_O

      Now that is ridiculous. I can understand preventing commenters from linking (spam deterrence), but article authors!?!? Who is the admin of this site and what was he thinking?

  • Storm

    Great article as usual. I love seeing these basic elements of sound reason being put out into the public sphere given that the errors are so commonly found in the public sphere. The No True Scotsman fallacy is a particularly common one, and one that subtly plays on a very important aspect of logic, epistemology, and metaphysics: The notion of identity. Even in order to communicate we have to be able to uniquely refer to concepts and entities, which necessitates that they have a particular identity. That identity is best described by defining traits, or quintessential traits. A square is a square if and only if it has four equal sides and four right angles. An argument that said “No true square has two sides longer than the other” would not be falling prey to the NTS fallacy, because it is simply citing the defining or per se traits.

    The NTS fallacy plays on this by introducing traits that are not defining traits, also known as per accidens traits, as defining or per se traits. No instead of “no true square has two sides longer than the other two” we get “no true square is red.” Red is not a defining trait of squareness, but rather is just a trait that some squares may posses in addition to squareness.

    While this is easy to see with squares, the defining traits of other concepts are not so very clear, making it much easier for the intellectually dishonest to use the NTS fallacy easily and with at least an air of authority. Combine that with the part-whole and false identity fallacies (equivocation being the principle one) and a worthless though perhaps emotionally powerful argument can result.

    Lately I have been thinking that understanding the notion of identity, that which makes X an X, is indeed the most important aspect of critical thought. Once we understand identity then we cannot fall prey to equivocation, hasty generalization (universalizing from a small sample), or any of the red herring fallacies. The focus stays on that which makes X and X, so all of the errors and distractions stand in stark contrast to X.

    So to take this back to your examples, the woman who believes that all men are oppressors is likely universalizing from a small sample, or equivocating. Perhaps a single man in her past was oppressive, and she has righteous outrage at that. But where she may be going wrong is then assuming that since one man was oppressive all men are oppressive, or that since Jack was oppressive, Bill too must be oppressive because he shares a per accidens trait (maleness) with Jack. Either way, were she to focus on the defining traits of that instance of oppression she would see that Bill was not involved, and that maleness need not have been an issue either.

    Thanks for the article. Here’s to hoping that this sinks into the public consciousness.

  • Dimitri Ledkovsky

    Nice. If you have ever discussed and/or opposed the GLBT brainwashing taking place across the country in middle and high schools you will likely find that the conversation devolves, sometimes rapidly, into kafkatrapping. The casualty is ‘civil discourse’.

    • me

      …which is intended, since THEY know that civil discourse is a losing battleground to them.

  • geraldine

    OK, let’s say I’m being kafkatrapped, and granted that I can’t defend against it directly by denial or argument, what *is* the best way to defend against it?

    • Hello, Geraldine. I am always reluctant to tell someone what the “best” strategy is because so much of effective strategy depends on the personality and the skill sets that each individual brings to an encounter. In short, the “best” varies from person to person. Let me tell you what I do. First of all, you and I share an advantage in being female, and I use it. For example, I was a victim of DV from an early boyfriend and have permanent damage because of it. Few things throw the kafkatrapper off more than out-victimizing them…I call it out-flanking them on the left. So use anything similar from your past…of course, only if you are comfortable doing so. The purpose is to put the kafkatrapper on the defensive rather than your being there. If you point out the absurdity of the fallacy…whatever you say means you are guilty…then this sometimes also puts the person on the defensive. Accuse them of dishonesty in a calm, collected manner. Tell them that he or she is making their own cause look terrible because, if this is the arguments for it, then it appears to care nothing for fairness. Perhaps you could say to the feminist, “why are you so threatened by a woman who disagrees? why do strong women bother you so much?” In short, use the kafkatrapper’s own perspective against her. (BTW, I am assuming the person is a gender feminist and so using the words “she” and “her” but the person could easily be a professional victim of another ‘persuasion’.)

      The latter strategic moves serve another purpose, however. When you argue with someone, you should remember that the most important “points’ or gains you can make may well come from winning over the opinions of onlookers. That’s a reason not to lose your temper, which is what the kafkatrapper wants because it makes you seem unreasonable; it lends credibility to her claim of your hatred. It really bothers the kafkatrapper when the listeners become sympathetic to you. She will be the one to lose her temper and break off contact. That response (plus the good opinion of listeners) may be the best win you can achieve in such a situation.

      • Bill Ross

        There is an odd symmetry with our methods which, in dealing with the absurd, must also be absurd:

        you: out victim the victim (have more of what makes a win, sympathy…. good luck for a male WASP)

        me: eliminate the proceeds of crime, be sour tasting prey

        All part of the social / economic race to the bottom we are on. The carrots / sticks constitute the perverse incentives that have nearly destroyed western civilization

      • geraldine

        Thank you, Wendy, I frequently see the first strategy being employed. The second one seems to hit the nail on the head when you mention not losing your temper (which is taken as evidence of guilt) — thanks! I wonder if part of the reason that rational argument doesn’t work is because those who engage in it have either already lost their cool or have concealed their emotions (and therefore have lost plausibility at the psychological level).

      • cb75075

        The second point is very important. Its never about the person you debate its always about the audience. Never let someone mug you in their alley, always mug them in yours.

    • Foo Quuxman

      ESR’s method is described in one of the comments to his post:

      Ignore? My response to kafkatrapping has generally been extreme, intentional rudeness. The verbal equivalent of a kick in the teeth.

      One of the purposes of this essay is to give people a more precise language with which to object. Now you can say “Oh, I see. That’s a Model P kafkatrap. Go fuck yourself.”


      • Nuts, Foo Quuxman. I even wrote myself a post-it note to remind myself to give you a hat tip because it was only because of your pointing me in the direction of ESR’s article last week that I wrote this week’s column. And even then…I forgot. So consider this note to be a massive hat tip. Thanks.

    • cb75075

      Probably the best strategy is to call it out. One thing to note about such people is that they are emotional thinkers not systematic thinkers. They call it intuitive thinking. So they don’t care about logic. The goal is to keep accusing you till you wig out and say something racist then they clamp onto that and drive you into the ground with it. They could say 1000 different racist comments and it doesn’t matter since they believe they can never be racist.

      • Brad R

        Calling it out is good. I’m hoping that someday I can emulate this xkcd comic http://xkcd.com/1027/ about “negging”, and turn Kafkatrapping around on the user. “Ooh, are you Kafkatrapping me? Let me try. I’ll bet you’re a closet totalitarian who believes he knows better than others how they should run their lives. But you keep that desire secret, don’t you?”

        On second thought, I’ll probably just stay with “Oh, a Kafkatrap. Not interested. Go away and bother someone else.”

    • Baldur_Odensen

      Frontal attacks against an entrenched position will only get you even odds if you outnumber your opponent three to one. If you don’t want to take massive casualties, you’d best have a lot more than that.

      Of course, that is the formula for battles of the flesh and blood and guts spattered everywhere kind, but it sort of applies to battles of the ideological kind too.

      In both cases, an indirect attack has better odds. Hit ’em in the flanks, hit ’em from behind. Cut off their lines of communication. Use surprise.

      In ideological battles where you’re outnumbered ten thousand to one, a good sense of humor is crucial. It may even keep you sane.

  • gdp

    Excellent article, Wendy — and thank you for introducing me to the wonderful term “Kafkatrapping”!

    Yes, indeed — Authoritarians have used the circular nonfalsifiable pseudo-logic of “Kafkatrapping” throughout the ages, whether it was the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch-Hunt, or the McCarthy-era Communist Witch-Hunt: Even the act of attempting to defend oneself against one’s accuser is taken as proof positive that the accusation must be true: “Methinks he doth protest too much!”, to misquote the Bard.

    I would (sadly) not be surprised if someone eventually unearths a cuneiform tablet describing exactly such a “Heads the State wins, tails the accused loses” `trial’ in Sargon or Akkad’s court… 🙁

  • Praetor

    The Marx and Engels Ideologues, unfortunately have taken over the institutions of ” so called ” higher learning and have infiltrated all aspects of our lives. The Socialist Proletariat’s have succeeded in dividing our people, not only in right or left in politics, which is less relevant than what they have done in our homes wife against husband child against parent brother against brother and the list could go on to include all aspect of human interaction, these ideologues are evil because they divide each individual human from every other individual human. The Socialist Proletariat realized the strength of America was in the family unit and the plan for ” Identity Politics “, ” False Consciousness “, ” Collective Guilt ” was instituted to divide and they have succeeded. We are divide ” now to the end”. We are all now guilt of crimes and misdemeanors.
    You may have hope on this issue, but for me this issue is one of hopelessness, no end in site to the thought police. How unfortunate and a sad state of affairs.

    • WinChll

      See the link I posted in reply to rahrog further up about foundations.

  • cb75075

    WOW! Now there’s a term for that other than “bat-sh*t crazy”! Thanks Wendy!

    I would imagine a phrase like “You’re so dripping with privilege you can’t see it” is another example.

  • Webforager

    Hi Wendy! Another great article in applied Liberty. Whenever someone attempts to accuse me of some “thought crime” I’ve learned to respond by immediately telling them they cannot possibly know my psychological makeup and such accusations contain an implied threat. I remind them that Justice can only provide a remedy when people respect the right to EXCLUDE and trying to subvert this is more the practice in civil disorder than what they may think their trying to accomplish.
    Now that you’ve provided this, it will make a good ‘three’ to my trusted ‘one – two’. Many thanks and this has been shared!

    • Thanks for sharing the piece, Webforager. You sound like a friend of mine with whom I was discussing the article on the phone today. He’s actually looking forward to the next time someone tries to kafkatrap him because now he has an entire routine in response worked out in his mind. Good luck with that one-two-three!…and your opponent is down for the count. Not that I think you’ll need luck. You sound like you know what you’re doing.

      • Baldur_Odensen

        The important thing to remember about public discussions is that one is not necessarily attempting to sway the person one is talking to. If they are lost to reason, there is no point in trying to win their agreement – though sometimes such people are brought around when they begin to realize that all their friends think they are a fool. One is, however, attempting to sway those on the sidelines – so it is important to remain calm, rational, and mostly polite (sarcasm is allowed and wit is encouraged). “Sure, I’m an unrepentant racist/sexist/necrophile. You have the right to believe anything you like, no matter how stupid. You are still factually incorrect about …”

  • Darp

    Excellent. This is over the head of the average person, more for those on front lines that encounter it. I thought of sending it to a gov school teacher I know, and then realized they could not understand it.

  • Darp

    can you spell Global Warming? Same tactics Gore uses.

    • Brad R

      If I understand Eric Raymond correctly, to be a Kafkatrap the statement must be (a) about someone’s mental state, and (b) unfalsifiable. Most statements about global warming are about the external world, and many of them are falsifiable — indeed, at this point many of them have been falsified.

      If you’re thinking about the accusation of being a “global warming denier” (or a “climate change denier”), then yes, I think that qualifies as a Kafkatrap. There’s also the accusation that those in the affluent countries should feel guilty because their affluence came from past use of fossil fuels; that’s probably a “Model C.”

  • Bruce C

    As I read this piece the history of the medieval Inquisitions was evoked.

    The same kind of logical strategies were employed combined with the tactics and rules of Roman Law but also tempered by the serious crime of false accusations.

    Specific charges were never spoken to the accused, nor were the names of his/her accusers.

    Confessions that conflicted with the charges and accusations were considered evidence of guilt.

    Torture was used to confirm the confessions. A tactic of Roman Law.

    When the confessions changed to confirm the accusations then the torture ceased. Roman Law considered that to be proof of guilt.

    If at any point any accuser’s testimony was invalidated then the accuser was sentenced to death.

    If the accused was found “not guilty as charged” then he/she would be released, as is (along with all of his/her possessions).

    If the accused was found “guilty as charged” then he/she would be handed over to the State judicial system as “guilty” and tried. His or her possessions then became subsumed by the “Holy” Catholic Church.

    Unfortunately, there was no way out of this nihilistic system by logical means alone. However, fortunately, the entire system broke down once the desire by the State changed. Witches, heresy, and usury were no longer considered threats.

    • Bill Ross

      These “tactics” were refuted by knowledge gained in the Renaissance and age of reason. The only reason we are having a re-run of these absurdities (and crimes against civilization) is due to the collective lobotomy that central control of education and MSM has achieved. So far as subversion of knowledge goes, the internet reformation is a short circuit, bypassing official, forcefully imposed “interpretations” of reality.

      • Bruce C

        Yes, I think so too, and hope so.

        My main concern is the rise of Islam.

  • Mel Russell

    A great read put very well! As everyone seemed to be using the term Misogyny awhile back I decided to look up it’s opposite , Misandry (it is not even in Google’s spell check btw) and I came across a few pages where feminists denied it’s existence . One in particular had a circular question/argument. A question was asked on a certain subject and the feminists interrogator would come back to “It’s men’s fault” “Men are in Power so they are responsible” so there can be no misandry. There was no reasoning or argument that good penetrate this person’s belief system or sway them from their directive of heaping blame and guilt on all men. Once a person excepts this argument as true they either 1) Rule over every conversation in their sphere of influence and will only talk about nuance with those they already have agreement 2) Are lost in a sea of guilt to be brought up every time they seem to be getting uppity or confident in their own ability to reason. Once you can rule over a person in a major area of their thinking they are yours in just about every aspect of their thinking and can be done with as you please.

    • Good morning, Mel. I thought this article would appeal to many within the men’s movement because they encounter kafkatrapping more than most…perhaps more than anyone else. People who have adopted kafkatrapping have abandoned the use of reason. It becomes, as Jefferson said, “arguing with someone who has abandoned reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” Thanks for the post.

  • Gil G

    So basically freedom of speech, press and association is no longer cool when people use their freedoms for the wrong reasons?

    • Bill Ross

      “people use their freedoms for the wrong reasons”

      uh, U mean in service of assaulting other freedoms such as right to life, to live in peace, association: to ignore rationalizing idiots, or, assaulting property rights?

    • Hello Gil. I am not sure how to take your remark. If you mean that I am somehow against ” freedom of speech, press and association” because I identify a structure of argument as a fallacy and wish to counter it in discussion…then, I’m at a loss. This is nothing vaguely akin to quashing someone’s “freedom of speech, press and association.” But if you mean that those who zealously advocate victimhood would be happy to deny “freedom of speech, press and association” to those who dissent…well, there is some basis for you to make that remark. After all, there is such a category of law known as “hate crimes” and they include the use of certain words as criminal. And the right of association logically requires the right of non-association. This is under direct attack these days with business that object to gay marriage being forced to supply goods and services — that is, to associate — against their will. Can you clarify which one you meant? And thanks for the post.

      • Gil G

        Articles like this seem to complaining that they don’t like it when they face criticism. A man who made it known he didn’t like homosexuals in the ’50s would have been seen as a model of virtue. A man who makes it known it he doesn’t like homosexuals nowadays get criticised in the social media and plenty of people are in uproar. Unfortunately some here don’t realise 1A is a two-way street. Or, worse, the prevailing paradigm of what’s socially acceptable is not what they think. Or worse again, that modern social media means a side-remark now brings a barrage of criticism from around the world.

        • Ah. So it was the article you were accusing of being against “freedom of speech, press and association” in your first post. At least that much is now clear. But how so? Nothing in it suggests using force or law to silence a kafkatrapper…and the press isn’t even mentioned. Your second post is equally odd. I face criticism constantly because my opinions are not mainstream. Some of the criticism I receive are useful because they point out flaws or weak points in my thinking; others are not. What I object to, what the article objected to is the widespread use of a fallacy to attack people’s character and impose political correctness. As for your observation about social norms changing through time…again, I don’t get the relevance to the article.

          • Gil G

            You don’t like criticism of your work? So? You don’t like the way others are using their freedom of speech, press and association? So? People are trying to chance the way society views via their 1A rights? So?

          • Well, this will be my last response because nothing you say spins off anything I’ve said or written. I don’t really care much if people criticize my work. In fact, any response means they are reading my work which is a giant step in a direction I like. And my commentary on aspects of the world around me comes from the fact that I find the ideas and the dynamics endlessly fascinating.

            The article is part of trying to figure out what is valid or not in the structure of arguments. This, in turn, is part of trying to ferret out the truth in situations. In short, I am analyzing a logical fallacy. It is a politically popular one and so more than a little bit interesting to me. I’d say “sorry if that offends you” but actually I’m not. Still baffled, however, about how my article denies freedom of speech, the press and of association. You might as well say it is denying people’s right of gun ownership. It is that much of a non sequitur.

          • RBA

            According to Gil, if you refute someone’s logical fallacy, you have violated their freedom of speech.

          • Gil G

            A better example is the Sterling case. He was in the you-know-what for his views but his 1A rights weren’t violated because he wasn’t facing punishment via the government. Likewise freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say what you want and either people will politely agree with you or they leave you alone.

          • RBA

            I don’t know how being prosecuted under the Espionage Act isn’t “facing punishment via the government.” And I don’t know what any of this has to do with kafkatrapping. You don’t make much sense.

  • rahrog

    Anyone with a lick of common sense who has spent/done time on an American college campus knows “The Thought Police” are some of the most hateful, and close minded people you will ever encounter anywhere. Unfortunately, most of our young people lack the maturity (which is understandable) to see through the scam of forced-group-think-diversity. Brick and mortar colleges (one of the key places kafaktrap is perpetrated) are losing their precious control over young minds, and ma & pa’s checkbook, because of the internet. This makes the academics (I use the word loosely) frightened and dangerous.

    • I have come to view American campuses as bastions of repression and social experiments in political correctness which have little connection to education. The situation may be different in the hard sciences, like engineering, but I think those areas are being invaded as well. Thanks for the post, rahrog.

    • WinChll

      There is far more fear at the mid and top levels of society than most people will even consider. For those who have had the power of control (especially in education) feel the earth shaking under their feet. It’s been a long time coming.

      Carnegie and other foundations:


  • Terry Hulsey

    In spite of its general blessing of liberation, there are days when I give a sigh of despair for the great Internet encyclopedia.

    The introduction of the term “kafkatrapping” inspires me to heave up just such a sigh. While descriptive and colorful, its provenance is dubious, and though that’s no fault in itself, it cuts us off from a great and important history contained in a word of more common currency: self-criticism. This term [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-criticism] is almost the insignia of twentieth-century political rehabilitation. I would say it reached its nadir of diabolical refinement in Pol Pot’s Cambodia or in Mao’s China, starting in his period in Yan’an [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan’an_Rectification_Movement], and reaching its spectacular form in the mass struggle session [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_session].

  • Fritz Knese

    I wonder if today’s lack of intellectual honesty is due to this Kafkaesque attitude or the attitude is due to the dishonesty? It does seem cyclic once it starts. This is one reason I think everyone would benefit from studying physics, math, or even chemistry to learn to deal in facts and logic. Such study tends to create hard headed realists and even social cynics. To the extent that anyone accepts Kafkaesque arguments it is obvious that a big does of reality is needed.

    • Good afternoon, Fritz. I think the lack of intellectual honesty is due to the general incentives/rewards that are offering for such behavior rather than to any particular manifestation of the behavior. The victimhood gurus today — academics, authors, advocates, etc. — are the modern equivalent of court historians who used to write books to justify the positions and actions of rulers even though those positions and actions were wretched and wrong. The complicit intellectuals bent arguments, history and morality because they were richly rewarded for doing so. Try getting tenure, a politically sensitive position, an appointment to office, etc. while questioning the victimhood orthodoxy of gender feminists, etc.

      • Fritz Knese

        Well put. I have accused so many socialist types of being “intellectual apologists” for an intellectually and ethically bankrupt philosophy. Of course the same can be said for right wing apologists as well.

    • WinChll

      …physics, math, or even chemistry..
      Three areas our society is failing. By accident or by design?
      But we must keep in mind, the failure is progressive with each generation.

      • Fritz Knese

        True enough. So many people with high IQs get into lucrative fields such as law or finance which are ethically challenged at least. It is a shame that science does not have the monetary rewards for the most part. Unfortunately science has largely sold out to big business/government and is becoming as ethically challenged as even the damned lawyers and bankers! I think this is partly due to kids not learning critical thinking skills, which are the last thing government controlled education wants them to learn. This is why until government can be totally separated from education that there is so little hope for the future of individual liberty.

        • Fritz…your post reminded me of an article I wrote recently. You might be interested in it. http://dollarvigilante.com/blog/2014/7/29/the-nsa-nation-moves-to-the-next-level.html The theme is: “The social sciences in America have been militarized to produce tools that assist the government in understanding and suppressing dissent. Anthropology, linguistic analysis and sociology now serve the police state.”

          • Fritz Knese

            Wow!! I will look up the article right now. But I strongly agree with what you wrote here. Don’t be scared. We will probably disagree next time! HA!!

    • IA_Adam

      It’s due to the destruction of language and the marginalization of traditional moral codes, something the cultural deconstructionists have been working on for over a century. Their goals are insane because they are insane.

      • Fritz Knese

        I try not to use the term morality for it implies a religious concept to many. But traditional moral codes have the advantage of passing a test of time. That being said, I think many traditional moral codes are ludicrous. The anti-sexuality found in many traditional moral codes is asinine and anti-freedom. The neat thing about anarchy is that disparate viewpoints can agree to disagree without dire consequences. Many traditional moralists see nothing wrong in enforcing their concept of morality at the point of a gun. That is destructive to people’s basic humanity. Freedom works.

  • Henry James

    A good definition of Psychoanalysis…’deny your diagnosis…of course what else, it’s one of the main symptoms afterall’

    • Yes, Freudian analysis is particularly bad at this type of circular argument. Karl Popper was the thinker who convinced me away from a real admiration of Freudianism in my youth. As it is, I still find the dream analysis part of it very useful.

  • WinChll

    “She is more likely to seek a position of dominance over men, which she justifies in the name of self-defense or as a payback that is her due. This heightens tension between the sexes and obstructs sincere attempts to resolve problems.”

    Wendy, can’t help but wonder what affect this has on national politics and more importantly world affairs, still heavily dominated by the male sex going thru an emasculation process.

    • Hey there, WinChll. That’s a question of key importance re: this widespread habit of arbitrarily assigning hatred to those who question or dissent in any manner. It not only stops all discussion and analysis in its tracks, it also justifies (in the mind of the kafkatrapper) draconian measures against the “enemy.” I’m involved in the SAVE campaign to oppose the redefinition of rape on campus by denying all vestige of due process rights to accused male students; the denial is so rampant that accusers are identified in official documents by the word “victims” and even being exonerated by the police does not keep the accused from being expelled before achieving the degree for which he may have spend tens of thousand and having the word “sex offender” following him for life. I have so little patience for kafkatrapping precisely because I see the real world devastation of innocent people that the proponents oh so righteously inflict. I am not willing to tolerate this viciousness within libertarianism in the name of “left.”

      • WinChll

        ..by denying all vestige of due process rights to accused male students

        Leaves the door wide open for abuse. There is an old saying – beware a woman scorned. A male would have little defense against vindictiveness.

      • Baldur_Odensen

        Naturally I am horrified at the thought of a college committee finding men guilty of rape with hardly a pretence of a trial, but having known women who have been sexually harassed by male athletes who were essentially immune to discipline due to the deference given to the athletics program, I begin to see the wisdom of campus codes of conduct and such antiquated notions as suspending students or putting them on probation for “conduct unbecoming a gentleman (or lady)”. Also the wisdom of separating intermural sports programs from academics.

        Perhaps we should bring back the notion that colleges should prepare students to be gentlemen and ladies (or whatever word we wish to describe folks who strive to behave with manners and grace at all times), and not just technically proficient at whatever they are trained to do. This might go a long ways towards providing a better learning environment without unduly punishing students for minor slip-ups.

  • IA_Adam

    Don’t debate progs. Just let them know that you’ll inflict damage in kind if they try to notch up their abuse to actually damaging your life. Everyone has a weak spot, even soulless progs. Find it, and be prepared to attack with extreme prejudice. What the progs are doing is no less than civil war on straight white males.

    • Although I agree with your last statement, I think the only way to defeat an idea (which they are expressing amidst the emotional jetsam) is with another, better idea. I also agree that it is time to stand up for people who are straight, white and male.

  • NikFromNYC

    Try being a climate model skeptic to really bring out the fangs of academia and of all left wing politicians. When I post proof of scientific fraud on news sites, loud bigoted rants about Fox News and being a paid misinformer fill the thread but drawing them out into further paranoia and wrath itself goes a long way in exposing their aggression over reason. Here is the type of simple everyday demonstration of fraud that riles alarmist enthusiasts up so much, just a plot of input data of the latest hockey stick sensation, revealing no blade in it:


    When I’m compared to a Holocaust or Moon landing denier, I post a little graphic of heroic astronauts and their outspoken skepticism. This ties the Gorebot activists in knots when I ask if these guys too are big oil shills or perhaps crazy men. Suddenly they are not climate scientists, O.K. so I then list the actual degrees of the main hockey stick team scientists, mostly mathematicians, but no climatologists since that’s such a new college major the old guys don’t qualify either. Then they swing back to calling me crazy. After a dozen twists of logic and outburst emotion, my rational message suddenly contrasts so strongly with their unreason that my job for the day is done, only with their help, since then I’m not just copy/paste link spamming, but having a conversation. Though I can’t convince them, I can expose them publicly as being unconvincable.


  • Davy Goossens

    Kafkatrapping also happens in psychiatry. denial is seen as proof of disease.

  • Jano Szabo

    Imagine you’re taken from your home on a regular basis from a very early age, placed in a room with people you’ve never met, and then told what to think, what to say, what to read, what to write, and what to believe by complete strangers who claim they’re not actually individuals.

    Any recalcitrance identifies you as “troubled”, “delayed”, “delinquent”, and “special.” The cure for your mental disturbances is, obviously, more treatment.

    Any attempt to escape will label you as a criminal and bring more psychological conditioning, more certified treatment, leading to permanent imprisonment.

  • Elikal Ialborcales

    Well written!

    I have observed and loathed this Kafkatrapping many times. Many of my gay fellows have used it, and I was endlessly attacked for “not being on our side”. I hate this sort of argument, no matter for what “noble goal”. Idiocy remains idiocy, and I DENY to side with idiots, no matter on what “righteous crusade” they are on. I am on NOBODY’s side. I am on the side of reason! Though that means in 90% of the cases standing quite alone these days, where we are ripped apart between the left and right extreme.

    A lot of oppressed or formerly oppressed groups, alas, tend to go to the Left extreme, way beyond any reasonable point. And if you are against it, you are trapped in Kafkatrapping.

    You can’t say “I don’t want so many immigrants” without being trapped in the accusation of being racist. You can’t say I am against women quota in private companies because it goes against my ideal of free market regulating itself, without being called women oppressor. I simply won’t support idiocy, even from groups I am friendly towards. Alas this sort of thinking, trapping people in accusations they can not disprove, is widespread, ESPECIALLY among so called liberty movemnets.

    Many Liberals are just dishonest! I am sympathetic towards a lot of the liberals ideas. Not all, but several. However, the liberals are 10 times as much hypocrites are conservatives. With a conservative, you will always know what you are confronted with. They have their rules and tell you so. Even if they are sometimes the enemy, they are reliable on their terms. Liberals… too many will easily betray their own terms just because it doesn’t suit their agenda, and then have the audacity to pretend to be “the good guys”. They tolerate only so far, as it falls under THEIR ideals. I can not accept the hypocrisy I have seen among lefties and liberals. Hence I say, I am Libertarian, not Liberal. I stand for freedom TRULY equal, not just for minorities, not just for people who rally behind some ideology.

  • jneilschulman

    Of course one could just reply to attempts at Kafkatrapping with a hearty, “Go f–k yourself.”

  • listwhfxrb

    This is brilliant! Bravo!

  • Yes, Wendy, I did invent this term – quite consciously as an act of memetic engineering. I do that sort of thing a lot; I’m also responsible for the propagation of the term “open source” and its positive nous. That was much more work…

    I’m pleased you’ve picked up on it, because: (a) we share important premises – I’m a long-time libertarian both ideologically and personally friendly with David Friedman, and (b) you and I have actually met, a long time ago, and I walked away with a good impression of you. Denvention, 1980. No reason you should remember as I was just a random 23-year-old bright of the sort SF cons are stiff with, eighteen years upstream of becoming famous.

  • Hunter Zolomon

    A well written and very *important* article. This is rampant in western society today, I’ve witnessed it in many diverse situations. It’s such a devious and dishonest way to promote a particular agenda. I hope this text or something similar will be part of the curriculum of every school and university nationwide soon. It’s psychological bullying at its worst.

  • Bill

    I had never heard of this until I saw someone using this tactic against a pro gamergate guy and the GG guy called it out. I then googled the term and found this article. It’s amazing to see this in action.

  • Eric Oppen

    “Only the true Messiah would deny His divinity!” —Monty Python’s Life of Brian.