SIO37: Josh Zepps of #WeThePeople LIVE

Joining me today is Josh Zepps! I first came across Josh’s work when Sam Harris and Hannibal Buress had a bizarre interaction on his podcast #WeThePeople LIVE (here’s a SoundCloud link). I was impressed with how Josh handled it and have followed him ever since. He has interviewed people like Gad Saad and ACTUALLY challenged them on their narratives. Josh is an impressive thinker and interviewer, and we talk about his broadcasting history (which might not be what you expect!) and about where our focuses are and should be in today’s political climate. It’s a fascinating conversation on many fronts and I look forward to many more with Josh!

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5 Replies to “SIO37: Josh Zepps of #WeThePeople LIVE”

  1. In reference to the point about the term “undocumented immigrant” and its utility, I’ve had immigration lawyers and advocates explain to me that challenging the term “illegal immigrant” is important both for humanitarian reasons and as a matter of legal accuracy (I’m sure there’s somebody more informed to ask about that last point).
    The lawyers explained that while entering the country without proper documentation, or allowing the documentation to lapse (e.g., expired visas) is a crime, being in this country without documentation is not. This isn’t something we do with other crimes (e.g., “I drove without my license once, so now I’m an illegal driver”).
    More important (as far as I’m concerned) is the fact that using the term “illegal immigrant” normalizes the criminalization of a certain segment of the population in a way that is both gross and further endangers a vulnerable subsection of the population. The Trump administration has made some blatantly obscene changes to the way ICE and local police interact with suspected undocumented immigrants, going so far as to authorize the detention of anyone “suspected of having committed a crime, including entering this country illegally” which is to say, criminalizing brown people. There are countless reports of ICE agents arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants at homeless shelters, in hospitals, while dropping their kids off at schools, in courthouses (illegally), and despite assurances that only bad guys would be targeted, I’m reading story after story of people with proper documentation, legal rights to remain in this country, and with no criminal record being detained and deported without due process.
    To pretend that cultivating a false/vague “illegal” status for this group of people isn’t impacting our tolerance for these stories, allowing us to more easily accept when ICE agents raid the wrong house in Chicago and shoot an innocent man, when they separate a mother and a young girl with a severe intellectual disability for months without allowing any kind of contact, and when they deport a young man with protected Dreamer status, and then use that deportation to justify revoking that status, is absurd.
    Moreover, journalists have been reporting on the Trump administration lifting Obama era orders to ban the use of private prisons, and reportedly seeking to increase the use of said prisons as detention centers for suspected undocumented individuals, holding them in conditions which arguably fail to meet international standards for human rights in some cases.
    The notion that this is a silly little quibble about language policing and euphemism might sound reasonable and clever to a white Australian immigrant with a successful podcasting career, but to parents who are afraid to leave their homes, to report intimate partner violence and sexual abuse, and/or to report in to the agencies they’ve been dealing with for decades, because this might be the day their children come home from school to find an empty house, it’s probably something more than a mild annoyance.
    I take your guest’s point that referring to these people as “undocumented immigrants” wouldn’t solve the problems created by a racially biased deportation force being exploited for political gain, but when the lawyers and activists tell me not to use a certain term which denigrates and dehumanizes a marginalized group, I tend to give that some weight.
    And, I hate to say “false equivocation” (because eyes are glazing), but when comparing the Alt-right (i.e. “people who want to throw shit at the wall”) and the extreme left (e.g., the fringe of feminists, BLM, Muslim apologists, et al.) can we pause to note that as equally extreme/passionate/annoying as these groups might be in any given interaction, as far as content is concerned, one side is motivated by the fact that they give a shit about people? For instance, it may be annoying that, as a person who gets paid to talk about things, your guest gets “attacked” (i.e., criticized) by activists for failing to be informed on trans pronouns, but can we not recognize that what motivates this is the fact that trans people are astronomically more likely to be attacked (i.e., physically and sexually assaulted/murdered) when they try to walk down the god-damn street? Is this really comparable to the Alt-right hurling targeted racial and sexual abuse at those deemed to be especially beta, cuckish, and/or ethnic?
    Am I alone in thinking that this whole “sure, we can not invite people to speak, but once the invitation has been sent, we are honor-bound to hold the event, least democracy crumbles” thing feels like a weird mix of Emily Post and a second-year analytical philosophy student who’d love to explain what the “real issue” is? Why do people seem to think this hyperfocus on some point of etiquette eliminates the need to consider any and all contextual factors? “I would never de-platform someone, because I think that’s tyranny and fascism, but I would buy out all the seats and then have them speak to an empty room… because I’m the cleverest boy to ever have an opinion.”
    Fun fact about free-speech and who’s threatening it: Reince Priebus casually confirmed today that the Trump administration has “looked at” changing libel laws for the press. But yeah, those college kids who don’t want to give a platform to white-supremacists, homophobes, and serial sexual predators… they’re the ones to watch out for.
    It’s probably off-topic, and maybe it’s already settled podcast law, but while violence may not be acceptable regardless of who is inflicting it upon whom, can we also acknowledge that using violence to assert one’s right to exist is a morally different thing than using violence to assert that others don’t have a right to exist? I’m more than a few glasses of wine in, but all this cognitive dissonance about pretending that fighting fascism automatically makes people into fascists has got my hackles up. All this faux-reasonable, shitty Belgian beer commercial “can’t we just have a conversation about the ways one of us refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the other?” nonsense. Hackles be up.
    I’m typing this as I listen to the episode, and Zepps just said “the far left and far right are basically the same,” and I found it so satisfying. There was a part of me that was concerned I was being too judgemental and critical, but he really just put it out there. I’m grateful for that.
    To be honest though, there’s one point I think I really want to address, which is this notion that Zepps wants to have conversations without feeling the other side is waiting to ascribe ill-intent, and that they’re looking for confirmation in every slip of the tongue that might prove him to be harboring evil in his heart. I relate to this feeling, and I struggled with this anxiety when I first started having difficult conversations about social justice with marginalized people. I say this with respect and empathy — nobody cares what’s in your heart. People who criticize the things you say are not invested in proving you to be a bad person. What they are invested in is countering the impact of the careless/thoughtless/unintentional biases you’re expressing, and they’re asking that you recognize the effects your words have, that you get over yourself, and that you take a minute to consider that what seem like trifling euphemisms/distractions to you can be deeply impactful to others. You’ve got a platform, and while it’s easy to tell Joe Rogan that liberals are whiney and indulgent when they focus on trans pronouns, there are kids listening who could really use one less person telling them their identity and experience is some indulgent distraction raised by self-righteous college elitists who are really, in a certain sense, just as bad as the people who will outright mock them, physically assault them, and deem their existence as abhorrent and diseased.
    I feel like we just jumped off the track, because I’m hearing Zepps criticize Jordan Peterson for dismissing the things that seem silly to him in this cultural moment (i.e., gender pronouns). What’s happening here? Am I too drunk to be listening to podcasts right now?

    1. What the fight is really about is whether government should have the right to force people to say certain words.

      There is no argument over whether trans people should have protections everyone else has.

      I don’t think government should be able to dictate anyone’s words. This should be a non issue, but it isn’t. I think this is the only time a government has ever put into law words you have to say, it is a dangerous path to go down. This is a government that has started to push the islamphobia narrative, I bet that will be added next.

  2. Just one question for Thomas.

    Of the five groups that are named under the human rights tribunals, which category do comedians fall into?

  3. This might not be the best place for this, but since Sam Harris was mentioned in this episode, any thoughts on his recent discussion with the thoroughly discredited Charles Murray, using the opportunity to rail against PC culture rather than address pseudo-scientific racism and its cultural/political ramifications?

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