Part 2 Sam Harris Debates Racism with Woke Author-c8kI5BQvl9w
10:08PM Sep 6, 2020
are susceptible to different readings, I still think that we can't be so eager to find alternative explanations that we don't account for the likelier explanations. I think we can keep track of all the potential explanations. And, you know, I wouldn't sign an affidavit saying I know what was happening in Tucker Carlson's heart when he said these words, that's why I didn't write that in my book. I just think it's, it's just a little bit of a, of a self defeating exercise to say, Yeah, he could be I mean, when he talks about political transformation here, it's just a fact that white people in Virginia vote republican more often than non white people. So to take the potential explanation that he's actually talking about non white citizens. I just, it's possible, but I just don't see how it's more plausible than the more the more obvious explanation.
Well, again, I mean, the problem I have is if you if you Oh, Fit for this, you'll catch many innocent people and or, you know, many allies, right or erstwhile allies who now hate you because you just call them a racist.
Well, I didn't I didn't call him a racist, but I do think No,
no, I'm not talking about I'm talking about you, generally speaking, not you personally.
Well, no, I know. But I guess I guess another way of thinking about it is, I agree with you that you don't want to be so Cavalier and say, Oh, well, some eggs have to be broken to make an omelet that you just run around, willy nilly accusing everyone of everything. I I agree with you on that. I guess. At some point, like, I guess I'm struggling to understand when there would be a point where you would say, you know what, instead of worrying about canceled culture and worrying about Miss applying the term racist to certain white people, I'm actually going to be more concerned with how we have very public demonstrations of people in Congress. on TV, saying things that are clearly corrosive to the Civic fabric of our country, why is that not a bigger concern than I mean, I get why you're concerned about canceled culture and why that has a personal valence to you. I get all that
take me at my word here. I'm concerned for many reasons. But the chief reason for the purpose of the topics we're touching here, among its many other negative effects in the near term concern is that I think it's a losing strategy against Trump and the person I'm, you know, the, the person whose blow variations racist and otherwise, and most concerns me, is Trump.
Yeah, I do get that. And I. Well, one thing is I don't think we can only have short term goals. I think we also need to have long term goals and
my long term goal is to get to a post racial society where we can't imagine that generations if human beings had to talk about any of this bullshit.
Yeah, well, I just I don't think we can get there without doing a lot of work to uproot. History of white supremacy and I mean, we might disagree about that. But I don't think we can get there by ignoring race. I think it's quite the opposite.
We certainly can't get there by ignoring racism. But clearly the whoring race, no, but the they're there we're talking about or Lisa there I'm talking about is there where race is a deeply uninteresting distinction between people, if we're going to get to a future where race is much more like hair color than anything else. How would you imagine that we're going to get there by paying more and more attention to the significance of race?
Well, it's a big question, and I don't
the question answers itself.
I don't think it does, actually. Because I don't think even if we agree that there's some far off moment where you know, race isn't interesting that we want to get to, we can disagree about how what it's going to take to get there. I think, even if that's your goal, and you can kind of envision it in some far off kind of Ursula Gwynn
I don't think we can afford for it to be that far off. But I don't even think it needs to be that far off. I mean, just look at the gains we've made around the acceptance of gay culture and gay marriage. I mean, the gay marriage battle was totally lost. And then it was suddenly one part of my frustration here is that the path to progress seems wide open, but for the fact that we keep attacking each other rather than just simply walk the path.
Yeah, so that that is the clearest disagreement I've heard between us so far. I don't think the path to progress is wide open at all, I think. Yes, it's miraculous that the Overton Window shifted in the in the correct direction on gay marriage as quickly as it did, and I don't at all deny the possibility of fast progress, but I think it's a really, really different case. This this country and its economy was not founded on oppression of gay people. It was certainly there but the engine of the economy of this country for a long time was slavery. And I know that we can get stuck in all kinds of debates about reparations, and what would it mean, and you know, is Marianne Williamson's reparations plan? Ridiculous, and Tallahassee coats and whatever. And again, none of that is, in my book, I'm happy to talk about it. But I think the big disagreement that it sounds like we're having is, I think we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission before we're gonna get to a post racial future. I think that our attempts to constantly say, Oh, it's behind us, it's behind us. You know, we have a black president now. Therefore, we live in a post racial country. I mean, I just think it's folly. I think it's like, you know, it's like, if you were in India, and you had thousands of years of building an entire culture and religion on caste, and then you wrote a constitution in 1947, that didn't mention caste. And then you said, Okay, we're a post caste society like that's, it's ridiculous.
Well, no, it's a good analogy, though. I think. If you simply abolish the caste system, and then punished anyone who tried to hold on to it in any consequential way, you could move forward without,
yeah, two things there one by saying punish anyone who attempts to hold on to it in any way, it sounds like you're advocating for extremely stringent or William speech laws,
not punished in two ways punished. You make certain things illegal, right? Like you have you have actual political equality so that when people infringe on their neighbor's political rights based on caste system, or on you know, racism in our case, well, then there are laws against that. But two people get punished reputation only when they actually declare their support for ideas that are now despicable
like the great replacement theory. Right. So I think I mean, I guess so the reason we're coming to two I now see why we're disagreeing here, because, look, they did try to do that in India. They said, We have written a constitution that abolishes caste And we've tried to do that here. We've tried to make all kinds of laws that punish people for racist behavior. We've tried to outlaw redlining and we've tried to outlaw discrimination in the criminal justice system. It's not perfectly effective. It's not even largely effective because you can't uproot all racism. And I mean, I don't think racism is even strong enough, you can't uproot an entire structural history of white supremacy by just willing it to be so and and to get to the second part of your point. Look, we can disagree about specific cases. I think you're right that people sometimes hear dog whistles where they don't exist. I think we can find specific cases where somebody was treated unfairly that you and I would both agree with, but the larger point is that you just made the case for why I think social opprobrium is an important tool in some cases when people are going on.
We totally agree about that. So and hence, it's such an important tool that we have to use it correctly. If it's too blunt, a tool It's no longer a tool, right? Or it's just going to it's going to create more grievances that then have to be addressed with more opprobrium.
I definitely agree. I think we just disagree about when and where to apply it. And that's why I really I wasn't trying to paint a caricature or a straw man of your position. When you were talking about the apprentice tapes, I really am trying to understand. I worry that you're setting the bar way too low or too high or whatever, I forget which direction we were going. But I worry that by saying, You're never allowed to use social opprobrium, unless it's literally a tape of someone using the N word, I just I don't think that's good enough.
That clearly isn't my position. We've spoken about this as though there were binaries to be found. And I think there are some fairly bright lines that once someone crosses them or fails to cross them, that should matter, but they're clearly continuous here and people who seem to shift their position, least a little bit in ways that seem to matter. And so I mean, there's some The characters in your book are guilty by association with with one another, but also both differentiate themselves from one another. And, you know, in the end these lack of alliances seem relevance and you have someone like Mike cernovich. Who, and again, this is all also just a little gray to miss you have someone like Mike cernovich who will disavow the alt right and certainly disavow white nationalists. But you know, he'll still be associated with someone who won't. I think that one scene you write about, I think was Gavin McInnes, who started the proud boys. And, you know, I think he disavows white nationalism and racism, but he also will hug Richard Spencer when he when they show up at the same party. So how did you think about who's who among these cast of characters and where they're where their bright lines that were not at all permeable? Or did you find people who seemed one way and then revealed themselves to be another way and you had to revise your opinion of them.
Yeah, um, it's both I think, you know, I think it's right to search for bright lines where they exist. But then I also think often as you just said, it's a it's a little gray sometimes or often. So I, I think the only way to really figure it out, and I'm not sure that I figured everything out. But I think to the extent that I did figure stuff out, it was just by hanging around a lot and putting in a lot of time and attention to what they actually do. I mean, I would have been totally journalistically accurate. If I had gotten a quote from Gavin McInnes where he said, I'm not a white nationalist, and I don't have any problem with Jews and you know, blah, blah, blah, and then left before he revealed himself to be have some kind of behind the scenes relationship with Richard Spencer. Now that's not to say that that's some aha moment where I go, Oh, I now know that you secretly agree with everything Richard Spencer has ever said. I don't think that's True. I don't think that's responsible journalism. And I, I do take your point, here and elsewhere that guilt by association can be a dangerous thing. I mean, I've even seen people reproduce a picture of Richard Spencer, having a drink with Julia eofy, who's a journalist. And as if that's evidence that she is in league with Richard Spencer, it's like she's a journalist. She's going to talk to a source. That's what journalists do. So I definitely understand how that can be taken too far.
This gets even more extreme. I mean, even have Noam Chomsky going on Stefan Molyneux his podcast, right, like I won't go on his podcast, right. Noam Chomsky? Well, so as Noam Chomsky, a white nationalist, closeted reactionary,
I doubt Right, exactly. So you can question whether Chomsky should have done that. But yeah, I don't think it makes sense to impute all of his views to him. I take that point. I do think though, that when you're dealing with people who really expertly and repeatedly shade the meanings of what they say and misrepresent what they mean, and even in some, in some cases, their own intentions are opaque even to them. I just think the way through that is to pay closer attention and Marshal more and more evidence. And in some cases, that evidence is going to be anecdotal. I mean, you know, you've used the word data, and I think in some cases, there is data, but in a lot of cases, there really isn't. Or sorry, I don't know if you're a plural data person, I'm a singular data person, but I just sometimes what you have to go on is not you know, surveys or studies or I mean, as we know, you know, pulling data aren't always that useful either. So like sometimes you just have to see what's in front of you connect as many dots as you can and and that's why that's why I did object to the Tucker stuff because I was careful to only say what I thought I knew and that's why I use the word seem when I meant seem You know, I don't always know what people really believe if you if you put a gun to my head and said, How much of Richard Spencer's ideology does Gavin McInnes agree with? I really would not be able to answer you, I just really don't know. I just know how he acts in the world. And I know that a lot of these people are playing with fire. And that's why, again, I don't want to, I don't want to caricature our positions into saying that you only care about intentions, and I only care about effects. I think we're both aware of the other side of that argument. But I just think effects matter. And I think when people keep coming back to playing with the fire of a really dangerous tropes again and again and again and again, there's often a reason. Well, no,
no, I certainly worry about effects. I mean, the one effect I keep worrying about here is that will elect Trump again, despite our best intentions. So yeah, I think you have to worry about both but intentions. What somebody really wanted, though. They Got some other spectrum of effects and they really wanted something else. That should matter, because that's, that's the only clue you have to what they'll do next time. Right? Yes. Well, yes,
yes, I agree. But I think if you asked Donald Trump when he was a Democrat in 1999, or even when he was whatever he was in 2015, if you asked him, would you like to be in charge of an administration that puts babies in cages and psychologically traumatizes them forever? He would have said, No, that's not my intention. But, you know, he did it. So I I just and yes, Trump has a special case and his brain works or doesn't work in special ways. But I don't think it's always a clear path between what's in someone's heart and and what the effects of their actions are.
Yeah. What you said a moment ago actually connects to some of my other concerns here is I think that the reason why I'm so worried that we talk about this precisely and that we that allegation of racism or dog whistles or anything else in the space be precise, and that we give people the benefit of the doubt when there is doubt is that to fail to do that just makes it harder to know what's actually going on in the world. I mean, like, as you said, you know, polls can be unreliable, certainly what people will say can be an unreliable guide to what they think and we know that preference, falsification is a problem, right? So we live in a society where there are very strong norms about believing one thing, and there's so much social pressure that you feel the moment you begin to dimmer on important points and that everyone just learns to lie about what they actually believe. And then you're, you know, in the, in the case of the Trump election, many of us are just blindsided by the fact that nobody was telling us they were gonna vote for Trump and though some people were and
I also think that you probably have a lot of people when the over And window on same sex marriage shifted so quickly, you probably had a lot of people who were to make a bad joke still in the closet about their homophobia and probably still are. Because it's not socially acceptable to be an outright homophobe anymore. So I think a lot of people just kind of sit on it and suppress it. And I think you could make the argument that that has deleterious effects, you could make the argument that that actually has salutary effects because we get to move on as a society and stop engaging in this despicable practice.
I think it certainly has good effects. And we can move on decisively when when we can and I think in that case, we can and I think, you know, homophobia will will erode in the next generation just because a new norm has been established. And I think what many of us are concerned about, you know, more in the center politically here is that it seems odd that when so much progress has been made on many of these issues, you know, you know, the problem of racism among them. We seem to have convinced ourselves that the emergency has somehow gotten worse. Any acknowledgement of the progress is pain, you know, just empty lip service to, you know, norms that need to be overturned, right? Yes, I cite that we've had a two term black president. You know, that's evidence of nothing. Right. That's how dare you. That's an expression of mere white privilege. And I think that it's understandable that that would be a kind of pendulum swing a moral panic in response to Trump and trumpism. But on some level, it feels like it's given us Trump and may yet give him to us again.