« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#137 — Safe Space

2018-09-09 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Jonathan Haidt about his new book "The Coddling of the American Mind." They discuss the hostility to free speech that has grown more common among young adults, recent moral panics on campus, the role of intentions in ethical life, the economy of prestige in “call out” culture, how we should define bigotry, systemic racism, the paradox of progress, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today, I'm speaking with Jonathan Height John is the Thomas Cooley, professor of ethical leadership, at New York University, stern school of business? He got his Phd in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and he taught at the versity of Virginia for sixteen years and I believe in the psychology department he is the author of the righteous mind and the happiness hypothesis Ann. Most recently coddling of the american mind with his co author. Looking on off This is John second time on the podcast, john- and I have a somewhat colorful history. We now play well together, but that was not always so everything went back and looked at some of our skirmishes in print and was surprised to see how hard we rolled we really tried take each other's head off
This is an example of a collision that ultimately worked out. Are people who have fought pretty hard with in the past, where are debate over ideas death only swift, the bounds of collegiality. This happen My friend Dan Dennett about free will. And it happened with Sean Carroll, the physicist, but then further. Conversation got us back on track. Of course, there have been Other skirmishes with the outcome seem to cancel all possibility of future conversation. It it's hard to know when that point has been reached I'm hearing rumors, for instance that Noam Chomsky may want to do a podcast and that's an experiment I'd be willing to run actually as bad as that. Mail exchange was proud I have to do that in person. And with a mediator.
And maybe maybe with some MDMA an armed guard, but You want me to try it so I'll. Let you know if that comes together John is now very easy to talk to. He is a collaborator he is doing very important work and here speak about his new book in about the recent moral panics among young adults, and we discussed controversies over free speech on campus, the role intentions in morality, the economy of e so called call out culture about how we should define bigotry systemic racism, the paradox of progress, how the world gets better and better and we coddle our kids more and more because we want to be a safe and as easy as possible under please so, but there is downside. In any case, this is a timely conversation which,
should be relevant to people in regeneration really, were into the young and we're talking, to their parents who have to live with them so for the delay, I bring you Jonathan Height I am with Jonathan Hi John thanks for coming back on the podcast, my pleasure SAM. So you have a new book which really world has been waiting for for quite some time, because you're addressing a problem that has been like this cresting wave of leftist intolerance is breaking over us for now for some years and the book The coddling of the american mind which you wrote with your co, author, Greg. Looking on off this book is come over, do it it's based on, Atlantic article that you guys wrote a few years ago. So, let's just talk about the general
So that's you are my podcast awhile back on, don't know was six months or here we go yes, wouldn't last year yeah and we got someone into this, but the problem has kind of crystallized. Since then and there are more elaborations of this. So take me back to the writing of the Atlantic article and just state the nature of the problem for us? So Great looking on off is a friend of mine. We we, we just knew each other casually through a mutual friend, and he came to talk to me in the summer of twenty fourteen and said. John. All this weird stuff has been happening on campus Greg. Is the president of the foundation for individual rights in education and he's been fighting for free speech rights for students since around two thousand, and usually that means fight campus administrators who wrote was imposing speech codes and designating little areas as free speech zones and suddenly in two thousand and thirteen two thousand and fourteen students started asking for,
Safe spaces trigger warnings date started saying that certain things need to be removed from the curriculum because they were dangerous or threatening or traumatizing, and in a variety of ways the students were showing the very thought patterns that Greg had learned not to do in cognitive, behavioral therapy red is prone to depression. That's a very serious, suicidal depression episodes. We talk about one in the book that that led him to learn c, B, T and C B. T you learn to do things like recognize catastrophizing, you know if someone comes to speak, it'll it'll, destroy people, black and white thinking. You know somebody is all good or all bad discounting the positive though,
western tradition or whatever you want to say you focus on just the negative, not the positive, so quick, so like wow. This is really weird. Are we teaching students to think in ways that will make them depressed and anxious? So I came to he came to talk to me in the summer twenty fourteen and I had just begun to see some of that same stuff in my classes with you, and I talked about that in our last discussion. Just
students acting in a really you're, very sensitive, getting angry, easily and and then filing charges that sort of thing. So that stuff was, I was puzzled by that when Greg said he told his theory. I said wow that is such a cool idea and if you I actually kinda like to write this up with you. If you'll have me as a co author, and so he took me on, you wrote the article and it came out in August of twenty fifteen before all the protests and all the the you know the the change that happened around Halloween, especially hollowing of twenty fifteen. So we we were, you know the people thought that we were cherry picking in twenty fifteen. But then all this stuff happened in twenty fifteen twenty, seventeen and seventeen and violence at a few schools. So we ended up that decided. We actually had a lot more to say and the problem was a lot worse and he wanted to to it up as a book- and I said, I'm too busy. I've got to write this other book on capitalism and morality
but, as I thought about it, I thought no wait a second. You know I can write about capitalism in morality and try to help people think about economic systems which I'm just learning about myself or I can focus on the university's, which is where I live, and what I know about. We can actually try to do something together. So I decided to write the book with him, and here we are Now, in recent months, some people have argued that this problem is vastly overblown that it's a minority of campuses and even in my people on those minority of campuses. I think it was VOX article not long ago. That argue that this was just a pseudo problem. Yes, I think their headline was everything we think about the political correctness. Crisis on campus is wrong, and you know, yeah kind of language- everything? Yes, everything right, who could have in the box would get anything wrong here. Yeah! That's right! That's right, the careless! So what is how
and to increase your confidence that you're not imagining this problem yeah. So you know what I'm all about is that we are all imperfect we're all by, Yes, we all look for confirmation of what we want and that's why we need you point diversity, and so I co founded Heterodox academy. Precisely because we need you point diversity. We need to be challenged, and so, when a political scientist from Canada, Jeff Sachs, not the kind of missed it at Columbia, if it just says when he wrote an essay? Whatever reason is that the set of tweets, but then an essay? I'm are you that actually the data show that there's no changes, no problem, it was actually wonderful. It was really. It was a really great demonstration of the value of you point, diversity and challenge, because it forced us to go back to look at his data and see what really you you see, no change and then to refine our position, and so what sex showed is that if you look at data in the gf,
That's the general social survey and you look at millennials there, no different on attitudes towards free speech and he's right and that really helped us refine our meant that all along we weren't talking about millennials. We were talking about the kids who started showing up on campus in twenty thirteen 'cause. You don't see any of this stuff before two thousand and thirteen at all, be it all comes in between two thousand and thirteen, two thousand and fifteen. So right there that helps us see that the issue is not millennials and this our book is not about millennials at all. It's about Ign or GEN Z. That's the first clarification that was very helpful. Second, clarification is that there were about four thousand five hundred institutions of higher education in the United States. Most of them are two year schools or vocational schools. Most of them are not selective. If students go attend one of those schools and they go home to a family or off to a job, there's no way they're going to buy into this very arcane worldview in
words or violence, and they need the safety from books that that kind of morality can only flourish if there's very little diversity, there's no other political diversity. If students are kept together for four years under certain circumstances, this arcane, moralistic world, you can flourish, and that seems to happen especially at a liberal arts colleges in the northeast and the West Coast. That's where the problems seems to be strongest. So when Sax said it's not happening at most schools, we had to realize you know what he's probably right. We don't know we don't have data from the schools, but it's probably not have been most schools, but if you live, if you just look at say the top hundred from what we hear from people, their students and faculty, it is happening. People are are more afraid to speak up bad things can happen if you challenge the prevailing view and it's not because most students have suddenly gone off the deep
then they haven't. This is another good thing from Saks challenge. Is we had to refine our arguments? It's not due to a big change in the average student. It's. The big change the dynamics so that now this sort of a subset of students who are very angry and buy into some views that we can debate. But you know, I I think are are bad ideas. A subset of students who buy into certain ideas now is love to ride roughshod over everyone else, and people are for to stand up to them. So it's a change in the dynamics. Yeah. The dynamics are interesting because I think our intuitions about just how many people in a group are required to kind of nullify, the intentions and the aspirations of the whole group-
are pretty bad. I mean it doesn't take fifty percent of a group to turn the tide against the rest, that's right and with social media. So a lot of our conversation like a lot of many conversations, it will probably be about social media and what happens? How does the system change when you have various things and and forces in balance, and then you suddenly increased connectivity by a factor of a hundred. How did things change, and so the central term here is call out culture this? This is what the students themselves call it anytime you're in a culture in which you can be, you know, behaving as you've always behaved, and suddenly someone will pick on one word, one thing you said, and there could be no end of
rebel for you. That could be shame, humiliation mobbing when you are in such an environment, even if it's only one or two percent of your fellow students who would do that to you, look like they have an effect on your behavior just to be clear. This is not just a problem on college campuses were seen this because of first of all, people graduate from college and they enter the work force for These colleges very high level. So we see this sort of thing now at companies like Google software engineers, we see it at the New York Times in what was happening to bury Weiss, If you, if you recall, when the slack channel for the New York Times was published and berry had said something about, she had made a joke about immigrant. So they get the job done quoting Hamilton. This was during the Olympics, and she named an asian american figure skater. I believe who, in fact it's not an immigrant, but she was born nearly the daughter of immigrants. Yes, it was marginalizing to say they get the job done. That's right! We got a glimpse of what the bank
Discussions were like the New York Times and they seem very much to be of a piece with the kinds of triggering a fax you describe in your book on college campuses. That's right! So when our article came in twenty fifteen, a lot of people said: oh, come on, you know, students protest. This is student culture as soon as they go out into the real world. They'll have to drop this stuff. You know once they are higher than a corporation. The corporation is not going to stand for for this way of behaving and and it's very confrontational way of addressing hurt feelings and we didn't know what would happen, but it turns out. Yes, as you say, it became especially clear in twenty seventeen Google, memo and within a variety of other ways that these norms have spread out into some parts of the world, primarily those that higher, I think, creatives from the elite. Universities, that's where this culture is most
so you know if you were to look at a mining company based in Colorado. I bet you see no trace of it yeah, but yes, from what I hear at at top media companies at the New York Times at the Atlantic. There's a big generational divide in this is very important for people to stand on the left or the right. If you're, over thirty or thirty five, you believe in free speech, and a lot of people on the left in journalism are looking at these new norms way to is that what is this? So? This is it's not easy. While there is a left right aspect to it, unfortunately, it's, A generational divide, there's a set of new understandings among young people and we should go into why. That is because, whenever you know part of my whole, approach to morality. Is that I live in a moral world. We all live in a moral world, more matrix and it's not things don't happen because they're evil people out there pushing the evil ideas
They happen because there are good people pushing their ideas about virtue or goodness that end up producing some bad effects, and I think that's what's happening here, so we just we should be very clear. This isn't about bashing. Young people are GEN x r. I Jim this is about understanding how a newer morality emerged in which prioritizes inclusion and diversity, which are good, no good things, of course, but it prioritizes them in a way that I think sets us up for unending conflict in all of our institutions, where I want to get into the root cause of this problem and talk about your three great untruths, which I think was a great way to structure your analysis here. But before We broaden the focus. I I just want to give an example of the kind of thing that has happened on some of these college campuses that has motivated you to pay attention to this problem, because I've had a lot of attention to it, but the details of some of these case
is were still blurry to me and it is just amaze to consider what has been happening. So I I think, let's just talk about the dean Spellman Clairemont Claremont Mckenna College yeah. That's a really really clear one yeah sure not limit I'll see if I this story very briefly, So Clement Mckenna College out, in LOS Angeles, there was a student from whose parents parents emigrated from Mexico and she she she was born in California that she's a student at Cmc and she writes an essay in some I think, it's a campus publications sure it's an essay talking about how marginalized she feels, and you know she makes some some points, but what it's like to be seen as an affirmative action admit to be on a campus where all the people like you are most people like you are the gardeners rather than the professional staff. So it was a perfectly reasonable, as a first for students to write and then in response to that, the dean of
Prince Mary Spellman, since we're private email, just person to person, private email read the whole email Olivia. We changed her name here to it, but for Olivia. Thank you for writing and sharing this article with me. We have a lot to do as a college and community. Would you be willing to talk with me sometime about these issues? They are important to me and the dean of students, staff and we're working on how we can better serve students, especially those who don't fit our Cmc mold. I'd love to talk with you more so a Livia posted this email on her web page and it's not quite the riot ensued, but she invited people to comment. And it just share her outrage. Now I leave it to the listeners to find the outrage. What was she outraged about? I guess you read the book SAM, so you know yeah, it was. The use of the word yeah? The amazing thing is that hinges on a single word. This is way beyond campus problem, but the dynamics of this is that it is. Seized up on the worst possible, interpret
nation of in this case a single word. I think, with the understanding that the author of, in this case, teen Spellman, couldn't have possibly intended those worst possible, so creations would that work? Oh intent, doesn't matter SAM intent doesn't matter now you and I in the talk about that basic moral psychology is not you know somebody bumps into you. We don't say done something immoral unless they meant to. If they intended to push you it's immoral, but if they tripped or if it's an accident, then we say no, you know you didn't mean it. Ok, you apologize we're done, but that's the old fat. And otherwise known as the universal view of morality, which is that it intends matters primarily for judgment. Not not out, come out right, not impact as they say, but the new doctrine is in the intense, doesn't matter its impact, and so, if something makes someone feel marginalized or victimized, then
they have been marginalized or victimized, and this is a really really good way to set students up to be really hurt and angry often, and that's why the subtitle of our book is how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure. So yeah, it's in any in any normal world. She even if she felt a flash of like this mobile mold. What is this work, but it turns out, is actually where the use on campus a lot to to talk about how there is a standard prototype cut. You know what speed jockey sort a white person so find that unites the prototype and installment is, is trying to help people who don't fit it. So, but yes, as you say you you you The goal of discourse is to find the worst possible reading so that you can call them out, and then you get the prestige for identifying a racist or something like that. So I think we should linger on. Why intentions should matter, but let's just close dean's elements case, so so what happened in the aftermath
right, so a Livia posts, the email on her facebook page and she says her comment- is I just don't fit that wonderful, Cmc mold feel free to share. So her friends took that invitation. They did share it and added their outrage about the event and that sparked a wave of giant protests? There were marches demonstrations, as usually happens, there's usually a list of demands given to the president, and it almost always includes mandatory diversity, training for everyone, and this is key demands that Spellman Resign. So in the new call out culture, it's not enough to shame someone. You have to appeal to authority to get them fired or punished or renounced, and the leadership there did with leadership at almost all universities does, which is they don't stand up for the person being attacked? They don't stand up for their faculty. They try to play.
The angriest students they do what they can to basically by piece and in so doing they validate the narrative that Cmc, like all schools in America, is so deeply institutionally racist that it needs radical reform. Why Do you think the administrations are so craven in the face of these it would clearly, I think, would take fifteen minutes to assess our moral panics. Yes, that's right, it is a moral panic and we should return to that and we should note that there are moral panics on both sides. The the right wing media is in a moral panic about this, just as the students are so there's enough craziness to go around but yeah. I've wondered about that too. Why did this university is almost always? Why do the leaves almost always shown no backbone an? I think it's in part, because they could not understand this. So in the first year nobody stood up. There wasn't a single college president, except for the.
Resident at Ohio State when he said when they occupied his office- and he said ok, you've made everyone here in this building feel unsafe. I'm going home now the police will come at seven hundred am and anyone here will be arrested. So then the protesters left when presidents were also at Oberlin when they gave the president there the list of demand. They gave him the ultimatum, and he said I don't do ultimatums. If you want to come talk to me, my door is open, but I don't do ultimatums and then they, you know route tracked it and met with him. So the point is that the students are in part through impart their behave, that way, because there's been a vacuum of leadership, there's not any clearer moral order and so things just sort of drifted to more radical, more confrontations approaches. And then we should say that Spellman did wind up resigning correct. She did resign. The universe.
University. Leadership never stood up for never said a word publicly to defend her, that they didn't fire her. Of course I mean they couldn't possibly fire her, but you can imagine what it would be like to be a dean of students. I mean she seems like you can see. You can watch the videos. If you, Google, Cmc student protests, you can find them. You know she seems like a very sweet woman who is the dean of students and to have students. We know swarming around you can watch I mean it. It looks kind of like one of those shame circles from the culture revolution in a circle berating her with that through a through a megaphone? I'm sure she was quite well, I hate to say traumatized, but in the I mean just really would be traumatizing to have everyone call you a racist and demanding that you be fired, and I think she was castigated for phone sleep in one of these meetings.
But we were really. She was just trying to hold back tears and it was just like this: that's what you watch the video and again it's so you know at one point: she closes her eyes. She squeezing her eyes from you can't see very clearly, but it's you know it. She, though a woman bracer says and she's even falling asleep, while we're talking to or no no she's crying anyway, so it the whole thing is really horrible to watch and there there are a number of these stories number these situations and I and most Americans don't know about them. So let's just pause for a second to talk about the underlying ethics of intentions and I guess uh. Yeah. I mean it's pretty interesting to me to see, and this goes far wider than the kinds of cases were talking about, but just what are the criteria for an apology being x? did we're witnessing now on social media, the casual and, in many cases, warranted destruction of people's reputations,
and this goes out to you- know the Me2 phenomenon- and I mean just this- is now ubiquitous in our lives. We're seeing people who just issue stream of or single unfortunate tweet, and this comes back haunt them and you know they're either destroyed or not depending on kind of the draw in many cases and often there's an attempt to apologize and disturbed the degrees of since thirty here. But all of this runs to the significance of what a person actually intends by his or her actions and how those actions are perceived. Others in and the mismatch there and then what is subsequently said to Claire the intention or even when intentions were in fact, too bad or less than perfect. How is it that an apology
can there after matter and redeem a person. So how do you think about this? So I think you're you're, focusing a little bit too much on the dynamics of the interaction between the people calling for the person's head and the person who's being accused. I think that's not the right place to focus the right place to focus is on the dining between the person calling for the person's head and all the other members of that person's team or or side? So I am the way I like to think about things. Is that I'm a social psychologist? So you know we you often it said in journalism, follow the money and if you know who's, love, who you understand what the mode is. Are you can understand you unravel the mystery well for a social psychologist, I would say: follow the prestige. What is it that one gets prestige for doing now? Everybody of all ages is interested in Steve, but especially for young adults, were working it out. It's really really important and
especially in a new environment like college. So what do you do to gain prestige? Is it being a great athlete? Is it being beautiful? Is it being smart, and it varies- depends on your subculture- depends on the school, but you have to understand the economy of prestige. What is it that earns you prestige and I think what has changed since two thousand and thirteen or fifteen two thousand and fourteen is that we've seen the growth of the new economy of prestige, in which you gain prestige by calling out others by essentially accusing them of racism, sexism, homophobia fob or some other form of bigotry. Now, if you think about this, imagine you know me. Many of your listeners will know the term externalities from economics. You know if you, if, if when I I save money by buying a diesel car but it imposes an externality on the world because my car pollutes well in the same way, if we have an economy of prestige in which I gained prestige by accusing others of racism or calling them out for various forms of bigotry
there's an externality, namely all the people, that I am accusing every day. You know it's like imagine if we were all paid by the bullet, you just see here, here's a gun, is a thousand rounds of ammo. Just shoot shoot as much as you can you get paid by the ball. It doesn't matter where hits just shoot and I think that's what we've unleashed on some campuses again, not most campuses. You know if you go to schools in the S or the lower Midwest or the mountain areas, I don't think it's as much but along the coastal strip of the West Coast, not inland, but the coastal strip of the this goes and New England at elite schools and again not so much in the the school non engineering departments, but India in the in some of the humanities departments in education, schools. There are sub their sub areas of universities where this new economy of of Christie's has taken root. So that's the way I am This reveals why it is totally divorced from any good faith. Interaction with the intentions of the person,
you're targeting exactly if your eyes are on your group and the stock price of your prestige in your group, you're not actually detecting. The thought crime you're claiming to detect in other people, because you don't actually care what their intentions were. That's right and I think that this there it causes so many problems for a for a closed system like the university. Where you could you know here, we are we're all trying to create diverse cohorts. Diverse institutions were pretty much all in favor of diversity in universities, so we're trying to create this. This kind of a a culture in which the potential for risk for for offense taking is huge. If you have people from all over the world, you have, you have people from all different ethnicities, so we're putting people together in ways where it could be like a tinder box and what we,
should be doing, is teaching them skills of how do you get along and not give offense? How do you give less offense and how do you take less offense, but in again not everywhere, but in some some sub cultures which teaching people to take maximum offense be maximally flammable as it were, and then, of course, we have all these fires breaking out so then again to just a back up here. What why should intentions matter? Why is the status quo we are describing here, such a more full error, because normal morality. I think you and I both agree, normal human morality is an adaptation shaped by natural selection to facilitate cooperation
morality is about having the traits or were virtue in character or about having traits that make you a good partner for cooperation. And so, if somebody harms you deliberately, you need to know that and write that person off. If the harm you accidentally before mister right off the you know, everybody harms people accidentally. If you rode off your family members, you know when they offended you in order for your feelings, especially the means to you with none of us would have any family. So we have to pay attention to intent. That's what matters to judge a person's character but, as I said, this is not a game. This is not really about what happens between the offender and the if This is a game of what happens between the offended and all the other part of the other people that the offended person is signaling to the following from there on the primacy of intention. How do you think we should define bigotry well, so I think that the central definition should focus on intend to central definition should focus,
on on some element of hostility or negative evaluation, and so the term microaggression could be a useful term if it was limited to small acts that that convey hostility, dislike contempt. So I think that would be most of the work for us if we focused on intent now that would still leave something that we would need to be addressed, and you know again, my approach is to say: if there's a a moral concept, there probably is something good useful are true behind it, and so the people who promote idea of microaggressions are saying you know, even if even if people aren't hostile to me, if they keep asking me where I'm from, because I don't have dark skin or I look asian or I look, I look like I'm from the Middle EAST and they keep saying where you
from, and it's clear that you know my answer of New Jersey doesn't satisfy them. 'cause they really want to know is where my parents from you know. So I can see that if you repeatedly or ask that it could get tiresome, and so I think it's good to have a term for that. It's good to train students to not do things that might make students feel self conscious or make make them feel bad. In a black students? Sometimes they people touch their hair okay. Now, maybe the person who touches their hair, my so I'm just curious united mean anything by it, and maybe they didn't, but like that's, really rude. Okay, so you know we need a term for that, but the term should not be aggression. The term should be a faux pas or something like that it should be. So is this something foolish, so I will be totally fine with training students with if we're gonna do this experiment of of putting together a very diverse student body, I think we should do some training in norms of how to get along and give less offense, but if we teach students about microaggressions and we teach them to follow their feelings,
so that if they feel offended than they were attacked and if they were attacked, then they need to call this number here is the number of the bias response team you can find it in the bathroom every every basket and what you want to go to the bathroom, there's a sign there telling students three ways they can report me if I say something that offends them. So I think what we're doing here is when this is the second great interest in our book is, always trust your feelings, don't allow anybody to challenge them, or just say maybe you've interpreted this incorrectly yeah. So get to the these untruths in a second again just to capture What we care about here that may be beyond intentions. I certainly have an up to the minute sense of you know what has been replicated. Perhaps you do, but some research, suggest that there really is a problem here that is very likely outside the launch is understanding of any person who may or may not have bad intentions, and I think it's
we're more clearly expressed than in these resume or cv tests that we have heard about where you send identical resumes and you just change the name in one case, being in a in a want to be name one white connotations at another, a name that has you know obvious black connotations, and you see a very different pattern, or so it's reported in call backs for interviews. I guess one, I'm just asking you what you, if you know what the status of that research is and can we rely on it and two that does seem like a problem. Worth worrying about that really does slip this net of any persons, individual intentions, sure so a couple things this one is, I don't doubt that there many of those studies and many of them find that result an important thing to note is that in general, changing the name of the
in matters, but when you look at the at the race or sex of the person doing the judging it tends not to matter that much. In other words, it's not just that white men are big. It's against everyone else. It's that people in a you know as a professor's. Let's say where it's done. A professors have different expectations about a person based based on their race or gender. So that's one thing, and then here we should bring up the Justin's work on straight accuracy. If we live in a world in which there are in fact correlations between things, there's no way, we can stop people from noticing those correlations. So I don't doubt that people have stereotypes and that people do act on the stereotypes and the stereo types tend to be shared across demographic groups. That's one thing. Second, I think that would certainly count as a kind of racism or prejudice. It is a judgment of people based on their category membership,
That's not systemic racism, systemic racism and sexism is something different. That means there's something about the structure of the institution that ends up disadvantage in members of certain groups. Even if nobody, no individual in the institution holds prejudice attitudes, so that's a very important concept and I don't doubt that that is and it matters, but what I think is really important for us to all understand is what does it take to show systemic prejudice, and I heard your talk with common use. His was wonderful and he put his finger. On one of them. You cannot just say Oh look, women are only thirty percent of the physicists. Therefore it systemically sexist against them. You cannot just point to differences of outcome and say this proves systemic sexism or racism. You have to get the pipeline, and only if the pipeline of very qualified people that coming in is very different from the
he hired then now you're off and running. Now you can start saying it might be some systemic problem in the institution. So that's. The first thing is is when you, when you, when I asked since okay what even example, it's almost always two categories- samples of systemic sexism prejudices that are almost always under representation, which, as I say, is not sufficient it. It might be a reason to look into its, not proof with it's not even necessarily evidence, and the other thing that people point to is is individual cases.
So like at Yale. There was a really ugly case where it was a few months ago, where a woman in a grad student it was it found out. There was a black woman sleeping on a sofa in a common area. She called the police on this woman. Now this is obviously racism. This she obviously thought. Oh, this is a fellow student. So this is racism. Ok, but now does this mean that Yale is racist and if your goal is to prosecute the maximum possible, if your goal is to show how everyone and everything is racist, then you say this shows that Yale is racist. Yale must do more, you still more diversity training when, in fact, I think the way to look at this is yes. Here was an active racism and it's appropriate for that woman to feel very ashamed of herself, and if Yale has, I don't know one thousand five hundred and twenty thousand people in it, and if this sort of thing is happening every day and especially if it happens every day and people don't care wow. That would be
and at the race's place. But you cannot take zero as the only acceptable number of of racial or sexist incidents. In other words, if you have a group of twenty thousand people- and there are three cases like this per year, that would be amazingly good, like I can't imagine any human institution that would get that close to zero and then, of course, if you factor in misunderstanding now here there was not a misunderstanding, but often people miss here each other someone system joke, so no human institution will ever get down to zero per year. That's just not possible, and so you can't take instances as evidence of systemic racism or sexism is interesting because it yet at the leading edge of this ethically and politically for me, are, are those cases where you really just have to have the perfect instance of pages to no bright lines. As you say, there are cases where stereotypes are more or less accurate. We have stereotypes. Very off for a reason and those
cases where otherwise well intentioned people can be caught out as the sentry spreading this impression of racism or bigotry word probably doesn't exist, or at least doesn't exist at the level of bad intentions? I don't know the Yale case specifically, but let me just take You know violence in the black community, among know men aged eighteen to twenty four. If you go to city Chicago and decide be blind to the statistical reality that there way more violence among young black men than in other populations. You're just be willfully blind to what is in fact a reality. So you Imagine someone yeah a coffee shop in Chicago, seeing a young black man in you know some and is analogous to the one you describe at Yale right, so someone who seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and
Having this, you know reaction, you're calling the police and it to be totally unwarranted right now, in that case, what's interesting, me is, is: does the person feel ashamed to have done that you know The shame that the misunderstanding. A shame. There is a measure of, I would argue, the person not being racist in the primary sense, which is this person doesn't want to live in a world where people are discriminated against on the basis of the color of their skin. This person was just scared, based on the set of background assumptions that do more or less tract of the real facts in that environment right. So we can certainly try to understand why people have these stereotypes, why they call the police when they see black people in swimming pools and on beaches and all sorts of places. So we can certainly play the understanding game, but that doesn't mean that it's okay, so here's what here's, where the intent it we're just looking intent, is not sufficient,
so what was such a people? Click might argue that they had no bad intent, although it is clear they had a negative stereotype now. What you're saying is that we can't necessarily blame them for holding the stereotype it's hard to stop yourself from seeing contingency in the world, but a decent person and educated person is one who knows when to suppress those when not to act on them, and I think we do need to train people that low a lot of people have these stereotypes and if you act on them, you're often going to get it wrong and it would be the powerful, I think for more white people to hear what it's like to around the world while black and have people suspecting you and if you- and if these sorts of indignities happen to happen to black citizens every month? That's horrible! So, I think the living while black that mean that idea is very powerful. So I think we can address these problems. I would never say
Hey you know just get over it and accept things as they are, but I think if we can reduce the moralism, reduce the outrage and see these as complicated so science problems that have enormous impact, especially on the lives of of of black citizens. More than any other group. We have to take these seriously and try to change systems. Change training. Starbucks is right to dupe training on it, so I'm all in favor of I think we just need to sort of demoralize the language a bit and focus not on expressing maximum outrage, but on choosing methods that will work. It would have been wonderful if Starbucks had done an experiment. They had a chance to the biggest experiment in the hole, on this topic. It could have tried all kinds of different training and seen what works as far as we know there aren't really any methods of diversity, training that have been demonstrate.
To reliably produce improved racial interactions and racial climate. As again, I could be wrong on this, but as I've been meaning to try haven't found any that has been shown to be reliable, the Starbucks could have taken a an approach of let's try to solve the problem and they they could have done a taking giant step forward, but instead they- I I don't know, but I'm guessing It did a kind of a see why anything and they just did a big show. We, you know national, you know at all stores closed world and do the same training, and that means we learned nothing from it yeah. I guess for me the a crucial test here is, I guess, when call the what kind of world do you want to live in test, and if you apply that to a person that is the the approach filter for whether you're you're dealing with someone who can rap only collaborate in building a world that we all want to live in- and I said those people are, by definition, not racist in the primary sense. So if you take someone like Dean, spell
who would just talked about you read her email and you know that the world she wants to live in the world where all the students under her charge at Claremont Mckenna feel comfortable, feel Integrated feel, welcome and included, yes, and what's truly horrible about the current situation, is that you get the sense that the people who are calling for her head probably understand that, or at least could be made to understand that in about five seconds, and yet it still doesn't matter because it could, because some kind of taboo has been produced or bad faith has become a kind of pragmatic principle of seizing some kind of power here and that's what I find so odious about what's been happening. Yes, I think we the way to understand this- is that they're all kinds of different games that we could play and the university game or the or the find truth game
is the one that many of us think that we're playing or we think we're supposed to be playing, and that is you know I come forward and I say here's my hypothesis or here's. My argument here is my evidence and then you come or you say: no, you know what about this. What about that study and you know you and I went back and forth on the nature of morality and and this religion adaptation. So that's, then the game it can be heated sometimes. So that's that's one game and and universities are these special places for that game. They're designed for that game. They have norms for that game. They have role models for that game. We tell a story about ourselves that we go back to Socrates, who you know, at least in the western mind, invented or Warfield formalize that game. So that's one game, then there's a different game, which is the game that we played in the public school air, which is our side versus your side. What kind of society do we want to live in we're trying to change things you're trying to change things? They were at war, we hate you and it's the thinking of war. So, let's, let's just call it the war game
and in the war game I'm trying to inflict max damage on you, you're trying to flip and click maximum damage on me and then that's the way it goes and universities are not set up for that. Universities cannot handle that free inquiry exploration. These things die the instant the war game comes to campus, and this is, I think, the new dynamic and since two thousand and fifteen is while the war game used to be confined to just a few department's in a few schools on campus or not at most schools. Just you know at the more more radical ones. So it was there for a long time, but it was really confined to just a few little zones. I think it really burst out and spread widely in around two thousand and fifteen, and a lot of that is because that's happening all over the country, in other words, because of social media and rising cross, partisan hatred. I mean there's no doubt that if you look at how left and right feel about each other, it wasn't actually all that negativity up into the nineteen. Seven.
And cross partisan hostility. However, you measure it goes up and up and up from the eighties through the present, and so the war game has increasingly come to campus where the issue, if the speakers to come to campus the issue isn't, do we agree with him or not? The issue is: is this an attack on our side? This is on unacceptable. We must shut him down. We cannot let this speaker onto campus, and so I think this is what we're seeing on campus is complete and coherence. Yes, I some people want drag on, like the professors are some older people want right on to the court with ten in there what one right on the tennis, tennis, racquets and then they're getting tackled and they're like what what what just happened. This two different games. Ok, so, let's run through your three great untruths, because that we've touched on them in a kind of scatter shot way, but let's just to find them, because I think it's a very useful template for thinking about this. So what are the three? So my first book was called the happiness that
office is finding modern truth in ancient wisdom and it was about the ideas of the ancients. They were terrible, chemists and physicists, but they were very good psychologist, at least some of them, the ones that make it through to us and so the three. We can basically summarize the terrible ideas on campus with three ideas, each of which is the opposite of a chapter in the happiness hypothesis. So a chapter one of our book is the untruth of fragility and the great aunt Ruth is what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. So if to be exposed to writing that question. Your dearest believes if you're exposed to a bad word. You know a racial slur in in Mark TWAIN. Let's say that this could be damaging, and so we have to protect kids from it. The idea here is that kids are fragile, not anti fragile. They don't grow from adversity, they are scarred by it and if we let that, if we teach kids that, then they will fear, it will learn to fear negative experiences and that will make
make them weaker and more fragile here, and this is where safe spaces and trigger warnings and micro aggressions have become currency. Exactly that's right, so we call it the culture of safety ism. So safety is a good thing in general, especially physical safety, but with kid one thousand nine hundred and ninety five they've been raised again. This is not their fault. We raise them with very little play time much more school time, so they didn't have much nearly as much chance to play when they could play. It was supervised then nine hundred and eleven comes along and we tell them the world's dangerous full of terrorism. The bullying programs come along. Adults are now much more active in regulating the conflicts by the time you reach the early two thousands we start here in the first reports of parents were arrested when their kids are found in a park without an adult supervisor, so kids born after one thousand nine hundred and ninety five were really raised differently from kids before so our book
not about millennials it's about Igen or GEN Z. So anyway, yes, they were We really did a number on them and many of them find it sensible that they need to be protected in college that safety ism. There's a paradox here before we move on to the other untruths. There's a paradox here that you describe in the book, which is the it is the paradox of progress. Where I mean the truth, is that it civilizational, progress is in many respects, perhaps most respects analogous to creating a world which is more and more a safe space, fact that we are so coddled and disposed to coddle. Our children is because we owe you casual unlock that gets you maimed or killed is more and more an anomaly in our world. We feel like we can guard against its success
Lee and therefore there's more and more a moral obligation to guard against it successfully. That's right is we have we have shifting goal posts, so we made incredible progress on almost all fronts. Life is better in almost all ways, so you know anytime. I get too pessimistic about the future. I just nicer channel my inner Steve Pinker, hi, Matt, Ridley and others who point out that on almost anything, you look life is getting better. Yes, the gains aren't evenly distributed, but even the poor are a lot better off today, materially and they were thirty or forty years ago. So, yes, things are getting better and, as a consequence, we shift the goal posts. A part of that is, we have much smaller families. So when people had large families, there were a lot of kids around kids would go out to play, they would sometimes get hurt and occasionally would actually get killed. In a put me into Metallica, your child mortality is way way down. Accents are way way down, it's all wonderful, but what that means is that now that we have on the typically one or two kids
We worry bout them a lot more. We have the expectation that they won't won't get injured and we are also invested much more in them, as our personal project are prestige project going back to the issue of prestige. How do kids have people get prestige and at least in the middle class, and above you get prestige very largely by how your one or two children did on the college admissions race? And so that's another reason: we've cracked down on kids and deprive them a play time and force them to study. Study study play the cello. Do some fake volunteer and your life and getting into a top school. Do you have kids? How? How old are your kids? My kids are eight and twelve and I've been trying so, especially ever since reading Lenore, skinnies excellent us an easy route. Free range kids. She is the unknown America's worst mom, because she let her nine year old Son ride the subway in two thousand and nine, and he made it not only safe and sound, but Extatic thrilled that had been given a chance and that he had a chance to overcome this challenge, and it many people said this is terrible. This is a response,
This is child abuse or neglect, so she's, wonderful and since reading her work, I have tried to be more free range with my kids, but it's it can be difficult because there are no other kids just so. You know I send my son when he was nine hundred and ten. I would send him across the street to the supermarket and I had to kind of push him out because he said you know people look at me funny dad. There are no other kids out there without apparent people are ones like where's, your parents. So it's not a problem. You can necessarily on your own. We need a culture change to really move us to recognizing that, if kids don't have a lot of chances to be supervising they will not learn how to be self supervising yeah. To solve this with brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What's your trick? Well, I mean I'm just My daughters will be obliged to take brazilian Jiu Jitsu at some point about actually my oldest who's. Nine is just started, an it's fantastic and it's a fantastic Marsha. Search for creating you know all of the character learning you would want in it
on coddled mind, but it is in the context of my having coddled her to the limits of human ability. Right. Ok, so tell me how much tell me in a typical week of hers during the school year much time does she have where there is no adult supervising still watching over her know, adults, who knows what she's doing well within the confines of our house a fair amount, but no outside the outside. Your house yeah. We know there are no monsters in the house. It's a hard question. I mean she's, often in supervised rations. With that, where we are not, you know school in camp and what isn't? It is always a responsible adult. So that's bad right. We need to put our kids into situations where there is no responsible adults. No, I don't mean they should be playing in traffic, but like one great example of of what
a simple thing to do so, Lenore skin easy and I and and Peter Gray and Daniel Shipment- create an organization called let grow so people go to. Let grow dot org to find all kinds of suggestions for how we can let kids grow and we're really simple one is schools can open up the playground, the force? tool and after school and kids can play there and there will be no. Getting involved. So you might have an adult like nearby or maybe just inside, but there it's gonna fight. There will be no adult to come out and settle it. That's crucial and it turns out I do that and we've been doing it at some schools on long island. It works out fantastically well when the kids know there's no, no. They actually settle in solve their problems themselves hum,
then, how do you pair that with the bullying problem? That seems also to be described as some sort of epidemic yeah it is, it is tricky, and that too, is, I think, partly a moral panic. I think bullying rates are way down. The key about bullying is not an unpleasant. Confrontation is not name calling. We've had such concept creep on bullying that my kids will say if somebody said something mean to them. It's bullying and we've got to get over that. The key bowling is that it's repeated over days? So if there's, if a kid is picking another kid and there's a power imbalance- and it goes on for days so that one kid is afraid to go to school. Okay, that's a real problem, then you, you probably do need adult intervention least you need anti bullying training, so the kids themselves can recognize but if we treat two kids gang up on one,
calling a kid names word or or teasing or excluding. You know if we treat excluding US bullion that were in, that requires adult intervention. We are basically teaching our kids that, if there ever left out, is a problem that some adults should be alerted about, and that is really poor. Preparation for life so we're talking about this first grade untruth of fragility. What doesn't kill you makes you weaker. Great line at some point in your book where you're discussing this. That quote, triggers is a symptom of PTSD, not a treatment for it, you're talking about trigger there so like the idea that you should be avoiding the thing that makes you uncomfortable systematically and that you know in a college environment. It's the colleges possibility to never make you uncomfortable. That is the opposite of you've already mention.
Behavioral therapy, that's the opposite of the thing that would actually get you to overcome this disability. That's right, so we so so personal trauma is fairly common with PTSD is actually very rare, so people have young kids is in college students, many of had terrible things happen to them. Very few of them have actual PTSD and if they do have actual PTSD, they should be under the care of a therapist and the therapist we've spoken to especially the psychiatrists. They all they're all take this which is that the best way to get over a phobia. The best way to get over PTSD, which is brought on by reminders, is to be exposed do those very reminders in a graduated systematic desensitization way. So, if if somebody was a victim of violence with guns, let's say you don't want to remove any, story or any novel in literature that has a gun in it. That would be the opposite of what you should do. Of course you don't want a gun in their face. That would be terrible.
So, but it really good way to be systematically density. Sensitized is to be exposed to stories that have the word gun in it, and then nothing happens to them. By pavlovian conditioning leaf ear, drops- and so true- warnings while again well intentioned- and this is the theme of the book, although we're doing that are missing. Kids up are well intentioned, but they're, based on really really bad, psychology- and they end up many of them, having exactly the opposite effect of what we want. I guess the principle, Psychological issue here is that people have begun to quite emotional discomfort with physical threat. That's right! That's why people that's my kids today say I feel unsafe. Now it's one thing: if you
one safe, because you know you're out on a beam over. You know over a construction site, you know, or if you're, if you think of buildings going to collapse, you have every right to feel unsafe if you feel unsafe, because Charles Murray has come to campus and is going to speak about social class, which is what he was going to speak on at Middlebury. If that makes you feel unsafe, now, there's a problem. It's not your fault, but somehow you been you know. Life is hard enough. Somebody taught you that you should feel unsafe. If I talk is going to happen on campus, that you're not going to so is just foolish to make it to take your nervous system and to put triggers out there in the world and say all sorts of things that can happen. It's going to make me feel unsafe. I take this to the second grade. On truth.
Perhaps you want to introduce it. It sure is. The second grade on truth is the untruth of emotional reasoning, which is always trust your feelings. Now this is the exact opposite of ancient wisdom from every culture. I've looked at, so here's epictetus. What really frightens and dismays is not external of themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance and it's a great truth, because you find it in many cultures here our life is the creation of our minds with our minds. We make the world hears Shakespeare in in the hamlet, there's, nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so so we we choose how to Inter I think we have a lot of leeway in how to interpret things. There are a lot of ambiguous things in the world and we get to choose. Am I going to take this as a personal attack, brush it off and say the person probably didn't mean it as a personal attack and so I'll just give you one example. So I did a panel discussion. Here at Nyu and Nyu LAW, school
there was a student. There was a law student who it was, doing that, in my view, is systemically racist, and I asked her to explain: will I want to violence. She said perpetrates violence on its students of color. I said really but violence like you. Can you explain this to me? What do you mean that Nyu is systemically racist and she said well, it's undeniable that and why you was not built for people like me, because she's hispanic and after really wow, ok, I don't deny that it wasn't built for you when they built it in nineteen forty, they weren't thinking of of hispanic women. That's true, they might've been expecting all white males, but you know here we are in a panel with you know: JT, a gay black philosopher, Anthony Appier and a Chinese, a Chinese. Women she needs, and I'm jewish jewish man wasn't up for any of us and so
but it's amazingly open, Waze and incredibly open place incredibly welcoming place and so to take the historical fact that was built by white men and to turn that into an obstacle for yourself you she's, basically self marginalizing giving kids the tools to self marginalized. Even when they arrive at one of the most welcoming institutions, they could possibly find themselves in. So again we are setting our we're setting kids up for failure. If, if we, if we can teach kids to think this hey: we can guarantee that, no matter what we do, they will feel marginalized and unwelcome, of course, the I Jan retort to you just said, is that you're invalidating this woman's experience. Oh no, it's gone up since then I'm validating her existence. Well still, so if I assert that she poops she will cease to exist right right. No wonder she feels unsafe. So I guess this segues neatly into your third untruth, which is this
kind of black and white thinking about there being good people in the world and bad people in the world, the US versus them schema yeah. This is the most. This is the most pernicious of all so yeah the untruth. Is life is a battle between good people, an evil people- and this is this- is social psych, one hundred and one you know, there's all these experiments, the TAJ fail minimal group experiments, but it's very easy to turn people to get people to join groups and then- or dislike the other group, and this is the better one proverb me against my brother me and my brother against our cousin me my brother and cousin against against the world or against the stranger either way, and so what we do in the chapter This is what we try to do throughout the, but we don't come in and say: oh identity. Politics is terrible and social justice warrior. No, we don't do any of that. We're trying to solve the problem of trying to figure out everybody's well intentioned everybody's per,
doing what they think of as as moral ends are moral goods which try to figure out what what's going on and what would actually work. We find from looking at different forms of identity. Politics is that there is a need for identity politics in any organization. There will be politics, you know. Different departments will be scheming for their interests. To have people combine to have say the Blue Employees of the female employees, the transgender employees or students, whatever have them combined to pursue their interests, is not a bad thing. It's a necessary thing, but there's two ways to do it, and so you can either do it under the rubric of common humanity, identity, politics or common enemy identity. Politics I mean you look back at the at the most successful civil rights campaigners. You look it back and Martin Luther king he's always talking about my. What are our white brothers and sisters he's always trying to draw frames using the more resources of Christianity and of of american patriotism to say we are all.
We are all brothers, brothers and sisters now within this circle. Some of some brothers are not being given dignity, they're not being given the protection of the law, and when you do that, you end up winning, because the
a very powerful and emotionally powerful argument and that won the day. Here's polymer this is so just so so explicit, Holly Marie, who have a residential college GL, is now named after. I intend to destroy segregation by positive and embracing methods. When my brother is try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them so he's using as Buddha says. You know he doesn't dispel hate. Only love dispels it. So this is ancient wisdom. This is basic psychology, but instead, what happens nowadays on college campuses is, let's all unite. Let's unite all the all the members, the marginalized groups around our shared hatred of the enemy and the enemy is the straight white male, and so, if you do that, it can be effective at bringing people together, you can form a coalition of March
analyze. Groups in that can be a majority of the especially include women. 'cause most students are women, so you could unite seventy or eighty percent of the students against the straight white men. But is that really going to achieve your ends? Is that really going to lead to the kind of university you want? Or is it just going to lead to eternal conflict? There's this other schema, which is also black and white, which is, I think, probably play born of postmodernism rather directly, which is to see everything through the lands of power relationships, so that everyone is either an oppressor or a member of the oppressed, exactly that is the core of common enemy identity. Politics so in this is one of my biggest single concern about the new culture on campus and get new culture doesn't mean most people subscribe to it, but it's there it's a minority, but it has a lot of people intimidated. They do tend to to. I don't understand, because my
ever talk about postmodernism, because I've never been able to understand it? I am more comfortable talking about you're, not alone yeah, I'm more comfortable talking about interest sexuality in part, because the those writers are very clear Actually you, you really can read them and understand the point, and the core point is: it is a very good valid one which is you know if you is that into a densities interact in statistical terms, there are interaction effects, so a black woman isn't just treated as a black person and then also treated as a woman, that there are specific ways that she's treated, because she is a black woman. So that's intersection Alex that's totally legit. That's fine, that's helpful, and if you look at Kimberly, Crenshaw she's that one of the region or one of the spokes people are the major writers and
it's a TED talk which is really good. There's no hostility, there's no demonization of straight white males, so it can be done in a very positive way. But what happens on campus is that students learn to see everything in exactly. As you said, these dimensions, everything was dimensions, so you see, a white is bad because it depresses black male is bad because it depresses female straight is bad because it depresses all other sexuality's and you take young people who have proud to be tribal, who evolved to do tribal warfare and instead of doing everything you can to turn down the tribalism. You turn it up what a stupid thing to do. If you're going to assemble what could be a tinder box of different groups on campus? and you pour gasoline on the on the pile rather than what's the opposite, I don't know not water, but you know trying to get people to get along. You train people to judge others. On their race and gender. I cannot believe
Eve that we doing this in the 21st century, some students absolute form negative views of people, the instant they see them and it's considered virtue. I mean the reason why reverse racism in to take just one of these variables is so pernicious is that it is described quite consciously as highest moral attitude me your it fighting oppression, that's right exactly, and so that means that the Serra John, a phenomena that you know if you say, terrible, terrible things about straight white men. You gain prestige in your group, and so this is a common enemy identity, politics. It is a recipe for eternal division. It's completely antithetical to the progress we made the twentieth century, trying down this stuff, so you know you can manage this. Its defenders will say that you know with that are expressing hatred straight white men is not the same as expressing straight trade expressing
of of of of black people? Women and the right is not the same, but it still is bad and anytime you're training people to hate based on their group membership. I mean you can who could possibly defend that So they have is, you know, so just remind people who Sarah Jeong is because- and this goes to a larger, discussion about social media, because my experience was that out in the real world among people who are not on twitter. Very few heard about the Sarah Jeong controversy. So let's just remind people what happened there? Oh the New York Times aired hired a young, a young woman create American Harvard LAW School. I think it was something and then it was quickly discovered that she had a series of tweets over about two years. I don't have them handy, but it was you know I you know I just I just love dumping on straight white men or they know there see a white people are marking up the internet with the like dogs pissing. I I I can't remember what it was, but really can
she was nasty stuff about white people, white men straight white men, and then there was a demand to have fired and I tweeted in her defense just that she should not be fired. I have a real thing about internet mobs and I think everybody should have a policy if a mob demands. You said that someone be fired, the policy should be there, for we will not fire her period. We might it be willing to implement some sort of review process, but it's going to make sure it takes a long time the circus can move on. So I don't think she should be fired, but I do think that that people have to have to look at that case and then look at all the other cases where journalists like Kevin, Williamson or others were fired and realize you know what are you doing? Are you following consistent principles and how does this look to the rest of the country, but that's an interesting criterion or admonition. To not ever respond do an internet mob, but ever respond. I'm not sure. I agree with that, but Could you could imagine a case? That's so egregious that is guaranteed to provoke
some kind of internet mob right. So we have a terrorism, except what about terrorists? Can you imagine terrorists or that we should respond to that? They demand that do something you might say: well, yes, sometimes we should. Sometimes we should do what they say. The valence here is flipped. You're talking about the outrage of vast numbers, otherwise normal people right, so you're, not about the outrage of small numbers of committed terrorist you're. Saying something's happened that his cause millions of people to pay attention in a way that is you highly charged in the negative sense and Millions of people are calling for some remedy and you're saying that what we need is an algorithmic response here which says: no. These are the dancers, under which we will not do what millions of people say. We should do it, and I agree that the internet mobbing is. He is a huge problem and in many cases we should tell them all to go fuck himself but in
John's case. You know. I wonder when this comes to light. What on earth would be the point of employing her as an editorial writer at the New York Times? Well, I think it's appropriate, so I think it's appropriate for people to say terrible things about the times for at the time showed those prestige for it, but I think every time so I'm coming from the situation on campus, where a mob will demand the firing of a professor. Now actually these days, it's it's in terms of an internet mob, it's likely to be the right folks, because there is a moral panic about what's going on on campus on the right right wing, media sources, love this stuff to say, there's a moral I mean, there's not also a really serious problem, but the professors who are fired, even though conservatives are more likely to be fired per capita. Since there are so many more liberals than conserve, gives the people getting fired, mostly liberals, and mostly on the left, people who said something in fact. Usually it's aunt or often they actually say anti white racist stuff. It gets on
news, the outrage mob demands that the school fire them and it turns out. It's not millions of people, it's sometimes it's just a few people have written to the president said demanding that they be fired and if the president would just hold tough and say we will look into this, we will consider this when this person contract comes up for renewal, what we will do nothing now nothing end of story, goodbye if every we did that the problem would be much much less serious. Time, you reward every time you show hey if you people angry enough mob. Will fire them by eight am tomorrow at anytime? do that your whipping up more mobs. For me, the issue is not, bonding to the mob or not it's. What is the actual in nation, on a person that has come to light right. So like what mattered to me about the Sarah Jeong Incident was not that so many people thought she should be fired, or so many people are outraged. It's just to look at her. His
Re of tweets been there were it was it was he I was be actually be on two years. I think it was many years and what like hundreds and hundreds of tweets, that means she had this absolute, obsessive, hey rid of white people now. I know people within her community said that this It's not what it seems. This is just a patch wall this community, where you rag on white people, and it's not actually racism but there's no way of interpreting what He was trailing on her twitter feed as anything other than just a commitment to despising white people on some level, but this is, I think, the time should not have higher during the first But they knew about that and they made a decision now we can disagree with that decision, but the way they could compound the error of that decision would be to fire. Her in response to a mob and it would get everything wrong with social media. I was reading your discussion of cognitive. Therapy and the kinds of cognitive distortions that it try?
to remedy and it's hard not to see social. As on some level, the best tool for amplifying these just questions we have ever devised. When you look at this list, overgeneralizing and dichotomy thinking and labeling, and negative filtering and blaming in mind reading. All of it is the substance of certainly twitter, but mostly what's happening on social media and in addition, they also happening. That is amplified. In a way that It's really never existed on earth because when you look people. You are doing all of these things too. Over generalizing thinking, Dichotomously, labeling, blaming, etc social media you're actually not understanding their behavior in its true context, because you don't see what they see. The phenomenon, information silo and leaves us all actually unable
to accurately interpret other people's behavior because we don't see the information there imbibing every minute on social media, and so I you know when I look at supporters. Rather, Often they seem Digital mentally insane. To me what I to do is correct. For my ignorance, in that. I just don't know degree to which they are consuming. Information or misinformation that I that I am not even seen so. Yes, I I do agree that social media has changed something very fundamental and, and one way to see this is think about the context of communication. What we do in ways we communicate and when, when two people talking private there, they might be trying to influence each other, they might just be trying to bond, there's all sorts of things that they might be doing and and it's difficult but possible to take the other person's perspective.
Now put an audience nearby put them on stage and have a talk. You know as you and I are doing now. You know where you are very experienced at this. If we were speaking in private, I don't know it would be very different, but in this case, but if we were having more of a fight, it would be very probably very different, so put people from an audience and then in that changes the nature of what is said and the degree to which you want to take the other persons perspective now put them in front of a giant audience that you cannot see and that you will never get a sense of what they believe an average. All you will hear from is the
changes, the people who will say the most horrible things about you and in front of that audience. Now you are no longer. You know you and I are no longer talking when he's talking to our respective audiences. So I think it's just fundamentally change the wiring of society in ways that at first you know the people at Facebook. I think they're very idealistic. They really think that connecting the world was a was a valiant mission and in some ways it was, but I think they had too rosy view of human nature and all kinds of bad things happen when
when you're connecting everyone. For example. Today I got an email. Let me see if I can find it, I don't know it was from some anonymous server that basically just said fuck you asshole and I thought wow. So when everybody is connected to everybody, the instant somebody read something I said, you know that I wrote and doesn't like me. They can follow their feelings, go to this anonymous server and send me whatever they want. You know, of course they could send me bombs in the US mail too, but you know connecting everybody to everybody so that they can instantly discharge. Their spleen is just a really bad idea and I think we're wrestling with that. I think we're going to find some ways out so, for example, you know I don't. I think I don't ever want to be in in in an unregulated neighborhood on the internet ever again, but I'm regulate. What I mean is people can go there, who nobody knows, there's nobody can ever find if they make a death threat. Nobody can tell who they are, there's no reason why I would ever want to be in such a neighbor there's nothing good that comes with it,
you're on Twitter, though right it isn't twitter such an ever done. Yes, I guess it is actually- and I am on it, because I feel that I do need to participate in the public debate, but it would be much better if every single person their identity could be verified. Not by me. It's totally fine that people can be on where I don't know who they are. Twitter needs to know who they are said. If the threaten violence, twitter can do more than just shut down their account. If people actually threaten violence, I think it. You know if everybody knows that their name is known at least to twitter. Their real name verified. Real name is known to Twitter. I think we're gonna get a lot less of the bad stuff so and what you? What I get is pretty much. What you get is quite a lot worse, but I'm really persuaded by the studies that show that if you're female journalists were black journalist, you just get malfunctions of like rape threats, racist threats, so you know there's not nothing. Good comes of that. We shouldn't be there
No no plot from should allow that to her your there's a hack for this in terms of what you see on twitter- and I I've mentioned this before- I think when talking about twitter once I selected for just seen people in my ad mentions, whose emails And verified by twitter, the craziness in the pain- went down by at least ninety five percent. Okay, so it's for you, I'm sure that a limited, almost all the death threats, but but that wouldn't solve the problem. Yes, that would make me feel better, but that still means that people are out there saying horrible horrible things about me and then my reputation is being destroyed. I just don't know so I don't think that solves the problem at all. One solves the problem in that this is a bit of a paradox, because it's perhaps more than you, I'm in fact, I'm sure more than you, but perhaps like You and many others have found that so Media is a context in which you put stuff out there. You respond to the
the confusion and the malice that comes back to you and, however, actively you do that and we'll certainly all have our moments. Where were less wise than at other moments? It is this repeated cycle of more or less it best fight. Your way back to zero. Then you wonder what was the point of all of that right? I mean this is well but ok, but here you're, judging by what people say back to you and the people who write back to you are like less than one percent of the people who see what you write and so what I've tried to do on Twitter, an inmate in everything I do try to be really simple, all the time, yeah, the one time I violated, that was, you know in our country, yeah. Yes, I go. I kind of you know that was a that was a That was unusual interaction that you and I had, but anyway
but in the end, prove productive, because we are here right now, yeah. Actually, that's right. You know because look because, ultimately you and I were both playing the truth. Can we were ultimately both trying to figure out figure things that we weren't really out to like when I'm different teams? It's not like. We were like trying to if you get this yet anyway. The point is what I try to do on on. Twitter is just always be really several and try to acknowledge if you just to send one little signal of acknowledgement that the there Chris might be right about something or something like that, I think, is a really positive affect and. Even if you people still write back and say fuck, you asshole, I think one hundred other people saw it and sometimes leave and say wow that was beautiful to watch or you know that was. I mean people like to see at sub civility and forgiveness. So I think it's important to just keep doing it, even if some people still nasty stuff to you. While I I'm now sensitive to your time here, Jonathan so you've touched on as
is that there are many solutions to the problem, but I guess I should just close on a more global question of what you think. A path forward is, if there's anything that would you know you, you haven't shared on this site, yeah yeah yeah, so I think we came across the bill. Clinton quote this person augural there's nothing wrong with America. That can't be solved by what's right with America, and I'm wondering I'm thinking that that might be true for the university, so there's nothing wrong with universities that can't be solved by what's right with them, but I mean is we have
Almost all the best social scientists in the world are employed at universities. This is a sociology problem. This is a moral psychology problem. I think we can figure this out and what it means is. We have to figure out the free speech and free inquiry problem. What conditions promote the truth seeking game while at the same time, taking really seriously the concerns, especially black students, but also Lgbtq or all of the students who say that they don't feel welcome. Those are facts that we or those are those are experiences that we need to understand, and I think, if we focus on creating the right kind of college environment, we can solve all the problems at once. I think we have to solve them all all at once. We can't just solve one side and not the other, so I do think that the universities have the resource. It's uh,
problems. I think the university presidents are the ones I've talked to now all agree. Wow universities are becoming ungovernable. This is impossible, something has to change, so I think the will is there. I think the means are there, so I think we're going to make some progress at universities. I think there's increasing awareness that the we didn't even talk about this, sky rocketing rates of depression, anxiety and suicide for teenagers, especially teenage girls,
this was only known, it only really became clear two or three years ago that this was happening. The rate the increase is really just since about twenty eleven, two thousand and twelve. So I think that in the next two years I think we're going to see much greater appreciation that we have to ease up on our kids. We have to let them out, we have to let them practice independence, so I think we're going to progress there and I think we're going to see well. The third piece of it is what's happening nationally, with the rising polarization is making everything harder. I don't think we're going to see progress there. I think that that's going to get worse, so the challenge we face, all of us everybody listen to this podcast is we have to adapt our institutions for life. More polarized, more hate filled society, and to do that, we have to be more civil to each other. We have to try harder to understand that everybody here is morally motivated and we have to try to.
Learn to get along with each other people who are different from us politically in churches and synagogues and corporations and high schools and colleges. I think this is the great challenge of the next ten years. Yes, we have to adapt to global warming and do something about that, but I think we have to adapt to rising polarization and do so, Think about that. Just a question on the college front. Is there a university that just has this absolutely right with its just solve the problem and can be an example of what to do? so far, the only one that has really stood out as the University of Chicago in that they have a long tradition of of they are the best at playing the truth game. That is a pride themselves. On life. There is all argument all the time, so they really well prepared to stand out and say we're different we're not like Gail other places that you know that are responding with the usual set of of of reforms that make things worse:
Chicago is the only one. That's really stood out now, a few other individual presidents have done well to and after the President Clinton Mckenna, I think, really gets it and is, is is trying to change things. There Mitch Daniels at Purdue. There are a number of individual presidents that I think we're doing very well, so I think we're going to see many more stand up in the next year or two not they're, going to come out and say: oh, you know social justice warriors no, not at all, but they're going to come out and say no. We need norms here. We need to understand what we're about we're doing something special here, and so we have to work together to get this I think we're going to see a lot more of that in the next one or two years, and I notice you had a conference that look great your first header academy conference at the New York Times Center about yeah? It was completely thrilling, but I didn't want to do it because it's a huge amount of work- and I was thinking- was going to come, but what happened so we had. We had this big conference in if you go to so. If, if people go to Heterodox academy, DOT, org and then I think someone a home
age where you can navigate to find it is we have all the videos of the conference are up, but it was fantastic because without a lot of administrators came in a lot of people well. Let me ministration in my you want from stern, came because everyone's facing problems, everybody wants to be inclusive. Everybody wants to solve these problems, but the environment is making it almost impossible to do so. So everybody's looking for help and the volume- and it turns out the like you know, I think there were four out of thirty speakers were clearly on the right and probably half from war were clearly on the left and the rest were you know, an identifiable which is the vibe was not at all. Like. Oh conservatives, bashing the university. We don't do that. That's for campus reform and other places to do. We are insiders. We are two thousand two hundred professors evenly balanced between left and right and we're trying to
six universities from inside not attack them yeah. Well, your efforts. There are much appreciated and I recommend people visit your site anything else. One people that to know about online or at yes, please. If you're, a parent, please go to, let grow dot org. I hope you'll consider supporting the a supporting the effort and and bring some of those ideas to, especially to elementary and middle school, and schools as well, and if you're interested in the book, I hope you'll you'll buy it, but at least you can go to a vote, coddling, dot, org and we'll have we have a lot more information at that site? yeah. I don't have a link to the book on my site where I embed this podcast well Once again, John, it's been great having you on thanks for your time and please eat your vegetables and get enough sleep, because you really I mean count on maybe one finger- the number of we're doing precisely your job so stay at it. Well, thanks Am I admire your guts and and your principal so keep doing what you're doing? Thank you
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Transcript generated on 2019-11-12.