Podcasts/Sacred Tension-Sacred Tension HELEN PLUCKROSE6ywql
Sacred_Tension_HELEN_PLUCKROSE6ywql SUMMARY KEYWORDS people, theories, read, ideas, book, gay, critical, liberal, postmodern, critical race theory, social justice, talking, conversations, women, call, d'angelo, capitalism, identity, agree, approach SPEAKERS Helen Pluckrose, Stephen Bradford Long
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Stephen Bradford Long 00:46 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the discipline of asking questions. My name is Steven Bradford long as we are here on the rock candy Podcast Network. For more shows like this one, go to rock candy recordings.com. All right. Well, I have an incredibly interesting guest for this episode, Helen pluck rose. But before we get to that conversation, I have to thank my patrons. My patrons are my personal lords and saviors. They provide a steady supply of money to enable my crippling content creation addiction, and they keep me off the streets. So for this week, I have to thank Sam Megan ash mania. And Isabel, thank you so much I truly could not do this show without you every single little bit helps this show is an enormous amount of work, from booking guests to interviewing to editing and producing and marketing. All of that stuff takes an enormous amount of time. But I do it because I believe in bringing long form conversations among different interesting people to the public. I think that that is an invaluable thing right now. I'm delighted to bring these conversations to you for free. But I need a bit of help to do that. And that's what my patrons are for. My patrons also get extra content every single week, my house of heretics podcast with the minister turned heretic from the Salvation Army, Timothy McPherson, and we talk about everything from politics to fisting. And just whatever's going on in the world. And if that interests you, then please become a patron you also get early access to some of my articles, and you get unique access to me as a creator. All right. Well, with all of that, finally out of the way, I'm delighted to welcome to the show, Helen Pluckrose.
Helen Pluckrose 02:49 Thank you for having me, Steven.
Stephen Bradford Long 02:51 I am taking a risk having you on the show. Because you are very controversial. And especially in my spaces in leftist spaces. I read your book that you co authored with James Lindsay, last year called cynical theories. I read it at a point in my life. When I was becoming very disillusioned with a lot of my political spaces. I read a bunch of books in that genre. Like I read the madness of crowds by Douglas Murray, I read a bunch of of books that are criticizing our our current liberal moment. And I would say that your book is the one that challenged me the most, your book is the one that gave me pause and challenged me the most. And I've been wanting to talk to you ever since because reading your book was a catalyst for me. And that doesn't mean that I agree with everything in it. That doesn't mean that that I, you know, agree with every part of that book and that criticism, but it was an incredibly challenging read. And I love books that challenge me. And so I've been wanting to talk to you ever since. And so in your own words, tell us some about who you are and what you do.
Helen Pluckrose 04:10 Oh, well, I started my studies. My academic background is in late medieval and early modern women's religious writing. And I look at the ways in which women use the narratives of Christianity to navigate sort of patriarchal systems. And then I was part of the new atheist space where I was I was very critical of religion using my studies of religion in order to do this, and then I became more and more concerned that my feminism was becoming invaded by cultural relativism by inconsistently applied principles that we weren't supported. In people, you know, liberals, atheists, women, LGBT people consistently, because of this standpoint, epistemology, which you'll know if I've read my book, but I can explain if any of your readers need to know. So at the same time, I was doing my studies into women's writing and women's social issues, and I was being a liberal feminist, I was finding the postmodern theories, and my studies were preventing me from doing rigorous scholarship. And the derivations of them the critical theories that that have means into activism within the sort of critical social justice as I would call it, space of drawing on queer theory, critical race theory, postcolonial theory, and other studies was getting in the way of me actually, sort of us actually sort of promoting properly progressive policies. So I, yeah, I did. People kept telling me, I didn't understand the theories. So I joined within with a project to send some truly terrible theoretical papers, to journals, and to see if they would publish them. And they they did, including one that nobody talks about, because it isn't really very funny. It's the one that Hypatia accepted the feminist journal, which argued that there isn't any legitimate way to criticize critical social justice ideas, and that people who try to should be punished.
Stephen Bradford Long 06:41 So this is the Sokol squared hoax that made headlines like was this in 2016 2018 2018. Yeah, so this was the project that you did with James Lindsay and Peter Bogosian. Yeah.
Helen Pluckrose 06:58 Yeah. So we, we argued, you know, ridiculous things. So for example, that the paper that people remember most well, and that got an award for exemplary scholarship, it claimed to have examined 100,000 They think it was dog genitals in Oregon, Portland, Oregon, and then examined incidence of dog humping, questioned the owners about their sexuality applied Black Feminist Criminology to it for absolutely no reason whatsoever, then thrown all our data away and made an argument that men need to be trained like dogs. And this was, yeah, this was apparently. So you know, after I published that a feminist geographer who also published in there got in touch with me and said, she was quite concerned about, you know, the quality of some of the stuff that's coming out there. And it was getting in the way of serious work.
Stephen Bradford Long 07:57 I don't mean to interrupt a feminist geographer, what is that?
Helen Pluckrose 08:01 But somebody who looks at geographical issues from a feminist perspective, so I may forget what her thing was, I think, although I may be confusing her with someone else, that what she studied was the distribution of medical resources to women in rural communities in South Asia. Okay. So that's rigorous scholarship, and she didn't want her scholarship Next, do you know people claiming that if you look at enough dog dinosaurs, you can justify electrocuting men? You know, that's not what we should be doing. So we did that. And then that caused a lot of hostility. And then cynical theories was an attempt to explain the theories that because our our papers weren't hoaxes, we say we keep saying this over and over again, that we've now kind of ethnography, we brought together a lot of the worst ideas we could find. We decided which conclusion we wanted to reach, then we use whatever theories we could to make those conclusions work. We did each paper in two weeks, and we got them published. And that we think is a cause for concern, if you actually do care about social justice, so then cynical theories was breaking down the problems that we see in this particular approach to this critical approach, which draws on on certain very specific theories that often begin with critical like critical pedagogy, critical race theory, critical approaches to ableism. And of course, it has its origins in the critical consciousness and of the Frankfurt School but but much more influence from the I would argue from the post modernists even though they wouldn't actually like what we're seeing right now. So I don't lose people. But that was what that was about. Then. I formed counterweight, because after the murder of George Floyd and the people Black Lives Matter protests, a lot of employers started having really policy changes and training programs. And people that for the first time, they started to hit blue collar and white collar workers who hadn't experienced this before. And they were being asked, you know, if they were white, they were being asked to affirm that they were racist, if they were black, they were being asked to testify to a particular experience of racism and claimed to have a particular view on racism. We had, yeah, trans people being expected to embrace all kinds of ideas of coming from queer theory, do you know how many trans people have actually read queer theory and have any interest in it? Very few. It's, it's almost incomprehensible. So we're getting all of this coming at us. And then there is also of course, the people who who don't believe in, in gender at all. And they are being asked to claim pretend to have a gender identity. So all of these people, suddenly hundreds of emails are coming to me 1000s, were going some of my friends. And so we started pouring them into a Discord server and setting up resources and organizing things and counterweight grew out of that. So people come to us when they are having some kind of imposition, when they're being forced to pretend to believe something they don't believe. And we help them to negotiate, we work behind the scenes, so they can sort things out internally negotiate to keep their place of employment, sometimes, university, sometimes school, open to a wider variety of viewpoints from which one can oppose racism, sexism, and homophobia. So if you look on our website, you will see that we don't we're liberal humanists, we don't expect all of our clients to identify as liberal humanists, but we do expect them to recognize the equal value and worth of everybody. We've got whatever their race, gender, sex sexuality ability is, and as long as they do that, we will, you know, as long as they're not seeking to be a liberal themselves, we will support them to hold to art to have their own minds and their own beliefs.
Stephen Bradford Long 12:19 To summarize, I think what I'm hearing you say, is that you are an advocate for a true plurality. And yeah, I'd go on,
Helen Pluckrose 12:28 I define liberalism. And I need to probably clarify this because I'm, I know, I'm probably speaking to a mostly American audience. So in America, people often think liberalism is left ism. In the UK, liberalism is often seen as centrism. And in Australia, it's understood as conservatism. So I'm not talking about any of that, when I'm talking about liberalism, I'm talking about the focus on the individual who shouldn't be constrained by any aspect of their identity or anything else should have access to everything. So universality, individuality, universality, everybody has the same rules applied to them and plurality. So people can believe different things, they can have different identities, and no one set of ideas or identity can be allowed to squash out any other individual individuality, plurality, universality, that is what I'm talking about when I talk about liberalism.
Stephen Bradford Long 13:26 And actually, your book was really helpful for me and understanding this is the realization that that is what my progressivism is based on is a sense of universal humanity. And, you know, just looking through history, I really believe that the most successful human rights campaigns for gay people, for black people, for any minority for women, is based on the premise of universal humanity. It's like saying, I am just like you in the most fundamental sense. Please treat me as such. I think Jonathan, right. Yes, go on.
Helen Pluckrose 14:06 Sorry, I interrupt you, but I you might some of your your listeners might like my essay. Identity Politics does not continue the rights. There's the work of the civil rights movement, because it makes that argument. It's so
Stephen Bradford Long 14:18 I think so. So we definitely agree on those foundational principles. I am a firm believer in free speech and a firm believer in universal humanity. And I think that that is the best way forward. And I say that as someone who embraces my gay identity, right, but But to me, my gay identity is built upon the bedrock of universal humanity and the fact that we have different tribes, different identities. That to me, is all just secondary. That's just the icing on that universal human bedrock cake. I have of universal human universal humanity and equal rights.
Helen Pluckrose 15:07 So let's look at that one. Homosexuality, for example. So if the liberal approach to LGBT rights is essentially some people are gay get over it. That's really very simple. Yes, exactly. And, you know, that's a reforming impulse. So what liberals wanted to do, they didn't want to overturn the whole sort of structure of society they wanted, firstly, to decriminalize homosexuality, and then to open up marriage to same sex couples. So this is making a liberal society more accessible to more people. Now, if you go for the queer theory, on the critical social justice approach, then you discover that homosexuality is a political identity. Do you remember Pete buss? I'm going to try and pronounce his name passage. Did you write Okay, thank you, being told he wasn't properly gay, because he didn't have the right views. So this is a problem because that get being gay isn't a political identity. There are gay conservatives, I wish there weren't, although it's a sign of progress that there can be. But there are, you know, people who fall under the LGBT umbrella are ideologically diverse. And they should not be constrained in any way, either by being disapproved of, as we see in socially conservative circles, or by being told they must have a certain political identity. If you are attracted to men, I don't I assume you said gay. So I assume you are, then this is an attraction.
Stephen Bradford Long 16:48 Yes. I love dick. That.
Helen Pluckrose 16:51 Okay, I have to warn you. I'm British. So I will tat if you
Stephen Bradford Long 16:56 Oh, my God, I'm so sorry. I will, I'll edit that out.
Helen Pluckrose 17:01 I'm joking. I'm actually fine with this. But I have a tendency
Stephen Bradford Long 17:07 to show will probably have a broader audience outside of the weird, degenerate, gay satanic world. So I will try to be on better behavior.
Helen Pluckrose 17:18 That's fine. I just like to pretend to be this. prim and proper English lady who upset people. And I'm very glad that the internet didn't exist when I was in my 20s. Anyway, so. But yeah, so we have this approach where, you know, sexuality is a political identity, and it isn't, you know, you are attracted to and you've fallen in love with who you you've fallen in love with. And then there's pressure, they then get a moralistic pressure, well, if you are gay, then you have a moral responsibility to support these certain kinds of politics or to have certain ideas on what gender is, if it exists, how it works. And no, you don't you and that you're you remain an individual who happens to be attracted to people of the same sex or gender, or both, or whatever,
Stephen Bradford Long 18:08 you know, you're what you're saying. And I do want to eventually get to the meat of your criticism of critical race theory and critical queer theory and so on. But what you're saying reminds me of something that drives me absolutely nuts every single June during Gay Pride Month, because I start to see all of these statements about the gay community is x, or the LGBTQ community is x. And I'm just like, what community there is no community, there is a there are gay communities, right? But gay people are born into literally every single generation, in every single religion into every single political ideology in every single region, and every single country on this planet in what meaningful way? Is that a community that isn't a community gay is a descriptor, it it is, it is just a description of a type of human being. And I have started to experience it same with trans people. Same with same with any any of the letters in the acronym. And I have started to feel extraordinarily frustrated with the with the assumptions about me as a gay person, even though I'm very firmly on the left and I've been I've I've started to feel very, very frustrated with the assumptions about what a gay person is because they are gay. And the truth is gay is just a description. It's like being born with a certain eye pigment. It says nothing meaningful about their beliefs, because gay people are born into every single kind of situation imaginable on this planet. Right, we have 8 billion people on this planet. And that that, to me is it's actually dehumanizing. It is dehumanizing to say that the gay community is a community. And a community, by default means that you sign on to certain beliefs, certain attitudes and certain views of the world. That, to me is dehumanizing That, to me is limiting what it means to be gay. I thought that the whole point of the gay movement was to avoid that limiting aspect, you know that to to avoid that limiting impulse so that I can be as queer as I want to be. But I can also be whoever I want to be. Right. And so, to me, the fact that we have, I totally disagree with them, but the fact that we have gay conservatives is like a sign of progress. Like that's, that's a good thing. It means that gay rights is doing its job, so that gay people can be more than whatever they were defined as. And so and so this pigeon holing this this limit, it's like Peter Thiel being tall and trust me, I think Peter Thiel is a fucking ghoul. I think he's a monster, and is like a blight on the human race. But people saying he is no longer gay because he, I don't know, supported Trump or whatever it was, or as a conservative, saying, Peter Thiel is, is no longer gay. And there was like, articles and all these gay magazines about this. He's no longer gay, because he is a conservative, that to me is so backwards. And so, rant over. But I really relate to what you just said, it drives me crazy.
Helen Pluckrose 21:57 It happens to me as well. I mean, I in I've been in an exclusive relationship with a man who's now my husband for nearly 20 years before that I dated both men and women a big if I'm going to be problematized, I can be problematized on either factor. If I identify as bisexual, then I can be accused of appropriating an identity, which relates to an experience I don't have because I'm in a heterosexual relationship and have been for so long. If I don't identify as bisexual, then I'm contributing to the erasure of bisexual people. So that if as soon as somebody is willing to problematize me, so I tend to refer to myself if people ask us, mostly heterosexual, and that, yeah, that's the best I can do. But either way, whichever way it goes, I'm going to be problematized.
Stephen Bradford Long 22:51 So let's get into the the meat of your criticism of what we call critical theory. And I want to back up and contextualize this some, because I know that the moment you said the word critical theory, in a negative sense, earlier in this conversation, about half of my listeners, their signals went off, their alarms went off, because it has been so politicized by the far right. Right. And so, you know, we have all of these bills banning, banning critical race theory and Christopher Ruffo, doing all his bullshit.
Helen Pluckrose 23:31 And yeah, they shouldn't be by be banned in critical race theory with when I put up an essay about why it is wrong to try to ban critical race theory.
Stephen Bradford Long 23:42 So I want to clarify that because you're really approaching this from it sounds like a liberal perspective. And your criticisms of critical theory are from a liberal perspective.
Helen Pluckrose 23:59 I also look at critical theory, though, because quite I anticipate what some of your listeners are going to do, they're going to misunderstand and think that when we're talking about critical theory, we're talking about that with this capital C, and T and we're talking about the theories of the Frankfurt School. Now, I'm talking much more broadly of critical theories. And I'm using the word critical and I'm gonna keep citing my own work. But if you look on counterweight, why do we call it critical social justice, you will find the definitions of the word critical in this particular sense, it's a particular theoretical sense. So where we have critical thinking, which is when we try to make sure that we are as as limited by our biases as little limited as possible, when we try and make sure there are evidence for claims that we make when we question our own assumptions. We try to falsify things, this is critical thinking trying to get less wrong. Critical Theory. On the other hand, it begins with an assumption that there are power imbalances, and that they are influencing everything at all times. So this begins with, well, people have been criticizing things forever. But Marx, when he wrote a letter to Engels wrote, criticized all the things that exist. And then we got into the what they call the post Marxists or the Neo Marxists, they sometimes called themselves cultural Marxists. But that term is useless now, because it's been adopted by people for all kinds of wrong reasons. But they moved Marxist ideas away from economics, which I think was a mistake and into society and culture. This was then bastardized by the new left in America, which Herbert Mark Hooser was not very happy about. And then there was added to it, these postmodern ideas of knowledge, power, and language. So power runs through everything, these invisible systems of power, and the people in power get to decide what isn't isn't knowledge, they then legitimize certain ways of talking about things, discourses, we all then speak into these discourses from wherever we are, and we perpetuate these unjust power systems, which are called things like white supremacy, patriarchy, sis, normativity, heteronormativity, ableism, fatphobia, imperialism, and they're everywhere. And at all times, now, liberals would disagree with about two thirds of this. So the word liberal means freedom. So the whole concept of liberal is that we are always fighting some kind of a liberalism, there is always unjust power structures. But the critical theories that I am talking about see very simplistic and uniform ones, and they don't allow for much complexity or nuance. Whereas a liberal would say, you know, here, you and I are having a conversation, and the power balance would apparently be with you, because you are male. And I am a woman that so what if we look at this idea that in a patriarchal system, there's always this power imbalance going on that you will be unable to prevent yourself from thinking that I probably don't know what I'm talking about, as well as a man would. And you know, you'll probably have this impulse to interrupt me and speak over me because you have been socialized to believe that as a man, you know, better. But do you think like that, I'd be very surprised if you did.
Stephen Bradford Long 27:49 I don't think like that. However, someone could hear my gay dick joke and think that that was a power imbalance, like I could see, like, there are so many things like, it's basically an interpretive lens that's put on to all interactions. And there's some helpful stuff in there. Like I think that there, I personally think that intersectionality as it was originally conceived of by Kimberly Crenshaw is an incredibly helpful tool when taken in moderation, right? Like it, like the dose makes the poison to it taken in moderation. But then there are extreme forms of this, where it's like an interpretive tool that you can lay over all social interactions that you have, and it makes you paranoid. And it makes people paranoid and what you know, just listening to you talk, what it makes me think of honestly, is spiritual warfare in the evangelical world. I was raised, charismatic, evangelical, and this sense of they're constantly being this invisible spiritual war, that you're constantly having to resist and you're constantly having to fight and so you're constantly praying against these demonic forces and like this literal like network of, of evil. It feels what you're describing feels very, very similar to that.
Helen Pluckrose 29:11 Yeah, we actually have an evangelical Christian who will advise us on things because he is looking into the very same thing and there's there's quite serious inroads of these ideas into evangelical Christianity at the moment because they do map on so well to this whole sort of concept of original sin and the constant striving for redemption which you can never quite reach and all of these these ideas of a kind of simplicity where you, you, the world is comprehensible. So yeah, that there is I think that we're going to see this more and more and particularly over here in the UK, there's there's very few people who say that religion is As you know, we get weird statistics like 61% of people are Christian, but only 30% believe in God or something. But, yeah, so then, as we get more and more secular, we're going to see other frameworks arising that fulfill the same social and psychological needs that religion does. And I think the critical social justice movement, which is a simplification, and a sort of concretization, of all of these different strands of theory, into a very simple framework, any of your readers who want to know what that framework is, have a look at the beginning of is everybody really equal by Ozlem sense? I am Robyn D'Angelo, what is critical social justice. And you can see this very simplistic framework. And it's a relief. Frankly, if you can read society through all of this, then you know what you've got to do. You know how you can that you know, what, you know how things work, there isn't the need to consider all of the complexities of things.
Stephen Bradford Long 31:08 So, obviously, there is a problem, especially in online space, I see it most most pronounced in online spaces of I hate using this word, but Kancil culture, you know, I log on to Twitter and it's legit like that scene of the insane asylum at the movie Amadeus. It's like walking into a Victorian insane asylum is what it feels like. I think that the approach that I have taken to a lot of the madness that I see a lot of this in story isness a lot of the trigger happy over the top assumption making that I see across the board. I don't just see this on the left. I see it on the right I mean, Q anon exists, there's crazy conspiracy theory, Theorizing the right loves to cancel just as much as the left. And
Helen Pluckrose 32:05 I do know Matt McManus at all and Ben Burgess.
Stephen Bradford Long 32:09 I love Ben Burgess. He's Ben Burgess has been on the show. Yeah.
32:13 So the rise of postmodern conservatism, and Matt McManus, is that that shows the mirror how it how it's, it's working the same way on the right that it is on the left, but
Stephen Bradford Long 32:26 Interesting. So so it sounds like you take a much more ideological approach to to why there is this dysfunction. I have tended towards a more technological explanation. I have tended to focus much more on the nature of the algorithms on the business models of places like Twitter and YouTube. And I think the work of people like Jaron Lanier and Tristan Harris, who, who really lay out the ways in which these algorithms, warp our minds and feed on our insecurities and feed on our outrage. I have tended to see that as the primary explanation for the dysfunction. It sounds like you might include that in your analysis, but that it isn't the the real explanation. It sounds like you take a much more idia logical explanation. This is because of ideas if that is the case, why am I wrong? Why does the ideology of applied post modernism, which is I think, what you call it in the book, Why is that a greater influence on online dysfunction than the business models of places like Twitter and Facebook?
Helen Pluckrose 33:55 Okay, so first of all, you're you're not? Right. I, I look at the ideology, I look at the development of theories, because I, here's here's my secret confession. I love post modernism and theoretical stuff. I find it also interesting, it's horrible when it's put into social engineering, but it is a thought experiment. I you know, I've started this for 12 years. So in cynical theories, and this is something we're going to do if we, because you raised a good point there. If we, if I ever did a second addition or something is we're going to have a chapter of why we're not saying this is the sole cause of the problem. So we brought in what we thought of ourselves as doing was we saw that Lukianoff and height had looked psychologically at the phenomena that we're currently seeing, and Manning and Campbell in the rise of victimhood cupboard. looked a bit sociologically, I thought the theoretical aspect is missing that and so that is complementary. And you'll see in chapter nine, I try and show how these three work together. There are more elements than I know of people keep raising with me the issue of how technology works and how social media works. And I've bought three books to try and get some kind of grasp on this. But I am so bored by technology and the algorithms of social media that my brain won't take it in. So I am very, very willing to accept that there is something I used to say, no isn't the medium at all. It's the ideas and the medium is just the tool by which they are spread. I now think that was probably wrong, and that there is something in the medium of social media that itself encourages human psychology to behave very badly and in tribalistic ways. So Jonathan hight has convinced me of that. And then another element of this which is often missed, that I have found very interesting is the role of capitalism. So I've just been reading woking by Vivek Ramaswamy. And he is very well, I said, I thought he's very pro capitalism. So I don't agree with all of his solutions. And he said, and he laughed that at me today in a in a friendly way and set up yet all the lefties say I'm too pro capitalist or the Conservatives say I'm not capitalist enough. But he does say in his book, I love capitalism. So you know. It does fill in a lot of the picture that I wasn't seeing, I had assumed that the reason this was growing was generally consumer driven, that culture was changing and capitalism was was filling the need, that was being produced by consumers who wanted what is you know, colloquially referred to as woke content. But having read Rama Swamis book, I don't think that that, that I think that was too simplistic. I think there was more maneuvering in sort of corporate spheres among very rich and influential people than is is currently realized. So we have this unholy combination of critical social justice activists who really don't like capitalism. And capitalists too, don't really like critical social justice, but the industry of critical social justice is using capitalism to work and capitalism is using social justice, in order to it's an I think this has happened symbiotically. Some people think that, you know, it's some kind of planned conspiracy, I don't think so I think it's a symbiotic relationship that has grown up between capitalism and some capitalists will correct me and say what you're talking about is corporatism. And I am really that's what I'm talking about. And these ideas that have caused them to have this much influence in society, because when you look at the number of people, I even, I'm English, and I shouldn't have done I did the tribes test to see where I fall politically by American standards. And there's only 12% of Americans who are considered progressive activists. And apparently I fit in that category. So that means there's less than 12% of people, even in America, which is, you know, woke Central, who hold on hold these ideas strongly. So why are they such a dominant discourse in society that I am ironically, trying to deconstruct in order to stop the discourses of power from permeating all of society. And
Stephen Bradford Long 38:48 though and just listening to you talk about that, especially the symbiotic relationship that you described. Robyn D'Angelo, I read an article about this about like, and I don't I think Ezra Klein said that he sees Robin D'Angelo is like 60% helpful 40% unhelpful or something like that. And that's kind of how I that's kind of how I see her I there. I read her book, white fragility, there was actually a few things in there that I found really helpful. And then there's other stuff that I thought was kind of nuts. I read an article about her house, she makes how many 1000s of dollars per corporate training, per like corporate race training. I mean, it really is like this marriage of, you know, sensitivity trainings and with with high level corporate power in a way that doesn't actually in my mind solve any systemic issues. I mean, like, nice white ladies introspecting and agonizing over their racism doesn't actually fix redlining. It doesn't actually fix any of the deep racial inequalities in America, right? It doesn't actually do anything to to deal with the real material in inequality that our country is facing. And that is what annoys me so much. It's just like it's just a bandaid. It's just aesthetics. It is just performative aesthetics.
Helen Pluckrose 40:21 Yeah. What you're describing here is, and you've read it in the book, that the divide between the materialists and the idealists, yes. And this is found everywhere. So in post colonial theory, we get the materialist and we get the postmodernists. In critical race theory, we get the materialists and the post modernists D'Angelo derives almost entirely from the post modernists. Now, she will cite Occasionally, some of the Marxist which is where the materialists come from, but she is very, almost entirely Foucault d'un and she draws intensively on the postmodern side of the critical race theory that was legal theory of the last century. And so she is unfalsifiable. If you look at what she's saying, she closes down all avenues. So white fragility happens if you disagree if you stay quiet, or if you go away, so the only way not to be fragile is to stay exactly where you are and agree with Robyn D'Angelo. Similarly, if you look at the way she evaluates people in her training sessions, if they disagree with her, then this is, you know, white selfish resistance. If they agree with her, then they're they're trying to be nice racists and show how not racist they are, if they smile and nod, they're being passive aggressive. So there isn't actually a way for anybody to engage with the ideas of the Angelou, she will raise a good point, as you say, and then she will just suddenly veer off insanely with it drawing all kinds of conclusions that don't actually come from the premise that she's raised in the first place. I'm slowly working my way through doing video breakdowns of, of nice racism, which I think is a particular problem. And she takes square Amer individualism
Stephen Bradford Long 42:16 that is that is that the book she came out with this year. Okay. Yeah.
Helen Pluckrose 42:21 And she warns that it can lead to universalism. And yet well, yes, yes, this is what we want. We liberals, we do want that. So I think, I think it's important to assume that even the people who are making you know, ridiculous amounts of money are actually sincere in their beliefs and trying to make the world a better place. It's no good. You know, no mind reading nefarious motivations. But I look at the ideas. And if you look at the ideas of D'Angelo, as I have, I don't see like you, I don't see a way for them to be usable for addressing issues of racial inequality. So one of the things I'm apparently not allowed to say when it comes down with D'Angelo is that actually, it's much more about class. But if you look at the empirical evidence, in America, you will see that one of the richest groups is recent African immigrants, and one of the poorest groups is African American descendants of slaves. Now, why is this part of this is because the recent African immigrants are the rich people who have had private education in Africa. So that's why but a large part of it is that the thing that's most likely to make you successful is having successful parents, there have only been two generations of African Americans who have been allowed to be successful, you know, that trying to this is where we get when we get black conservatives like Shelby Steele, who has who is sort of making it an individual thing, you know, the individual black American needs to pull themselves up and fight their way out of it that that takes no notice of social issues. And then you get the people who look entirely at social issues, and they don't take any account of the individual either. And they then they're blaming everything on some nebulous thing like anti blackness, which doesn't actually get at the problem, which is, ironically, an intersection of class, race with history, location, geography, you know, there's, there's things that can be done. If we look at this properly, and critical social justice is getting in the way of looking at it properly.
Stephen Bradford Long 44:36 I recently read a fantastic article by Martha Nussbaum. This is from the 90s I love about Judith Butler, you know exactly what I'm about to talk about either one. So I love Martha Nussbaum she, she wrote a book years ago called from disgust to humanity, which was a huge influence on me about about homosexuality, so I adore her But she wrote this article. And I just want to read this one paragraph that I think exemplifies what you're saying perfectly, where she's talking about feminism and this turn that she notices in in the United States, and this is during the 90s. In the United States, however, things have been changing, one observes a new disquieting trend. It is not only that feminist theory pays relatively little attention to the struggles of women outside the United States. This was always a dispiriting feature even of much of the best work of the earlier period. Something more insidious, than provincialism has come to Dawn has come to prominence in the American Academy. It is the virtually complete turning from the material side of life toward a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest of connections with the real situation of real women. I love that because I think that that's, that's a perfect articulation of what you're talking about. It's this, it's this turning inward, it's like this turning towards a contemplative life, away from the real power, from the real material conditions that are plaguing people. You know, I, in a lot of ways, I see this stuff as like, Freudian psychoanalysis. It's like, there are nuggets of good in there, and then there's a whole lot of bullshit. And I feel that way about a lot of the original post modernism stuff is what like, there's some really, really good stuff in there, like Michel Foucault has amazing insights and and incredible.
Helen Pluckrose 46:40 What's that? panel to come? Yeah, that is pretty good.
Stephen Bradford Long 46:44 Yes, the pan off to like, like, so much of what he wrote is so good. And then there's some lunacy and I kind of see critical theory as just any other school of thought, in that there's, there's going to be some good and then there's going to be some bullshit. And so in some ways, I like to think of myself as like, woke light. Like, there are some things that I find really helpful, like I mentioned intersectionality. Earlier in the show, what I guess Go on, say,
Helen Pluckrose 47:16 again, I when I write an essay, what social justice gets right. And yeah, what I think that that there is that nugget of truth. So as Crenshaw pointed out, there were particular stereotypes about black women. That didn't apply to white women. And that didn't apply to black men. So given that fact, these stereotypes could affect employment, because they suggested that black women were sexually promiscuous and aggressive, which could cause trouble in the workplace. Now, that wasn't said about white women. And it wasn't said about black men. So, you know, Crenshaw highlighting yes, these intersections can cause problems is a valuable nugget. But in that same essay, well, actually, I think it was one two years later mapping the margins, she sews the seeds for everything going completely wrong. Because she first of all throws out universal liberalism, which she refers to as mainstream liberalism. But if you look at how she describes it, you'll see it's, it's universal liberalism. And she defines intersectionality as contemporary politics mixed with postmodern theory, this means it's going to go wrong, it's going to get crazier and, and not be based on evidence and move away from the material. Now, we have to be somewhat careful when we're talking about the, the material because this can then suggest that you know, things that we don't accept people's experiences or their sense of who they are. And no, actually we can do all of that we can accept people for who they say they are, and for what they think and feel, but we can separate this from material reality. So you mentioned Martha Nussbaum raising this concern, and she was doing it at about the same time around 819 8919 90. This is when the second wave that we called applied post modernism arose. And it arose with Crenshaw with Judith Butler, with the post colonial theory had been going for a while, but there was this sudden sort of influx of we need to keep some of these postmodern ideas of you see Bell Hooks, postmodern blackness, but we need to make them objectively true. And then there is also this pushback from various people. Martha Nussbaum, is one of the ones who was worrying about this turn from materialism also, wonderful. post colonial scholar, Meera Nanda. She is my favorite of all she writes about Indian Studies, I think it's called peasant studies, the journal that she writes in mostly and she looks at how post modern approaches to post colonialism actually is. sort of in empowering conservative forces in India. And there's Linda Gordon, if you look at her defense of socialist feminism, when she's concerned about the postmodern approach, the intersectional approach, so there are these ideas going back and forth. But as we've got into this century, then you know, 2010, then things started escalating it 2015 Over the last two years, it's gone nuts. You, you know that there isn't that opportunity that there there was for people to get up on stage together and have a reasoned discussion. Now, I would love for example, I wanted to have this discussion with there was a critical social justice scholar, and there was a conservative psychologist, and there was me. And we all had different ideas on how much individual empowerment women have. And so the conservative scholar was was, was essentially saying, yes, women are completely, you know, personal responsibility pulling themselves up, I was saying, Well, yes, women are individuals who have their own lives in their own hands. But we also, you know, we're dealing with a society. So we have to work that in and the critical social justice scholar was saying, No, everything is society, and we're all sort of socialized into it. And getting those ideas together, weighing up the pros and cons with each person willing to concede when the other has made something of a good point. So I think that would be so important. So I like for example, Cornel West. I love the way he will say something like my friend and fellow Christian, Glenn Lowry, and then complete, would go on to say why he thinks he's completely wrong about absolutely everything. That's the attitude that I think we should take.
Stephen Bradford Long 51:51 And he calls everyone brother, he calls everyone brother or sister like even even his total political and ideological enemies. He'll call them brother and sister and I love that. No, I totally agree with you about Cornel West. And you know, what you just described that magic of having multiple viewpoints, engage. There is real power and magic there. And that's why I have this podcast. You know, I'm, I'm getting incredibly tired of having safe conversations. And that's why I've had a more diverse crowd on my show lately, and I do get pushback about it. But I just I, you know, we're in the last five minutes here. So I just want to end on this note that the reason why I'm having these conversations is because I think I have a moral imperative to I think having challenging conversations with people, I think it is the ethical thing to do. Cut. I'm reading. I'm just looking at your note.
Helen Pluckrose 52:55 I just I got a bit worried because that I no, I don't think that you meant that at all. But I know that some of the activists will take that quote, where we're moving away from the material as a trans exclusionary feminist view. And so I wanted to highlight in case Oh, why do you want to just say something that made it clear that you didn't mean that?
Stephen Bradford Long 53:19 Oh, okay. I so appreciate that. Yes. Okay. So okay, so for for listeners who don't know what's going on, Helen just sent me a, a very nice, red flag in the chat saying, I'm worried that your defensive materialism and Nussbaum could be understood could be misunderstood as transphobic Yeah. So the point here being that the turn, a turn from the theoretical towards the material can be, could be interpreted as transphobic.
Helen Pluckrose 53:51 Yes the but where it says the material reality of of, of womanhood are something that is sometimes a phrase which people can use or misunderstand to mean that, you know, we're not accepting trans women as women and I don't think that they are meant that and I don't think you do, so.
Stephen Bradford Long 54:12 I don't, I don't at all. No, I so appreciate that. This is Helen pluck rose covering my ass. No, so I actually do believe that trans women are women. Like I I know that that phrase gets a lot of criticism, but I actually think that like I think, you know, I believe that trans identities are real and valid and so no, it didn't even occur to me that that I can understand how that phrase could be interpreted as as a TERF thing, but it did not even occur to me.
Helen Pluckrose 54:47 ...accused if you will, you know, so yes, I wanted to pull that out. I did a little bit in that I also think trans identity is valid and that we need to support trans people. More and more because they are particularly vulnerable minority of society. But I also share some concerns with the gender critical feminists about sports and things. But that's a whole different conversation.
Stephen Bradford Long 55:14 The point is to have these conversations, you know, the invocation of the Satanic Temple reads, in part, that which cannot be destroyed by truth should never be spirit, its demise. Right? And, and the only way to get there is to have these conversations, I have a show, I have a space online for adults. And, and that means that I don't conduct the show by Twitter logic, which is, you know, you you cannot ever have anyone who diverges even slightly from your stated worldview. Anyway, we're running out of time. But, Helen, this has been fantastic. And for people who want to learn more about you, where can they do that?
Helen Pluckrose 55:56 Well, you can come to counterweightsupport.com, where a lot of my essays are, but you can usually find me arguing with people completely futilely when I should be working on Twitter @hblackrose.
Stephen Bradford Long 56:07 Yeah, you're a great follower. You're a great follow on Twitter. I occasionally love getting on there and seeing all the fights that you get into. All right. Well, this has been fantastic. And thank you so much for joining me. It was great to be here. All right. And dear listeners, this is a reminder that this show is a conversation. If you agree if you disagree with anything that I said or that Helen said I love hearing back from my audience. You can join the conversation on my Discord server, there will be a link in the show notes. This isn't the final word. This is just an ongoing conversation. I probably said something that was wrong or I probably said something that can be improved, that can be sharpened and if so I want to explore that with you. So please join my Discord server and I love hearing back from you. All right, well, that is it for this show. The music is by eleventy seven. You can find them on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to music This show is written produced and edited by me Steven Bradford long and as a production of rock candy recordings, as always, Hail Satan and thanks for listening