The Kafkatrap

An excellent essay by Eric S. Raymond on one of the most hideous techniques used by those practicing aggression in the name of freedom and equality:
“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…}.” I’ve been presented with enough instances of this recently that I’ve decided that it needs a name. I call this general style of argument “kafkatrapping”, and the above the Model A kafkatrap. [...]

My reference, of course, is to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”, in which the protagonist Josef K. is accused of crimes the nature of which are never actually specified, and enmeshed in a process designed to degrade, humiliate, and destroy him whether or not he has in fact committed any crime at all.


The particular species of fallacy is sometimes called “panchreston”, an argument from which anything can be deduced because it is not falsifiable. Notably, if the model A kafkatrap is true, the world is divided into two kinds of people: (a) those who admit they are guilty of thoughtcrime, and (b) those who are guilty of thoughtcrime because they will not admit to being guilty of thoughtcrime. No one can ever be innocent.
You really ought to read the whole thing, which is hard to excerpt or summarize. All I have to add is the following. Raymond points out that this argument used to be employed in religious contexts a lot, but I have a suspicion that its current use by people on the far left was in fact inspired by psychoanalysis: "The patient wants to fuck his mother; if the patient denies this, this is evidence for the proposition, as denial is typical."

As is true of this psychoanalytical variant of the trick, the use of Kafkatrapping by secular zealots can be countered by the same question: "If what I said were actually true, what [verbal] behaviour would I exhibit?" If the other party replies that no such behaviour is conceivable, they've made your point.

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