No Apologies: The Atlas Society Asks Katherine Brodsky

March 21, 2024 00:59:48
No Apologies: The Atlas Society Asks Katherine Brodsky
The Atlas Society Presents - The Atlas Society Asks
No Apologies: The Atlas Society Asks Katherine Brodsky

Mar 21 2024 | 00:59:48

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Show Notes

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 197th episode of The Atlas Society Asks. This week, she interviews Katherine Brodsky, about her book "No Apologies: How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage―Lessons for the Silenced Majority," which argues that it’s time for principled individuals to resist self-censorship and stand up against authoritarians who promote it.

A correspondent for Variety for over a decade, Brodsky has also contributed to the Washington Post, WIRED, The Guardian, Newsweek, often interviewing personalities ranging from the Dalai Lama to Elon Musk.

Substack: "Katherine Writes" - https://www.katherinewrites.com/ Twitter/X: https://twitter.com/mysteriouskat Book: "No Apologies: How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage―Lessons for the Silenced Majority" - https://amzn.to/3uNwbv1

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the 197th episode of the Atlas Society asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I'm the CEO of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit introducing young people to the ideas of Ein Rand in all kinds of ways. Music, graphic novels, animated videos, even AI animation. Now, today we are joined by Catherine Brodsky. Before I even begin to introduce our guest, I want to remind all of you who are joining us, Zoom, Instagram, Twitter, x, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube. You can use the comment section to type in your questions. Special prize to whoever gets first in the gate, and we will try to cover as many of them as we can. Our guest, Catherine Brodsky, is author of no Apologies, how to find and free your Voice in the Age of Outrage, Lessons for the Silenced Majority, in which she argues that it's time for principled individuals to resist self censorship and stand up against authoritarians who promote it. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, wired, the Guardian, Newsweek, among other outlets. And her interviews put the Atlas Society podcast to shame, having landed the Dalai Lama, and even Elon Musk. Catherine, thank you for joining us. [00:01:29] Speaker B: Thank you so much for having me. And I'll be remiss not to comment on the huge dollar sign on your shirt, which has caught my attention. [00:01:37] Speaker A: Well, of course your parents would recognize it, since they are apparently fans of Aynran. She herself wore the dollar sign as part of her dramatic presentation, so I wear it as an homage to her. Of course, the dollar sign appears as a light motif throughout atlas Shrugged. And Ayn Rand talked about the dollar as the symbol of the currency of a free market. It's the symbol of the currency of a free mind. [00:02:11] Speaker B: I do wonder what she would have thought about bitcoin or like. [00:02:16] Speaker A: Right. Well, we actually are voting on the side that she would be a fan, because she is a fan of all kinds of new technologies which are scattered throughout, sometimes littered throughout Atlas Shrugged. And of course, as someone who was a proponent of privacy and individualism and sound money, or at least a money that's not being manipulated and inflated, I think she would be a fan. That's why we've had, in addition to Chip Wilson, your countryman, as an honoree at the Atlas Society, Michael Saylor, one of the leading proponents of bitcoin, and someone who finds parallels between bitcoin and Gulch. Now, I know you read Atlas shrugged quite a while ago, but your parents are fans of it, often quoting from Rand. And that is not necessarily an uncommon theme with people who left the former Soviet Union. So tell us a little bit about your parents'experience living under soviet rule in Ukraine. Did their experience sensitize them to growing encroachments on free expression? And do you think that growing up in Canada, you didn't fully grasp what was going on early on? [00:03:51] Speaker B: Yeah. So for was I was born in the Soviet Union, but of course, I was quite young when we left. But the memories of my parents and the stories were always a consistent thing in our household. And just the stories of even basic things like, okay, it was difficult to get food, or if you wanted good pair of jeans, you'd have to buy it on the black market and spend a few months worth of salary. So there's all these financial issues that they would share with me, but certainly a lot about freedom of speech and acceptance as well of individuals, because they had this society where supposedly everybody was equal, but some people were more equal than others. So you'd see women, for example, in jobs that maybe were less likely to find the same case in North America. But at the same time, there was this massive misogynistic undercurrent of that. And women didn't really have. They had equal rights under the law, but in practice, there was a lot of discrimination. There was a lot of discrimination when it came to my family is jewish, so that was a big factor. But certainly speech was a major issue for them. They found that you'd have to take atheism classes, for example. That was mandatory lessons. You couldn't speak freely, and you had to figure out who can you trust to speak with more freely than others. And certainly there were massive circumstances, massive consequences for speech that was wrongthink. So when they came to Canada, and I've also lived a little bit in the US, and, you know, we all viewed that as the freedom of the west, being able to have free speech and have different beliefs and have different types of people and have that be accepted and not constrained by, say, the government. But what my parents started sort of telling me at a certain point was that they were seeing echoes of the Soviet Union. And a lot of people that I've spoken to who are immigrants from countries with those kinds of regimes, they've started seeing that as well. And with my parents, though originally I was dismissive because I thought, well, as a young person, you tend to disagree with your parents a lot, and you think that they're a little bit paranoid, especially having come from that kind of regime. And then I myself started seeing what they were talking about in the way that speech was suppressed, both. Now I see it a lot more, also on a governmental legislative side of things. But earlier than that, I was seeing it more in how society operated and how some forms of speech were acceptable and some are not. There were massive consequences, but a lot of it was the sort of self silencing that a lot of individuals were having to do because they weren't quite going along. Maybe they didn't quite agree with the new language that was being used or invented. And I think it was so gradual where it's just a one word, and if you use that word, you're just a polite, nice person, right. It doesn't hurt you. And this is how it's often framed. What is it going to do to you? Is it really going to hurt you? But you're just being considerate and polite. And I think I have a tendency with my personality to fall into that to some extent. But as I went along, I realized how much more oppressive and how much more controlling that system was becoming, where it really was controlled speech, not only telling me what I cannot say, but also telling me what I should say. [00:07:39] Speaker A: Right. It becomes compelled speech, and I think it's also very difficult because the goalposts keep getting shifted. And as they do, the new language is really awake to constrain what can and can't be discussed. Of course, we saw that in 1984, the character of Sime saying that newspeak was really about narrowing the range of acceptable language so that it would kind of make wrong think impossible. And then, of course, in Aynran's novella anthem, the word I has been abolished. And everybody refers to themselves in the collective, only we, and they remain. And that, again, is. [00:08:35] Speaker B: I was talking about that with someone recently, actually. They brought it up to me. It's interesting because I recall an exercise when I was really young where we weren't supposed to use the word I, and you got really worded. Yeah. And it was in some youth program that I was in, would have been maybe 1213 years old. [00:08:58] Speaker A: Here in the west? [00:08:59] Speaker B: Here in the west, yeah. I mean, the intention behind it. Oh, I think I just froze. Sorry about that. [00:09:06] Speaker A: That's all right. We can still hear you. [00:09:08] Speaker B: Okay. Well, the intention behind it was not anything awful. The intention was to be a little less selfish, essentially, because there's a tendency to be hyper focused on the eye. But in this case, it was just like. It was too much. Well, in the book, it's about the collectivism, and I don't think that was necessarily the intention of the exercise, but it did remind me of that, and I thought that was quite funny. [00:09:39] Speaker A: And then maybe. Maybe it was. Of course, the most revolutionary aspect of Rand's philosophy is rational self interests. And I think it can get caricatured into a kind of short range of the moment selfishness, which, of course, if you act in that way, if you're inconsiderate or you're dishonest or you cut corners or you hog all the cookies, that kind of short range self interest is definitely not in your long term self interest, because no one's going to trade with you. [00:10:16] Speaker B: I'm much more into the game theory side of things with that. But I think that, for me, I grew up with a very individualist mindset, and I think that was something that was heavily informed by being an immigrant, always being you. And I immigrated twice in my life, so I always felt like the outsider. So in one way, I don't think I had that experience of collectivism myself. My parents certainly did. Right, because they would go to these summer camps, everyone, they keep telling me everyone would drink out of the same fountain or the same cup, and lots of hazing rituals and things like that. [00:10:53] Speaker A: Wow. [00:10:55] Speaker B: I don't know that I would have been able to survive in that environment. I've always been quite an individualist. And this idea, I think I was also more drawn at the time to ideas of capitalism, because I believed, here we are in this country, and we get a chance to build community. Yeah. And I saw that look with my parents. They started with nothing twice in their lives. They had to leave with very little. Well, with nothing, basically from the Soviet Union. And then later on, we weren't exactly wealthy when we lived in Israel. And starting over again, different languages, different cultures, that gives you a certain kinds of mindset. But at the same time, my parents worked really hard, and we did find that ultimately, you can start with nothing. But if you start with a mindset of being willing to learn and work hard, yeah. It doesn't mean everybody's going to become a millionaire, but what it does mean is that you can at least have a decent life and decent experiences. So there are certain things that my parents, if they'd started in a better spot and they started with more wealth, they would have done better in certain areas. There's no inherited wealth in my family. But at the same time, my dad taught himself how to code. They say, wow. And he did, because his background was actually in electronics and physics. [00:12:31] Speaker A: Wow. [00:12:32] Speaker B: He went from that. Yeah. [00:12:34] Speaker A: So in your book, no apologies, you share all of these fascinating stories. Some of them are pretty familiar, some are a little less so. These are about people that experience some level of being canceled by angry online mobs or gangs or of woke activists. You yourself had a pretty harrowing brush with cancel culture. I would love if you could tell us a little bit about that. I mean, it really was like so many of the stories in the book about trying to help somebody, of trying to come to somebody else's aid. Again, something you were doing, something very voluntary and trying to call for civility. And so, anyway, I'll let you tell the story. [00:13:29] Speaker B: Sure. It's funny now, because as I reflect on it, I think I see it in a different light than when it was happening to me. So I've had a lot of distance. But in my case, I ran a group for women, and it was a job board. It was an offshoot of another, bigger group. It's been in the media quite a bit, actually. And basically it was a volunteer service. I was trying to help people. I figured jobs was the best way. The reason it was for women was because it was just an offshoot of a group that already existed for women. So I just followed their guidelines. And we had a mentorship program, resources. It ran quite well and it didn't really have any issues. And then somebody posted a job opening at. [00:14:22] Speaker A: Horrors. [00:14:23] Speaker B: Exactly. I would have never anticipated. You don't have to be like a fan of Fox News at all, which I not. But this person posts this job opening at Fox News, and people start to attack her and really vicious personal attacks. And as somebody who ran the group, it really wasn't even something I thought much about. I just immediately sort of jumped into it and said, I made a post, which I keep referring to as the kumbaya kind of post, saying, hey, let's stay away from personal attacks and politics in the group. And look, over the last few years, we've come apart so much. Let's just come together and focus on jobs and helping each other. I thought that was a pretty innocent post. And just from that post alone, now the mob had turned to me and they started calling me a white supremacist. Might as well recruit from the KKK. And it just sort of escalated from there. And on top of that, what had happened is that they said, well, you cannot take politics out of the group because it's a group for women, and therefore it's inherently political, which you may or may not disagree with. But I didn't want politics in the group, so I said, okay. And this one I did think about through a little bit more. And I knew there might piss people off a little bit, just not to the extent that I did. I said, okay, if that's how you feel. I don't want politics in the group, and therefore, I'll open it up to everyone. But I'll give you a month if you want to leave, if you want to create your own group, even if you want to take the name, I'll give it to you. I'll promote it. So I was trying to be pretty reasonable at the time, or at least so I thought. But the mob did not agree with me. And so they just, I mean, it grew really quite mad. Some of the things, it's just too crazy to talk about, but some of the things. I started getting threats. Somebody sent me a picture with a mob with torture, saying, we have long memories. People were starting to reach out to editors I may have worked with to tell them not to employ me. People unfollowed me, blocked me, harassed me on social media. I did panels, and people would come in and call me things during these panels, some attempted doxing things like that, and it just really escalated from that. And I never imagined that. [00:17:00] Speaker A: Yeah. So you share how the controversy put you in the spotlight in a way that attracted support but also detractors on both the left and the right. I was interested in your description of the distinction between the kinds of fan mail, as you put it, you receive from conservatives. And by fan mail, that's facetious. She's talking about criticism and hate mail from conservative versus more progressive critics. What were the distinctions, and why did one variety of the fan mail strike you as, in fact, more threatening? [00:17:42] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm sort of glad that you noticed that because I haven't been asked about it, and I think it is quite a key point. So I was getting a lot of messages that were almost, some of them were intellectually based, some of them were arguments for rights. And it wasn't as, I mean, they were rude and they were calling me all sorts of things, but it wasn't the same as when the conservatives were attacking me. The conservative messages were much more angry, sometimes deaf threats. And to this day, I really sort of get them from both sides of things. But the difference to me was the reason I found the messages from the left different, and they were more threatening to me in the sense that they were threatening my livelihood, they were threatening my social sphere and my reputation. Messages from the right didn't really, they couldn't really do anything to me, and I think they knew that and they lacked power, because right now, the institutions, I would say, definitely lean more captured by the left and especially the institutions within which I've operated, which has predominantly been media and film, television. So certainly those are areas that are more left leaning. So the damage that they could do to me, and I think they're quite aware of that, is much more serious. Whereas on the conservative end, I think part of the way that they were phrasing things in this very angry, aggressive way was coming out of the sense that they don't actually have power, and they're so frustrated and angry. And that was a way to sort of vent as opposed to really pose a significant threat. Now, I think this is just human nature, and whoever holds the power is going to use it in the way that they're going to use it. And the pendulum always swings, and I'm already seeing it swinging. But for now, for me, it was a different experience with the left versus the right. FAN male so some of the people. [00:19:59] Speaker A: In your book who found themselves on the wrong end of an angry and threatening online mob, again, like you, were not being targeted primarily for things that they said or did, but rather for defending someone they felt was being unfairly bullied and calling for tolerance. Is this just the madness of the mob dynamic taking over, or is there something more sinister and intentional going on, an effort to intimidate anyone who would dare to call for a little kindness and a little grace? [00:20:41] Speaker B: I think there is a sense that people are feeling threatened by words, right? It's that whole idea of words are violence, or words can incite violence, or words can invoke power. So I think in some ways, there's a defensiveness element to that, though I do think most of the phenomenon is much more attributed to just mob mentality. But I do think, especially when one sees themselves in some way as a victim or somebody who's been victimized in the past or in the present, they are defending their position. So what they're saying is that somebody's wrong thing can potentially harm them or cause. If some of these thoughts or ideas go into the ether and maybe they catch on, that could jeopardize their position, their standing. So I think that plays a role as well, though. I think that for the most part, it comes in a little bit more subconsciously. For most people, they might not even understand that this is something that they're driven by. But certainly a lot of this, I think, is driven by this idea of victimhood. There's two ways to see yourself, because if you see yourself as somebody who's maybe had a difficult life, things have happened. I've certainly had some struggles in my life, but I see my struggles as a way that I've learned about life. I've learned how to be stronger. I learned how to be more empathetic as a result, because I can understand, for example, if somebody is being bullied, this is something that instead of becoming the bully, I'm more likely to protect that person and empathize with them. And also, I feel that having overcome certain difficulties, it gives me a sense of achievement and power and sort of personal pride. But I think with some people, it's a little bit different where they perpetually see themselves as a victim. It doesn't mean that there's zero truth in that, right? There's oppressive policies, there's discrimination in society. There is basis of truth in it. But if they only see themselves as somebody who's a victim who cannot achieve things, as opposed to somebody who maybe has a more difficult thing to overcome, there's a sense of pride, I think, for some people, at even having more difficulties to overcome in front of them, it's like, hey, I have all these challenges, but I can do it. And I think that's a different mindset, right? [00:23:16] Speaker A: No, definitely. I mean, there is a difference between being a victim, being victimized. These are things, these are events. But I think that there's something about, again, returning to Ayn Rand, this altruistic philosophy and value that has us seeking status or nobility in suffering, in victimhood. And you're almost kind of getting to have a higher status if you can show that you're somebody who's been oppressed. [00:23:56] Speaker B: Or you're, well, in our society, certainly there is a higher status afforded to people who are victims in some ways or lower on the totem pole as it's perceived, which causes people, I think, to want to be that. And, in fact, somebody who might have, quote unquote privilege, they might want to seek to erase it, because now they're seeing as somebody with power, which they may not even have in reality. There is that reward system, I think, perpetuates that in society, and it's a big deal, whereas I think in the past it's been more like, okay, I've had a really difficult go at it, but I've overcome that. And there's such a sense of achievement in that and pride and other people's respect. And I think instead, we give so much status and credits to people's victimhood status or some category that they might. [00:24:56] Speaker A: Or pathologies or what have you. How much of this epidemic of mental illness supposedly is actually real and how much of it is an acceptance of mental illness and how much of it is. Oh, yeah, I've got intersectional neuroses, for sure. [00:25:17] Speaker B: Mental illness is real, but people dealing with it in different ways. And even how you deal with it, you can soak in it, and I can understand that. [00:25:28] Speaker A: Marinate. [00:25:29] Speaker B: Marinate. You can really become attached to that part of identity. Even if it's real. Yeah. It becomes your identity because you don't know what else you can do. Right. How do you move on from that? It's very easy when you have a really bad day to sit with a tub of ICE cream and cry and just soak and not go out of it. It requires a certain momentum to shift things. And it's like you don't even want to let go of the sadness sometimes. [00:26:03] Speaker A: Let's talk about some people who did let go of the sadness, or not all of them, but the people, the individuals whose stories you share are very varied. Academics, musicians, librarians, even knitting aficionados, really, people from all walks of life. So what were the through lines, common elements that united the experience of either falling afoul of the cancel culture crowd or finding ways to cope and get through it? [00:26:43] Speaker B: Yeah, I found that a lot of people who are in my book, as well as people that I've talked to a lot of times when they're being targeted by the mob or run afoul of some orthodoxy, they don't even know it most of the time. It's not intentional in any way. They genuinely think that they're just doing the right thing. And I would also say that a lot of times they were not motivated by any sense of courage. It was just much more a commitment to truth and integrity. And that is actually what had caused them often to end up in the situations that they ended up in. It wasn't some idea of like, let's push some idea forward. It was more so they see something that seems wrong or something that seems untrue, and they act on that and often without really thinking about it. And so that was, to me, a pretty massive through line. And I would also say that in my observations, the people that fared better were the ones that pushed back more aggressively and stood really firm. Certainly the people in my book, some of them don't have happy endings, and some of them do. But in the real world, the stories that I've included were still mostly stories that had some levels of attention, and they had levels of attention because those people stood firm. But there's a lot of people out there, and people that I've talked to who caved and paid the price, people who were not in positions to really fight or couldn't find it within themselves, and some people who even fought and just didn't survive through the madness. So the people that you often see as being success stories that maybe even have a better outcome than when they started, maybe they became famous and independent and wealthy. That's not common. And the people that were able to do better are the ones who were just so firm and so intentional and so unwilling to waver. And I would love for everyone to be like that. But even our temperaments are not all like that. We all react differently to emotional circumstances, life circumstances, and also have different situations in our lives. In particular, for most people, the soft spot is employment and somebody who has a family, they can't just think for themselves. They can't just look out for themselves. And the problem is, on the one hand, I advocate for people to use their voice and speak up, but on the other hand, we really shouldn't be in that position in the first place, where there's a price to pay. I'm never talking about people who say horrible things to other people on purpose and just spread hate and all that kind of stuff. The people, for the most part, who are affected by these things, they just have a thought that's just a little bit outside the orthodoxy. They might be wrong. I mean, some of the people in my book I don't necessarily even agree with on certain things, but they should have the right to express it. And they come in good faith. And we can have conversations in good faith. And if we don't agree, we don't agree. And maybe we've learned why even our own views, maybe it strengthens our own views. Because now I know I've been tested, I've been stress tested, and I still can hold on to my perspective. Or maybe I switched a little bit, make it stronger, or maybe I'm wrong. Right? And it's this kind of fear of even engaging with the idea that you might be wrong or that it's dangerous to discuss ideas with people who have a slightly wrong right. [00:30:41] Speaker A: Well, that kind of gets back to open objectivism, the kind of objectivism that we promote at the Atlas Society as opposed to closed objectivism. I mean, the Atlas Society was founded in part because some objectivists said that you can't speak to libertarians. If you speak to libertarians, you're sanctioning their views. And our founder know. Actually, I don't think that's true. I want to tell libertarians how they might be more effective. I want to hear what they say. His quote that always sticks with me is if we are right, we have nothing to fear. If we are wrong, we have something to learn. And I think that's the tradition that we continue to carry on at. The outlaw society is being willing to speak to all people. Sometimes we'll get criticism like, oh my goodness, there's all kinds of far right wing conservatives that are on your page and engaging with your content. And I'm like, so should I block them? I mean, maybe it would be good for them to get a little bit of. So, all right, we got a lot of great questions here coming in from all different platforms. I'm going to try to grab a few on LinkedIn. Alexanderi Karenski says it seems like the policing of speech has only become prevalent in the last ten years or so. Is this true or has this been coming for a much longer period of time? [00:32:15] Speaker B: Yeah, I think I started noticing it a little more recently. So maybe it has been going on for longer. Ten years ago. It probably is around when it started quietly creeping in. And I think the last five years is where it's really escalated in a very visible way. [00:32:37] Speaker A: Yeah, accelerated. Anne M. On YouTube asks, how do we counter attempts to suppress free speech? [00:32:48] Speaker B: Yeah. And I think there's a few things. I think one of the chapters in the book, it's Katie Harzerk's chapter, she suggests having a plan B. [00:32:59] Speaker A: Right. [00:33:00] Speaker B: And I think that's really, can not all of us get to choose the moment where we practice our free speech that gets us in trouble. But becoming more bulletproof will give you a lot more freedom so that know, maybe having a business that's independent, that you can control, you're the boss so you won't get fired. Having other sources of income, surrounding yourself with a community of people who allow you to be yourself and speak and have grace. My closest friends, I could say anything and listen, I'm very capable of saying something stupid, or maybe it's even offensive. It can happen. But my friends know that my intention isn't to hurt people and they see the best in me. Often we build communities around ourselves out of convenience or wanting to fit in. And they're not necessarily the kinds of people that really make us or best versions of ourselves. And I think that's what we need to do. So two things. Make yourself sort of bulletproof on the financial side of things. And then two, make it so that the social element, you're not going to lose all your friends by speaking up, because your friends are aligned with the ideas of free speech and discourse. And I think, for me, I didn't have that necessarily from the get go. [00:34:24] Speaker A: You do? [00:34:25] Speaker B: Yeah, I do. And that experience has been emotional. But also, one of the people in the book says it's an upgrade. You upgrade. [00:34:37] Speaker A: It is an upgrade. And I think as you were talking about victimhood versus having a perspective on yourself that is more dynamic and is more resilient. I think there is something about going through a trauma like this. You can either embrace it as your new identity, or you can use it to gain a sense of self confidence that you will be able to withstand losses because you've done it before, and you'll find a way to do it again. I know when I had my house burned down here in Malibu, and that is something that will happen to you if you live in Malibu. [00:35:19] Speaker B: Just fyi, I just drove through Malibu, actually. [00:35:22] Speaker A: Oh, darn, I wish I had known. I would have done a dinner party for you. Well, I was in Florida, so that wouldn't have worked out. But it's practice, right? You're like, okay, I went through something that was really hard. I survived. I figured it out. I overcame, and now I can find the resources, martial, the inner resources, to survive the next big loss, which life has plenty of those in store for us, particularly. [00:35:54] Speaker B: Yeah, 100%. And you use the word trauma, and I was sort of reluctant to use that word for a while. And then I had realized how much. [00:36:01] Speaker A: It's pretty traumatic. [00:36:02] Speaker B: Yeah, it was traumatic. I realized that a lot of my reactions to that were also trauma reactions. Luckily, I do think it had changed me quite a bit. To somebody who is, it's like a muscle. So I think I'm much more willing to use that muscle now. I am less fearful. But also, I would say, as a word of advice to people is, like, know what really matters to you. So it doesn't have to be every single thing that you speak out about and take a risk over, but do it for the things that you really care fundamentally that are part of your values, your integrity, and whether that's standing up for a friend or an idea, I think that's important. And also it's important. I've seen a lot of people, as a trauma reaction, go really extreme after that. They've had this brush with cancellation, and I can understand it because I felt much more, I think, aggressive about it. In the beginning. And I think it was very important for me to self reflect a lot and check myself and make sure that I'm not just being a reactionary. And then I hold the values that I believe in, that I don't become the same kind of person that went after me in the process of fighting their bad ideas. I start using the same tactics. I think that's really important. And unfortunately, I've seen a lot of people succumb to that. I don't think I have. I think I've maintained myself in this, but I've seen it a lot. And some people have recovered a little bit, and some people just end up very extreme. [00:37:46] Speaker A: Yeah, well, I wanted to ask you about that because some of the stories that you share are about people who are actually, they were on the left and they were attacked for various running afoul of what the correct language was or what have you. So I'm wondering, and you yourself, you said that you were surprised to find yourself finding allies more among conservative leaning critics of censorship and cancel culture, describing yourself as the, quote, token liberal in the room. So I'm wondering, you talked about not wanting to react, become a reactionary take on kind of an extremism and become sort of a reflection of the very people that were bullying you in the first place. But I wonder as well, once somebody goes through an experience like this, do you think that there's more of a compartmentalization, like, okay, I'm not down with the censorship, but I'm still on board with most of the progressive agenda, or do such experiences and the fallout of those experiences, do they shake a person into reconsidering a range of previous political cognitive commitments? [00:39:31] Speaker B: It could be a combination of things. And a lot of times people that I know have been attacked, people from the left have been attacked for associating with the right or going on, specifically going on media that's more right leaning, that's been a massive attack. And their response would be, well, the left doesn't want us, won't let us talk about it. [00:39:55] Speaker A: That would be, for example, women who the turf, right? [00:40:00] Speaker B: Yeah, that would be an example, for sure. And there's a lot, I mean, in most cases, that's what's happening. It's unfortunate because even with this book, I wanted to specifically be able to talk to more go on NPR. Right. I mean, I would have liked to. Right. And I've reached out to some of these entities, so it's certainly not as if, and I've made kind of a conscious decision not that I wouldn't speak to those on the right. I have, but try to find slightly more center where people on the right who are just very reasonable. I don't necessarily need to go on. I don't want to be used in a certain way. Right. So I've been pretty conscious of that. And some people find that now they. [00:40:42] Speaker A: Well, then how the heck did you end up here with us crazies over at the outlet? [00:40:46] Speaker B: That's right. Well, I don't think you're that crazy, but we'll see. The evening's young. No, but I think that it's something that it's difficult for people on the left because they have some overlaps in their thinking, specifically when it comes to free speech or this kind of idea that you can't criticize or you have to be so careful with your language. And people on the right were sort of targeted for their thoughts on these things, so they're more inclined to have alliances with people on the left and much more willing to sort of engage with them. But I also think, I really so desperately wish that regardless of the side, that every side will be willing to engage and have these conversations. And unfortunately, that's what's happening. But in terms of, do you reevaluate your own perspectives? I think in some cases, people who have had this experience have drifted because now they're surrounded. The other thing that happens is that now they're surrounded by people, let's say, on the right, so they're more exposed to those points of views on a daily basis, and they've been sort of evicted from their tribe on the left. So now they're not surrounded by these ideas. And I think that causes a natural shift in their thinking. And some people that I know have maintained a lot of their stances, but not all. Ideally, you shouldn't have to really pick a side sitter, but I just have different. It's not that I don't have strongly held opinions about certain things and some weakly held opinions about others. It's just that I don't believe that I have to reject everything on one side just because it's on this other side. There's some sound thinking there, or at the very least, some things. I can understand where people are coming from and have sound logic, but maybe it's not as rooted in my own values. [00:42:49] Speaker A: Got it. All right, well, let's get to some of these other questions, because the night is actually not that young. We've got about 15 more minutes. Our friend, my modern Gault on Instagram, asks, where do you think cancel culture is the most prevalent and intense social media? College campuses somewhere else. [00:43:14] Speaker B: He picked the best ones, I think college campuses, from my understanding, it's very strong there, but at least you have a face, person to person, face to face sort of interaction. And I think that is very different from social media, where I think social media has caused a tremendous growth in cancel culture. So I'm sure that on campuses, it's been a significant issue. I know it has. But I think a lot of that is perpetuated by social media because it's so easy to have a mob and it's so weaponized. In the past, most people who are being targeted are generally public figures. And even if they're targeted, somebody writes an article about them. A couple of weeks later, nobody remembers and it's gone. Doesn't have a footprint because it didn't used to be digital, but now everything is digital. So it's impossible to erase your footprint if you've gone astray, if you've run afoul in some way of the mob. But also, you don't have to be a noted person, you don't have to be a prominent person. So every person is now a target, and every person can, somebody can make a post about you on social media, and that person doesn't even have a big following, and yet it will get picked up and it will go viral. So everyone is kind of an active weapon in the cancel culture mob in a way that is unprecedented. And people love, they thrive on this stuff. So for them, it's also drama and kind of fun. So they add on and you dehumanize the other person to such an extent that you don't care what happens to them. They're not a real person to you. You don't see their expressions. You don't have a back and forth. So I think the greatest that social media has actually had the most tremendous impact on this becoming wildfire. [00:45:12] Speaker A: So with that digital trail that you were mentioning, when things are, it's not just on social media, but when these things blow up and people are getting written about. You share one example of someone who was accused on an anonymous list of rape and how the articles kept on getting printed and people were just cutting and pasting. So I'm going to loop that into this one last question from Candice Morena on Facebook, asking you as a journalist, what would you consider the difference between good and bad journalism? [00:45:56] Speaker B: Great question. To me, journalism, good journalism, should be grounded in curiosity and not one's opinion. When they start writing the piece, and it should be grounded in facts, but not selective facts, facts that give the reader as wide of a perspective as possible. And so I think those are two really fundamental things. Giving insight that is maybe not as easily accessible, maybe through expertise, research, but also it starts with grain of curiosity, and bad journalism starts with an intention. And that's why there is usually this kind of idea of activist journalists. And the people who are activist journalists, they're proud of that. They're open about that. It's not even a hidden thing. That's what they believe. They believe that through their writing they should have a particular impact. Whereas for me, I believe that through my writing I want to expose things that maybe people aren't aware of or bring something interesting to the forefront, but not necessarily tell people how to think about it or how to behave, unless I'm writing an opinion piece or an essay, which I didn't used to, but I do now, in which case, completely subjective. I don't think anyone should take that as just, I'm definitely trying to persuade people. That's a different approach. And I think people mix up the two a lot. Even with me, people mix up the two a lot because I've built a certain trust with my readers. And they say, well, I trust you. I say, well, sure. I mean, I have good intentions. I try to get things right. But a lot of what you're reading from me right now is my opinion. It's not just this objective piece of writing that I'm trying to do. I'm nuanced. But that doesn't mean that I'm not trying to persuade you of something. [00:47:56] Speaker A: So one of the questions we often get from students here at the Atlas society, I do my Instagram takeovers every week, and I get these questions from young people on Instagram. We have our Gulch 2.0 conference coming up in DC at the end of July, and I anticipate we're going to get this question. And the question is always, should I speak up? This is when they know that their teacher, perhaps most of their classmates, share a political worldview and they disagree. So we've talked about some of the advice that you share in the book, having a plan B, having a circle of friends around you, being in a position to kind of weather things like financially. But what advice would you give the students? I'll tell you the advice that I give them, which is, number one, try to establish a personal relationship with your professor. Try to go in them and say, hey, I would like to talk to you. I feel like I'm kind of the minority in this class. Are you welcome? Am I able to voice? I don't know. I'm not talking about Brown nosing, but at least finding a way to not be able to be dehumanized. And then the second thing is, really know what you're talking. You know, if you're going to go into an economics class and you're going to voice a different opinion, make sure you've actually read Haslett and read Hayek and read some know, do your homework. But anyway, I'm not the expert. What's your. [00:49:47] Speaker B: Well, no, I think that was really good advice, actually. I would say for me, how I tried to approach things in real life is in real life IRL. Yeah, like, this is not real life, but in the physical world. What I tried to do, and I've actually had really good success talking to people about every issue in the book without getting anybody upset at me, is that I try to lead them through my process of thinking, and I try to do that in my writing as well, particularly when I'm writing about topics that are a bit more sensitive, because then people understand where you're coming from, and even if they disagree, they understand that you're not coming from some bad place or that you hold some crazy beliefs or mean beliefs or just want to discriminate against people. And that, I find, helps a lot. And then understanding what their objections are and understanding what they think, because then you can address it. And that's something that you can do in this physical world, which is very difficult to do in the virtual world and part of what gets people in trouble. So I remember I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine, and I saw this woman react to it physically. It was just a small micro reaction. And I said to her, hey, I noticed that you sort of had a little bit of a reaction. Where's your discomfort with what I was saying? And she told me, and I was able to address it, and then it was okay. So I think that's really important, but also deciding whether it's worth it to speak up. Obviously, I want people to speak up because I think the problem that we're in is because not enough people do. And one thing that will surprise people is how many people actually share that point of view. It may feel like the majority or all. Well, what it feels like sometimes that everybody thinks something. This other thing that you are not a belief that you don't share, but what you realize when you trust people enough is that to share your own point of view is that people will then come to you with theirs. And I found that to be the case with me, where once I became pretty outspoken, a lot of people approached me, including people I already knew in my physical world, and shared. They felt safe to share their perspectives. And people don't all think alike in the way that we sometimes assume. And you can't discover that unless you trust them with your own point of view, but try to be rational and balanced and address their issues with it. [00:52:39] Speaker A: Right. So you talk about how you want more people to find the courage to speak up. And I think the risks and the costs of potentially what could go wrong if you were to find yourself on the wrong end of a cancel culture mob. But what might be some of the hidden costs of remaining silent or what might be some of the unappreciated rewards of speaking one's mind since, again, the risks and the costs are rather obvious. [00:53:24] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, and I think one thing that happens is that the cost of speaking abuses, the price goes higher the less people speak. Right now, we're in a stage, yes, there is a cost. You may lose your job. People will get mad at you. I think you have to be realistic about that. But over time, if we live in a society where people do not speak, then it becomes an even scarier proposition. And then the price could be the ultimate price, which is deaf. And we are already seeing echoes of that. Because with speech in some countries, and I'm talking about western countries, obviously, free speech is a massive issue in many other countries where people are already paying the ultimate price. But in the know, we have laws where certain kinds of speech is illegal, like in Ireland, for example, there is a law where basically if you have something on your, or they're trying to pass it, if there's something on your computer that can be considered hate speech even if you didn't send it to anybody. Maybe you're journaling, right? Maybe you're just trying to get something out for that speech. You can face prison or financial punishment and you have to provide access to your laptop. I think these kinds of laws that we're seeing across the. Yeah, so much in the most recent one pre crime bill, basically, where if they think that you might, based on speech online, if they think that you might commit some kind of a crime, they can put you on house arrest. That is absolutely insane. So we're seeing already that the cost is going up because there isn't enough pushback. And so this is one thing, and the reward also of speaking up. And I said, this is. I have far more authentic relationships with people because they know where I stand. I'm trusting them with my thoughts. They're then trusting me with their thoughts. And if we can't do that, then we don't really have a real relationship or a real friendship. We are holding back so much from each other that it's not so authentic. And I would say that has been one of the greatest rewards for me. And just feeling like I am expressing myself fully, not feeling like I'm suppressing a part of myself. And being able to trust people with that actually has been really rewarding. And specifically, when people come to me with their own experiences and stories because they feel safe and because they feel like they're not going to be judged, I think that's tremendous. And you get to shape your thoughts, right? Because if you're able to speak things that you're thinking, including things that, where you might be mistaken, there's an opportunity, someone to improve on your thoughts by giving you more context or more pushback. We need that. Part of why people are getting more radicalized, in my view, is because people are speaking only in their groups, in their silos, because they feel unsafe. And so when they only talk to each other, their views grow more radical because they just affirm everything about what they think. And so we're seeing on the left and on the right, just much more extremes. And when somebody comes in and talks to these people, look, some people are going to be extreme no matter what, but it does introduce a certain balance, and I think that's incredibly important. [00:57:10] Speaker A: Well, it's a wonderful book. No apologies. How to find and free your voice in the age of outreach lessons for the silenced majority. Also, I can highly recommend the audio version, which, Catherine, I'm assuming you did yourself. [00:57:28] Speaker B: I did. Okay. Was that okay? [00:57:31] Speaker A: It was great. It was great. You have a voice for both print and television and book narration, so I thought it was great. And so there you go. We've been talking about the importance of having the plan B and the side gigs and the side hustles, so you could always become an audible narrator. [00:57:57] Speaker B: Oh, my God. [00:57:58] Speaker A: You get canceled. [00:57:59] Speaker B: No. Hard process. [00:58:03] Speaker A: It is, yeah. And then there's only you to blame if anything gets mispronounced. [00:58:10] Speaker B: I mispronounced a lot. I tried to use that as a defense. English is my third language. That's why. [00:58:18] Speaker A: There you go. [00:58:19] Speaker B: Pronounced things sometimes. [00:58:22] Speaker A: So, what's next for you, and where can we follow your work? [00:58:25] Speaker B: Sure. Well, thank you. So I'm actually hoping to write while I was writing this book, by the way. I was like, I'm never writing another book. And then I already have two book ideas. So hopefully that will happen. And people can also find my little whimsical essays on my substac, which they can find catherinewrights.com. And I tweet way too much on a platform called X, formerly known as Twitter. And my handle is mysterious cat, k a t, even though I'm a dog person. [00:59:00] Speaker A: Yes, and mysterious no more. All right. Well, thank you. Thanks, Catherine. Thanks all of you for joining us today. Of course, if you enjoyed this video, any of our other materials programming at the Atlas Society, please consider supporting us with a tax deductible donation, atlasociety.org slash donate. All new donations will be matched by our board. And then I hope we'll see you back next week when John R. Lott Jr. Joins us on the Atlas Society to discuss gun control, gun rights and his new book, Gun Control Myths, how Politicians, the media and botched studies have twisted the facts on gun control. So we're going to learn a lot. See you there.

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