The Canceling of the American Mind: The Atlas Society Asks Greg Lukianoff

December 21, 2023 00:56:20
The Canceling of the American Mind: The Atlas Society Asks Greg Lukianoff
The Atlas Society Presents - The Atlas Society Asks
The Canceling of the American Mind: The Atlas Society Asks Greg Lukianoff

Dec 21 2023 | 00:56:20

/

Show Notes

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 184th episode of The Atlas Society Asks where she interviews returning guest Greg Lukianoff about his latest book "The Canceling of the American Mind."

An early guest on The Atlas Society Asks to discuss his book The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff returns to talk about his timely sequel, The Canceling of the American Mind, which explores what cancel culture is, and how we can beat back this threat to democracy through better citizenship. Greg is the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to fighting for free speech on college campuses.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hello everyone, and welcome to the 184th episode of the Atlas Society asks. My name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. I go by JAg today. I am really excited about our guest, but in case you're wondering who I am, I'm the CEO of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit introducing young people to the ideas Aynrand in fun, creative ways, like animated videos, even AI, animated videos, graphic novels, and even music. Today we're joined by returning guest Greg Lukianov. Before I even begin to introduce our guest, I want to remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube. You can go ahead and use the chat function to start typing in your questions, and we will get to as many of them as we can. Greg is an attorney, New York Times bestselling author, and the president and CEO of Fire, the foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a fantastic nonprofit dedicated to fighting for free speech on college campuses and beyond. As we will discuss today, he previously joined us back in February of 2021 to discuss his book, the Coddling of the American Mind, which explored how safetyism and other cultural trends were contributing to a younger generation of kids who were more fragile, less resilient, more intolerant of differing views. Greg returns today to talk about his timely sequel, the canceling of the American Mind, co authored with Ricky Schlott, which presents a comprehensive view of cancel culture and the dangers that it poses to all Americans. Greg, thanks for joining us. [00:01:58] Speaker B: Thanks so much for having me. [00:02:01] Speaker A: So when you first joined us in this space, it was well before Elon Musk took over at Twitter now X, after which he turned over internal documents to independent journalists like Barry Weiss and Matt Taibi, culminating in the publication of the Twitter files at the beginning of this year. Were you surprised at what they revealed? And what do you think the repercussions will be for less government intervention and perhaps a more supportive free speech culture on social media? [00:02:34] Speaker B: I was not particularly surprised to find that there was a lot of what's called in the law, governmental jawboning, pressuring private companies to do the censorship that the government wants on its behalf, essentially. And I would have been more surprised if there was less of know. So it was probably about as bad as I feared when it came to the Missouri v. Biden decision, which actually makes the, in my opinion, correct argument that there are First Amendment limitations on how much the government can hound companies to do their censorship for them. It was weird to see some other people in the First Amendment space somehow talk about this as like a limitation on the power of government to talk to corporations, and it's like, no, this is the biggest public sphere that's ever been created. And the idea that there's nothing wrong, from a First Amendment perspective, of the government leaning on these groups to censor opinions they don't like is crazy and completely against the ideals of the First Amendment. [00:03:43] Speaker A: How has x been doing since, from your perspective, thoughts on, for example, the recent reinstatement of Alex Jones on the platform? [00:03:52] Speaker B: Yeah, I feel like when it came to, I was a little surprised at the reinstatement of Alex Jones because there are categories of unprotected speech that we don't disagree with, and one of them is defamation. I actually kind of expected Alex Jones to stay off of Twitter, but there are a lot of other people who are brought back who never should have know canceled in the first place. So I think that Elon is actually doing a pretty good job for free speech overall. But one of the things that has been really quite stunning is the ongoing sort of campaign against him and against the platform in a way that's not, you don't see directed at TikTok, for example, just the weird kind of, and forgive the expression, elite hatred for Elon Musk is kind of bizarre to me. [00:04:51] Speaker A: Yes. Well, to those of us at the Atlas Society, it's like something out of the pages of Atlas front, somebody who is an inventor, an innovator, who is attracting the ire of the powerful and may seem hell bent on trying to stop him. But we're rooting for him now, and we're also rooting for this book. Your latest, the canceling of the american mind. Tell us a little bit about the genesis of this book, particularly with regards to how you came to discover and collaborate with your co author, Ricky Schlott. [00:05:32] Speaker B: Yeah, it's an interesting story. So during COVID I was contacted by this young journalist, I think, then either 19 or 20, who I'd heard a lot about. She started writing for a reason in the New York Post. And everybody's like, this young woman writes as well, or better than people twice her age. So I already knew who she was because she created some buz within fire, because sometimes we try to identify and bring on young talent. We tried to get Coleman Hughes, for example, to join fire early on. We got him a little bit too late, and then she ended up contacting me to talk about her theory that maybe Covid could be the challenge that sort of uncoddles young people. What she meant by that was that essentially, in coddling the american mind. We talk about how we're just not exposing kids to enough challenges we're engaged in, like you said, safetyism, and it's harmful to kids. But she thought maybe the challenge of COVID could actually be something that leads to a sense of self actualization away from safetyism could be really empowering for kids who could see themselves get through a challenge and fly in colors. Now, she jokes that she thinks that in retrospect, that was probably wildly optimistic. I still think there are probably kids out there who really did rise to the challenge, feel like that there was real things to overcome, but you're not really seeing that reflected on campus, basically on campus and a lot of elite society. It definitely seemed like it was a victory for safetyism. But after we talked about that article, I very quickly offered her a fellowship at fire to do research and writing. And after less than a year working with her, I was like, okay, you know what? I want to do a follow up to coddling of the american mind. And coddling of the american mind was disproportionately about challenges faced by Gen Z Young women. So given the two authors of the original book are both Gen X Men, having a Gen Z young woman to collaborate with seemed like great. We could actually get some on the ground, kind of like, tell us this from your perspective. But as we were getting ready to write the book, I couldn't believe that I was still hearing ideologues trying to claim that cancel culture was a hoax, that it didn't exist. I mean, I recently read something where apparently people who talk about cancel culture are neoconfederates and, of course, fascist. And I was like, no, this is insane. I've been working on campuses for 22 years, been defending free speech beyond campus as well. And it's not just that cancel culture is real. It's something we're going to be studying in 100 years, because I've seen nothing like the level of censorship on campus that I've seen since about 2017, and particularly accelerating around 2014. And we cannot find a moment in history outside of the 1930s, not even the 1950s, in which this many professors had been fired for their speech. So the three things that we wanted to do in canceling was establish that cancel culture is real, and it's happening at a historic scale, that everybody should understand, that cancel culture should be thought of as only the meanest way of winning arguments without persuading anybody. And we try to situate it in this whole kind of rhetorical approach of ways to avoid actually having to argue with your opponent on fair grounds to just kind of jump over to ad hominem attacks. And then we spent about a third of the book talking about potential solutions. [00:09:25] Speaker A: Yeah, and we're going to get to some of those. But something you just said sparked a question for me when you were talking about young women. On Monday of this week, I gave a speech at turning point girls gone woke, why young women need Ayn Rand and I started by contrasting how a recent survey of 12th grade boys showed that twice as many were likely to identify as conservative, as progressive, and that only 13% of twelveth grade boys identified as progressive. Then we see that Gen Z overall is still trending more progressive. I think it's about 42% to 33%. The answer comes when you look at the polling data for twelveth grade girls, that only 12% of twelveth grade girls identify as conservative, as conservative, and kind of using that as maybe a proxy for thinking about some of these trends in terms of woke and wanting to have safe spaces and wanting to limit what other people can say, people will come back and they will ask me, why is it, what's the phenomenon that's driving such different kind of orientations among young women and young boys? And I'm not sure I really have the answer. I mean, given that you said 2017, so that to an extent, you could see this as maybe a reaction to Trump or somehow that that was a phenomenon. I think the abortion issue plays a role as well as, I don't know, maybe girls being more empathetic or compassionate and seeing that this is how they're going to protect the marginalized. But you've been studying this for a really long time, knee deep in the data. What are any of your theories about what might be driving that kind of divergence. [00:11:45] Speaker B: In order to use an overly fancy term? I think a lot of the dysfunction we see in society today is Internet enabled runaway homophily, and what homophily means is, like, people finding other like people and going to people who are like them. And I feel like we'd already been. There was a great book by Bill Bishop called the Big Sort that came out maybe 15 years ago that explained how increasingly we live in communities that are more segregated by politics and by class, and that's in the physical world. When you add that to the fact that we're more segregated in terms of politics in the virtual world, and you can surround yourself with layer after layer after layer of people who agree with you, or even more radical in their politics than you are, it leads to the sort of spiraling off in group polarization sort of directions. So I think that's one of the things that's happening in the country in large. And again, social media is one of the reasons why it's accelerating. It's not the reason why it's happening, period, because we were trending towards this kind of isolation and group polarization well before the existence of social media. Social media sped it up. And it did create some new phenomena, things like weird sites like Tumblr, which were very much kind of progressive sites, but at the same time, that had a lot of discussion of basically victimhood, of sort of relating to people through your pain. And in some cases, they would argue oppression. And that can be something that I can understand. It can feel sort of empowering, particularly for those of us who have struggled with depression. But the problem is, when you get a group of depressives all talking to other depressives, guess what? They tend to get more depressed. And I think that one thing that is fascinating, and you were alluding to it, is the bifurcation. And politics between men and women is getting more and more severe, that more and more young men self identify as conservative. More and more young women self identify as liberal or very liberal or progressive. And the data that really didn't exactly shock me. There were things that came out of codling the american mind that I wish we'd been wrong about. Like we saw a mental health disaster on the horizon way back in 2014. Because our argument in coddling was essentially, we're teaching young people the mental habits of anxious and depressed people, and particularly in the sort of campus version of progressivism, which has a lot of doom and gloom about the future. It has a lot of everyone's out to get you. It has a lot of guilt, internalized guilt, baked into it, but all particularly effective and to some degree seductive for women who are trying to care about marginalized people. They're trying to be empathetic, but unfortunately, what they're being taught is a formula for being alienated, angry, alone, depressed. So I think that this bifurcation of male and female politics is something that is going to continue to get worse, particularly when you look at this data about them not wanting to date each other. It makes me wonder about the future of the american family. [00:15:04] Speaker A: Yeah, no, it's definitely really striking. And when you talk about they're learning these lessons for being bitter and angry and isolated, that also shows up in surveys of adult women who identify on the far left versus those that are. [00:15:26] Speaker B: More moderate or considered the self described very liberal women, even among millennials, it's like more than half of them that report that they've been told that they have some kind of mental disorder by their doctor. [00:15:37] Speaker A: Yeah, well, so in the book canceling of the american mind, one of the things I was most interested in, running the outland Society. Obviously, we're interested in philosophy, and you go back and explore a little bit how postmodernism might have paved the way for cancel culture. For example, in the book, you point to Herbert Marcus's influential 1965 essay repressive tolerance as helping to usher in a new campus culture in which those on the liberal left felt justified in using any means necessary to shut down their ideological adversaries. Would you help unpack that a bit for us? [00:16:25] Speaker B: Sure. Yeah. Because everyone knows that the campus free speech movement began in Berkeley in 1964. What wasn't as well known until fairly recently, when people were pointing out how influential this particular marxist thinker was. There was an article published by Herbert Marcus, who was considered the guru of the new Left. He was sort of like someone who trying to take marxist ideas, but update them to a situation which the proletarians actually didn't tend to like, intellectuals. And sort of, he tried to reorient the left into one that was less about the proletariat, more about intellectuals and educated people in alliance with, and these are his words, ghetto populations. The idea of kind of like, intellectuals joining in their opinion, the oppressed, together to create a new faction that would kind of replace the proletariat. And repressive tolerance is not an impressive thing to read. And I've heard a lot about Marcos being some kind of great writer. I'm mystified by this assertion, because repressive Thomas is really just making the argument know, like people like me are. Know, people like Herbert Marcus thinks that they're good, and people who agree with him are good. But there's the regressive right and the legion of people who are so called conservatives, who are so bad and so regressive that we need state power to suppress them in order to achieve our truly free society, our truly equal society. It's all this orwellian kind of use of language to talk about. So you're talking about an authoritarian nightmare, and you're trying to sell it as greater human freedom. And that was a normal tactic of the totalitarian utopians of the 20th century. Not a creative idea, a very old idea that essentially the philosopher kings should be in charge of what you're allowed to say or think. And it was taken seriously, though, on the left. There was another faction of the left that people like Nadeed Straussen, and for that matter, I come from, that was very much more sort of left libertarian, like pro free speech, pro freedom, pro rights, pro bill of rights, all this kind of stuff. And that seemed to be winning in the large society for most of my life. And this kind of splinter that started with Herbert Marcos and then brought in people like Richard Delgado and the founders of critical race theory, they really glommed on to the idea of what I derisively referred to as enlightened censorship, or so called enlightened censorship, that even by the mid 1980s, campuses were already passing speech codes in order to police racist and sexist speech, which really could be anything they just disagreed with. These got defeated in courts of law from 1989 through 1995. And there was a sense that political correctness was this weird moment on campus in which off campus, most people thought that this was ridiculous and it was inappropriate, and that free speech was essential to campuses. And by 95, there was a sense of kind of like, oh, well, okay, this is a joke. This has passed us. The speech codes have been defeated. But that's not at all what happened. The administrators actually held on to those speech codes. When I started fire in 2001, when we did the research, which we finally completed in 2006, 2007, we found about 79% of schools had speech codes that were just as unconstitutional, in some cases verbatim, the ones that got shot down in court in the 1980s and 90s. So a lot of my career, I was trying to explain, it's like, guys, it's bad on campus. These problems didn't go away. They actually metastasize. It became part of the administrative state at these universities. But people really started to pay attention to there being something wrong on campus when a new population of students showed up who were much more pro cancel culture, much more pro going after professors or their fellow students for saying things they didn't like. And we're still living in this era of the troubling alliance between anti liberals, anti free speech students, and administrators working together to create a disaster for academic freedom and free speech on campus. [00:20:51] Speaker A: So we've got a lot of questions coming in, and I'm going to turn to those in a moment. But when you were talking about mental health and particularly how you detailed in the coddling of the american mind how you learned cognitive behavioral therapy to get a different orientation that was more hopeful and that was more practical and that was more realistic, actually, one of the case studies from the canceling of the american mind that really hit home with me was psychotherapy. On a personal front, one of the main reasons I stopped seeing my own psychotherapist here in Malibu was I felt her ideology was consistently informing her feedback on the issues that I raised. I'm not sure whether it kind of comforted me or alarmed me to learn that this situation was a lot more common than I might have thought. But would love if you could tell us a little bit about what you found. [00:21:58] Speaker B: Oh, man. Yeah. I would say that probably the most depressing chapter in the book is about wokeness, or actually, I preferred Tim Urban's term, social justice fundamentalism, making its way into psychotherapy, and about students actually being taught to intervene during sessions with your patients if they have problematic beliefs and try to correct their beliefs. That by itself is nuts, that is totalitarian, that is utterly inappropriate. And also talking to people who are currently getting their clinical psychology know, telling me that one of the things that students are the most frightened of is discovering that their patient might be a Trump supporter or might be a conservative. And really handwriting about what do you do in that circumstance? And of course, the correct response should be, you treat them with compassion, you treat them to the best of your ability. What are we even talking about here? But I've heard even more stories since the book came out about these moments when psychotherapists will intervene to remind you, for example, of your white privilege. Or to tell Camille Foster, who's a black american, that maybe his problems actually come from his internalized racism. And this is, again, a disaster, because what led me on the journey of coddling the american mind was getting so depressed, largely because of the culture war back in 2007 and being in it all the time, that I was seeing a therapist back in 2007, and I came very close to killing myself in 2007. And I shuddered to think what would have happened if I'd shown up one day and my therapist decided to lecture me on my problematic views and on my white privilege when I was in a depressive spiral. So, yeah, that's one of the most distressing chapters of the book. And that chapter, by the way, could easily be its own book, because every day I learn more dispiriting things about the entire field. [00:24:17] Speaker A: All right, let's get a few questions in here. On x, Sternam asks, what would you say about recent comments among conservatives, which seem to be a complete 180 on the topic of free speech? Well, actually, this book has a lot to say about that. So talk about sort of the cancel culture of the right and how it's been evolving and even some of the censorship envy that you discuss. [00:24:47] Speaker B: Yeah, no, I am realistic about human nature. So although I want everyone to be great on free speech, I don't always expect everyone to be. So I'm not shocked when people on any side of the spectrum end up being pro censorship. I wish they weren't, but I will call them out anytime they are. So we spend about three chapters talking about cancel culture on the right. We talk about some of the, in my opinion, quite foolish moves coming out of, say, the Florida legislature. There was one called the Stop Woke act that came out of Florida that was an attempt to sort of ban the teaching of CRT. And to give you an example of what they actually had to argue in court, was that under this law, you could have a professor make a point of opposing academic freedom or make an argument against affirmative action, but they wouldn't be allowed to support affirmative action. And it's like, okay, I'm sorry, you don't have to be a First Amendment lawyer to know that you just lost your case. That's called viewpoint discrimination. It's not constitutional, nor should it be. So we defeated that in court. We knew it was unconstitutional, and the judge called it positively dystopian. Now, I'm frustrated on that, about that on multiple levels, because I think it kind of derailed a lot of the useful energy for higher education reform, which, in my opinion, is really, really necessary, but instead created a situation where academics could argue, rightfully, that academic freedom was under attack from the right. But I do remind people, to our knowledge, there's only one threat to curricular freedom in higher ed that's been passed, and so far we've defeated it. Right now, I think that there are conservatives who are great on free speech. People like Robbie George has been principled. David French. There are a lot of people I know who have been great on free speech who are on the right. There are other people who believe in exercise, the kind of typical impulse, which is free speech for me but not for thee, that essentially they get free speech when it's their ox being gored, but when it's the other side's ox being gored, they enjoy it. And sometimes they're saying it's like, okay, well, tables are turned now. Now I'm going to take advantage of it. And that's not the way we want to stop the seesaw of I get to censor you, you get to censor me. We want the whole thing to stop, not just change the political valence of it. [00:27:28] Speaker A: All right. Our friend on Facebook. Zach Carter has a question, which anticipates one of mine, which is about which campuses have the most egregious speech code. So, Zach, you are going to love this resource that they have developed over at fire, their free speech rankings for campuses. So we'll put that link in there. But, yeah, I know my alma mater at the very bottom of the list in terms of having the most restrictive free speech, although Claudine gay seems to have discovered a newfound respect for free speech. So talk a little bit about the rankings when they started, what goes into them? It looks like an enormous amount of research, what the criteria are. [00:28:25] Speaker B: Yeah, so I'm very proud of the rankings. Coddling of the american mind was sort of a bit of a proof of concept that our shop that was largely dominated by constitutional lawyers really needed more social scientists, more statisticians, more psychologists on staff in order to do really meaningful mean. When we were writing coddling, Pamela Peretzky was my chief researcher. She was great to work with, but that was basically like me pretending to be a social scientist. I'm just a constitutional lawyer and getting a little bit of help. But because we were able to reach so many people with that book, it led to the creation of a larger, more professionalized research department. And we've been able to bring in rock stars like Sean Stevens, for example, to the team. If you study, like, political polarization on campus and beyond, you've read his work. And every year we've been trying to expand and improve the campus free speech ranking. And this year we have the most accurate version of it so far. And what I mean by accurate is it took us a while to develop the largest database on professor cancellation ever assembled. Same thing with student cancellations, same thing with deplatforming, and same thing with speech codes. Speech codes was the one that we had going back substantially further, that was the first thing that we got. Add to that the largest survey of student opinion ever conducted, and we factor all these 13 different factors in a variety of ways. And to give a picture that goes beyond just if you have a bad speech code. And Harvard finished dead last. They got a negative ten point 69. Nobody had ever gotten a negative score, because you get negatives when you allow for deep platforming or allow professors to be fired or facilitate illiberalism. And Harvard finished dead last. Penn finished second to last. It was rich during the anti semitism hearings to hear them suddenly act like they'd all been like, these are schools that had been great on free speech. When it's like, I'm sorry, that just isn't true. And McGill stepped down from Penn. And even though there's concern, and rightfully concerned that the message that some schools could be taking from McGill stepping down was clamped down on free speech more the day before. Two days before she actually stepped down, she said, you know what? I was wrong. During the hearings, we're going to consider de linking our policies from constitutional standards. And it was just like, okay, this has already been the case. You've already given administrators way too much power to police speech and they're doing it all the time and they're doing it oftentimes against conservatives, but not exclusively. This is what you've been doing for ages, which is one of the reasons why canceling of the american mind coming out right when it did was such a useful thing to have out there, because it's like, look at what a disaster this has actually been. So we take her stepping down as a step in the right direction, particularly because the Penn alumni came out with a vision statement for what the future of Penn should look like. And it's fantastic. On free speech, on intellectual diversity, on getting rid of ideology, deep bureaucratizing, all these things that campuses desperately need. [00:31:57] Speaker A: All right, some questions along similar lines. Jackson Sinclair on Facebook asks, if we look at things over a big time span, is the US becoming more free speech oriented or less? Also, Kingfisher 21 on YouTube asks what has been the biggest setback to free speech on campuses. Georgie Alexopoulos on Facebook, what is the general sentiment among Americans in regard to the current state of free speech? It doesn't seem to be something addressed much outside of this space. So, yeah, maybe taking a step back at the historical span, one of the things I thought was interesting in the book that I didn't realize that even though we had the First Amendment, it really didn't gain traction. It wasn't really enforced and taken seriously for a while. [00:33:09] Speaker B: So trying to figure out which one to begin with here, what do I think the biggest setback for free speech on campus? [00:33:16] Speaker A: The biggest setback, kind of evolving attitudes about free speech. Do we have more free speech today than we did, say, in the 50s or that kind of thing? [00:33:29] Speaker B: This is a major point in counseling in the american mind. It's about the evolution of our attitudes about free speech. And we make a distinction in the book that I think is very important for people to know and understand, which is between free speech law and free speech culture. And free speech law in the United States right now is very strong. The First Amendment is very strongly interpreted. But why? It's because the lawyers currently interpreting it were largely educated during a time in which free speech culture was very strong. The idea that everyone is entitled to their opinion, that just like mill pointed out, in order to censor, you're basically saying you're all knowing. All of these ideas that we grew up with, people my age grew up with, embodied in sayings like, everyone's entitled to their opinion, to each their own. For that matter, not my cup of tea. Don't judge a book by its cover. All of these ideas that my co author, by the way, who's 23, almost never heard, they've kind of gone by the wayside, replaced with a very invasive kind of notion that we have to root out and destroy hate speech and misinformation and disinformation, which are, of course, all excuses for massive government power over freedom of speech. So I would say the law is very strong, the culture is in trouble, and the law will not stay in good shape as long as the culture of free speech is in trouble. And that's one of the major messages of the book as far as developments that have been a major hindrance to free speech campuses becoming hyper bureaucratized and losing all their viewpoint. Diversity is one of the reasons why we're in this mess right now. And it's hard to imagine any way to dig out of this that doesn't involve massively de bureaucratizing universities and for that matter, having entirely new institutions that don't drift in this purely ideological direction. [00:35:35] Speaker A: That was another interesting aspect in the book, was talking about what percentage of students at elite colleges are some combination of legacy students, children of administrators. I mean, that was shocking to me that in a way, this is just this self perpetuating nepotism machine where administrators are having their children get into these schools. And that just seems completely corrupt. [00:36:14] Speaker B: I think that legacy admissions and the practice of professors getting to send their kids to the schools that they teach at, I think they make the sort of bargain in higher ed today all that much more corrupt. And I think it leads to there's a book called Poison Ivy by Evan Mandry. It comes from much more sort of like a left leaning perspective, but it makes an argument that I'm very sympathetic to, which is a class one, because I went to Stanford for law school, and that was a culture shift because I didn't grow up with money and getting plugged in. But I always appreciated the fact that Stanford was the kind of place that I could get into, and that my best friend to this day, from Stanford, who was a carpenter for ten years before Stanford could get into. But then when you look at the data, it's like for every working class kid like me, it's another several hundred kids who get to stay in the highest socioeconomic class. And I think that one of the reasons why people aren't just giving up on Harvard and Penn is because they still kind of want their kids to go there. And I think that this is unhealthy to american society. I think it is kind of a corrupt bargain because I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we imagined that some of these massive donors to Harvard, et cetera, don't at least partially have in their head, oh, well, I can get my kids, my grandkids, my friends know in there, or at least it will help me get them in there if I'm a massive donor to them. So I think the skepticism of particularly elite higher education is warranted. And it's one of the reasons why I bring up experimental projects like University of Austin to everybody who listen, because we don't just need one experiment like that. We need a thousand. [00:38:08] Speaker A: I had Pano canelos on the show, I think it's two weeks ago, and excited to learn that they are going to be welcoming their founding class over at the University of Austin. So that was super. Know, we talked a bit about your very even handed treatment in the book about kind of the cancel culture of the left and of the, you know, in a lot of the polling data I've seen suggests that those on the left are far more likely to support free speech, far more likely to support things like speech codes and take a more expansive view of what constitutes hate speech. Am I missing something? [00:38:59] Speaker B: No, you're not. And that's what I call the slow motion train wreck in the book, that essentially it was a very intentional effort to get people to get older. Liberals who were good on free speech to be replaced with younger progressives who are not. And when you look at the polling, people on the left who are above, say, 45 actually still are quite good on free speech. That's also, of course, true on the right as well. And as you get 45 and older, they tend to get better and better, both on the right and the left. Millennials, unfortunately, which is about 45 to 30, we call them the into deepables in our research that millennials on the left are too comfortable with censorship. Not all of them, of course, but that's troubling, and that's the trend that we saw coming when it comes to people on the left younger than 30, it's a little bit more of a mixed bag, partially because they haven't really been taught a lot about free speech. So we call them the reachables. So a big part of what we were trying to do. So fire launched an expansion in 2022. We changed from being the foundation for individual rights in education to being the foundation for individual rights and expression, with the goal of reaching well beyond campus to promote not just First Amendment, but free speech and free speech culture. And what we needed to do was create what we call sometimes a free speech movement or a free speech army of a million supporters of free speech. And a big part of the goal was to make sure that it wasn't just all people on the right, because people on the right do pull at this point, much better on freedom of speech. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to stay that way, but that's the moment that we're in creating. And we thought we'd need three years to make this 1 million person army. We're only about a year and a half into the expansion, and we're already at over 800,000 people. And we actually have a pretty close to even number of people on the left and the right. Because if it's just on the right, then the movement can be dismissed when it's genuinely bipartisan. But of course, that means that a lot of the people that we're bringing over are older liberals. But as long as we end that, and we're trying to do our best to reach some of the younger people to explain some of these concepts that nobody's bothered to teach them about free speech. [00:41:35] Speaker A: Interesting. I'm going to dive into some more audience questions, but first, one of the strongest arguments that I saw in your book for fostering a free speech culture was about how censorship and canceling increases polarization. This is also something that I talked to Eric Kaufman of Whiteshift in terms of when you restrict the bounds of polite speech, when people have dissenting views on, say, transgenderism or what's the optimal pace of immigration, and you start to demonize and stigmatize those voices with all kinds of this phobic and that phobic, that they don't magically change their minds. Talk a little bit about that, as you explained in the book. [00:42:36] Speaker B: Yeah. So there's this very. Well, one of the interesting things about my career, and one reason why I'm so thankful to fires board, is they let me sometimes do things that don't immediately strike people as like, is that know as much about the amendment. And obviously, I have an intense interest in social psychology, and that's one of the reasons why me and John Height are friends. That's why we wrote a book about social psychology together. But one thing that's interesting about being specialized in kind of two different fields is that in constitutional law, there's this idea that you don't want to have censorship because it will push people underground and it will fester. Now, that's a good argument, but not as persuasively made as I think it should be if you actually understood what group polarization is in social psychology. And group polarization is a pretty common sense thing that if you go to a group of, I'm sure this happens sometimes at Atlas society events, is that when a bunch of objectivists talk to each other, you come away feeling kind of, yay, team. And this happens for everybody. Essentially, if you get together and you have a conversation with like minded people, you tend to leave that meeting a little bit more in that direction. And this is a very reliable. Yeah, it's a very reliable finding that essentially, if you take, you have twelve people, six on the left and six on the right, you poll them before what their political opinions are, but then you have them go talk about them with people just on their side, they come back much more radicalized in that direction. So that's really well established. But what people miss is that that's what censorship does as well, because censorship, like you said, doesn't change people's minds. It just goes, you know what? It's too risky for me to talk to someone who might disagree with me, like I might get on campus, honestly, you might get reported to the bias related incident program. So because this is the policy here, I'm just going to talk to people who already agree with me. And that sends group polarization spiraling off. And we have some really interesting data in canceling the american mind, showing that people who are kicked off Twitter, for example, in 2017 for some of the pro Trump statements, that they went to other platforms where they got much more radicalized. So to me, it's obvious that group polarization would take over when you have censorship. I think this is exactly what's happened in Europe to a degree that essentially, I was on the bill Maher show and talking about how bad anti semitism has gotten in France, for example. And it's like, yeah, because you banned anti semitic speech. I think going back in the 90s. What does that do? That means basically it's telling your entire population that antisemites should only talk to other antisemites. And it's like, well, of course it's going to get worse under those circumstances. And it has, by the way, and by the numbers, the anti semitism was worse in France in the 90s than it was in the United States, but now it's much worse. [00:45:49] Speaker A: Well, some of their immigration patterns also might have something to do with that. [00:45:53] Speaker B: Yeah, probably. [00:45:55] Speaker A: Okay, these are two great questions on Instagram. Rachel Zelle is asking about the college rankings. And could you explain more about the warning schools like Hillsdale and Pepperdine? [00:46:10] Speaker B: Yeah, the warning schools. It means something a lot less pernicious than people think. Hillsdale is objected to be called a warning school, but I think they're misunderstanding what it means to be a warning school. Hillsdale does not have strong promises of freedom of speech in its policies. And that means if you get in trouble at Hillsdale, you're not going to have any legal for your speech. You're not really going to have any legal recourse. Whereas if you were at a school that had strong promises of free speech, even a private school, you could actually say that they violated my contract. So the only warning is the idea that you won't have legal recourse if your speech has violated a school that doesn't have strong promises. The other schools that obviously have to have free speech protections are public universities, which are directly bound by the First Amendment and also, by the way, non sectarian schools in California. Now, as far as the way Hillsdale scores otherwise, though, in our policies, they do phenomenally among schools that don't promise freedom of speech, they get incredibly high ratings for ability to talk across lines of difference, to have debates. And it really does come off as a school with a strong free speech culture, which I find admirable. But because they don't actually promise free speech, like I said, you wouldn't have a legal recourse if you got in trouble for your speech there. That's all that term means. [00:47:31] Speaker A: All right, Kendall, 911 on X asks, what is free speech like in high school and elementary schools? Is that a big concern? [00:47:43] Speaker B: Free speech has been in trouble in high school and elementary school for quite some time. It's interesting, though, there's been a lot of misunderstanding of whose free speech rights matter the most. In k through twelve, we wrote a big article called 13 things to know about the divisive concept bills, which was the most read thing on the Fire website a couple of years ago, which I still think is quite good. Parsing through this, there's been an argument I mentioned, the stop woke act in Florida. But sometimes when people know that we oppose that, they'll see some of these laws that apply to k through twelve curriculum and say, well, surely you oppose these as well. It's like, no, if it's a public school and it's mandatory and my kids, you know, my kids go to actually public schools where I live. Of course there's going to be democratic oversight of it. You don't want a situation in which parents have no say so in something that they're paying for and are forced to go to. So having a democratic role for deciding what curriculum is, is, in my opinion, appropriate unless and until you actually end up in a situation where it's not mandatory and you're not paying for it. Although I do, by the way, mention in the book that by the time I was done with this book, I'm like, okay, I'm also pro vouchers at this point. I've definitely come around to that argument. So is my co author. So when it comes to k through twelve teachers speech on the job, that's considered. They don't really have strong free speech, right? So they're supposed to teach what the curriculum says off the job, it's a little different. But the main free speech actors in k through twelve are the students and the parents. And of course, as you go down in age, the argument for greater regulation is considered more compelling. But as you get up through high school, there are some good decisions on the books that actually indicate that high schoolers do have free speech rights. And we've seen a lot of abuses of those cases, though we have a particularly ridiculous case. You would think after doing this 22 years that nothing would surprise me anymore. But thankfully, sometimes we will just have these utterly ridiculous cases that are both horrifying but kind of funny. And this is a case where a student who he put, what's it called? Eye black or face black, like the stuff that football players use to put under their eyes. [00:50:12] Speaker A: Antireflective. [00:50:14] Speaker B: Yeah. And he had maybe about this much on it for like a homecoming thing. And he got brought up in charges of being in blackface. And if you could see this picture, it's like, no. You get the impression that he covered his whole body and it's like, no, it's just obviously eye black. It's the single football players wear. And we're fighting that case out right now. And you see ridiculous cases of limitations on high school students. Right. All the time. Oh, another case that we have is a let's go brandon t shirt, where shirts with slogans were allowed at this particular high school, but they went after a kid for having a shirt that said, let's go, brandon on it. And the argument was, well, let's go, Brandon is a reference to rude words. And it's, no, no, you can't have a rule that something that makes you think about rude words is actually banned at this particular school. So the state of free speech in high school is not great, to be honest. But I am excited that because fire is expanded and we don't just do higher education anymore, we have a number of fun lawsuits there. And if you know high school students who are getting in trouble for their free speech, bring it to thefire.org. [00:51:30] Speaker A: All right. In a few minutes, we have left. You have a great section at the end of the book, which is what we can do about it. So I don't know if you want to talk either about some of the advice that you have for parents or what it means to foster a free speech culture at corporations. Anything that you'd like to touch on there with some advice? [00:51:58] Speaker B: Well, we've expanded on some of that [email protected]. We have a list of ten things that every university president can do that we think are common sense to improve the free speech climate on their campuses. It's getting some nice pickup. Obviously, I think the strongest reform needs to be in our approach to higher ed, which we've talked about, but partially because we do think that this is such a difficult problem, we spend a third of the book talking about it. And we start first with parenting about how to raise kids. And of course, parents are always like, how do I keep my kids from being, from being canceled? I'm like, honestly, the better question is, how do you keep your kids from being cancellers? How do you have kids who will stand up for their friends and will have their back when the cancel mob comes for them? And that's something that I think that teaching some amount of bravery in a time of cowardice is essential. As far as your listeners who are business leaders, we have a chapter called how to keep your corporation out of the culture war, which we really recommend. Height and I, when we did a talk about this, was horrified to see people in aerospace raising their heads, saying that they're having, forgive the expression, wokeness problems among their staff. And we advocate everything from expanding your idea of diversity, making sure that our ridiculous over dependence on what I sometimes derisively call the fancies, the fanciest schools is, I think, harmful. But also, you have to be really sure that you're not hiring counselors, you're not hiring the kind of people who elite colleges tend to produce, who will show up and be like, by the way, if I'm working here, you have to take a pro palestinian standpoint publicly. And by the way, that it guy who seems vaguely trumpy, he's got to go. You don't want to work with people who cannot stomach being around people they disagree with. They can be so destructive to an organization. So I really recommend the chapter on how to keep your corporation out of the culture war. And lastly, we kind of sketch it out, but I have it in much greater detail, principles for k through twelve reform. That rather than just having these, because even though the divisive concept bills are directed at k through twelve, I think they're constitutional. I think that they focus on what they don't want people teaching. What I think would be better would be have a positive vision of ideals that are incompatible with some of the more reductive identity politics, for example, and more of what we call in coddling the american mind, the common enemy. Identity politics that's so toxic. [00:54:54] Speaker A: Well, this is great stuff everyone. It's the canceling of the american mind. Cancel culture undermines trust and threatens us all. But there is a solution. So highly recommend. Also has a great audible version read. [00:55:14] Speaker B: By my co author. [00:55:15] Speaker A: That's right, yeah, she's the best. Fantastic. And congratulations on the expansion at fire. And just thank you for all of the phenomenal work, Greg, this has been really terrific. [00:55:28] Speaker B: Real pleasure chatting with you, and thanks. [00:55:31] Speaker A: To all of you who joined us. Thanks for your great questions. If you enjoy these podcasts, if you enjoy the work of the Atlas Society, we have just a few more days of the year, so perhaps you'll consider making your first time tax deductible donation to the Atlas society. If you are a first time donor, your $510 will be matched. You can go to atlassociety.org, donate to do that, and then please be sure to join us. Next week we are going to talk to someone who is no stranger to cancel culture. Dr. Robert Malone, father of mrna vaccines, is going to join us to talk about his book lies my government told me. So we'll see you then. [00:56:18] Speaker B: Thanks, bye.

Other Episodes

Episode

February 23, 2023 00:57:24
Episode Cover

The Atlas Society Asks Esther Wojcicki

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 141st episode of The Atlas Society Asks where she interviews journalist and educator Esther Wojcicki. Listen as they...

Listen

Episode 0

December 16, 2020 01:02:25
Episode Cover

The Atlas Society Asks Johan Norberg

Johan Norberg is the author of several books, including the newly released "Open: The Story of Human Progress," which argues that the key to...

Listen

Episode

October 06, 2023 00:57:34
Episode Cover

The Atlas Society Asks Chris Stirewalt

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 172nd episode of The Atlas Society Asks where she interviews Senior Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute Chris...

Listen