Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hi everyone. And welcome to the 91st episode of the Atlas society asks. My name is Jennifer on Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I'm the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading organization, introducing young people to the ideas of iron Rand in fun, creative ways like graphic novels and animated videos. Today, we are joined by Robbie suave a before I even begin to introduce our guests, I wanted to remind all of you who are watching us on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube. Please use the comment section and type in your questions. We're going to get to as many of them as we can. So Robbie suave is a journalist and senior editor for reason magazine named by Forbes in their 20 16 30 under 30 list in the category of law and policy swab, they won widespread recognition for challenging media malpractice. First during the 2014 debunking of the rolling stone hoax article about sexual assault at the university of Virginia. And then again in 2019, countering the defamation of Covington Catholic students at the Lincoln Memorial instant. We're going to cover those. He's also the author of two books, panic attack, young radicals in the age of Trump and tech Cannock. Why we shouldn't fear Facebook and the future. Robbie, welcome again. Thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:44 Thanks for having me great to talk with you.
Speaker 0 00:01:47 So the subtitle of your book is why we shouldn't fear Facebook and the future last week, Facebook stock fell 26% erasing, more than 230 billion in value. Uh, what do you make of that? And is that maybe one more reason why we shouldn't see a Facebook?
Speaker 1 00:02:08 No, it, it, it absolutely is part of my pitch for not being so afraid of Facebook that we need to stick a government on them, a policy outcome that is now something, both Republicans and Democrats are, have become increasingly interested in and something I'm warning against. One of the reasons not to bother is I, I don't believe I don't buy that. They are in this an impossible to dislodge undefeatable position of monopoly dominance. Uh, and this is evidence. I think that that's true. You know, when I look at Facebook, I see actually a humbled, a humiliated, a weakened company that is, is not as popular as it once was. It is struggling to attract the users. It wants, it wants a young users. That's what advertisers care about. That's what its own analytics care about. It cares about the younger demographic, but young people, you know, I have moved on, I'm not counting myself.
Speaker 1 00:03:03 I'm in a middle tier of, of age cohort now. And even I find Facebook to be a little, um, to be outdated or would be something mostly older Americans use, which is perfectly fine from that. For them, there's not what Facebook wants. The kids are into even Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. So it was giving them a little bit of a, of a staying power. You know, the new thing is it's Snapchat and then it's tick tock. Tick tock has, has surpassed Google as the main social media site, which is, you know, worrisome for other reasons because it's, it's, it's not an American company, but, uh, but if the fear is Facebook, I, I think that fear is proving to be not so you know, not so not so real. Um, it's not the case that the government needs to destroy this company. It's doing a perfectly good job of kind of discrediting itself on its own.
Speaker 0 00:03:53 So, uh, one of the issues you cover in the book, you acknowledge a kind of anti-conservative bias of social media companies. I mean, part of which I think is driving users to other platforms like rumble and gab and parlor, uh, and you know, you provide some examples of that, the suppression of the hunter Biden laptop story, uh, on, on Google, um, and on Twitter being one of the most egregious examples, but you argue that on balance, social media has been a widely positive thing for voices on the right. How so? And maybe give some examples.
Speaker 1 00:04:35 Absolutely. So I certainly acknowledge that there have been individual content moderation decisions on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube, et cetera, that have been on that I think were unfair and that were unfriendly to conservative or libertarian or non-liberal speech. I actually had happens to leftist too. You know, people who fall outside the kind of mainstream media, liberal consensus have been at risk of being silenced on these platforms. And I have denounced it when it happens. I think a lot of it was bad. The hunter Biden example, being this kind of quintessential example of, of, uh, of, uh, absolutely a call, they got wrong. One, they admit they got wrong. By the way, they've actually apologized and said, yes, we got that wrong. But on the whole, on the whole effect, considering the whole effect of social media, I don't think you would say that social media has been bad for conservatives on the contrary.
Speaker 1 00:05:25 I think you would say social media has been good for non-liberal speech. There are specific things you can point to. If you look the top 10 articles being shared news articles on Facebook at any given day, more often than not, they are from conservative news outlets, Dan bond, Gino and Ben Shapiro do particularly well. Tucker Carlson, Breitbart, um, the daily caller or the daily wire. There are days where like eight of the top 10 or nine of the top 10 or 10 of the top 10 are all these articles. So you, you can't, you know, you can certainly argue. And I would agree that there are individual cases where conservatives have been silenced, but overall the social media environment has broken the gatekeeping, the guard rails of the mainstream media. They have allowed the centers, provocative speech contrarians to voice their views. And yes, sometimes Facebook and the other sites come down on them in a heavy-handed way and they silence them.
Speaker 1 00:06:23 And I'm against that, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water here. Any campaign, any political effort to break up Facebook or to break up Twitter is aimed at the very platforms that are giving voices to different views. All of the time, I do want to go back to an era where, you know, it's just a couple of what news channels, just a couple of newspapers. the conversations that we're having on social media w it was not, it was not possible 10, 20, 50 years ago. The mainstream media is the most in favor of breaking up social media of all as our democratic politicians. That should give us pause if these people want to destroy these companies, because they think there's too much free speech happening that should tell us something. We should listen to them. They, they, we should be warned by the fact that they want to do that. And we should think twice.
Speaker 0 00:07:18 So, uh, some of the conservative concerns we've talked about, um, and tell us about kind of the push from the left. Is it that conservatives are wildly popular on social media and Facebook, or, uh, is there something else going on?
Speaker 1 00:07:36 Well, I mean, people in the kind of progressive liberal sphere, many of them, I think, understand that social media on net has been good for their enemies has been, has been good for us, and they want to do something about it. They, they attribute, uh, and I think this is wrong, but they attribute, you know, Donald Trump's victory in 2016 to Facebook. And remember that news cycle that Facebook allowed too many, uh, you know, Russia influenced that kind of stuff. Now, I don't, I, I think that is wrong. Uh, there's a lot of actual misinformation in liberal circles about how much influence there is from foreign entities and others on Facebook. So I think they're, I think they're misguided on some of that stuff. Um, like you could never persuade me that the, the small number of, of bots and groups that were of Russian origin was like the decisive factor in the 2016 election.
Speaker 1 00:08:28 I mean, you have to think that through for a minute, like this was targeted at a small number of people, but like cable news, regardless of which of what you're watching is a 24 hour, seven days a week, propaganda commercial on behalf of Trump or against Trump, depending on who you're watching, like why w we ascribe to the more recent technical logical innovations, all the bad stuff, which is, which is nothing new by the way, like throughout, you know, the blamed on TV could be blamed on radio. Before that, I have examples in my book of like the New York times being against the phonograph, when it debuts like every new innovation in the communication space always makes you go, oh no, what if now anyone can speak and use this. And I don't can't control it anymore. That's what we're seeing now. But, but the, the, the progressives really do understand many of them that their ability to control the conversation has been altered by the presence of social media.
Speaker 0 00:09:24 So at the heart of this controversy is, is a debate over whether section two 30 of the communications decency act should be amended or repealed. So what is section two 30? And why do you argue against repealing it?
Speaker 1 00:09:40 That is a great question. So section two 30 is this statute that's got more attention lately. It dates back to the 1990s. So the purpose of section two 30 is that it provides immunity from, uh, from liability risk from skew. So you can't Sue Facebook. You can't Sue Twitter. If you, if there's speech on there, that's defamatory. Now you can Sue. You can Sue. So if I, if I defame you on Facebook, you can Sue me. You can't Sue Facebook, which is different than because if I defame you in the pages of reason magazine, you could Sue me. Andrew could Sue reason magazine, but there's special protection for online web platforms. Um, now that protection is not just for web companies. It reason in our, you know, to the extent we're an online publication as well. Our comments, if someone defames you in the comments, that reason.com you can Sue that person, but not us, but so, so the company speeches, the companies, but other people's speech on an online platform is just there's.
Speaker 1 00:10:36 So section two 30 is, was designed with that in mind. It's what, uh, let the internet kind of develop the way it is, because imagine if you could Sue Facebook for defamatory comments posted by people on Facebook, how it wouldn't even work, it would, they would not be able to let anyone post it will, if they undertook liability risk for every single post. I mean, that would be the end of social media. As we know it, you can't at best, they would perhaps default to a system where only verified and trusted you users could post it will, which does not seem to me like a recipe for conservatives to come out ahead. Like, what if Twitter changes it to only people with blue check marks can post it will, that's not gonna, that's not gonna benefit, uh, conservatives or libertarians or provocative's or contrarion people.
Speaker 1 00:11:22 So again, this seems like a, to the extent we're talking about getting rid of this protection of the companies, I understand why we're mad at them. I get that I'm mad at them sometimes too, but we'd be shooting, shooting ourselves in the foot to get rid of these protections. These are the protections that make it easier for them to platform speech they don't like and disagree with you take away that protection. It's that kind of speech that they're going to clamp down on, even harder. So it might, you know, it might feel satisfying to make it easier for people to Sue Facebook and Twitter. Certainly trial lawyers would love it. It would be great for them. They'd be very happy about it. I don't see how this is a longterm winning strategy for the expansion of permissible speech on social media. Maybe there are tweaks you could make, that would be inoffensive. You know, I'm, there, there are certain areas of social media where I think perhaps small areas laws could be improved or government could do more, but on the, this, these kinds of broad speech, uh, viewpoint discrimination, those kinds of questions, we would risk doing ourselves much greater harm to, to undermine these liability protections.
Speaker 0 00:12:23 What about some of the other arguments? Um, some have tried to push for breaking up entities like Google or Facebook on antitrust grounds. What are some of the merits or flaws of that approach? So
Speaker 1 00:12:37 The issue here is that our current understanding of antitrust just does not cover the, the, the, the case, these cases. So antitrust, the theory of antitrust is harm to the consumer. You can't really show, even if you accept. I think Google is the, is the clear co is closest to meeting the definition of a monopoly. I am actually more concerned about Google's behavior than, um, than Facebook and Twitter, certainly. Um, but even, so can you demonstrate that face the, that, that, uh, Google or Facebook through their, you know, enormous power, are they harming their users? Are they harming their customers? Not like it's a free service, right? It's not like the oil company that has all the oil, and then it can raise the price of oil. Like that's the situation antitrust law is designed to prevent, but if Facebook started charging us, we would just not use it.
Speaker 1 00:13:28 I mean, it's not a, it it's, it makes money off advertisers. Um, it like it's selling a curated user experience. It's, it's just, it's, it's monopoly power cannot is not wielded against customers, consumers in the way that we consider traditional monopolies to do so you would, you would need to change what antitrust is. You need new laws to say that, know how these companies treat their competitors can count as like, you know, Facebook, uh, or, or, or the Amazon, the web hosting services, how they treat parlor versus Facebook or something. You have to say that that's not covered under anti-trust right now. So, so at best we need some vast new kind of antitrust law to cover these problems. I'm not convinced that breaking up these companies would solve the issues conservatives care about, because what if there's 10 Facebooks, all of a sudden like mark, the mark Zuckerberg is warts and all is the most committed to free speech.
Speaker 1 00:14:23 And first amendment principles of anyone who works at the company. So if you have 10 Facebooks, you probably have nine companies that are even less friendly to conservative speech and one still controlled by mark Zuckerberg. So again, that doesn't also, and also the more bureaucrats you unleash on these companies, you can say your concern is, is, you know, silencing, censorship, all that kind of stuff. You either senators can say that at the hearing, but the people you unleash on these companies who work at the FTC, the FCC will invariably be progressed, progressives that only care that these companies make too much money. So there's no w w we can't, I I'm, I very much do not believe we can sick the state on these companies in a way that it will actually end up speaking to our concerns.
Speaker 0 00:15:08 So, um, beyond bias, which we talked about, you mentioned some other concerns, uh, in your book that people have raised, um, one of them, and maybe this is a concern that is raised more by the left rather than the right. Um, you can correct me is this issue of radicalization that people are going to go down a rabbit hole and they were just, you know, watching the Disney trailer. And then all of a sudden they're off on an Alex Jones website. Um, you argue that actually the opposite is more likely to take place. Is that right?
Speaker 1 00:15:43 Yeah, that's right. You know, this is a, this is a huge liberal concern. Uh, it kind of dovetails with the concern about misinformation being spread, all that, of course, you know, some of what the mainstream media and liberals and Democrats say is misinformation with respect to, for instance, COVID-19, I do not think is misinformation. You know, you can be silenced for just kind of discussing the lab lead theory or wondering if mass mandates in schools are actually having this positive effect. There are people who would label that kind of thing, misinformation, so that, you know, concerns about viral misinformation spreading that kind of stuff I think are often unfounded, but the, you know, the, the specific concern that right, YouTube young people are tumbling down this, this, this rabbit hole of videos where they, they get, they encounter more extreme and more extreme content. And then they turn into like little Nazis or something it's happened a couple of times.
Speaker 1 00:16:33 It doesn't seem to be the normal YouTube experience. Actually, these platforms often steer people who are flirting with, with truly violent, dangerous, bad stuff, uh, ISIS stuff, Alex Jones, whatever it, it tends to steer them back toward, uh, toward normal world. Um, so that's, uh, you know, it's not every time there's there. Certainly they've had, you know, times where the algorithm was not as good and they've made changes. They'd been responsible, responsive to what people have said. And they've, you know, they've made changes that are fine actually, right now, like Facebook has, is just de prioritizing news in general is it's hurt. It's hurting, hurting my business. All my friends at other publications were feeling this too. Like the, the, the traffic we're getting to our websites for news has been way turned down, but you know what it's Facebook's company, if they decide, you know, what we think our users would rather just kind of interact with their, you know, like their friends, posts, pictures, things like that.
Speaker 1 00:17:30 And they're kind of sick of seeing so much news. We're going to turn down news a little bit, you know, what, it's their company and cool. Might've say that's the wrong call. So a lot of, some of this is us trying to second. Guess what, like every people in a voluntary kind of association are deciding, like, if you don't like the experience on these websites, you leave them. They're not, it's not providing a vital service. It's, uh, there, there are, there is some competition between the platforms and they're, I'm glad there's even more competition coming along with rumble. And some of the others, I absolutely think they should. They should face, you know, competition along these kind of axes. And they do. They do. In fact, you, you can't convince me that they're in this unbeatable position. You can never overcome them because they came out of nowhere, like Facebook, just out, competed my space out of nowhere to become the dominant social media site in that, in that, in that space, Google search engine just was better than what was, what was in the market.
Speaker 1 00:18:24 And all of a sudden, it's, it's the one everyone wants to use it. Like, it's the one everyone wants to use, which is why it's so weird to hear like government regulators say no. Google is, even though I, I think there are some issues with Google, they'll say like, yes, Google is so evil and so bad, and we have to do something about it. But it's the search engine that like 90% of people like and want, like, if it wasn't the default search engine on their phones, they would say, why isn't it? I want it to be so you're, you're you, you end up in a weird place where you're saying, no, the gov, the government somehow knows better than what people themselves are freely choosing. And like, they like these platforms. People like, people love Amazon. It's more popular in Congress. It's more popular than anything, but the military. So some of these like big tech is the worst thing ever, uh, concerns you hear from both Democrats and Republicans. I don't think track with most people's normal experience, which is that they're like generally having a good time and feel like these products have improved their lives.
Speaker 0 00:19:16 Well, if you are watching on Facebook or on Google or YouTube or, uh, Instagram, then shoot us a question and tell us, do you agree with Robbie? Um, do you have questions for him? What, what has your experience been like? So, uh, Robin, you also, in your book, you talk about the movie, the creepy line, which was a 2018 documentary film, uh, which actually received a lot of critical acclaim. It purported to show how social media sites manipulate, uh, users to spend more time and foster this kind of screen addiction in order to maximize revenues. But you have some issues with the film. What, what are those?
Speaker 1 00:20:03 Uh, and this is also true of the social dilemma, which is the one that came out on Netflix. Uh, you know, these concerns about it. Some of it is very, to me, reminiscent of moral panics about young people and you, the like are familiar to me as someone who remembers the, oh no, like violent video games or making kids violent, that kind of thing that all turned out to be like totally false. That social psychology research was completely rebuffed debunked. So I certainly think some young people are too addicted to social media and there can be negative outcomes, just like anything can be unhealthy for you if you do it to excess. And yes, the social media sites are trying to keep you logged on. They're trying. They want you to keep scrolling they're for your attention. It's the, it's the most important finite resource there now is I get all of that.
Speaker 1 00:20:53 I don't really, I don't believe I don't accept that they're capable of mind control that we just can't help ourselves. We're just so we're so all addicted. We can't look away. We can't log off. I don't buy that. Those claims have been made about advertising in general for 57, 70 years. Remember, there's this old book, the hidden persuaders about how the kind of mad men era, the sixties advertising about how they had totally hacked the human brain and they just totally controlled you. And you would be buying products that without your even awareness, you're subconsciously reacting to the ads, guess what? That was all nonsense. That was all made up. It's not true. Like advertising is a very difficult and subtle, uh, field of, of psychology. So I tend to, I suspect we'll find out that a lot of what we're talking about now is similar to that, that it's not nearly as, as, uh, as scary or creepy as, as we think it to be also to the extent that they're using, you know, they're, they're getting information about you.
Speaker 1 00:21:50 And I don't want them to share that information with the government. Like I have privacy concerns, certainly. But to the extent they're just learning about you so they can show you advertisements that are more relevant to your interests. We have to be a little wary about saying that that's even a bad thing. Like when I'm watching TV, I'm seeing advertisements and like I'm trying to fast forward them because it's like cereal or something. I don't even eat cereal. This advertisement is irrelevant to me, but the advertisements I see on Facebook and elsewhere, well, they're often not always, but they're often relevant to my interests because they know something about me that the TV doesn't, and it's better, it's an improved user experience. That's and that's what their business model is that they're there. So it's a win it's like, it's a, win-win, I'm using this service for free.
Speaker 1 00:22:29 They're learning a little bit about me and sharing that information with avatar advertisers so that I might buy something that I like again, where is the, like, where is the downside to this? Certainly, theoretically, we can understand if they're like compiling, you know, profiles of us and they intricately know our habits. And then that, that information ends up in government hands. Yes, absolutely government bad, but that's the part of it I I'm concerned about. And I think some of the other stuff is just kind of an attack on capitalism, like itself. Like the, again, this is the, the left finds that process of them trying to sell them, uh, advertisers, trying to sell you things you might want as, as nefarious itself. And I don't feel that way cause I'm a free market libertarian.
Speaker 0 00:23:10 I have, yeah, I have to say, um, my, I don't know what I would do without my Instagram ads, my entire wardrobe. Um, no,
Speaker 1 00:23:18 Absolutely.
Speaker 0 00:23:20 Uh, but speaking of an attack on capitalism and capitalism itself and your conclusion you use, of course, our favorite book, Atlas shrug as an analogy and pointing out how some fans of iron Rand, uh, have, uh, are behaving like Wesley Mouches rather than John Galt.
Speaker 1 00:23:41 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was specifically calling out Ted Cruz. You know, when I, when I was talking about this Ted Cruz, someone who has said, I I'm quite sure, he said that he draws inspiration from Atlas shrugged, and he's, you know, a free market guy in, in terms, in, in Republican circles. And that he's inspired by, I, I ran and she's this hero of his, but now he, and so many of his Republican colleagues are participating in co you know, summoning, mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, sooner Pokai and the, all the others too, before Congress, and then screaming at them that they don't like what, what those CEOs are doing with their products. And I'm, it occurs to me like, does, does it occur to Ted that he is taking the role here of like of the government science person, you know, screaming at a private entity that he doesn't like, the decisions they're making.
Speaker 1 00:24:32 And so I think that there's, I think there's a little bit of hypocrisy there and you see it every time this happens, these show trials for Zuckerberg and the others where whatever you think of these tech companies, whatever you think of these CEOs, and you think they've made mistakes, you don't agree with all their decisions. That's fine. I don't agree with everything they've done either, but you have to feel some sympathy for them. They're being yelled at by Democrats and Republicans who don't have the faintest idea, how these products work, who don't, who are frankly, very old on average and like are so out of touch with the technology itself. They have no qualifications whatsoever to pontificate on any of these things. They expose themselves in an embarrassing fashion, humiliating for them that they don't know what they're talking about. And yet, and yet they say some people can somehow still conclude that yes, the government really needs to get involved in this social media question. I don't understand it. I'm not there. I don't agree.
Speaker 0 00:25:26 All right. Let's grab some of these questions from you from Instagram Marcus spinosa asks Robbie, what do you think of the Alltech platforms like bitch shoot Odyssey? Are they gaining ground as market alternatives?
Speaker 1 00:25:41 Yes. Uh, so I am by no means an expert in these alternative platforms. Um, I in fact know very little about them. My colleagues at reason are much savvier and smarter about those things, but to the extent I hear about them, and I've been learning more about how they are, how they work and what they are. Yes, I am totally in favor of them. I think my colleague, Zach, Weissmuller, who's brilliant much smarter than I am at sort of crypto and alternative some of this stuff. Yes. He thinks a sort of massive decentralized internet via these platforms and these technologies is the future and it will be libertarian. It'll be beautiful. Wonderful. So I, yes, I'm, I'm all for it. Two thumbs up.
Speaker 0 00:26:22 Okay. CIBO 59 on YouTube asks. Could you ask Robbie point blank? What he thinks of iron Rand?
Speaker 1 00:26:30 I'm a fan. I'm a fan. I love her. So I have not read all of the, you know, canonical works. Um, I I've, you know, tried to get through Atlas. Right. Okay. I haven't gotten all the way through Atlas rug, but I loved her, uh, when I was much younger on, um, you know, the, the talk, the talk show guy. Um, what is that guy's name? I'm sure. You know? Uh, yes, yes. Um, and I, I loved those interviews. No Donahue. Yeah. I see someone posts the Donahue interviews. I loved the Donahue interviews and I drew a lot of, uh, a lot of inspiration. I call myself like a very, very light objectivist.
Speaker 0 00:27:06 Oh, well, wonderful, welcome. Um, we we'd love to have you, and we'll send you our pocket guide to outlet, shrunk, um, and encourage you to maybe do the audio version on your next, your next great idea. Um, so, okay. Scott Schiff, uh, asks, he's says doing that thing seems to him like a sure way to keep, uh, letting them act on checked. I think he's talking about sort of this bias, this cancel culture gains traction. Is there a place for a broader pro Liberty anti woke coalition?
Speaker 1 00:27:45 Yeah, look, I am all for that coalition. I write a lot in my normal kind of day job at reason. And now I have a YouTube show on the hill. Um, I talk a lot about cancel culture and sort of the, the illiberal forces of wokeness, you know, often these conversations get frustrating because yes, what can we actually do? And it's not satisfying. There's no satisfying answer because there just, isn't a policy answer to how to overcome broad social and cultural changes. You know, we just have to live our values push back at when we see private actors behaving badly, you can just say, you don't agree with this. I criticize the media constantly. I, that, it's almost my main kind of beat at this specific point is media criticism trying to hold the media accountable, trying to push them to be better calling them out when they get it wrong.
Speaker 1 00:28:35 But I, I, there is not a policy that we can't have, you know, the, the government should not be shutting down companies that are, that are, even though they are bad, right. We don't think they should be doing that. So I canceled culture specifically, you know, maybe we're going to burn ourselves out and we're just going to get sick. Or people in the media are going to get sick of, you know, writing articles about, you know, when you were, when you were in kindergarten and you said a nasty sexist thing or whatever, and now like you're going to have your Nobel prize taken away. I mean, that kind of stuff. I am just, I am advocating against it and I'm hoping we move on from it. I know it's, I don't have a satisfying note. Here's what we do. Here's how we'll beat it. I think people who are offering that, here's how we beat it.
Speaker 1 00:29:18 We're gonna, you know, get the government to have like a commissioners, like are, are very, are diluted, or they're giving you false hope that this can be solved through policy. It cannot maybe, maybe the closest thing to a policy solution is to change our education and the education system, right. Is massively under government control. We do not have to subsidize student loans for people to go to like a leap liberal arts colleges, where they gain the values that are hostile to individual Liberty. Sure. We can like, we can change those policies. I'm all for it. But there isn't an immediate societal policy change we can make.
Speaker 0 00:29:55 Is there actually an aspect of cancel culture? Because I mean, correct me if I'm wrong. I don't know if you've been tried to be canceled. Um, but in a way it's almost like a training program.
Speaker 1 00:30:11 It's a
Speaker 0 00:30:11 Badge of honor, but you know, it, it's also a way for people that were kind of formerly on the left or, you know, liberals who are horrified at this. And, um, it, it almost is seeming to kind of be an opportunity for people to reevaluate, uh, their, their assumptions, their cognitive commitments, because they're like, well, wow, this is, this is my team now. I'm not sure that this is okay with me.
Speaker 1 00:30:43 Oh, absolutely. There's a whole kind of group of, uh, I'm not sure exactly what, you know, what name to call them by. We've tried out different names, right. The intellectual dark web, but you know, the kind of
Speaker 0 00:30:55 Bret Weinstein, I mean, I don't know if he would have been such a, kind of a strong voice for,
Speaker 1 00:31:00 Uh, right. There's a lot of, yeah, right. There's a lot of the kind of anti-cancer culture are concerned about, well, crowd, a lot of people formerly of the left sometimes of the very hard left, um, in some, and you know, many of them still, uh, still to the left on certain issues, but, but very concerned about where the culture has gone in terms of being able to think and speak and share controversial ideas. Um, so yes, it's, it's, it's nice to have friends, you know, all over the political spectrum who feel that way.
Speaker 0 00:31:29 So, um, speaking of your bread and butter, um, your award that you got, uh, for, um, journalism, and it has been kind of challenging this media malpractice, um, in the intro, I mentioned two stories that you covered, uh, in which you challenged media malpractice. One of them being the Lincoln Memorial incident in which students of Covington high school, um, most notably Nicholas Sandman, uh, were accused of racially harassing a native American activists. So you saw what was kind of being circulated in the media and said, this doesn't quite look right. Tell us about the incident and what led you to uncover what really happened.
Speaker 1 00:32:13 Yeah, absolutely. You know, this was a rush to judgment that many in the media make a made based on this very short miss, as it turned out misleading video clip of these kids, supposedly harassing this native American man on the steps of the Capitol. When I sat down to write about it because a lot of people had already weighed in and I got a little lucky. I just so happened that I saw on social media. Well, now there's longer footage of the, of the video of the incident. So I said, well, I should probably watch the footage first. And it, and it was, it was quite long. And when you watch this hour plus of video footage from the, from the, from what happened before, it became so clear that the media had just gotten this like completely wrong, that there was so much else going on.
Speaker 1 00:32:59 There had been another group of people, uh, the, the black Hebrew Israelites, which is like a black nationalist hate group that I've encountered on the streets of DC. They yell like anti, like anti everything. Like anti-Jewish things, anti-women things, anti-gay things they're like, uh, they're just a group of crazy people. They were there harassing the boys, the Covington boys for like an hour, you know, before this. And what I saw from the, from the, from the teenagers was basically responsible behavior. Um, they, they, they didn't, they didn't fight with this group was looking for a fight and the teenagers weren't giving them one. Uh, and it was into that dynamic that this native American man and his entourage stumbled. And then they, and then he absolutely misrepresented the situation both as it was happening. And then to the media later saying that the boys were harassing this group and he was, you know, interceding so that the teens would stop harassing the black Hebrew Israelites, not at all what happened.
Speaker 1 00:33:55 Um, and then the, you know, the, the, the main focus of the media is ire Nicholas Sandman, this specific teenager who was accused of, you know, this angry, hate builds stare. When you, you know, when you see it in the broader context, he is, he is not doing anything. He didn't even get him the guy's way the guy got in his way. Um, he was not blocking his path. He was in fact shut. He had tried to tell one of his friends not to engage the native American man. So he was trying to deescalate, um, the escalation that everyone else was doing. So, so anyway, that, that, that's what the video showed to me. I wrote an article and then I was glad to see that begin to set the record straight. It, it was, you know, quickly retweeted my article by, um, a lot of people in the mainstream media who then did, you know, many of them did say they got it wrong, which is, you know, what else can you do? And then many of them got sued anyway, but still some other, still some very liberal kind of more opinion publications still cling to the idea that while they were no angels, which is just, it's not, it's not true. They were victims.
Speaker 0 00:34:58 So I want to get a little bit to your previous book, panic attack, young radicals, that in the age of Trump, um, and, uh, you, you cover, uh, a bunch of things, but, um, one of the things was this incident or non incident that, that happened, uh, at the university of Virginia, um, and you won your California journalism award for, uh, writing about the defamatory rolling stone article, uh, about this hoax incident of sexual assault, for those not familiar with the story, um, what was it about and how did you
Speaker 1 00:35:36 Go about getting to the truth? Yeah, this was a similar case much earlier in my career. This one was a, this big story in rolling stone magazine about a gang sexual assault at the university of Virginia. And it was really horrific story. You know, this woman was supposedly lured upstairs at a fraternity party, and then, you know, viciously assaulted by a group of men. And it was made to sound like it was almost ritualistic. Like it was some initiation right for them. So I read it. And I started thinking that in all my career of covering crimes on campus, particularly sexual misconduct, I never read one. I never encountered one where the victim had not been incapacitated via alcohol or drugs. And then there were also multiple people, multiple perpetrators who had, who had preplanned it cause the implication of this one was that this was planned.
Speaker 1 00:36:26 So usually when sexual misconduct happens on college campuses, it is unplanned. It is there's drinking and drugs and then lines get crossed. And sometimes they get crossed very badly. Don't, you know, don't get me wrong, but I'd never, ever seen one. Like this is like, from like a law and order episode, like blonde, order's not real. This stuff doesn't happen where they would have planned it. And then like, how would they have gotten away? Because usually the victims don't quite recall what happened. So they're reluctant to re they don't know what to report, but like she had said she was fully lucid for it. So that was, these were a bunch of red flag. Like this has never happened before. And as it turned out, it didn't happen in this case. It fell apart after I challenged it very quickly. So I had like one day where I got totally attacked by everyone in the media saying, I was like saying rape didn't exist or something.
Speaker 1 00:37:14 And then it turned out that because she had claimed according to her story, like she knew who this guy was. She was on a date with this guy. Well, the author of the story had not verified that this guy existed prior to publishing it, which is a huge red, like, if you're not going to use someone's name in a story, that's one thing. But you had to say, okay, but what is his name actually? So I can look them up on Facebook to make sure he exists. Cause that, that would have the whole thing would have fallen apart. Maybe he was not a real person. He doesn't exist. And then, so it started to get very interesting in, in terms of how, um, crazy, for lack of a better word, she was like, she had gotten a fake, you used a messaging service to send fake text messages to her friends, pretending she was this guy.
Speaker 1 00:37:59 She was not, she was pretending to be dating, to make a friend jealous. Like it got it. Her deception was very elaborate, but would have easily been uncovered by th by just the bare minimum of the fact checking journalism process. If any of her friends, if the journalist is trying to talk to any of this woman's friends, Jackie is the, was the name of the, of the supposed victim. They would've, they would've said no, she's not. So she's not. So we've figured out she's catfishing us. So in that case, so there was also, you know, defamation suits against rolling stone, a liable against rolling stone, uh, uh, against. And, uh, those suits were successful, honestly, between the two. This was the clearer case of defamation than in the Covington case, uh, because they, they did not do in the rolling stone case. What would have been normally expected of a journal?
Speaker 1 00:38:53 The normal journalistic process would have revealed that this was a fraud. Whereas in the Covington case, to some extent, the native American man gave them false information. Um, they, they could have worked harder. They should have characterized things differently. It was still wrong, but it was kind of in a spectrum of, well, it was wrong, but was it it an intentional, was it recklessly wrong? Do you know what I mean? It was a little bit more unclear. They were more actively misled by the, the being misled part of it was more understandable than in the rolling stone case where like, okay, but you shouldn't have fallen for this because you're obligated to do X, Y, and Z before you publish a store and you didn't.
Speaker 0 00:39:28 So, uh, Aaron singer on Instagram, um, says, speaking of media malpractice, he wonders if you have read Ashley, Rensburg take on the New York times and Aaron, uh, you can also check out the interview I did with Ashlyn Rensburg last week.
Speaker 1 00:39:47 Is this a, is this referring to ?
Speaker 0 00:39:50 No, this is, um, this is the gray lady winked. Uh, this is a author out of Israel who, uh, has written about sort of malpractice at the New York times, going back to, um, you know, it's a denial of the, um, Ukrainian AMA it's, uh, kind of downplaying of Holocaust. So
Speaker 1 00:40:16 I haven't encountered this specifically, but I, I broadly agree. In fact, in my book, my new book, I I've said that like the, the, the villain of the book is the New York times. I, I, I am a frequent critic. Um, I think how they've handled actually tech issues has just been abhorrent like throughout history. I can't tell, you can find so many examples of the New York times condemning, um, the phonograph radio TV, like everything that competes with the New York times bicycles. Yes. Bicycles. I know that it's a moral panic in service of keeping their honest. They don't want you to think or read or do anything without their permission. Um, I mentioned Sarah Pailin cause they're currently embroiled. This is the defamation.
Speaker 1 00:40:59 It's very interesting. I don't know that she's going to win. She's a very hard bar to make, but there's no question. And, and even the New York times concedes that their editorial about her was horrifically wrong. So they had that editorial after the, uh, baseball shooting in DC, uh, the Steve Scully's shooting. So they had an editorial condemning political violence. Uh, but they said that as an example of political violence, on the other side of, of conservative targeting Democrat, they said Gabby Giffords, the, the Arizona Congresswoman, who was shot by this crazy guy, Jeremy, and they referenced that the, the map that whatever, the tea party map, where cross hairs were put over her district, but okay, we all know now. And I thought the New York times knew this, but apparently the other editorial page editor didn't we all know that Jeremy Lauffner, the, the shooter was not a conservative and he was not, he had not seen that map.
Speaker 1 00:41:53 And he did not shoot Giffords for any reason that we can tell that ha is like connected to political conservatism or libertarianism or something. He was a crazy person. So it is not an example at all of like, even like loose moral incitement or something. So it was a total false equivalency. Um, now they admit that they got it wrong. He has admitted that. So the case hinges on whether, uh, you know, the tough bar to meet, because she's a public figure. So it, it can't, it's not, it's not just wrong. Like you can't Sue someone every time they say something about you that's wrong. There has to be actual malice or like reckless disregard. So it has to be either they knew it was wrong and said it anyway, which honestly, I don't think they did. I, I, frankly, I, I think they did not know they should have known this. So then the question is how, uh, how much should they have known this? How reckless was, was it, how much did their process of constructing this editorial breakdown? And I, I don't know. I think a reasonable person could, could, could weigh in a reasonable jury, could weigh in either way. It, it, it was reprehensible conduct regardless, but whether it crosses the line into liable, I'm not sure.
Speaker 0 00:43:04 Well, I want to also get back to your previous book, Peck, panic attack. I don't have the actual physical copy, but I've got my audible here. Um, and at the Atlas society, you know, we're a philosophy organization. So we're particularly interested in things like postmodernism versus objectivity and truth versus subjectivity. Uh, and you go into that a little bit in that book. Um, and you talk about intersectionality critical race theory, some of the changes that have been happening, um, over really the past 50 years on, on campus. And one of the things that really struck me was you observed this penchant among young activists to speak of the impact of discrimination on, uh, like brown and black bodies rather than individuals, what what's with that particular use of language.
Speaker 1 00:44:04 Yeah, the, uh, so I, you know, I'm amateur, uh, observer of philosophical trends. Certainly I've no expertise, but I talked to a lot of student activists for the book I researched, you know, what has changed on campus. And I was really struck by that language by a lot of the language that imputes almost psychic harm to words. Um, there, there is an attack on objectivity going on and then, you know, not even a attack on like objective, like an attack on the idea that there is truth and idea that is not, that is, should be popular across the political spectrum, right? I'm not, I'm not saying like just an attack on our narrow beliefs, but an attack on a pretty foundational idea to like the enlightenment and to the scientific method, to rational discourse, which is that, first of all, they'll say that, well only, you know, only you are the expert in your own oppression.
Speaker 1 00:45:00 So, so no. So unless you, unless you have been victimized by, you know, this cascading hierarchy of various isms, you, you, you are incapable of weighing in on them, but then also they will say it is not their job to educate you about these issues. So, so you are both ignorant and must remain. Ignorant is kind of the, is kind of the implications of this. And then what you'll see in activist circles on the left, since authority stems, from having been the victim of being been the theoretical victim of more and more axes of oppression, they will compete to have the most. So, you know, it's not enough to just be a person of color, what you could be, a transgender person of color or a gay transgender person of color or one who has experienced, uh, you know, uh, uh, uh, sizeism or age-ism, or, or any, any other thing.
Speaker 1 00:45:52 But what I realized is this tends itself, this, this pushes people toward self identifying with mental illness as having mental illness, because many of these things you can't fake, but you can chock your CR you know, we've all had a certain amount of trauma that the last two years have been horrible. We've all have some level of trauma. There's a lot of rounding up. One's kind of just regular commonplace struggles to post-traumatic stress disorder, or like a kind of mental disability. And that will be the first thing people in activist, less circles tell you, well, I am, I have this I'm bipolar, or I'm suffering from PTSD or I'm. Um, this is bad. A political philosophy that causes people to want to associate themselves, identify themselves as mentally disabled or men or struggling or emotionally traumatized is just like, is unhealthy on its face. And that has been where it has gone. And I am, I am I'm against it. That that is not to say that mental illness is not real. It's certainly real. Uh, I am, I'm more acutely aware of, of how, of how social social conditions can create trauma and, and people need help. So none of that, but we've almost de-stigmatized at so much that like people are now seeing it as a positive that it's bad. It's very bad. We should not encourage people to want to be traumatized.
Speaker 0 00:47:16 Agreed. I mean, I think that's also something with the way that we treat our veterans. Um, and just the kind of constant focus, of course, of course, American intervention is so horrible. Anybody who is serving in the military is going to come back and that'd be broken. And people come back from some service with a, with a mix of feelings, some, some traumatic feelings and also some, some pride and, and a sense of efficacy. Um, but I also thought it was that point that you made about the bodies was, was interesting. Cause it's, if you're going to kind of blur the line between, you know, uh, words that are unpleasant and that'll mean, or that are offensive and, um, and force. And so that, it's not just that you're saying something to me as a person, you're, you're saying something to me as a body, it implies that there is some kind of force,
Speaker 1 00:48:14 Right? And they're trying to round up unpleasant emotional experiences, the, the verbal experiences as a kind of physical violence, uh, w which is where that body's language I think comes from. And it's very harmful because we should not, we should not, you know, equalize, um, uh, unpleasant words being the same as physical violence. Actually, historically those things were equal that a lot of people don't realize that for most of human history, insulting someone was the same thing as taking a swing at them. It would provoke retribution. If you insulted the case, you could lose your head. If you insult your neighbors, you could have a blood feud with them. If you insult the king, you could be executed. If you salt, the religious authorities, you could be burned at the stake. Most of human history is people being killed for saying the wrong thing. Words were violence only in recent, in like the last 200 years post enlightenment. I think the alignment was a good thing. We have, we have changed it so that no, no, no. You can say whatever you say saying something is, is not punishable by formal or informal sanction, the way, the way physical violences. There's a difference between the two things it's, uh, it's, it's good. It allows for more healthy society that you don't have to kill someone every time you don't like what they say, this is much better. There's a better way of doing things. What's not a road that, that very hard fought distinction.
Speaker 0 00:49:41 So we're coming up towards the top of the hour here. Robbie, thank you so much for making the time you, you mentioned it's been a, it's been a rough couple of years. Um, just tell us, uh, where you are, uh, what you're working on. Uh, you're feeling more or less optimistic than, uh, than you were two years ago. And yeah, what's what, what's your next, your next project?
Speaker 1 00:50:08 W well, I'm now doing a YouTube video. Uh, I I'm hosting a YouTube show. Uh, in addition, I'm still in reason I'm still producing as much now I'm there, I'm in the, I
Speaker 0 00:50:19 See the orange couch.
Speaker 1 00:50:21 Yep. I am in our offices in DC, but I now have a YouTube show for a pub for the hill. The publication it's rising. The show has been on for a while for like years, but its hosts departed. Um, they, they left to start off on their own. So I'm the kind of replacement ho hosts for the, for the right of center perspective. Even though I'm not, not a Republican, I'm not, I'm a libertarian. Uh, and I, you know, I, we have fun kind of discussions. One of my, the other two hosts are, are kind of on the left in various ways. Although we're all very against, um, COVID restrictions at this point. I, I mean, I'm radically against them. I, I, uh, the pandemic has been a hard time. I want it, you know, behind us, I'm, I'm very, uh, very against, uh, the mandates, which in DC are just, you know, we like, we still have our mass mandate.
Speaker 1 00:51:08 I feel like every, it will be the last hole that I know LA still has it too, but it's, it's, it's unbelievable. And also the people in DC love following rules. And like, I like I've been reported so many times for not wearing masks when I'm supposed to. I'm just so, so sick of it. Um, I, I think I, I, you know, broadly speaking, the libertarian, libertarian conservative movement, uh, needs to, you know, be very clear that, you know, this, this is not okay, this is not acceptable. You cannot force individuals to do these things. Um, you know, under the, under the nebulous public health guidance. So, um, I, you know, I would be, they slow walked it, right. They didn't, it didn't all come at once. Uh, I should have been more angry from the start. Uh, you know, if I had known it was great, two years later, they were going to still be saying, well, there are some cases. So masks still have to be warned that our two year olds, you know, would have them wrapped around their faces in schools for years. I, I, I would have been even, I guess I would have been even angrier, but we, we, uh, you know, we just have to be against it.
Speaker 0 00:52:12 I, I, I've been angry from the start and I am a lot angrier. So maybe it's, it's good that you were took a little bit more time to, to warm up to your righteous higher cause
Speaker 1 00:52:26 Desire. It is
Speaker 0 00:52:28 Pretty upsetting. Well, uh, yeah, let's put that link to, to his show in, in the chat and, um, Robbie, thank you so very much. We're going to send you a couple of graphic novels of works that might know more fun by our wonderful Dan Parsons. Award-winning marbles, comics, uh, illustrators. So, uh, so we love to have you give them a look and, uh, look forward to seeing you hopefully in Nashville.
Speaker 1 00:52:57 Absolutely. Look forward to seeing you as well.
Speaker 0 00:52:59 All right. Thanks so much. Thank you.