intellectual dishonesty

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By JOÃO SETTE WHITAKER*

The ability to appropriate other people's thinking (or collective thinking) and twist it to suit your arguments, giving it another interpretation, usually the opposite of the original meaning

When I was little, I remember a soccer game in which a very big, very strong boy, who therefore thought he was “the good one”, rushed at a friend of mine and hurt him. Soon after, another colleague made him a lack of nothing, without strength. The strong boy arrived screaming that violent play was wrong, that it couldn't be like that, that he couldn't take it anymore. He was the one who, minutes before, had hurt a colleague with malice. What a face!

I began to understand there what intellectual dishonesty was. The ability to appropriate other people's thinking (or collective thinking) and twist it to serve your arguments, giving it another interpretation, usually the opposite of the original meaning.

Later, already in “high school”, it was so common to see this as a recurring practice among teenagers, unfortunately. In a discussion where one had more sophisticated arguments, the other, lost, would take those arguments and twist them to defend something completely opposite. I would later discover that in the academic environment of the university, this practice is far more common than it should be.

In society, this is a recurring practice by those who dominate, but not intellectually. Just a physical, financial domain that “needs” to twist “politically correct” arguments to legitimize itself intellectually. Deep down, this is a common practice in capitalism: companies and their foundations that appropriate “great causes” to, in the end, sell more and make more profit. You suddenly think you're helping the Amazon Indians, but in fact, you're mostly buying products from a company and spending it on your credit card.

Remember the Fiat advertisement “come to the street you too” right at the moment when the right called the green-and-yellows to go to protests in tune with the mobilization of that middle class. Go there and shout “the giant has woken up” to try to get Dilma out, but take the opportunity and buy your new cart. Typical example of intellectual dishonesty.

One of the most abject forms of machismo is when men become victims of a situation of domination and violence that they themselves created. Twists the argument to turn in your favor. For example, the battered woman is blamed for wearing a “too short” skirt. Usually the guy goes around reflecting on how much society is in decline because of how women dress, on how difficult life is for men who have to “hold back” in the face of such provocation. In short, guilt is reversed, and the dominated becomes the culprit for suffering domination. Pure intellectual dishonesty. Reverse the reasoning in a perverse way.

It was then very clear, reviewing these and many examples throughout life, that those who practice intellectual dishonesty are a certain type of person. It can be anyone, men, women, whites and blacks, as it relates to the ethical formation of each one. But, let's face it, most of them are gradually realigning themselves and realizing the correct way to interact socially, and only the very "picky ones" maintain this posture as an adult. Of those who maintain these practices, almost all are people who “dominate”, as this argumentative perversion serves them to justify unjustifiable acts. This is the logic and “practical interest” of intellectual dishonesty.

That is, it is common for you to see this behavior in white men, from the middle or upper class, with little education (rude, in other words). There is a logic to this: due to an absolute lack of ability to argue, this group needs to take the arguments of others, those that they perceive to be the most accepted, most consensual arguments, and reverse them, thus creating a confusion that causes enormous discomfort, for those who defend the original argument.

Observe now the political behavior of Bolsonaro and his group: it is exactly that, always. They create monsters, destroy everything in their path, and then make themselves victims of procedures that they themselves instituted. 300 million fake news stories were released about “dick bottles” and other perversities, which ended electoral democracy, but soon after winning the election, they launched a huge campaign, using the same robots, claiming to be victims of the wave of fake news . Do you remember the Bolsominion blogger who went to the CPI and to defend himself against his misconduct, accused the reporter who denounced him of sexually harassing him? So it is.

Do you remember Moro, Dallagnol and their gang (which until yesterday were Bolsonarists), who built their political career with the reputation of fighting corruption and serving the law but, behind the scenes, they only committed illegalities and showed themselves to be corrupt and unethical?

This is the discursive technique of Bolsonaro and his minions. They will always twist what you are indignant about and they will scream indignantly using their same argument, only inverted to their side. And you can only get your guts in the face of so much intellectual dishonesty.

And today, Bolsonaro made the statement that takes this practice to its most extreme point. After attacking democracy every day, feeding dictatorial impulses in his far-right cheerleading squad, after having a minister calling members of the supreme court bums who should be arrested, he “tweets” in “reaction” to the STF simply fulfilling its role: “something very serious has happened to democracy”. Need I explain more about misrepresenting an argument? He who destroys democracy every day becomes, in a tweet, the victim of the “attack on democracy”. A lesson in intellectual dishonesty.

What about the pandemic that has already killed more than 20? ahh, don't come to me with little problems.

*John Sette Whitaker Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP (FAU-USP)

Originally posted on the blog Cities for What(s)?

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