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Charting the Great Illiberal Subversion in Canadian Education
From 1960s era Public Policy changes in Immigration, to Race Relations, Activism, and the Media
By James Pew and Mr. M, for the series The Great Illiberal Subversion: How Radical Activists Ru(i)n Western Democracies.
“Illiberal subversion, as it regards this series, refers to the “work” of radical activists and social agitators who force their will on society through a long on-going web of processes involving incremental efforts that chip away at the pillars of western democracies. Attacking and undermining public institutions as Gramsci had it - “a revolution from within” - through a drawn-out complex of affairs perhaps best viewed as death by a thousand cuts, the radical activists entrench in individual departments until they colonize an entire organization and effectively wield enough power to shape its directives. Once this happens to enough of the institutions (or pillars) of society (and it already has), the radical subverters effectively wield power over everyone, the power to shape social right and social wrong.” - The Ontology of the Great Illiberal Subversion
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In doing this work - seeking to understand the great illiberal subversion in Canada and in western democracies in general - the aim is to make a distinction between general policy directions which affect a broad range of issues, and education policy directions affecting children and families specifically. Because education is perhaps the most important site of ideological subversion, it becomes necessary to pay particular attention to the historical development of education policy.
A second distinction must also be made - concerning social matters and public policies - between what is transition and what is subversion. However, this differentiation cannot be established unless it is first understood that subversion works largely through obfuscation. The "Critical" in Critical Theory is perhaps the key instance of obfuscation from which many others follow. Critical does not refer to rational analysis, but Critical in the sense of undermining the (allegedly) oppressive structure of Western liberal democracy. To most Canadians, the word “Critical” is commonly associated with the practice of critical thinking, not with an intensely political mode of neo-Marxian analysis (as it is defined in Critical Theory). Within wokeism, all uses of the term “Critical” are capital C, which implies the neo-Marxism of Critical Theory. Such understandings emerge from a study of leftist literature: for example, the Critical pedagogist Issac Gottesman, in his book The Critical Turn in Education, refers to Critical Theory as Critical Marxism.
An example of the conspiratorial nature hard-wired into the Critical ideology of academic social justice can be found with Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT asserts a paranoid claim that white people invented both race and racism to dominate all non-whites and maintain an utterly oppressive, though invisible white supremacy. Because this fretfulness extends to many other aspects of wokeism, this series could easily end up being confused with conspiracy theory. Hence the effort to make distinctions between the various pieces and parts of this enormously complex set of historical circumstances, and to offer clear definitions of the terms repurposed by the social justice activists, who are the source agitators of the great illiberal subversion.
Even though obfuscation is a common goal/result of social justice activism, it is important to point out that much of what might be fairly assumed as illiberal subversion, may in some cases be more attributable to emergent economic and social transition. In other words, while there are loads of plotting and scheming by activists and politicians, and the existence of public policy based on conspiratorial rationale is a very real concern, not everything is determined by the illiberal machinations of power-hungry activists, and to suggest otherwise - that there is an evil coordinated master plan - is itself paranoid and conspiratorial. However, to suggest there are/were no mechanisms driving change, that things simply emerge, would be shallow naivete.
One thing is clear, for several decades illiberal subversion has played a major role in shaping Western democracies. How did these great political establishments lose their way? How was philosophically liberal social regulation cast aside and exchanged for the policy positions of identitarian race hustlers and neo-Marxists? It happened, that much is obvious; wokeism is everywhere.
Even though 1960s era changes in Canadian immigration policy led to subsequent changes in demographics, the introduction of race relations, multiculturalism, and an identity politics of race, as mentioned, not all of this was necessarily the result of subversion. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Without implying that Canada is on its way to an eternal inferno, the particular road it has traveled - continues to travel - is riddled with the potholes of subversion. This series aims to present facts, alongside reasoned arguments, that will illuminate this. However, considering it is not always clear where to draw the line between what is (or was) principled and therefore liberal, and what is (or was) not principled and therefore illiberal, our goal is to present the most compelling argument (supported by historical evidence) which will provide the clarity necessary for the reader to make sound determinations. After weighing the facts and arguments presented over the course of this in-depth series, the reader will be the final arbiter deciding where this fine line is to be drawn.
The further complicating factor of the media is worth mentioning before we go on. The problem we face is that with any given piece of media, we cannot know if the journalist who produced it is themselves a supporter of woke ideological subversion. And, if they are not supportive of wokeism, we cannot know if that journalist possesses a full awareness of the implications of what they are reporting. Especially concerning coverage of activists who use alternate meanings of common words - if the reporters know this, why do they amplify the messages of activists without comment or analysis? Or do they pretend not to know, so they have an excuse if called out?
We don’t know if any given journalists, or the media companies they work for, themselves drink the activist kool-aid. But what we do know is that modern media studies in the West have largely been informed since the 1970s by the field of "cultural studies" which came to constitute the theory component of media studies. In turn, the "Critical" viewpoint of cultural studies was originally formulated by three British Marxists. This is a matter of public knowledge; it is apparent even in the wikipedia page for cultural studies. In other words, Marxian analysis has come to be a major method in which the media reflects Western society back on itself -- and the influence of cultural studies as much as anything else serves as an illustration of how the West has come to be subverted by Marxian influencers.
Whether intentional or not, or part of a subversive illiberal conspiracy or not, it is fair to say that most of the media function in a way that does not support democratic liberalism. In an upcoming article for this series, an analysis will be put forward regarding the history of the objectivity-focused beginnings of mass media, which, due to the onset of cultural studies, ultimately descended into subjective postmodern narrative-weaving where much of the media now operates in the interest of something other than informing the public.
Legendary journalists like I.F. Stone would be appalled at the lack of analysis offered by modern journalists. It appears that the media's failure to decode the language of woke activists can possibly best be explained by assuming that the media are complicit in the subversion. But whether caused by ignorance or subversion, the public are consequently tricked into supporting things that have been convincingly put forward by activists and parroted by the media. When it comes to most social movements, and the media's obvious failure to challenge the assertions of the activists behind them, the end result is nothing less than a complete breakdown of the organs of public sense-making.
When journalists are disinterested and/or ill-equipped to criticize the claims of activists, or when they themselves are the woke activists (which increasingly appears to be the case), they offer analysis utterly void of substance, and often simply amplify the unfiltered message of social agitators. Either way, most mainstream journalists are not up to the task, and wouldn’t be willing to sort out this mess if they were. However, many independent researchers and truth seekers are.
Immigration, multiculturalism, media, and identity politics
Since the beginning of the 20th century Canada has been a leading destination for immigrants. Up until the 1960s, with the majority arriving from European countries, immigrants were expected to assimilate into the mainstream society. Changes to immigration policy in the 1960s resulted in a shift in the demographic configuration of Canada through the 1970s and beyond, accompanied by changes in attitudes and policy directions related to the enculturation of immigrants. Over this period, visible minorities were imported at a greater number than had ever been and further changes in policy direction, clearly brought about through social pressures exerted by the reoriented approach to immigration, ultimately redefined Canada as multicultural.
It was 1971 when Canada embarked on a project that many other nations attempting similar approaches found to be abject failures. When Pierre Trudeau declared that Canada was to become the first multicultural country, he and the original framers of what was often referred to as the cultural mosaic had a vision of a tapestry of ethno-cultural traditions coexisting peacefully throughout the nation. In many ways Canadian multiculturalism yielded those fruits imagined by the Pierre Trudeau government, but unfortunately (and subversively) what also sprouted forth was ideological antiracism. Alarmingly, much of it centered on the black nationalism / black Marxism practiced by radical social agitators under the guise of social justice.1
Throughout the 1970s, multiculturalism was commonly referred to as “song & dance multiculturalism.”2 This reflected its original purpose as a program of cultural preservation focused on the many minority ethnic groups who had arrived in Canada as a result of the immigration shift beginning in the 1970s. However, over the period of the late 1970s to early 1980s, multiculturalism was subverted, repurposed and replaced with antiracist ideology3. There will be more to come on this in an upcoming article focused on the subversion of multiculturalism and the origins of antiracism.
The Canadian Multiculturalism act didn’t officialize Trudeau’s decree until it was passed in 1985. Even though in 1982, it had been codified into law by way of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s a fair assumption that this redefining of national purpose did not come about by a spontaneous emergence of will by the majority of Canadians; like it should have if democracy is to be taken seriously. However, it did pave the way for the development of a pattern or playbook since used by small factions of social agitators able to effectively subvert democratic norms and win the implementation of their wishes at many levels of public institutions.
The ultimate outcome of the subversion of multiculturalism was the establishment of Canada as a nation which codified cultural relativism at the national policy level, forever eschewing and depreciating the culture of Western liberal democracy which had served as the countries' foundational base.
Enter the Neo-Marxists
Let’s flash forward to the present for a moment — how do we know that illiberalism, often informed by Marxian theorizing, has arrived and is thriving at an institutional and public policy level in Canada? At the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) - Ontario’s premier institute for the study of education - Abigail Bakan headed the Department of Social Justice Education until 2018. According to Bakan’s book Theorizing Anti-racism (2014), Anti-racism ideology draws from two related but distinct intellectual heritages: there are those anti-racist theorists whose arguments are drawn from a Marxist intellectual tradition and those anti-racist theorists who lean more toward postmodernist argumentation. While Baken herself prefers to argue like a Marxist, she has great esteem for her postmodernist counterparts since both “critiques” can be employed to dissolve the liberal West and reshape according to the radical mold.
With some idea of what anti-racism is composed of on a theoretical level, it should next be noted how far anti-racism theorizing has spread in Canadian society: On the federal level, Canada has an anti-racism secretariat ; Ontario has an anti-racism directorate ; and a strategic anti-racism plan ; The Ontario College of Teachers has an anti-racism project which lists numerous Ontario School Boards currently fielding anti-racism initiatives in elementary schools; Ontario nearly passed Bill 67, which would have mandated anti-racism and critical race theory in elementary schools; Bill16 (which is practically identical to Bill 67) has recently been brought forward; Ontario Health declares its commitment to anti-racism.
Chances are if you examine just about any employer in Canada, they have already made a commitment to anti-racism or are about to, just like the major institutions. Moreover, the situation for liberal values in the West is far worse than just the roll out of anti-racism ideology everywhere. The millennials and generation Z take their social cues from their radical sociologist lecturers — for example, they learn that a color-blind race policy (i.e., NOT seeing race) is racist (origin: Marxist intellectual Eduardo Bonilla-Silva); they learn that the knowledge of black persons and white persons is mutually exclusive and unrelatable hence “lived experience” is the rule rather than universal truth (origin: Marxist intellectual Frantz Fanon). These young converts, having been schooled by the radical sociologists, are going to be your HR staff at work; realistically, they probably already are your HR staff at work.
Along with anyone belonging to a so-called oppressed identity, the neo-Marxist framework seeks to proletarianize visible minorities. It is asserted that if a person with an “oppressed identity” does not feel oppressed it is because they have “false consciousness.” The neo-Marxist or Critical Theory approach is to liberate the oppressed from their “false consciousness” by replacing it with a “Critical consciousness.” Only then will they understand that regardless of how they think or feel, they are not truly happy, they are in fact secretly oppressed.
Returning to the subject of how Canada first positioned itself for the radical remodeling currently underway, the shift in Canada’s demographic makeup and national purpose resulted in much attention paid to race relations4, this created a fertile ground for neo-Marxist activists - who dismiss the economic and class foundations of what they called “vulgar Marxism,” and instead actively seek out so-called oppressed identities to organize into a new revolutionary movement.
As stated previously, the key developments of the illiberal subversion of social justice in Canada begin with the 1960s era reforms to immigration policy. The stages by which liberal values were devalorized and superseded in Canadian policymaking can be theorized according to the following blueprint which emphasizes the power of media in molding public opinion and social perception:
i) Demographic change beginning around 1970 ; ii) The press in the late 70s shifting focus to incidents of racial conflict; iii) "Calls" for action as a result of the racist picture of Canada presented by the media - the government moves to blame white (youth), while the minorities move to blame the institutions and by extension the government (with Stokley Carmichael's Marxist and black nationalist theory of institutional racism); iv) The government chooses appeasement and greenlights race relations committees which will go on to be the main pushers of illiberal social policies at the institutional level.5
But what is to be considered transitional, and where did subversion first occur? There is much to indicate that, in the sequence above, subversion first appears at the stage of media reportage.
The next piece will offer an examination of the above four developments of illiberal subversion and explain the position that implicates cultural studies as the key site of media subversion.
Thanks for reading. Here is the next essay in the series - From Police Brutality to Race Relations.
For a complete index (with summaries) of The Great Illiberal Subversion series of essay’s, check out The Ontology of the Great Illiberal Subversion.
For the development of an alternative race-centric form of Marxism, see Black Marxism: the Making of the Black Radical Tradition by black studies professor Cedric Johnson. Elbaum (2002, 121), a self-styled “New Communist” observed this about the Marxist-Leninist and (black) nationalist activism of the late 1960s: “Marxist-Leninism also gained ground relative to revolutionary nationalism within the African American movement. Though these two currents intertwined considerably in the first few years after 1968, a process of differentiation inevitably took place as revolutionaries started to formulate more defined strategies and build organizations to implement them.” For the debt which anti-racism ideology owes to Marxian theorizing, see Mansfield and Kohoe 1994, 2; Bakan and Enakshi 2014.
The early days of Canadian multiculturalist policy saw government funds being directed toward ethnic language centers but also towards the celebration of ethnic culture in parades and so forth. As Breton (1986, 56) observes here: “some began, less flatteringly, to refer to multiculturalism as a "song and dance" affair. The concrete expression of multiculturalism was to a degree trivializing the value it was meant to convey. Instead of enhancing the value of cultural diversity and its contribution to Canadian society, multiculturalism ran the risk of producing the opposite effect.”
This comment is based on the doctoral dissertation of Douglas Tateishi (2019). Tateishi, who studies the history of anti-racism in Ontario education policy, finds on page 18 that anti-racism policies emerge as the last of three discrete policy phases in Ontario “beginning with multiculturalism, moving into race relations and culminating with antiracism and ethnocultural equity.” The subversive manner in which anti-racist educators attempted to redirect to themselves the policy power which multiculturalism then had, i.e. by accusing multicultural policy of reproducing social inequality etc. (of being racist in other words), is described in Mansfield and Kohoe 1994.
In the realm of education policy, Tateishi (2019, 66) establishes that multiculturalist social ideology predominated from the 1970s to the early 1980s; race relations ideology predominated from the early 1980s to the early 1990s; and anti-racism ideology prevailed in the early 1990s. The latter two policy platforms are comparable in terms of insisting that racism is entirely out of control and that liberal and multiculturalist policies don’t address this alleged issue (or make it worse). Race Relations proposes equity measures (i.e. institutionally enforced race based affirmative action) while antiracism breaks society down into two groups, one of which (whites) must be educated by another (blacks) in order to acquire moral sophistication.
This blueprint, currently under development at the lighthouse think tank, represents an attempt to conceptualize and to theorize how the process of illiberal subversion played out in Canada (that is, how radical identity-politics, through the intervention of opinion shaping mass media and through an imposition on institutional policy everywhere, became the dominant culture in a land once socially regulated by the principles of liberal individualism and individual rights). For the major demographic shift in Canadian immigration occurring in the early 1970s, see Breton (1986, 58). The shift in media reporting from a standard of integrity and objectivity to one of fomenting social transformation is discussed by historian Keith Windschuttle (1997 and 1998) — as Windschuttle argues, this reversal on journalistic principles comes with the 1970s rise of “culture studies” as the major component of media theory across Western universities (search “culture studies” on wiki for an introduction, yes, this approach to journalism really was produced by three Marxist intellectuals). The characterization that the media focused on stories of (white) youth violence against minorities in the 1970s comes from the dissertation of Malgorzata (2013, 3) which studies race and resistance in 1970s Toronto. The same source states that, while the media is quick to blame the youth in question for such incidents, minority activists use the media fanfare generated on such occasions as an opportunity to influence public opinion and institutional policy: “visible minority groups, however, argued that overt racism was symptomatic of a larger problem: institutional racism.” This process by which black panther leader and Marxist Stokely Carmichael’s theory of institutional / systemic racism came to be a major aspect of the social sciences everywhere is described by sociologist Tim Berard as follows: “although Carmichael and Hamilton do not define institutional racism solely in terms of its effects, the social–psychological dimension in their account may have been so politically divisive or so empirically inadequate that subsequent authors would define institutional racism more and more in terms of its effects, largely neglecting or fudging questions of causal mechanisms and institutional processes” (Berard 2008, 737).
Bakan, Abigail and Enakshi Duo. 2014. Theorizing Anti-Racism: Linkages in Marxism and Critical Race Theories. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Berard, Tim. 2008. "The Neglected Social Psychology of Institutional Racism." Sociology Compass 2/2: 734-764.
Breton, Raymond. 1986. "Multiculturalism and Canadian Nation-Building." In The Politics of Gender, Ethnicity and Language in Canada, edited by Alan Cairns and Cynthia Williams, 26-63.
Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press.
Elbaum, Max. 2002. Revolution in the Air: Radicals from Lenin, Mao and Che. London, New York: Verso.
Małgorzata, Kieryło. 2012. ‘Equality Now!' Race, Racism and Resistance in 1970s Toronto. PhD Diss, Queen's University.
Mansfield, Earl and John Kehoe. 1994. "A Critical Examination of Anti-racist Education." Canadian Journal of Education 19/4: 418-430
Robinson, Cedric. 2000. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill & London: The University of North Carolina Press
Tateishi, Douglas. 2019. What Happened to Antiracist Education? The 1993 Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity Educational Reform in Ontario School Boards. PhD Diss., University of Ottawa.