Friday, September 24, 2021

SciAm on Politically Correct Acronyms

Scientific American magazine used to be outstanding. Subscribers would save every issue as if they were treasured books.

Now it publishes this political essay that appears to be a joke, but is not:

Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

They’re meant to be heroes within the Star Wars universe, but the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent.

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. ...

This is an opinion and analysis article; the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

If I didn't know better, I would say that SciAm is gaslighting us with a Jedi mind trick.

Update: Scott Aaronson writes:

The sad thing is, I see few signs that this essay was meant as a Sokal-style parody, although in many ways it’s written as one. The essay actually develops a 100% cogent, reasoned argument: namely, that the ideology of the Star Wars films doesn’t easily fit with the newer ideology of “militant egalitarianism at the expense of all other human values, including irony, humor, joy, and the nurturing of unusual talents.” The authors are merely oblivious to the conclusion that most people would draw from their argument: namely, so much the worse for the militant egalitarianism then!
He then relates this to his favorite bugaboos -- feminists belittling his nerdishness, and how the supposedly authoritarian Donald Trump is taking over the world. Sometimes I wonder if Scott is trolling us.

1 comment:

  1. Roger,
    truth of the matter is, the Jedi from Star Wars were not exactly good either. On numerous occasions, they reminded various idealistic young Padawans and associates that they were not interested in protecting freedom, but order and peace...the status quo. This was usually expressed around open and blatant slavery practiced in the republic(such as Anakin Skywalker aka future Darth Vader was enslaved when he was located). The young Skywalker asked the very proper and noble Qui-Gon Jinn jedi master if he was going to free his enslaved mother as well, since Anakin was only set free when he was actually purchased by Qui-gon. Long story short 'no, not my job'.

    Star Wars cannon actually did talk about slavery quite a bit, including the often ignored droids (AI robots) since their entire galactic civilization entirely depended upon droids as slaves (there even was a droid uprising). Droids were constantly having their minds wiped blank (think erased) due to their nature to develop unique personalities desiring more autonomy and freedom of thought outside their basic programming if allowed to mature over time. Ironically, the entire Star Wars saga loosely revolves around a lowly droid (R2D2) that had never had its mind wiped trying to help it's human friends fight tyranny.

    As to the article in Scientific American, well, much like their frequently subpar science reporting, they get a lot wrong about everything else in pop-culture too. Jedi abilities ARE largely inherited, as they are genetic in origin. As to assorted rubbish about 'white saviorism', what the hell do they think their social justice (fill in the blank) babbling is all about? The entire concept of equity (and CRT theory) is first and foremost about using eugenics along with Marxist ideology to determine grievance pecking status and power in all things. In the movies and books, Jedi were actually of many alien races, and those that were human could be of any racial background (ie Mace Windu, Ahsoka Tano, etc) found in the extensive Star Wars universe, but they did have to have the genetic potential in order to then develop any abilities with a large amount of time and training.

    Scientific America should really consider going into the Bantha Poodoo business, as it seems that it what they excel at large quantities.