SIO58: Yes, Call Out Assholes (Including me, if you see it that way)

The first portion of this show, as referenced at the end of last episode, is about Peter Boghossian finally showing himself to be a sexist asshole. I also respond to the argument I frequently see of “Stop infighting, stop calling out atheist leaders, it distracts from our movement!” I think I have a good counter to that.

After that, it’s some amazing and difficult voicemails! Really top notch calls. I love hearing from you guys and being challenged!

Some links:

African American Vernacular EnglishThe Word “Thug”The Cornrows Incident

Come to the Inciting Incident 100th show! I’ll be there with Andrew and many of your other podcasting faves!

Leave Thomas a voicemail! (916) 750-4746, remember short and to the point!

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For comments, email thomas@seriouspod.com



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16 Replies to “SIO58: Yes, Call Out Assholes (Including me, if you see it that way)”

  1. Hey Thomas, to respond to your ‘wherefore spills this twitter ink’ and also ‘wait what opinions arent truth claims?’

    1. As I tweeted with CJ, I started cautiously, claiming most opinions are truth claims. After about a half days reflection, it was glaringly obvious that even subjective opinions are truth claims about your internal experience.

    2. I think the issue at hand here is a game of semantic duck duck goose. Perpetrated on the words ‘opinion’ and ‘decision’.
    It’s like you said about how “regressive left” has been co-opted as a phrase, LITERALLY BY THE REGRESSIVE LEFT, or the pseudo-leftists ala Rubin. Whitesplain still means what it means so thats fine.

    It’s like the term “Islamophobic”, which is a propaganda word coined by the muslim brotherhood to dissemminate confusion in the public sphere (To assume a level of intention I cannot know).

    But these words are still valuable, because if someone uses them it signals where they are on these issues. And if they have thought it out, or are merely firing pre-loaded responses.

    This is really a larger issue with words and movements. The clarity of a definition scales down with movement size, eg. I agree with the principals of the GamerGate movement, but not the doxxing and threatening of women, irrelevant of the degree that they are a con artist.

    Movement size (inverse to) Message clarity.

    I say, semantic hopscotch is a stalling tactic, akin to the “what about” defense.

    Love your show. Was surreal to hear myself on it! Jeez I need to enunciate clearer…

  2. Your podcast already jumped the shark when you started going down the regressive left path. You pal around with the assholes of the ctrl-left, you become an asshole yourself. Disgusting. At least you no longer call your podcast atheistically speaking. Cause many atheists are not regressives, only those with authoritarian tendencies.

    1. So you have the alt-right who are waving swastika flags, throwing up Nazi salutes, and who are going around being shitty to Jews, gays, trans people, all while they knife U.S. veterans to death… and you’ve somehow convinced yourself that it’s the people who aren’t doing any of that who are the authoritarian ones. You’re supporting the people trying to suppress the freedoms of Americans with violence, but claiming we’re the authoritarians. Your buddies are trying to undo the last 70 or 80 years of academic progress, but claiming we’re the ones trying to tell people what they can and can’t do.

      Also, do yourself a favor and look up the definition of authoritarianism before you go and make such a blatantly bass-ackwards accusation like this one again.

  3. When you as a white male have an opinion and use your powerful platform as a podcast host to tell Chidi (sp?) that she is wrong about issues that affect black people, isn’t that white-splaining?

    1. Unless I’m misremembering, I believe I said she brought up a lot of valid points regarding tokenism but that I am choosing to listen to the judgment of a committee of people of color at Evergreen over 1 white dude. I think this is more knee jerk reaction to a strawman of the term. Also, I said I’d have her on the show to have her voice heard.

  4. I’ve been a long time listener, and have mostly agreed with your positions throughout the lifetime of the show, but I’ve found that I strongly disagree with some of your stances on Evergreen, the role of privilege and how to navigate discourse on racial issues. I’ve outlined a couple of points below. (Sorry for the long text)
    1) I don’t think that this tit for tat is helpful in the discourse between the opposing sides, and just alienates people – like me – who do not align strongly to any group but can see the arguments for both sides. Just because they have a disparaging word (Regressive or Snowflake), does not make your disparaging word (Whitesplaining or Broflake) cool. It’s just annoying.
    2) I don’t think that calling someone regressive is analogous to calling out whitesplaining. The term ‘regressive’ tracks the consequences of some action. As I understand it, if as a leftist you support a stance/policy that would result in a betrayal/regression of “traditional liberal values”, then you are a regressive leftist. On the other hand, calling out someone as whitesplaining targets the reasons a white person would have for taking a stance on an issue, but never addresses those reasons to begin with. It doesn’t matter whether someone’s experience as a white person leads them to accept a set or reasons for accepting a proposition, it only matter if those reasons (read: arguments) are sound. But when you dismiss someone’s position as mansplaining, you are basically dismissing their position without addressing their argument.
    3) I agree with the points raised by ‘confrontational caller’ Chidi(?), and I think they highlight the problem with “whitesplaining” as a concept. If I, as a black man, agree with some of the points stated by Dr. Weinstein, I don’t think his experience as a white man should be raised as a counterpoint against his position.
    4) On the Scientist vs Consensus: Even when a scientist presents data against the consensus, the data/argument has to be addressed on its terms. This is the difference between “You’re wrong because you contradict the consensus” vs “you’re wrong because your data does not support your conclusion”. To do the same we would need to determine whether there is a difference between calling for black absence to support POC vs calling for white absence to support POC.
    5) I don’t think that using one’s “position of power” to promote their viewpoint is inherently wrong. Could you expand on why you think Dr. Weinstein shouldn’t have shared his view through a mass email? Is it just politeness?

    Regardless of our differing views on these points, your discussions have guided my thinking on many issues and I appreciate the show.

    1. 1. To the extent that this “tit for tat” exists as just back and forth name calling, I agree that it’s maybe not super productive, but I also think it can be useful in cutting through the narratives people build around their own perspectives. Calling anti-SJW types “broflakes” when they display the same behavior they ridicule in others highlights the fact that they aren’t reacting to the purely reasonable principles they claim to hold, but rather that their perspective is informed by context.

      2. I think it’s a mistake to assume that calling out “whitesplaining” is meant to be a response to the content of an argument, rather than a critique of a person’s behavior. We seem to agree on that point, but you seem to present accusations of “whitesplaining” as a failure to address another person’s argument rather than a successful, pointed critique of the way someone’s interacting with others.

      And, I agree that (as Thomas noted repeatedly) a lot of people use these words in a lot of ways, so if you want to point to an instance in which someone said “you’re wrong about your conclusion because you’re whitesplaining,” I’ll agree with you, when you say that person isn’t making a sound argument, nor are they engaging the substance of the other person’s argument.

      That said, there are instances when it’s valid not to engage the other person’s argument. For instance, if someone interrupts a busy meeting with a peculiar objection to some tangential detail about something that was being discussed, and my response is not to engage their argument, but to point out that they’re wasting other people’s time, that critique could be valid, despite not engaging their argument.

      Moreover, if we can say there are general realities and experiences shared by people in particular groups, in so far as we can infer a connection between someone’s experience as a member of a particular group and the likelihood of espousing a particular ideology, we can also infer content from a phrase like “whitesplaining.” If I, as a white man, were to tell a black person at a BLM march that “the police are actually our friends, they’re here to help us, and there’s no reason to be afraid of them,” they could rightly accuse me of whitesplaining, specifically because my condescending statements adhere to the contextual social narratives relating to white people, the police, and people of color.

      I also want to point out that you seem to be comparing the best version of accusations of “regressive leftism” with the worst version of cries of “mansplain.” I’m sure we could just as easily find any number of uniformed people using the term “regressive” to dismiss anyone who makes arguments for promoting liberal values in a way that is counterintuitive.

      3. I don’t disagree with this, in so far as conclusions drawn from general trends and patterns can often be presented in a way that disenfranchise and alienate individuals with differing experiences.

      That said, I’m also reminded of a recent episode of Politically Reactive (or maybe With Friends Like These) in which a guest offered a critique of a certain kind of feminist thought which alleges, in essence, if a woman makes a choice, that’s a feminist act, regardless of whether that choice affirms or strengthens a misogynistic sociocultural system.

      Again, I think where I’m coming from is not that the ideas he presented are inherently white-splainy, but that the way in which he engaged was problematic, and informed by the fact that he, as a white man, felt comfortable casually contradicting and undermining a group of people engaging in activism to offer “his take” seems to meet the criteria for whitesplaining.

      4. I’m not sure I have much to say to this point. I don’t know how much stretching this metaphor can support.

      5. I think there are reasons, beyond just politeness, to critique this professor’s sending the original e-mail. I should say though, that I think his later behavior is far more egregious, specifically as it relates to power dynamics and his responsibilities as a teacher. Most notably, his going on Fox News, knowing that the students don’t have similar access to a platform, and his failing to correct Tucker Carlson’s misstatements.

      The content of the e-mail was condescending and dismissive. He alleged to have special expertise on “race” as a biology teacher, ignoring the fact that living as a person of color in America also has socio-cultural, interpersonal, psychological aspects, that civil rights activism isn’t just about educating people about the biological underpinnings of race, and that no matter how aware he deems himself to be, there is value to supporting and affirming other people’s agency.

      I’m caught up a little on the idea of “politeness.” To some extent, I think challenging one’s own privilege requires a kind of humility and self-awareness that could look a lot like politeness. But, I think there’s an important distinction to be made between politeness for it’s own sake, and demonstrating respect for others, and an awareness of one’s own limited and subjective perspective. Rather than just softening his language, a case could probably be made that a more respectful e-mail would have acknowledged the work other people put into planning this event, that he was speaking as someone who isn’t marginalized in the same way as those more directly involved, and that his concern was based in something other than an abstract grievance about principles.

  5. Wait, so you’ll have her on YOUR show? Where you have the power? As a white man? Who seemingly prefers women to men?

    Idk man… Still seems like some whitesplaining to me. At least by the standards you set for Brett Weinstein.

    1. I cannot believe how hard it is for people like you to understand what whitesplaining is. Yes, if I have her on my show and don’t let her talk at all, that would be whitesplaining. But I’m having her on to ELEVATE her voice in particular, even though we disagree. How on Earth is that at all analogous to Weinstein?

  6. People on the left really need to drop the narrative that Trump was elected because of white supremacy. While I do not dismiss the role of misogyny, xenophobia, racism, etc., to say Trump was elected because of that (i.e., it was the deciding factor) ignores two points; one historical, and one germane to this election.

    First, the Republican party has always, always garnered support from those wishing to curtail immigration. Saying that Trump won because of those thing suggests they were not in the GOP platform of previous elections (such as Romney talking about a wall during the 2012 primary: “Mitt Romney will complete a high-tech fence to enhance border security.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/06/22/mitt-romneys-immigration-plan-the-full-text/?utm_term=.28db11cf6fa3).

    Moreover, I have often seen people argue that Trump securing the majority of the white vote further evidences race being the driving force. Again, this ignores past elections.

    2016: Trump won the white vote 58 – 37

    2012: Romney won the white 59 – 36

    2008: McCain won the white vote 55 – 43

    2004: Bush won the white vote 58 – 41

    2000: Bush won the white vote 54 – 42

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html

    Granted exit polling will be subject to volatility, but there is nothing in the above data suggesting Trump was saved but a huge shift in white voting behavior.

    Second, the narrative of white supremacy won the election for Trump ignores what happened in this election. As I have shown, the white vote did not do anything out of the ordinary; it was strongly Republican, in line with past elections. So what did happen?

    The Dems lost, and Republicans picked up, white working class voters in the Rust Belt.

    ” If a single group in the electorate can be found to explain this surprising presidential election, it may be working class whites. Perhaps no major voting bloc moved more dramatically between 2012 and 2016 than whites who do not have a college degree. And nowhere did this shift cost Hillary Clinton more dearly than in the Rust Belt, which includes several states that were a part of her firewall. In 2012 working class whites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin broke for Mitt Romney by 12 points, but this year they went for Donald Trump by a whopping 30 points, according to the NBC News Exit Poll. ”

    http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/data-points/nbc-news-exit-poll-trump-dominates-among-working-class-whites-n681146

    Of course some, such as Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr
    writing for slate, have tried to paint this as a myth, they are really arguing 6 of one thing, half dozen of another.

    “In short, the story of a white working-class revolt in the Rust Belt just doesn’t hold up, according to the numbers. In the Rust Belt, Democrats lost 1.35 million voters. Trump picked up less than half, at 590,000. The rest stayed home or voted for someone other than the major party candidates.”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/12/the_myth_of_the_rust_belt_revolt.html

    Uh, okay. So there was a nearly 2 million voter swing. What’s the point? How does that paint the working class revolt as a myth?

    How do we *know* the Rust Belt swung for Trump for non-racial reasons? Well, we can’t know for certain, but it is informative to understand that Trump moved left of the Dems on issues of trade and manufacturing. In fact, his comments were largely in line with left of center economists such as those at the Economic Policy Institute, and Dean Baker (both of whom have been railing against the Free Trade deals for years). From Baker:

    “There are an awful lot of things to really dislike about Donald Trump and his conduct as president to date, but that doesn’t mean everything his administration does is wrong. In particular, there is considerable truth to what he has said about trade costing a large number of good paying manufacturing jobs and hurting the living standards of the middle class.”

    http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/trump-and-trade-he-s-largely-right

    And we know that trade and manufacturing are big issues in the Rust Belt, so one can, I believe, argue that those were the reason for the swing in voting. Now, one can argue that those voters chose to vote for Trump and ignore his racist and the like rhetoric on the campaign trail, but who is anyone to say how voters should prioritize issues?

    Again, I do not discount the dangerous rhetoric of Trump during his campaign, but to say it was the reason for his victory is problematic because it, even without intent, paint all Trump supporters as racist or the like, and ignores their concerns.

    1. Thought I’d throw a few thoughts in here real quick.

      It’s probably problematic to pin it on any one thing in particular. We’ve seen numerous ideas brought up, from the Democrats ignoring the working-class, making their message being anti-Trump, the impact of Comey’s statement about the email investigation, Fake News and Russia’s interference, the idea that people are anti-establishment right now (especially puzzling in light of some exit polls that suggested the opposite), and the white supremacy thing, among others. It’s hard to keep up, and some of them are undoubtedly just people’s pet excuses or blamestorming.

      This was an election where a hell of a lot of things went wrong that shouldn’t have, and too many people have this idea that there’s only ever one key reason why an event happens. I think historians and political scientists are going to be arguing over this one a hundred years from now.

      I think a major difference this time was the out and out rise of the Alt-Right and the way the Republicans’ more racist messages resonated with them. One of the things that especially makes the white supremacy thing stand out further is all the racial-motivated harassment, vandalism, violence, etc. that has occurred post-election. Now we have people waving Pepe the Frog placards alongside armed militia at so-called “Free Speech” rallies that end with them attacking leftist protesters. I don’t remember this happening quite so much immediately after Bush’s election, though 9/11 soon brought some of it.

      On another note, the United States has benefited a great deal from NAFTA. It has been great for the tech industry, and for various industries that rely upon cheap and widespread devices. It has also been great for agriculture, since the U.S. produces way more of that than we need. We got to see some of that with how Canada’s recent reclassification of ultra-purified milk led to numerous small ranchers having their contracts cancelled as the refineries were unable to sell in another country as they’d been doing.

      That said, I don’t mean to discount the Rust Belt jobs thing. That happened, and had one hell of an effect.

      It’s pretty clear our economy didn’t transform enough to get us where we needed to be jobs-wise, which led to what you showed. People don’t look at their food getting cheaper or their kid making money writing online, and think about trade deals and politics. That’s not necessarily the fault of those voters who chose to stay home, though.

  7. I’m glad you pointed out the point that the white professor only had a problem with the day of absence when it was white students as the ones to volunteer to leave campus. If it was really a matter of this non-segregation thing, he’d likely have spoken up in the, what, 29 other years they’d been doing this same thing except with black students.

    I doubt that caller will even hear the response, because it seems to me like she came in with something she wanted to say, regardless of what anyone else had said about it.

    Also, regarding the Identity Politics thing, didn’t the Alt-Right just drool all over themselves over Trump having a big speech in Poland about identity politics? You know, protecting the West (an identity which somehow also encompasses places that are further east than some Arab countries) from those evil, brown Muslim people?

    It’s good to see you call out the irrationality of so-called skeptics like Boghossian, Rubin, and Lindsay. I honestly don’t see how someone could be a Conservative and a skeptic, at least given what that means in the United States.

    Not only is there the issue of separation of church and state, which the Right is vehemently against, but no rational person should be in favor of supply-side economics. The Austrian School of economics explicitly rejects empiricism in favor of praxeology, the idea that people will always choose the most economically advantageous decision. I suppose that explains why they hate sociology and psychology then, given those show that people very much don’t do that.

    And if it isn’t that, it’s the part where they go around shouting that America’s problem is with all the Muslims. Problem there is, that’s what ISIS is shouting too. They want America to seem to be against all of Islam so that regular Muslims have no choice but to side with them against the U.S. All the while, Americans are actually under attack by right-wing terrorists who have decided that the cure for being “PC” is a gunshot wound or being stabbed.

    Thanks for doing the right thing and not backing down.

  8. Thomas, is there such a thing as blacksplaining? Under any circumstance? It sounds to me like whitesplaining is just an example of the ad hominem or genetic fallacy. Who cares about the skin color of the person making an argument… Why can’t the argument stand on its own merits?

    The PC narrative sounds at best uninformed. In my experience people who advocate for it assign way too much credit to victim narratives or worse, are seeking to act as thought police. I hope you drop this from future shows. SJWs are sad small minded people not capable of adult thought. Pandering to them is a mistake and ruins the show. Just my opinion.

    1. This comment is at best uninformed. At worst, it’s blindly bigoted. I am not pandering, I believe in social justice, though I fully grant there are idiots to the extremes. But I’ll take idiots on the extreme of trying to make the world more accepting over idiots on the other side any day. For the MILLIONTH TIME, whitesplaining describes a manner of speaking over people of color on a topic they have more insight on. It is a description. It DOESN’T mean someone is wrong because they are white. Blacksplaining is theoretically possible but isn’t really a significant problem because the white experience is always prioritized.

  9. Thanks for the response Thomas, I think that’s a fair answer. I am neither uninformed nor bigoted however. Frustration for the topic and the nature of trying to be succinct in a comment made it sound harsh and simplistic. I am aware of the definition of whitesplaining. The connotation of these terms is where I mainly take issue. Pointing out where one lacks the annectodal experience of minorities or is condescending or too simplistic is appropriate. Using terms like whitesplaining come off sounding themselves condescending and are often used for race baiting. I think some of the pushback you have received is rooted in that point of view. Its not that whitesplaining doesn’t exist, the term is often employed in an adversarial and dismissive way. Thats why I don’t care to use it, but ultimately it’s not a hill I am willing to die on. I think I’m fairly open minded to changing my opinion on the whole.

    I also don’t mean to accuse you of pandering specifically. Your views on social justice have been clear and present for the life of the show. Other hosts, commentators and journalists though seem to parrot some of the more cringy rhetoric present in the movement. I’m not opposed to most of the goals of social justice but I do question some of the methods and vocabulary as I worry about preoccupation of race and gender as they are used to describe oppression and victim narratives. The abbundance of supremacist language I observe in these debates and the opposing cloud of guilt also worry me. I think these are red herrings and detract from the actual aims and goals that are adimirable in social justice commentary. I hope this sounds more coherent and reasoned.

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