For a few years now, I have been attempting to address legitimacy and authority in a critical, persuasive, as well as fair manner. I have assessed a need to articulate and spread widely this need some institutions, namely the press/mainstream media and academia, to have a monopoly on what or who can be authorities and who is allowed to be considered legitimate. So, let us deal with this from
What is legitimacy? What is authority? Why are they so important to Black Media Trust, and Godfare? That is, what makes legitimacy and authority so salient to a conceptual framework, or model of thinking, that primarily presents ways of dealing with communications and psychological warfare?
Max Weber’s early 20th century lecture, “Politics As Vocation”, discusses legitimacy of force. He argues that this legitimacy of force underlies political motivations, specifically as it relates to those seeking politics as a vocation. His reasoning visits through a few streams of thought, what I would like to present to you is his notion that this seeking of legitimacy of force are determined by how many resources they have, and how much free time to pursue this domain of authority.
What we are examining are materialist reasons for psychological warfare. In this examination, we are highlighting the use of legitimacy to further a status quo, namely,
…one can ultimately only define the modern state sociologically by reference to a specific means that is proper to it, as it is to every political association, namely physical force.
…The state is the human community that, within a defined territory — and the key word here is “territory” — (successfully) claims the monopoly of legitimate force for itself.
Anyone who engages in politics is seeking power, whether it be power as a means to achieve other goals — idealistic or egoistic — or power “for its own sake,” in other words, in order to enjoy the feeling of prestige that it gives.
In order for the state to prevail, the people ruled over must
thereforesubmit to the authority claimed by those ruling at the time.
In principle, the inward justifications, i.e., the grounds ofWeber, Max. “Politics As Vocation.” Max Weber’s Complete Writings on Academic and Political Vocations, Ed John Dreijmanis. Algora Publishing: New York
legitimacyof rule, to start with them, are three in number. Firstly, the authority of the “eternal yesterday,” the authority of custom, which is sanctified by validity from time immemorial and by habitual observation. This is “traditional” rule, such as that exercised by the old-style patriarch and patrimonial prince. Then there is the authority of the special personal gift of grace (charisma), absolutely personal devotion, and personal trust in revelation, in heroism or in other leadership qualities of an individual. This is “charismatic”authority, such as that exercised by the prophet or — in the political sphere — by the elected warlord or the plebiscitary ruler, the great demagogue and the party leader. Finally, there is rule by virtue of “legality,” by virtue of the belief in the validity of a legal statute and the validity of “competence” that is based on rationally created rules. This means an attitude of obedience in the fulfillment of statutory duties: the kind of rule exercised by the modern “servant of the state” and all those bearers of power who resemble him in this regard.
If the state is bequeathed with the legitimacy of force through successful campaigns of force against those that once had the legitimacy of force, it should be noted that legitimacy of intellectual influence will probably be met with similar requisites. While I know I have asked us to read quite a lot of Weber’s work, I need to include one more writer before moving on to our case example.
Before I quote Gramsci here, I am obligated to reiterate my thoughts about him from a writing I published on OWL’s Asylum in 2015. I quote myself here for clarity:
I was once madly in love with the thinking, writing and life story of Antonio Gramsci until I read the above passage in his chapter on intellectuals. It was my first shot of disillusionment with Whyte Marxist Radicals, injected directly into my mind stream. A lesson for young US Black anti-establishment thinkers that even brilliant minds in Whyte bodies covet Whyte Supremacy. Protective racial caveat aside, there is a thread I seek to tease out for our discernment here.
Farand, J. OWL. “President Barry Obeezy: Gramsci’s Afrikan-Amerikkkan, ” OWL’s Asylum. J Farand LLC, 25 October 2015, https://www.owlasylum.net/the-black-state/president-barry-obeezy-gramscis-afrikan-amerikkkan/
As I so eloquently stated then, protective racial caveat aside…
Antonio Gramsci writes:
…The most typical of these categories of intellectuals is that of the ecclesiastics, who for a long time (for a whole phase of history, which is partly
characterisedby this very monopoly) held a monopoly of a number of important services: religious ideology, that is the philosophy and science of the age, together with schools, education, morality, justice, charity, good works, etc.
All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.
When one distinguishes between intellectuals and nonintellectuals, one is referring in reality only to the immediate social function of the professional category of the intellectuals, that is, one has in mind the direction in which their specific professional activity is weighted, whether towards intellectual elaboration or towards
muscular-nervouseffort. This means that, although one can speak of intellectuals, one cannot speak of non-intellectuals, because non-intellectuals do not exist. But even the relationship between efforts of intellectual-cerebral elaboration and muscular-nervous effort is not always the same,so that there are varying degrees of specific intellectual activity. There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded: homo fabercannot be separated from homo sapiens. Each man, finally, outside his professional activity, carrieson some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a “philosopher”, an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought.
The problem of creating a new stratum of intellectuals consists therefore in the critical elaboration of the intellectual activity that exists in everyone at a certain degree of development, modifying its relationship with the muscular-nervous effort towards a new equilibrium, and ensuring that the muscular-nervous effort itself, in so far as it is an element of a general
practicalactivity, which is perpetually innovating the physical and social world, becomes the foundation of a new and integral conception of the world. The traditional and vulgarised type of the intellectual is given by the man of letters, the philosopher, the artist. Therefore journalists, who claim to be men of letters, philosophers, artists, also regard themselves as the “true” intellectuals. In the modern world, technical education, closely bound to industrial labour even at the most primitive and unqualified level, must form the basis of the new type of intellectual.
This above passages sets a semantic ground work, but what we are looking for is described as he writes further:
…It should be possible both to measure the “organic quality” [organicita] of the various intellectual strata and their degree of connection with a fundamental social group, and to establish a gradation of their functions and of the superstructures from the bottom to the top (from the structural base upwards). What we can do, for the moment is to fix two major superstructural “levels”: the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “juridical” government…The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government.
Let me state this clearly, legitimacy of force and hegemony derived as a product of institutional intellectualization work hand in glove. Whether we call it education, socialization, culture, or propaganda, universities produce a worldview justifying conformity to those who wield power and hold licenses to kill, legitimacy of force.
It does not take another block of sesquipedalian writing from early
Once again, I am obligated to explain what
We are discussing power.
We are discussing resources allocation and resource appropriation.
We are discussing war.
I think we have been primed and prepared enough for our example of what I would consider a pure propaganda play. So let us get into it, shall we?
In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gordon Fraser blames Twitter for ruining careers of academic thinkers. He writes:
Things fall apart fast these days, often on Twitter. One university (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) fired a faculty member for tweeting. Another (Drexel) initially defended a faculty member who tweeted, although that professor later resigned. Scholars on Twitter have criticized academic articles. They have criticized each other.Fraser, Gordon. The Twitterization of the Academic Mind.
Off top, we are given this melodramatic narrative of academics losing their jobs, either through termination or resignation. This is being blindly blamed on Twitter.
In neither case does Fraser explain what Twitter did. Not Twitter as a business. Not Twitter as an online community. Not Twitter as an application, set of software packages.
We are not here to defend Twitter. We are, however, here to train and equip our minds to meet danger with danger. And, yes, Mr. Fraser here is proposing a dangerous idea to us.
Moving on, Fraser continues his one-sided lambaste of Twitter:
Twitter, it turns out, has many problems. Even its billionaire CEO acknowledges that it is a site for trolling, misogyny, and racism. It has been used as a tool for tracking dissidents. It’s been a go-to site for disinformation agents of the Russian Federation as they attempt to sabotage American elections. Twitter is a favorite among conspiracy theorists, authoritarians, and capitalists. We academics are merely fellow travelers.ibid
While most, if not all of this above statement is probably true, it does not explain what Twitter had to do with those two individuals in his opening paragraph quoted above having to leave their employment. This is basically ad hominem. It is a form of character assassination. And he closes this paragraph with yet more melodrama(“We academics are merely fellow travelers.”) to encapsulate those in academia using Twitter from accountability while blaming Twitter for consequences for their actions.
I reiterate: we are not here to defend a billion dollar corporate interest. However, Twitter is one part business, one part tool, and one part site of social engagement of at least 321 million people. There are a number of concerns that can be raised about Twitter’s business model and lack of moderation, or simply biased moderation. But those same concerns can be raised about the University.
Let us be absolutely clear here: Universities have fired or asked for the resignation of their professors over what they deem controversial long before Twitter was a popular site of public discourse. Twitter cannot be blamed for the wrongful termination of Ward L. Churchhill by the University of Colorado. Dr. Tommy Curry does not blame Twitter for “the limitations many Black faculty around the country” are experiencing in form of censorship and repudiation when decides to leave Texas A & M for an entirely different country. The University as an ideal of upward mobility and trust has been manipulated by Homeland Security as they created a whole fake university to entrap immigrants.
Universities and their concomitant mythologies have a long history of these sorts of violations. And yet, Fraser decided to write a page full of propaganda that The Chronicle of Higher Education
So what does Fraser present academia as since he obviously refuses to engage it objectively or honestly? In his words, he sees academia as a traditional factory of ideas. He considers academics much like Weber’s traditionalist, depending on “time-honored activities” to solidify an authority of the “eternal yesterday,” the authority of custom, which is sanctified by validity from time immemorial and by habitual observation.
In other words, he sees the academy as some extension of medieval Roman papacy and academics as some breed of
However, it is exactly this fear of losing a monopoly on legitimacy that Fraser laments, using Twitter as whipping boy, while weaponizing victimhood without addressing accountability of said scholars who were separated from their positions of employment. In his own words, once again, Fraser writes:
…tweeting erodes the very social legitimacy that enables academic culture to exert its influence on the political realm in the first place. Academe is a public apart from the public world of politics or entertainment. Academe is constituted through the sustained attention of academics themselves. And it is closed to those who cannot understand its conventions or think, speak and act through its particular registers. Yet academe is legitimated by this exclusivity — not an exclusivity of wealth, birth, or social connections, but of shared inquiry. Engage with us, say our learned journals, but only after you have constituted yourself as one of us, learned to write with our distinctive rigor, and developed the habits of mind we have cultivated across centuries. We profess not in sound bites, but in peer-reviewed studies.
I am sure he thought that
These glaring stains on “academe” avoided in a discussion that aims to point out glaring stains warrants our discretion. There is no other way to frame this message other than pure propaganda play. Fraser asks too much of a critical thinker. This causes it to be a rewarding case study for students of GodFare.
As framed by Weber, legitimacy of force is garnered through submission of people. This submission is often proffered through a worship of tradition. In Gramsci’s analysis, academia (or for those of more pretentious leanings, ‘academe’), as an institution of intellectualization works in society as an arm of dominant society. Combining these frames, and using Fraser’s bit of pure propaganda play here, we become more aware of how traditional forms of legitimacy wage communications & psychological warfare against emerging forms.
Alright, let me reiterate: we are not here to defend Twitter. We are also not here to attack the university, per se. We are here to instantiate an example and standard for our definition of “pure propaganda play”.
Fraser describes Twitter by highlighting its most undesirable qualities. He then outlines the academy(“academe”) in solely sublime descriptions. It should also be noted that he is using Twitter as a metonymy for all undesirable qualities of all social media applications. This might be fair if he stated such, however, by him never mentioning harmful or annoying practices of Facebook, Tumblr, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, or YouTube, we have to throw a flag on that play.
What we should also give attention to is context. Fraser is writing protected content. His intended audience is composed of paying subscribers of The Chronicle of Higher Education. That makes this less of an informational piece, more of a mission statement. It is a call to arms.
This is more than an “opinion”, or “op-ed” piece. This is actually more than just persuasive writing. In religious settings, a communication such as this would be framed as faith raising, or faith rekindling. When we consume and analyze this sort of messaging from government officials or those seeking office, we refer to it as demagoguery, or in more euphemistic terms, “rallying the base”.
Further, and quite possibly more importantly, as he apotheosizes “academe”, he is demonizing those of us that are outside of this exclusive & esoteric club, and who “cannot understand its conventions or think, speak and act through its particular registers.” This is not a text that only works to remove, or sort of create a dam around, Twitter as a business; it actually has more focus on Twitter as a social community or site of social engagement.
What this means is that he is not only using Twitter as a metonymy for social media ills but also as a synecdoche for those of us that use social media who are not also members of this glorified circle jerk social club he has called “academe”. Like journalists in early 2000s, he wishes to dirty mack those involved in sharing content that
There are not many other ways to interpret this other than to say he is not truly attacking Twitter, but in a most cowardly manner, he is attacking any person seeking to engage thought that does not belong to a university as academic personnel. He takes up space subtweeting Twitter’s users in this weak and shameful manifesto aimed at persuading his cronies of their mission to monopolize argument and intellectual authority.
So let us return to our main point and objective here. Using Gordon Fraser’s work here as case study, we have a standard by which to base Pure Propaganda Play. A few qualities of this piece should be associated with our defining of a Pure Propaganda Play.
Fraser, and thus The Chronicle of Higher Education, attempt to isolate their communication from a wider base of readers. That is, this communication is not only aimed at a specific audience, but it is also distributed through limited channels. This quality of exclusivity is not particularly driven by market motivations, but the motivation of nepotism and cronyism. They are intentionally preaching to that proverbial choir.
Another salient quality of this piece that I would like to generalize as a defining aspect of a Pure Propaganda Play is its complete lack of balance. Fraser does not even try to be fair here. Twitter is the anti-Christ and the university(wait, the “academe”) is the Vatican.
There are also a couple of subtle factors about this piece that
He aims at influencing his audience — other “venerated” members of “academe” — to boycott Twitter the application, thus Twitter the company, due to Twitter the site of social engagement not giving members of the Holy Academe some form of honor, legitimacy, and authority resembling worship.
So, in defining a Pure Propaganda Play, we can say that in general it wishes to isolate its intended audience for nepotistic purposes more than profit driven ones or factors related to interests.
Also, Pure Propaganda Plays in general lack balance. That lack of balance is polar in execution. Even when it addresses a potential benefit, it is only using that as a means to denigrate.
Lastly, Pure Propaganda Plays can employ tactics, styles, or techniques used to disguise true intentions. This may or may not be included, but for the sake of Black Media Trust we need to be capable ascertaining subtle manipulations, or “dog whistling”.