#Critical Race Theory
episode 124: The Strange Rabbit Hole of Theory with James Lindsay
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Length: 1.06 minutes
If it's possible to have a fun and entertaining conversation about political correctness, critical race theory and the state of being "woke", this is it. Joining me is James Lindsay, PhD, Co-author of Cynical Theories and founder of the newdiscourses.com website and podcasts. James, who has been called the Donald Trump of Intellectuals (meant as an insult), because of his courage to take on polit
about episode 124
If it’s possible to have a fun and entertaining conversation about political correctness, critical race theory and the state of being “woke”, this is it. Joining me is James Lindsay, PhD, Co-author of Cynical Theories and founder of the newdiscourses.com website and podcasts. James, who has been called the Donald Trump of Intellectuals (meant as an insult), because of his courage to take on political correctness, guides me down through the stranger and stranger rabbit hole of “Theory.” Also knows as Postmodernism, it first took root in America in the Yale University English Department and since then, like a virus, it has jumped from this laboratory to infect all American society. In the wide-ranging interview, he explains things like “anti-racist”, systems of privilege, Queer theory and how all these theories start with the conclusions you want to reach. Thought experiment: You are a white shopkeeper and two customers enter your store, one black and one white. Who you serve first determines whether you are a racist. Be careful, the answer is not obvious. According to “critical race theory” it might be safest to serve neither. It is definitely worth taking an hour of your time to understand this world.
episode 124 transcript
Speaker 1: 00:00:04 Welcome to The Bill Walton Show, featuring conversations with leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and thinkers, fresh perspectives on money, culture, politics, and human flourishing, interesting people, interesting things.
Bill Walton: 00:00:25 Welcome to The Bill Walton Show. I’m Bill Walton. Today, I want to talk about something that’s becoming increasingly clear, and it’s that the ever-widening political divisions we’re seeing today are not the simple binaries. It’s not left versus right. It’s not socialists versus capitalists, progressives versus reactionaries. Rather, we’re seeing something entirely new, I believe, something with obscure terms.
We’ve heard of critical race theory, but do you know about postmodernism or intersectionality or queer theory or postcolonial theory or on and on and on? The more I dive into this rabbit hole, the stranger and stranger it becomes. Thankfully, I have somebody to help us through this maze, and with me to explore this brave new world is James Lindsay. He’s a PhD and coauthor of Cynical Theories and founder of the New Discourse Podcast and website and whose Twitter handle reads, “Apolitical. Against totalitarianism and supremacy of all kinds. For freedom.” James, thanks for coming on.
James Lindsay: 00:01:41 Thanks, Bill. Glad to be here.
Bill Walton: 00:01:43 James, I guess just in the last few weeks you’ve also been tagged as the Donald Trump of intellectuals.
James Lindsay: 00:01:49 Yeah. Someone called me that. I said that I aspire to be that, but it’s all kind of tongue and cheek. I have this love of the absurd. I think it’s rather humorous if people try to give me an insult to wear it a little bit, and it was intended as an insult, not as a compliment from the person who delivered it to me.
So, what do I mean by that, I guess? Why would I aspire to be this? Think what you want of the guy. He’s certainly, in some respect, was a bit fearless. He would speak his mind. Whether his mind is polluted or not is your own to decide, but he would speak it as he saw it. There was a degree of courage, especially at the level of platform that he had in doing that.
I didn’t appreciate this. I was horrified by Donald Trump until some time near the end of the summer last year. Just horrified, most people who are academic or been vaguely left or whatever. I started to realize over the summer, somehow my wife and I started to realize that he’s funny, and he’s in fact really funny.
Bill Walton: 00:02:57 That’s funny.
James Lindsay: 00:02:59 Once you get over the shock, he’s actually hilarious. I just saw a clip the other day where it was like, “Well, can you name something good about Joe Biden?” and he just goes, “Uh,” like he just can’t think of a single thing, and the way he does it, just the look on his face, it’s just hilarious. So, I do aspire, though, to be funny and to have that willingness to just say what it is that I think without that kind of hesitation or reservation.
Bill Walton: 00:03:23 Well, the thing that you’re doing is, I think, one of his attractions for a lot of supporters, me as well, is you’re taking on political correctness-
James Lindsay: 00:03:36 That’s right.
Bill Walton: 00:03:37 … which is another day-to-day term for wokeism, and intersectionality, and social justice, and critical right. I mean, he took that right on. That’s what you’re doing.
James Lindsay: 00:03:48 That’s right. Yeah.
Bill Walton: 00:03:50 You wrote your book. It’s called Cynical Theories, but it’s got a great, great cover, where you actually have critical theory there and that’s crossed out, and you’ve dropped in Cynical Theory as a replacement in the title. So, what’s the thinking there? Why does this become Cynical Theory?
James Lindsay: 00:04:11 Well, it’s really an interesting line of thought that we had. There are a number of ways that we could construe these theories. This critical theory is actually being rooted in cynicism. One is that they tend to read people’s minds and find their worst motivation. So, if you disagree with something like critical race theory, which is a critical theory of race, then it must be that you want to maintain White supremacy or you want to maintain racial advantage. You must have this terrible, cynical motive. It’s a very negative and cynical read.
Another one is that it’s rooted in these theories that read the history whether you look at the postmodern philosopher Michel Foucault, a French guy, whether you look at people like Herbert Marcuse, he was a German and an American eventually, not that he was ever a big fan of the country. He was one of the big critical theorists that’s opposed one of the postmodernists.
If you look at these guys and you look at how they read the history of the West, it’s always just very cynical. Foucault is easier to lay out. He talks about the history of homosexuality. His, in fact, biggest or maybe most famous work is called The History of Sexuality. He lays out in that during the era when Christian thought was just absolutely hegemonic or everybody had to be Catholic, et cetera, it was regarded as a sin, perhaps even a mortal sin, and then later it became a matter of psychology, and then it was terrible because it was considered a psychological disorder, and then it was considered one thing after another.
So, he says, “Oh, it was bad,” and then it was still bad, and then it was bad in a different way, and it was still bad in a different way, and he does whole kind of progression, but at no point does he ever say, “Taking it out of the realm of demons and into the realm of your mind is actually progress.” That made the analysis better to the point where we finally get to by the 1970s or so, even when he’s writing, the attitude was already growing in society that some people are gay, get over it.
Even that is read cynically. If you read the very modern theories within queer theory or whatever because and then all of a sudden if, oh, being gay is normal in a sense, then all of a sudden it’s not productive of revolutionary politics. So, you’ve stolen our seed of power that we had or special identity has been taken away from us. So, there’s always a cynical read on everything it analyzes. So, we just said that all of these theories are at their heart cynicism.
Bill Walton: 00:06:39 Well, your starting point is very interesting. You and Helen Pluckrose, your coauthor, were both really defending liberalism, which is political democracy, limitations of powers, government, development of universal human rights, legal equality. I mean, you guys are warriors for freedom of expression and freedom of religion and separation of church and state, I mean, all the things that have created the social conditions for people like for the feminist movement, which advanced the cause of women or civil rights. It seems as I read what you’re talking about is that the French intellectuals, which developed this in the ’60s and ’70s, and I think it was a joke, was it? I mean, they didn’t really think this was going to have political legs.
Then at some point, people picked up these theories and said, “No. This is going to be our new theory of political action,” and so more from the academia into the political area. Is that a fair reading?
James Lindsay: 00:07:44 Yeah. It’s not a terrible reading. I don’t know how much the French philosophers thought that they were joking. Of course, it depends on which one. Foucault had said at one point, for example, that everything he did he did to attract, he was gay, to attract beautiful boys. So, I mean, how much of that is a thing?
There was also a French intellectual tradition that if people can understand more than about 70% of what you wrote down, you’re considered not that good, not that smart. You were a plebeian rather an advanced intellectual. Of course, they were screwing around with ideas and making things a bit nonsensical.
On the other hand, Jacques Derrida, another one of these philosophers complained to the day he died that nobody knew what he was talking about, which implies that he did hope to be taken seriously. So, I don’t know how much of that is that it was all joke and how much of it was that they’re very nihilistic analysts looking at a thing through a particular set of lenses.
Certainly, it was considered largely in France. It was considered. They were intellectual rock stars, but at the same time, by the real French intelligence, they were considered passe. What happened was activists who had already infiltrated, especially English departments in the American universities, it started at Yale University. It’s the first place this landed in their English department, saw this is a very productive tool, a very productive way to start thinking about the activism that they were already doing, whether that radical feminist activism. The radical feminists were extremely interested because these postmodern theory has allowed them to deconstruct the ideas of gender and sex in a way that nothing had done so before.
Then this spread from that nucleation point into lots of other identity-based activism because it turns out to be a very powerful set of tools. So, there was already another radical activist tradition that was running pretty rampant. We heard about it. We saw it in the 1960s, and that tradition ends up picking up these tools and as you said in the intro, created something wholly new, a whole new political project. They saw these tools as useful for what they were trying to achieve.
Bill Walton: 00:10:00 Just an analogy that springs to mind is it’s like they were in the laboratory working on this biological virus, and then the virus jumped from the laboratory into society, and now we’ve got this pandemic of these terrible ideas.
James Lindsay: 00:10:17 Yeah. I think we’ve leveled that metaphor ourselves a couple of times. Really, it seems to be what the case is. As a matter of fact, that virus, I think, we called it in the book in Cynical Theories we said that it’s a rapidly mutating virus, as a matter of fact, because it doesn’t have any real constraints on it because it’s all word games.
You’ve praised our structure of the title with Cynical Theories and critical crossed out. We actually went back and forth between two different titles. The other is, if you don’t know the term, Wittgenstein had this idea called language games, and then the postmodern philosophers picked up the idea of language games quite a lot, and they wanted to play language games. Jacques Derrida, who I mentioned, talks about play all the time and he was obsessed with language.
Well, we had thought of doing the same editorial mark trick, where we crossed out, we were going to cross out language and put power. So, the title would have been Power Games. It was the alternative title that lost in our little straw poll of four of our friends. Since it’s all in language, though, there are no restrictions.
So, it’s able to, as a virus, if you want to use the metaphor, it’s able to change very quickly. It’s able to adapt to any argument or any challenge that’s given to it very quickly just by changing around the ways that the words are meant, the way the words are used. In that sense, it’s very, very, very subversive.
Bill Walton: 00:11:41 So, how does this jump in to … I’ve got a book now that I haven’t quite been able to read. You told me you read it for me. It’s called How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Now, didn’t he start life named James Stuart or some name like that?
James Lindsay: 00:12:00 Henry Rogers, I think.
Bill Walton: 00:12:01 Henry Rogers, yeah. So, how did it jump from there to this? What they’re doing with language now makes it almost impossible for us to … Once you’ve been tagged as a racist, there’s no way to get out of it.
James Lindsay: 00:12:19 Right. So, this is actually part of the strategy that they used with these terms. The first one that this movement broadly construed, which you could argue stretches back over 100 years, the first one they discovered was fascist. They figured out the power of the word fascist. This was known to them as soon as Hitler had his rise and Mussolini had his rise, and they saw the revulsion of the people throughout the liberal West to the Nazi regime or the Axis powers.
They look at this and they said, “Wow. Fascism has a lot of power in it.” What they said is that, “Communism,” at the time this was communists, “is intrinsically antifascist. We want a perfect liberated Utopia for the workers to be all considered equal. It’s antifascist. There should be no state at all in a communist. You have to pass through the socialist part to get to the communism according to the Marxian historicism, but on the other end, there’s no state at all, so there’s no fascism.” So, they said, “The communism is the true antifascist position.”
So, what they started to do is anybody who criticized communism, they said, “Oh, well, you must be pro-fascism because we’re antifascism.” This trick is still literally, exactly that trick is still being used right now, and it still works on people now.
Well, the critical race line of thought saw this working with fascism and adapted it around racism. So, they came up with this dichotomy. You’re either racist or you’re anti-racist. They even say, Ibram Kendi in that book, for example, says, “There’s no such things as not racist.”
You have other authors, Robin DiAngelo is another very famous one who says, “There’s no such thing as not racist. You can’t be less racist.” You have this absolute choice between being an anti-racist on the terms that they’ve set or they’re going to call you a racist because you are not anti-racist in the terms that they’ve set. They lay this out in a variety of different ways. They say that you can be actively racist or passively racist by just going along with the situation that creates unequal outcomes. You can be actively anti-racist and they describe and it says in the book called Is Everyone Really Equal, which is also by Robin DiAngelo from 2012. They described it, “There’s no such thing as being passively anti-racist. That would be being not racist and you can’t be that.”
Being anti-racist is an activity. It is a form of social activism that you have to take up, and here are the terms, and it’s an lifelong commitment to an ongoing process, they describe it as.
So, it’s this whole different way of thinking. It’s different than saying, “Well, I don’t like racism,” what we used to think anti-racism would mean. They’ve co-opted that term in exactly the same way that the communists in the ’30s and ’40s realized they could co-opt the term antifascist.
It’s a language game in order to gain power because when they call somebody racist, the person gets defensive, and they try to hide from it, and they decide to sign over their company to somebody else or something like this or they resign or they go on the internet and apologize in a public video, which steals all … Once you do that, you’ve lost all of your standing. People look at you and they don’t respect you.
You think you’re doing something that will make people respect you more by taking responsibility, but in fact, what you’re doing is caving in to something and it doesn’t … Psychologically, we’re smarter than that. So, we perceive it as being weak and the person being untrustworthy, and you sacrifice what’s called your moral authority in that move, and you don’t have it anymore, and it’s very difficult to get back.
It’s like trust. You sacrifice your trust by caving in. This the manipulation that they do, and it’s funny just to touch on it. You hold up Ibram Kendi’s book and you say that it’s very difficult with the language to understand what he’s talking about. Kendi’s got a further trick. So, within critical race theory, they talk about this concept most people will have heard of now, systemic racism, that the racism is in the system.
Well, Kendi actually describes that people didn’t understand the idea of systemic racism. They would often ask him to explain what the system was. So, he decided that this was an impediment because people are asking too many questions. So, he replaced the term system with policy because he basically believes that whatever the policy is creates a system.
So, then he says, “Well, policy can be the policies in law or policies in institutional policy, but it can also just be the norms of how people interact with one another, how our conversation has a policy, underwriting how we’re talking to one another, what words we’re willing to use to communicate, how we’re going to speak, how we’re going to treat each other, et cetera. All of these vague nebulous policies, this is his new word that actually means system or systemic that he’s used to sub out because people were hanging up on him and saying, “Wait a minute. I don’t know about the systemic racism thing,” and they were challenging his ideas. So, he just cooked up a new word and replaced it. This makes reading him and understanding him very difficult.
Bill Walton: 00:17:14 Well, there’s so many places to take this, but it’s based on the language that says revealing hidden biases and unexamined assumptions usually pointing out what have been termed problematics, which are ways in which society and systems that it operates upon are going wrong. So, he’s done that and he’s painted this into a word corner. I mean, we’re now in a place where the terms were all used in a way. We really don’t have any way out except maybe to declare, “Well, yes, I am a racist.” I mean, I think a lot of people are beginning to wonder whether that’s the line of action because even if you’re silent, wasn’t there a case recently where there was a professor in one law school who disappeared because he or she said something to a colleague on a Zoom call about the fact that the Blacks in the law school typically finished at the bottom of their class, made that remark, which was a factual statement, and the other person didn’t say anything.
Then line of action was, “Well, we’re going to obviously discipline the speaker. She or he is gone, and they are gone, unlikely to teach in another law school.” Also, the person who didn’t say anything was disciplined and made a call out and apologized for not speaking up. I mean, where are we at now with non-speech or just as guilty as speech?
James Lindsay: 00:18:45 Yeah. That’s actually part of the program that they say that people who have privilege in society must use their privilege to disrupt systems of oppression. So, they would have seen that speech that was made as speaking into systems of oppression regardless of whether it’s a factual statement. It doesn’t matter because it’s used to uphold stereotypes that caused oppression.
So, the other person who did not speak, did not use their position or privilege to disrupt that system of oppression, that’s the logic behind this. This logic has a name, though. It’s totalitarianism, to be distinguished from authoritarianism. It’s far worse. This is the dividing line that I’ve seen. I forgot who it wrote first, somebody much smarter than I am, but they wrote that the difference between an authoritarian and a totalitarian is that an authoritarian is content to let you think and say what you want as long as you don’t insult the regime, but a totalitarian is going to compel you to support the regime. They’re going to compel you to speak out in favor of the regime.
We are seeing actually this compelled speech angle. I hear from countless people in their workplaces or these various diversity trainings and whatever they call them, trainings are coming in saying that there’s these compulsions to speak, to admit that they’re racist, which what happens then? Does that go into your permanent file? Is it the basis for firing you later or they’re compelled to interrogate their feelings of defensiveness if they reject engaging in this humiliating activity?
This is not a healthy direction that people are going and they think that it is, and as you said, it’s because the activist, nobody … This is such an important point. Nobody thinks that other people are intentionally using words the wrong way. Nobody thinks they’re having a conversation, if you want to use the Alice in Wonderland reference, nobody thinks they’re having a conversation with Humpty Dumpty. These words mean what I want them to mean when I say them and nothing more and nothing less. Nobody thinks they’re having that conversation, but the activists behind these critical theories have figured out ways to use all of the words, many of the words, hundreds of the words in very specialized ways to where you think they’re talking about one thing. They’re actually talking about something else.
So, you read Kendi and say, “Oh, racist policy would be bad. We should get rid of that,” but what he means is even social norms, even what words we’re allowed to speak and how we’re meant to use them.
Bill Walton: 00:21:10 Well, you write that they’re referring to prejudice on the grounds of race and they defined it as a racialized system that permeates all interactions in society, and yet is largely invisible except to those who experience it, who have been trained in the proper critical methods that trained them to see it.
James Lindsay: 00:21:29 That’s right.
Bill Walton: 00:21:30 So, you’ve got this high priesthood of race that only they know the magical words, and yet none of us are let in the room behind the alter and we’re left. No matter what we do, it’s defined as racist.
James Lindsay: 00:21:50 No. That’s absolutely true on all counts. There is this high priesthood who gets to decide what is and is not racist. I’ll give you a look behind the curtain, whatever it is is racist. The answer is always racism. It always goes there. An example I give just very briefly that paints that up makes people understand it a little better is you could imagine running a store. I’ve given this example a bunch of times. So, if you’ve heard it, I apologize, but you can imagine running a store and two customers enter roughly at the same time. You’re working alone. One’s White and one’s Black. Maybe it’s a tailor shop and you have to help them for 10 minutes or something, measure them, and try to fit them, and talk to them. So, you have to pick. Which one do you help first, the White customer or Black customer?
If you pick the Black customer, critical race theory would analyze, racism must be present in this situation somehow, and they would say, “Well, you did it because you don’t trust leaving a Black person unattended in your store. So, you have racist assumptions about Black people being untrustworthy or thieves,” or they might even get even more cynical and say, “Well, you secretly wanted to help the White person more, so you signaled that by choosing the Black person to try to cover up the fact that you know you are racist, which is also racist.”
If you tried to help the White person first, of course they would just say, “Well, you favor White people over Black people. You see Black people as second class citizens, so that was racist.” So, everything actually has a conclusion of racism.
Critical theories begin with their conclusion in mind and then contort the situation and contort the language to arrive at that conclusion. This happens. That’s one of the reasons we call them cynical, but that’s even worse than cynical. There’s sophistry baked into that. There’s also just manipulation. It’s more like cluster B personality disorder theories at that point.
Bill Walton: 00:23:36 Well, you and your coauthor are idealists. You believe in liberalism. You believe in social justice defined by liberals. You define freedom and live in a government. She’s on the progressive left, I think, more than you are, but nevertheless, you’re committed to these ideals. As I listen to you talk about the language games and the systematic racism, this doesn’t seem to be about any other ideal than power.
James Lindsay: 00:24:06 That’s right. Yeah.
Bill Walton: 00:24:07 I mean, is there anything else that would be a high ideal that they’re aspiring towards? It seems to be it’s just whatever you got I want.
James Lindsay: 00:24:16 There is, actually. This is a little complicated and a little deep. It’s called liberation.
Bill Walton: 00:24:20 Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s go. Liberation. Okay.
James Lindsay: 00:24:22 Liberation is their actual higher ideal. To understand liberation, actually, requires, and you will find this in the literature. You’ll see the people talking about it. You can read a regular article written by some of these activists. It comes out in the New York Times or Washington Post or some mainstream outlet. You’ll occasionally run into the word liberation. They’re still talking about liberation today.
Liberationism was a big movement that started in the ’60s and ’70s. It had lots of huge liberation fronts that cropped up. That’s a word that’s a little bit ominous for people. Viet Cong is probably the most famous of these.
Bill Walton: 00:24:57 That was my day.
James Lindsay: 00:24:58 Yeah. So, liberation fronts, this is the liberation that they’re talking about, but there’s this essay from 1969 written by this guy, Herbert Marcuse that I mentioned before, who’s the rock star of the ’60s for leftist intellectuals. When you read it, what you understand is that liberation has the same connotation as communism did under Marxist historicism. So, I’ve already introduced that.
If you don’t know the Marxian view of the world, and these people aren’t quite Marxists, so I don’t want to make it confusing or too simplistic, but if you don’t know how the Marxists view the world, he believed that history progresses, material history, particularly the economic history, progresses according to fixed laws and that those fixed laws develop over time, so that you eventually reach a stage in economic development of capitalism that goes into advanced and late capitalism, that finally causes the workers, the proletariat, the workers to become conscious and form the proletariat.
So, the proletariat are class-conscious workers who have now banded together to create a new order. The new order that they’re going to do is they’re going to cease the means of production. They’re going to cease the control of the state, and that state of economic development is going to be called socialism, where the state owns everything, but the workers technically run the state. The proletariat runs the state.
Then what happens is over time, as they work out the kinks of the socialist order, Marx believed that they would start to slowly realize that the state itself is superfluous. As you perfect the dialectal materialist conditions … Dialectal materialism is you perfect the material conditions of the socialist order, the state becomes superfluous and you enter into a state-free communist Utopia.
Liberation is the revamping of that communism, where now we’re free from all forms of responsibility, we’re free from all forms of suffering, we’re free of all forms of systemic power. It’s not just economics for the liberationists. We’re going to be free of all the forms of imperialism, and colonialism, and racism, and fascism, and capitalism. We’re going to be free of all of these oppressive things.
All of the different ways that the existing system allegedly brainwashes people into believing that the system that we have works and is good, we’ll be free of all of that. That is actually the higher ideal that they have in mind. When you realize that it’s exactly the same model that Marx used, and if we want to go even deeper, Marx derived it. Marx was what was known as a young Hegelian. Marx derived it from his beliefs on Hegel. The young Hegelians were radicals, who took Hegel’s philosophy. Hegel had this idea of the dialectical process. He was a historicist. He believed history follows fixed laws, and the dialectical process progresses history, but for Hegel, being an idealist, it was when the ideas of society are perfected then-
Bill Walton: 00:27:47 So, this is heaven on earth for people who do not believe in heaven.
James Lindsay: 00:27:51 That’s exactly right. It is exactly right. It is creating the kingdom but without the God.
Bill Walton: 00:27:59 Oh, my! Well-
James Lindsay: 00:28:01 The problem, though, for this, and this is the key part, with communism, with everything. I spent decades trying to figure out, literally, from my early 20s, trying to figure out, “Why in the world is communism such a … Why do so many people fall into believing in it?” Then I pieced together that it’s because it’s this heaven on earth almost religious view. Then I went further and I started thinking a little more deeply about it, and I thought, “Well, how do they think it works? It never works. Why do they think it’s going to work?”
It hit me. I was driving. I remember I was driving home one night and it hit me that it was like, “Oh, it’s when everybody believes the exact same thing. That’s when it’s going to work, when everybody alive is onboard.” So, first, they’re going to try to convert you. If they can’t convert you, they’re going to try to forcibly convert you or if they can’t persuade you, they’ll forcibly convert you, and if they can’t do that, they’ll kill you. Then eventually, everybody who’s left believes it, and then it’s going to work. That’s the mindset.
That’s why it so reliably leads to totalitarianism where they try to force everybody to believe the same thing. That’s why it so reliably leads to walking tens of millions of people into the equipment of a blender when it doesn’t work because it doesn’t actually work, and they have to get rid of the people who have the wrong thing.
I hate to put it this bluntly, but this is the road that this particular ideology is walking. It’s not strictly communist. In fact, I don’t think it’s too capitalist, embedded with capitalism. It’s too fascist, frankly, in the sense that Mussolini meant. He said, “I define fascism as corporatism.” It’s the corporations running everything.
Bill Walton: 00:29:37 Well, that’s why I opened with the fact that I don’t think this is the tried and true old simple binaries. This is something that’s completely, that’s assimilated a lot of that and it’s morphed into a third dimension, fourth dimension. As I listen to you, I love the dedication to your book to your wife Heather, which says, “Who just wanted a simple life and never to have learned that any of this exists.”
James Lindsay: 00:30:03 Yeah. We laugh about that all the time, actually. We were talking about that this morning.
Bill Walton: 00:30:07 Now, is this what’s being … Donald Trump famously issued an order that the Defense Department no longer, other federal agencies no longer teaching critical race theory. One of the first things Biden did was reinstituted that. What’s being taught?
James Lindsay: 00:30:26 What’s being taught is that, if it was critical race theory specifically, is that racism is the ordinary state of affairs, the normal logic that underlies how society operates, okay? So, the question seizes to be, did racism take place and changes? Two, how did racism manifest in the situation? Training people to find the racism in ordinary circumstances or in institutional outcomes based on if there’s any difference that you can detect, whatsoever, whether at the individual level or whether at the group level between racists that probably racism is the reason, and you learn to give these tortured explanations for how that must be the case.
They’re also learning, for example, the color blindness and neutrality are failed experiments that only entrenched difference. So, they believe that difference already exists, and if we treat people equally and neutrally in a system in which difference exists, that the differences grow rather than shrink. They genuinely believe that.
So, people who start out further behind, fall further behind by treating them equally, and the people who start out further ahead get even further ahead, so that wherever you are versus say if there’s some zero point of absolutely neutral of behind and ahead, whatever that would mean, that people that fall to the negative side of that, that negativity expands, and the people who fall to the positive side of that, that positivity expands if you come at it with a neutral or color blind approach. That’s literally the statement from Derrick Bell. I just read it again last night from 1992. He’s a creator of critical race theory, one of the two.
Bill Walton: 00:32:06 Derrick Bell, you talk about. You’re watching The Bill Walton Show, and I’m here with James Lindsay, who’s an extraordinary man, who’s leading us through this, my word, craziness of theory. I want to promote for his website, New Discourses, where he’s got his podcast and also he’s got some great things in there like the encyclopedia for all of this. What’s the name of your encyclopedia? Encyclopedia for Social Justice or something, where you can go-
James Lindsay: 00:32:38 It’s a critical social justice encyclopedia, but I gave it the name Translations from the Wokeish, giving a nod to Tolkien, who I’m a big fan of Tolkien.
Bill Walton: 00:32:46 So, if we want to know what this is, we can go on to click on, and I’ve done it. It’s extremely interesting. Also, you can support James through Patreon. What are the other ways that people can support your-
James Lindsay: 00:32:58 So, if you actually go to the website, go to newdiscourses.com, there is a support button, and it gives you all the options. I’m 100% crowdfunded, which is a little bit difficult because I operate as though as I’m a foundation, like a C3, but I’m actually operating a corporation because I need the speed and flexibility of a corporation, but I need to do the information now. So, I just decided to break all the rules like usual and not do the sensible thing, and put myself in this position where it’s actually a bit hard to fund myself, but I think it’s a necessary move.
For example, I felt like it was going to be very necessary to be able to talk about the election last year, and if I had gone the C3 route, I could have severely limited my capacity to do that. I understood that that was on the horizon, so I decided to do the splits. You got that commercial back in the day where Jean-Claude Van Damme did the splits between two trucks, and that’s me between a foundation and a corporation, and I’m hoping that it works out.
There are options. I’m 100% crowdfunded, Patreon, PayPal, subscribe, star, YouTube members, and I’m on Locals now as well.
Bill Walton: 00:34:08 We’ve subscribed. So, we’re in.
James Lindsay: 00:34:10 Oh, thank you. Great.
Bill Walton: 00:34:11 We’re supporting. Now, the thing that people need to know about you is you’ve got another dimension that is wonderful, which is you make fun of this craziness on campuses. I think with Peter, is it Boghossian?
James Lindsay: 00:34:11 Yeah, Boghossian.
Bill Walton: 00:34:26 You all wrote some papers to be accepted to the academic powers of be for publishing and with titles like Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon. That was accepted to be published?
James Lindsay: 00:34:51 Not only was that accepted, that was given a special recognition for high quality scholarship by the journal that accepted it, which was the number one journal, and it’s niche field in the number eight or nine, depending on which ranking system you use journal overall and the discipline.
Bill Walton: 00:35:09 It fit right in to what Judith Butler calls Raging Against Heteronormality, straight White males. What did you say in this cutting through the academic language? What was the topic?
James Lindsay: 00:35:24 Well, I’ll start with how we wrote all of the papers that we did in this project, which was that we started with the conclusion we wanted to reach and then figured out a way to get there so that we were intentionally writing sophistry, and we wanted to actually prove that you can start with your conclusion and then write the paper to the conclusion and they’ll accept this.
So, the conclusion we started with was that rape culture is a problem and we could fix it if we could train men the way that we train dogs. That’s where we started. That was the original goal, and that’s where we do end the paper is if we could just … We said there’s limitations on political feasibility for putting leashes on men or shot collars or whatever, but we can figure out metaphorical ways to copy these things.
What we actually did was we used as either you want to call it, as they do, an implicit bias test or a Rorschach test, whatever, the idea that we would have people go. We claimed that we watched people watch dogs involved in what we called humping incidents, dog humping incidents because they said that we’re not … The peer reviewers told us we weren’t dogs so we couldn’t say when it’s dog rape and when it’s dog sex. We don’t have the capacity to know because we’re not dogs.
Bill Walton: 00:36:32 There’s no consent.
James Lindsay: 00:36:33 We don’t know how to know when dogs consent it. So, we actually have at the peer reviewers’ request, I included the sentence or the phrase, as a human and not as a dog in the paper, and then explained that I can’t tell the difference.
So, what we did, though, is we watched people watching dogs involved in their humping incidents and how we claimed, we didn’t do any of this, obviously, and how they reacted to that, and if they got more upset when the dogs … We’re trying to track whether men and women had different amounts of being angry if the dog sex was straight or gay. So, if a male dog humped another male dog, we just wrote that men got really mad about this, and that somehow that this homophobia or whatever that that would translate into in their theory, somehow is indicative of willingness to participate in rape culture.
There’s absolutely no sense behind this, whatsoever, and that, therefore, it’s obvious that we said that dog parks are rape-condoning spaces just like nightclubs. We didn’t give any evidence that nightclubs are rape-condoning spaces. We just said that they are and, therefore, we need to train men the way that we train dogs in order to combat this problem. This was not only accepted by the leading journal in Feminist Geography, as it’s known. I know you didn’t need to know that Feminist Geography even exists, but the journal was 25 years old at the time.
Bill Walton: 00:38:02 I’m learning all sorts of things.
James Lindsay: 00:38:03 Oh, yeah. So, this has been a … The termites have, as they say, what is it? Dug deeply and dined well or whatever it is. It’s a 25-year-old journal at the time. So, it’s three years ago. So, it’s getting closer to its 30th year. It honored that paper for excellence and scholarship. We even claimed ridiculous things like that we examined the genitals of 10,000 dogs in three dog parks, just three in Portland. It’s not even New York City or it’s not like Beijing where there’s millions and millions of people.
They were like, “Oh, this is great.”
In the first draft of the paper we said, “Well, we can’t show you our data because we put it in a shredder, in a compost bin or something, a recycling bin. We destroyed our data, so we can’t possibly prove that we did this.”
They were like, “Oh, that’s okay. No problem.”
Bill Walton: 00:38:54 Taking a lead from Hilary. So, well, this conversation can go 53,000 ways. I do want to come back to something in the headlines right now, which is Kristi Noem in South Dakota with the trans bill, gender bill, women in sports. We did a round table on this yesterday. In my research, I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal from a year ago that said, “The race to end the binary,” and that was all about the race to end the distinction between male and female.
James Lindsay: 00:39:36 That’s right.
Bill Walton: 00:39:36 Then just yesterday or this week, CNN put something out. One of their reporter said, “It is not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth and for some people, the sex listed on their original birth certificate is a misleading way of describing the body they have.” How did we get here? What’s-
James Lindsay: 00:40:02 How much trouble do you want to get in?
Bill Walton: 00:40:04 I like trouble.
James Lindsay: 00:40:05 Okay. Damn it, Bill, it was the feminists. That’s going to get us in a lot of trouble. Feminists get really upset when you say that they’re taking up the issue of what’s called gender critical views, critical theory applied to gender or being critical of the idea that gender is actually linked in a meaningful way to sex. They like to say that gender is socially constructed. So, these are social constructionists.
There’s a slight difference between social constructionists and social constructivists, and I forgot what it is. I think it’s tivists is what we’re going for, social constructivists. Anyway, yeah, I know.
So, they wanted to take the idea that the way that masculinity is understood, what makes a man a man, what makes a woman a woman. You have, for example, in the late 1940s, Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex writing that one is not born but becomes a woman. So, you have this idea that what makes a woman womanly, which now shifts from whatever her biology is to those characteristics that people recognize in the social sphere as having reached womanhood or being truly a woman, that that is largely a social fiction and, in fact, maybe totally a social fiction, and that what the gender critical feminists have been doing or the radical feminists as I recall before, was picking at that and saying, “Oh, well, it’s connected to patriarchy. It’s used to control women. It’s connected to capitalism. It’s used to commodify femininity for purchase, for marketing, for advertising.”
So, they tied it in in a very cynical way, again, the cynical theories, and what they wanted to do, what they wanted to achieve was to deconstruct the idea, and this is why those deconstructive postmodern theories were so alluring to feminists. They wanted to deconstruct the idea that the way that you happen to be born dictates how you have to act, how you have to present yourself or whatever.
This was largely driven just to be completely fair. There are women who, for whatever set of reasons, were sour on the whole idea of masculinity and femininity, but there were also a lot of lesbians who genuinely fall outside, especially the so-called butch lesbians. They fall outside of wanting to present or feeling like they should present or feeling that it matches their personality to present as traditionally feminine.
Then they also wanted, of course, to blame men for many of the problems in society and say that the way that masculinity is constructed leads men to become violent, it leads men to become controlling, it leads men to be domineering, all of these very negative traits. They went too far and then said, “This is why men are more violent.” It has nothing to do with the raging levels of testosterone or whatever in their 16 to 25-year-old range, which is when most men are most violent and most of them start settling down after that. No, nothing to do with insane levels of hormones.
Bill Walton: 00:43:06 Well, which are observable facts, and we’ve got data after data, study after study. They’re all observable.
James Lindsay: 00:43:13 Yeah, but no. For them, it was that masculinity is being taught from one generation of men to the next in the wrong way. So, they wanted to decouple what femininity means in relationship to women, and what masculinity means in relationship to men. Then they wanted to just start blurring those concepts of masculine and feminine, so that people who are, say, a very effeminate man, they’re not going to be called out for being that or very butch woman are not going to be called out or oppressed or mocked or whatever for being that way.
So, there’s this kernel of value there, just let people be who they are kernel of value, but this unleashed a chain of events that then becomes unstoppable because then you have Judith Butler, for example, famously writing in 1990 in Gender Trouble, where she just takes for granted the entire book. I actually got asked the other day, “How much does she talk about social constructivism in the book?”
So, I looked up the word, I opened the PDF of the book that I have, and I searched the term constructive or construct, I just stopped at construct, so everywhere that the phrase construct appears. It appeared something like 256 times in the book. So, she just takes it as a given that gender is socially constructed, and then she starts taking it a step further. Well, what if sex is also socially constructed? What if sexuality is socially constructed?
This is the birth of queer theory in 1990, but the thought reaches back maybe the 1984, where these ideas were getting tossed around. Gail Rubin’s Thinking Sex, meaning thinking more about whether biological sex needs to be brought underneath the same level of criticism has already now bent the arrow away from let’s try to decouple masculinity and femininity from male and female, and let’s try to ask questions about what masculinity and femininity do to constrain the lives of people who don’t want to fit into those norms or that maybe create poisonous patterns like so-called toxic masculinity or so-called they don’t like to talk about toxic femininity, but they will. They usually talk about hegemonic femininity, which is that people are enforcing women to be a particular way.
Rather than just asking those kinds of questions and sometimes useful and often in pertinent ways, they started to dip in to sex, biological sex, and maybe that the biological sex itself is socially constructed. They tacked that on to the birth certificate, “Oh, well, that’s where the biological sex construction begins when a doctor who’s given authority by the virtue of his degree can step in and say, ‘Aha! I look at the genitals and I say this is a boy,’ or ‘I look at the genitals and I say this is a girl,'” but they say, “Well, you know there are intersex people.” Something like 1.7% of the population has some confusing situation going on.
I mean, it’s fair to say when this is small and then the outcomes are what they are, some disorder. I think that there are something like 18 or 19 known genetic level issues, and then there are other ones where they actually are, say, XXY chromosomes or something like this or XXYY. I forget what they all are. I think there are 18 where people aren’t dead. Two of them are male and female.
Then there are hormonal issues like if for some reason there is a bathing of testosterone in the womb, sometimes the young or a baby girl’s clitoris will grow and even develop partially into something like a penis. It will have a hole in it. A urethra might pass through it, et cetera.
So, there are these complications. Biology turns out not to be as neat as our clean little categories. So, this is a legitimate thing, but then they’ve leveraged that to say, “See, sex is just made up because it would be horrible to call this a disorder. It would be horrible to call this a condition.” Those people would feel ostracized and stigmatized. So, therefore, better to just say none of this makes any sense. It’s all a social construction. It’s all, in a sense, up for grabs, and then you land into this situation now, which is a little bit ironic, where you have this, say, trans lobby or the queer lobby, who are full boar sex, sexuality, gender, all fully socially constructed, all negotiable, all up for grabs.
The stuff like we see with transgender in sports. Transwoman is a woman, therefore, she should be allowed to be women’s sports. It has to be validated, their identity. You see the ACLU. All this is a predictable consequence. Who are the people that are fighting against it the most vigorously and angrily? The gender critical feminists, who started the whole ball rolling.
Their whole thing has turned back around on them. They lost control of the part because most gender critical feminists believe that men and women are actual biological stable categories, but they’ve lost control because the deconstructive process has been too powerful.
Bill Walton: 00:48:10 So, queer. We have LGBT, trans, okay, that’s people who want a sex change operation and they do that. I think that’s right. What is queer?
James Lindsay: 00:48:26 Okay. So, queer, trans is a little more complicated than that, but-
Bill Walton: 00:48:30 Okay. Well, I’m a-
James Lindsay: 00:48:32 Because there’s a difference between-
Bill Walton: 00:48:34 I’m in your freshman level class right now.
James Lindsay: 00:48:38 Actually, I’m trying to just keep you out of trouble. Trans, I’m calling you out for your mistake before we all get canceled.
Bill Walton: 00:48:44 Okay. Good.
James Lindsay: 00:48:45 There’s a difference between transexual and transgender. So, anybody who decides-
Bill Walton: 00:48:49 Yeah. Let’s clarify that. Yeah, please.
James Lindsay: 00:48:51 Okay. So, transgender means that you’ve changed your gender identity. So, if you accept that gender somehow flows on top of sex, and it is somehow distinct. I think that there’s validity to that because we can talk about a masculine man or a feminine man or effeminate man. We could talk about a manly woman or a very effeminate woman. There is some level to it.
Bill Walton: 00:49:13 We’ve all met kids like that. I mean, Sarah grew up with a boy who was definitely in that category.
James Lindsay: 00:49:20 Sure, tomboys. Yeah, of course.
Bill Walton: 00:49:22 The daughter of, I shouldn’t say who he is, daughter of a friend of ours, she was definitely not a girl. So, it’s real. It happens.
James Lindsay: 00:49:32 Sure. Of course. So, if we take for granted that gender does flow a little bit above sex, it’s a little more complicated than the knots and bolts biology, which I think is not really that controversial, then perhaps you have, as we’re just discussing, perhaps you have somebody who’s born and identified as a female at birth. This could be a completely correct identification. She’s raised to be girlish and then seven, eight, nine years old maybe, for sure, it’s super tomboy, this isn’t really fitting, and then they decided that they no longer want to identify as the language goes with the binary of boy or girl, so maybe they become non-binary. Maybe they just accept that they’re a girl but they do it in a nontraditional ways, so they become gender nonconforming is the term for that.
Maybe they decided that they’re actually going to try to identify fully as the others. So, you now have this young woman biologically who decides that they’re now a transman. That’s transgender. It means you’ve changed your gender identity, which may or may not include going through the changing of surgical operations or whatever else. It often does in hormones and so on, but it doesn’t always.
So, there is this, I think, legitimate distinction there that has to be nuanced out, but that’s beside the point because we’re talking about the Q. We’re talking about queer.
Bill Walton: 00:50:53 By the way, you have a chapter in your book on this and, again, I’m going to highly plug the book, Cynical Theories. So, it’s on Amazon. It’s on Kindle. Also, Helen, I think, is reading it to for Audible. So, anybody who’s really interested in what’s going on has to read this book.
James Lindsay: 00:51:12 Oh, thank you.
Bill Walton: 00:51:12 Queer. Let’s do queer.
James Lindsay: 00:51:14 Yeah. So, queer is the rejection of normal as a political project. That’s what it is. I mean, it’s easy to laugh, but that’s what it means. So, anything that’s in the sphere of being considered normal is according to a queer theorist somehow constraining people to have to live up to the expectation to be normal. They literally, Judith Butler, no, somebody that was writing off of Judith Butler, sorry. It was not Judith Butler who first said it. She laid out the idea, but the term that derived from her idea was that this is a violence of categorization. It is a violence to people to categorize them in terms of their sex or gender or sexuality when that doesn’t match themselves.
So, queer theory is this idea or being queer or queering something as a verb is to reject the idea that stable categories can exist and that those can be considered normal. The idea that if something is normative, in a sense that it’s common, then it also carries a moral normativity with it. The people are expected to fit into that, which is in the normal range and will be ostracized if they fall too far outside of the normal range. They see that as a form of oppression and their activism is, therefore, too, then disrupt the idea of the categories themselves to blur all of the boundaries, to throw out the idea that normal is anything good.
To do so, usually through parody, through mockery, through subversion, you could see something like, I mean, drag is a very early … What we used to call gender bending is a very early form-
Bill Walton: 00:52:54 Well, I’m a little older than you are, and I grew up in the ’60s. I even made the track to Woodstock. In that period, a lot of my friends were hippies. I don’t know that I ever actually was, but I was certainly in that group, and there are a lot of friends that refer to themselves as freaks. It was the term du jour where everybody was very happy to be a freak because they didn’t have to fit in, they didn’t have to be normal, they didn’t have to be bourgeois. So, it’s been around. It’s been around, but now it’s turned into something new and more powerful.
James Lindsay: 00:53:32 Yeah. Right. So, the idea, in fact, that we’re going to stick the Q on the end of LGBT is totally in a front, right? So, many people-
Bill Walton: 00:53:42 Doesn’t it blow up everything else?
James Lindsay: 00:53:44 I mean, it’s a rejection of the … Yeah, it blows up everything else. It means woman who is attracted to woman. So, you have to have stable categories of woman in order to have L. G is man attracted to man. B is man or woman attracted to both. So, you have to still have those … Bisexual implies binary. So, you still have to have the binary in order to … So, L, G, and B are all thrown under the bus by the Q.
Trans is even thrown under the bus because people … It depends. For a transgender, you still have to have a stable notion of the original gender to transition away from it. So, Q throws that partially under the bus, but more importantly, most people who consider themselves trans do not do so in the sense that they are, “Oh, I was born a girl and now I’m gender nonconforming.” They see it as, “I was born a girl, and now I’m a transman,” which requires, again, a stable category of man toward which you can transition, and I say toward very deliberately here, by the way. It’s a deliberate use of the word you cannot transition to. You can only transition toward. This is part of the tragedy of what’s going on with the trans narrative is they’ve confused that. You can transition toward male or female, but you cannot transition to. You never get there.
Bill Walton: 00:55:03 Could you expand that a little bit? I’m not sure I understand, toward versus to.
James Lindsay: 00:55:08 Sure. So, imagine that you decided that you’re going to now live life as a woman, so you can start dressing differently, you can start taking hormones, you can start undergoing surgeries. You can do whatever you want, but at what point do you ever actually become a woman? You don’t. You’re still a man who is going through different processes of transitioning toward something that stereotypically or maybe even in deeper essence if you’re doing enough hormones or whatever is in the category of a woman, but you’re never going to arrive there. You can’t take enough hormones to change your XY to XX. You’re not getting there.
You are not ever going to get to the point, I hate to dive to the lived experience thing, but you’re never going to get to the point where, however old you are, 60 some odd or whatever, where those 60 some odd years that you lived before where you had the growing experience of being that other thing. You never get there. The transition never completes. It is an ongoing process, it never ends.
It is a lie, a dangerous lie to tell people that there’s the end of the rainbow in this. It is permanently being on the rainbow instead, which is often very discouraging, very defeating, very challenging for people who tried to take this road thinking they’re going to get there and there is no getting there.
So, the toward and to there is actually quite important and people don’t usually understand the distinction, but regarding the Q, the queer, people also don’t understand the queer, because they reject normality, this is a big point, they reject things like marriage equality. Queer theorists or queer activists are against marriage equality probably even more vigorously than strong social conservative Christian, whatever the stereotype on the right is that opposes it.
Why? Because if homosexual people can get married and they can just be accepted in society, by society as they are and then their relationships and that’s a very normal thing, it’s just another way of being human, well, all of a sudden, it’s no longer being a freak. It’s no longer being outside. It encourages them to act normally instead of radically. It encourages them to mesh into what society considers normal rather than to reject the idea that society would consider something normal in the first place.
Bill Walton: 00:57:26 How many people self-identify as queer?
James Lindsay: 00:57:29 I don’t know. It’s on the rise for certain until very recently. If we go back five years, I would say very few, probably fewer than 1% or 2%. Currently, it’s very fashionable. It’s like how many kids identified as goth when I was high school.
Bill Walton: 00:57:49 Yeah. Exactly. This seems to be a fashion where people move from freak to goth, to queer.
James Lindsay: 00:57:56 Yeah, it is and it’s super not okay apparently to say that. I mean, this is the territory that lead to … They’re calling it a condition. I don’t know, rapid onset gender dysphoria, where young people, in particular, probably for mostly social reasons, are suddenly frequently identifying as that they have gender dysphoria. They’re uncomfortable with the gender that they have been and the habit, and they identify as trans or non-binary or in some other way. A lot of them become queer activists or they can seduce into becoming queer activists because they’re convinced that the normal state of affairs in society is the problem. The fact that most people are male or female and straight is the problem.
So, that’s rapidly on the rise. When I say rapid onset gender dysphoria, we went from the population of people who identified as trans being a fraction of 1%, something like 0.3 or 0.7. I can’t recall the thing where they add up to the next thing together. I confuse them frequently. A fraction of 1% to a group of something like 2,400% or something like this. I mean, it’s just many times over multiplied in young women, in particular. So, this bears every hallmark of social contagion.
Bill Walton: 00:59:21 Well, you’re leading us in to an interesting direction. Douglas Murray, I’m sure you know him, I’ve read his book. He’s got a subchapter on social media. How much of this contagion is now a function of our 24/7 social media world where everybody is online and ideas like this can translate very rapidly?
James Lindsay: 00:59:43 A lot, a lot. There are a few reasons why. One is that social media enables people to find people who are like-minded very easily, where you might have been the only person in your high school who felt this way or maybe there were 10 of you and nobody ever spoke about it, so nobody ever knew. Now, you know. You end up on online forums and you’re able to say these things, and you’re able to meet maybe hundreds of other people, and maybe there are only hundreds of other people who are like you, and it’s easy to form a community around being that.
A second is that this ideas tend to be groomed by groups on social media. I won’t hesitate to say that there are manipulative people out there who feel more secure in their various beliefs about themselves and about the world when more people believe them and can affirm those beliefs back to them. So, they do have a habit of grooming people toward that telling, for example, young women, “Oh, well, you would be a very wonderful boy,” blah, blah, blah, and walking or telling a young man, “Think of how pretty you would be when you were a woman,” and sending them propaganda type images and walking them down the … That was a thing on the social media platform tumbler, which is not very popular any longer.
For a very long time, lots of grooming was happening there, even grooming young women into anorexia. There are entire forums built around it. Ana as in the name, Anarexia, and they hashtag it with Ana or something like this. All of this grooming is happening.
Then there’s a third dimension nobody really talks about, which is when you are online, when you’re on social media, you are not you. I don’t care what anybody wants to try to argue otherwise. You’re actually not you. You’re operating through digital avatar that is just as moldable and changeable as a video game character would be. If you think of one of those video games where you can design your own character and then play, you’re in a world where your character on Twitter, I could go on Twitter right now, I could change my picture to a woman, I could change my bio to something different, I could tweet differently, and I could pretend, too, that I’m a woman and you can actually end up operating in a space where what the psychological impact to you is is that, “No. In the space where I spend most of my social time, I am infinitely malleable. I can change myself however I want. I have to lean in to an identity that I create.”
In real life, your identity is constrained by who you actually are and how other people interact with who you actually are and perceive who you actually are, but in the social media universe, that’s not true. You literally can be anybody. I could make a profile as a Black woman right now and I think I could pull it off, and maybe if I spent long enough time and especially if I’m young thinking, “No. I’m building who I am in this character,” then you can start to identify with that character.
So, social media enables that where previous forms of communication interaction never did. It’s a scary, when you said brave new world at the beginning, it’s a very scary phenomenon.
Bill Walton: 01:02:48 This is just astonishing. I want to continue. I would love to get you back at some point to talk some more about this. I’ve got to wrap it up. Again, this is James Lindsay, a doctor … What’s your doctorate in?
James Lindsay: 01:03:05 Mathematics.
Bill Walton: 01:03:06 Mathematics, a good place to start, coauthor of Cynical Theories and founder of the New Discourses Podcast, which I highly recommend that we subscribe to. These are 30-minute pieces on different things that strike you very easy to listen to and get in to.
James Lindsay: 01:03:26 Some of them. Last night, I actually recorded one about Medical Lysenkoism, which is a scary concept in and of it self.
Bill Walton: 01:03:32 Medical what?
James Lindsay: 01:03:33 Lysenkoism. Trofim Lysenko was a Soviet agriculturalist who ended up starving tens of millions of people because of his bad views of agriculture and biology, and I make the argument that this is creeping in to medical science in our culture right now, and I read through an essay and explained it, but that one ran an hour and 40. So, some of them are closer to two hours. Some of them are about a half an hour.
I have a second podcast where they tend to be shorter. That’s behind the paywall. James Lindsay Only Subs I called it, which is just a humorous nod to a different platform. It’s for subscribers only. So, if you subscribe in any of the platforms, then you can listen. Those tend to range from five minutes up to about sometimes they hit 30, and those are much more off the cuff and just I don’t plan for them. I just have an idea and sit down and talk to the microphone for five to 30 minutes and people tell me that those are extremely easy to listen to and accessible.
Bill Walton: 01:04:33 Well, you’re performing a tremendous service. Thank you because you’re really opening up a world that most of us, and I guess I’ll call myself at this point normal. I never quite thought of myself that way, but I guess in this world I am. I think we need to understand where this is going. I fall into the category of people are different and that’s fine with me, just get over it, so long as they’re not socially engineering my life in a way that I don’t find acceptable. Yet, all these people seem to have an agenda, and I want to spend some more time with you next time talking about where they think this is going to go.
James Lindsay: 01:05:12 Great. Yeah, we’ll do that.
Bill Walton: 01:05:14 James, thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you for listening and watching, and we’ll be talking again soon. Thanks.
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