A unique live conversation with Eric Weinstein & Garrett Lisi.


Brian Keating: The Into The Impossible podcast, featuring a triality of guests. A threesome of the best kind. I don’t know if that’s true, actually. But I’ve heard things from Eric, no doubt. We’re gonna be joining—hundreds of people are watching out there in YouTube land. It’s such a treat. Whenever I gather with physicists to share good ideas, good company, and so forth, let me get a thumbs up out there if you guys can hear me. And I’m going to introduce my friends, doctors. Two doctors, actually three doctors if you include me as well. And that is Dr. Eric Weinstein, joining us from Los Angeles. How are you Eric?

Eric Weinstein: Doing well. Good to be with you.

Brian Keating: And it’s nice of you to dress up. Unlike Garrett and myself. I’m in the Hawaiian Islands mood we just finished with—

Eric Weinstein: What the hell has happened to your show, Brian? You can’t get dolled up for me to talk physics? 

Brian Keating: This is dolled up. This is my dress code nowadays. This is island time man, shakalaka. All right, Eric’s enjoying his vodka tonic, and I am enjoying a Mai Tai over here in San Diego and Garrett Lisi, welcome back. Welcome back, Garrett. Long time no, see, it’s been about four minutes. And you guys go way back as both friends and friendly arch nemeses. We’re gonna get into what does that actually mean. Your infamous appearance on The Portal, which was so well received. And this is kind of maybe a part two, an option for our guests on the Into The Impossible family to ask some questions about different competing theories of everything. And as I said earlier, we’re gonna have a nice clean fight. We are going to go toe-to-toe. 

Garrett Lisi: That’s a good one. 

Brian Keating: TOE to TOE getting—

Garrett Lisi: Well you know, I mean, Eric, it looks like you’ve trimmed down a bit. Did you end up adopting a ketogenic diet? or what have you been doing?

Eric Weinstein: You know, Garrett, it looks like you’ve been struggling a little bit. I think this has to do with some sort of a blockchain effect, where whatever weight I lose has to go over to you. I’m sorry to do that to you, buddy.

Garrett Lisi: I’ve built up the COVID 10, Yeah.

Brian Keating: Conservation of mass.

Eric Weinstein: How’s the surf been this winter?

Garrett Lisi: Oh, it’s been frickin fantastic. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been really, really good. Also, we’ve had fewer tourists here than normal, which is actually been nice, if not for nice reasons.

Brian Keating: Yeah, indeed, maybe we’ll talk about that, the impact on culture and physics as a whole. First, I want to be—I always like to be a little bit provocative if I can be indulged by YouTube guys. And that’s, you know, this conversation that Garrett and I had, you know, was sort of predicated on this question that I received a new book in the mail today, Eric, and it’s entitled, The Theory of Everything, by Norbert Schweitzer. And this is a very dense book. It’s full of equations and graphs, and I can’t wait to read it, and put it next to, you know, next to the stack of books behind me that I’ve been doing in pandemic podcasting. But why do we need a Theory of Everything, Eric? Why is it that people are so betwixt by theories of everything, and yet, as Garrett and I just finished, and you and I have talked about, there’s less attention to Experiments of Everything? Why do you think that is?

Eric Weinstein: Well, first of all, I don’t know that it makes sense to say an “Experiment of Everything”. One of the crazy things that we found out from our experimental friends, is that there is so much more order that appears to be present in the Standard Model, and in General Relativity, that, in a weird way, all of these disparate experiments have strangely added up to something unexpectedly coherent. And so I don’t think it’s important to focus on a Theory of Everything generally, because you’re usually not in position to get one. If you think about the time before Dirac, they knew about the proton and the electron, perhaps, but they didn’t know about anything else. And if they had tried a Theory of Everything, it would have almost certainly been wrong, because there was just no—they were nowhere close. Now, the problem that we have here is that we appear to be tantalizingly close, for reasons that we can get into or not, according to taste. And I think that, you know, there’s both a silly hope that you happen to be in the right generation to do a Theory of Everything, and an informed hope. And I think one of the things that you can tell when somebody attempts it is, do they appear to be well motivated in seeking a Theory of Everything? Or do they appear to just want to jump to the end of the book, no matter how many chapters they have to skip over? And I, you know, I would also just say, lastly, that it’s been so long since we’ve made progress, that it does sort of—one interpretation that one could make would be that we seem to be at a point where we have to get something huge because we’ve been stalled out with all the incremental measures which in previous areas have worked so well. And so one way of thinking about this is that we’re finally at the point where the conceptual difficulty, like, what would a Theory of Everything even mean? It’s one thing to say that you’re hunting a Jabberwocky. It’s another thing to realize that you have no idea what a Jabberwocky looks like.

Brian Keating: And when I think about this, you know, we talked a lot about our mutual friend, and I say that with all sincerity, Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, who does great work, and, but as a known critic, I talked to Garrett about this before—maybe you and I have talked about this too, Eric, in reference to Professor Frank Wilczek’s recent trolling of of Sabine last week where she put out you know, “beauty is a terrible guide to physics”. And Frank wrote back, “it worked out pretty well for me”. You know, Garrett and I were kind of bemused by that trolling of Sabine by Frank. But of course, it was meant in a friendly way, I’m sure. But nevertheless, the question of, you know, kind of survivorship bias came up, and maybe Garrett, you can just kind of reiterate that. You’ve been, you know, lucky to be privately supported to do these things. Sabine even says it’s a good thing to have these things, but she doesn’t go deep. She’s claims to say it’s maybe not worth her time. But tell me something, Garrett, first of all, what when you think about, you know, how do you spend your time, you know, besides the stuff outside of academia, which we’ll talk about, hopefully, you’re the Richard Branson, of physicists, of course. And that comes with problems as well, as we talked about in the previous hour. But I want to ask you, when when you think about dividing your time, how much time do you spend thinking about Geometric Unity, about the Wolfram physics project behind me, and this giant book in the back, about this new book, this new Theory of Everything by Norbert Schwarzer, and Max Tegmark mathematical—how much time do you spend on it? And if you say “none”, why is that? Why wouldn’t you think about other people’s theories? So first, how much time do you spend on other theories?

Garrett Lisi: I think most theoretical physicists spend enough time on others’ theories in order to dismiss them.

Brian Keating: And so you dismiss like, Wolfram’s theory?

Garrett Lisi: Oh, yeah. So I’m not most physicists. I spend, for Eric, especially since we’re arch nemeses and friends, I’ve spent more than enough time to dismiss it.

For Wolf—

Brian Keating: Yeah, look at Eric’s reaction.

Garrett Lisi: For Wolfram, I’ve spent probably less than enough time to dismiss it. And that’s not because I don’t respect his work and the direction he’s going. It’s just that the direction he’s chosen to go in with cellular automata is so foreign to my area of expertise, that, although I could dive into it, and disentangle it and try to make sense, instead, what I do is I look at, all right, well, we have a rich model here with some grand claims. What’s the actual connection to known physics. And what I see, as I see over and over again, is that the connection to known physics is extremely tenuous, if there’s much there at all. And that’s usually the easiest way to dismiss work, is how—what’s the connection to actual physics? What’s the connection to the Standard Model? Are you getting three generations of fermions? Do you—are you getting a CKM matrix in some easy, nice, elegant way? How close is it? And by that metric, you can almost dismiss String Theory. I mean, it’s a very, it’s a very high bar. You can also dismiss my work. I’m not there yet, but that’s what I’m striving for. But that’s really what you want to look for. And, but in terms of how I spend my time, I do spend a fair amount of time looking at others’ papers. It’s mostly papers centered around the same area I’m working with, or the area I’m exploring. I’ll be spending a lot more time exploring papers, mathematicians’ papers on generalized Lie groups, colleagues’ papers, working on applying them to particle physics. I spend my—that’s how I spend a lot of my time. I’d say probably 90% of my time is spent reading other’s papers and only 10% working on my own stuff.

Brian Keating: So is it the case that you have spent so much time looking at Geometric Unity or sufficient time that you’ve achieved the necessary amount of time to dismiss Geometric Unity, or to maybe not not dismiss it, but not pay attention to it as much as say, you know, something more close to E8? Can you expand upon what you meant by that?

Garrett Lisi: Um, I—all I was banting, I was joking that I have spent some time looking at Eric’s work, more than I normally would if we weren’t so disturbingly close. 

Brian Keating: Well, let me let me follow up on that. So when I, when I look at these as an outsider as an experimental—

Eric Weinstein: You have to ask—you have to ask me the question too, Brian—

Brian Keating: I’m about—I’m about to get to that. So I want to I want to ask that question, but I want to ask it in a provocative way, because as Garrett knows, he started flying lessons, and one of the first things you learn in flying is to be very careful about flying into instrument conditions, namely, into clouds, which can obscure things but make you feel nice and comfortable, because everywhere you look, everything is nice, homogeneous, isotropic and uniform, like the inside of a ping pong ball. But Eric, you know, when you look at it, is there sort of a, you know, an outgroup bias, in that there’s so much groupthink in physics as it is, that now you’ve got these possible alternatives from Wolfram, from you, from Tegmark, etc. And that you guys are just gonna fight but really the the people who you are seeking are these people occupying this behemoth Cathedral called String Theory. How do you decide your time and how you spend it? 

Eric Weinstein: Well, I think that we have to clear something up. I don’t take Stephen Wolfram as having a Theory of Everything, or even a candidate. I take him as having a program to search for one. I don’t take Max Tegmark as attempting a Theory of Everything. I view him in some sense as a mathematical and physical philosopher, looking to make sure that when the theory is found, it will fit within the Tegmarkian perspective at some particular type of multiverse or some type, you know, because if ultimately the description is mathematical, the claim will be the Tegmark was correct, because he’s now somehow laid claim to the Mathematical Universe hypothesis, which I think almost every Platonist has considered. So I don’t quite understand that as a Theory of Everything. I certainly don’t see the Loop Quantum Gravity people as being serious about particle phenomenology. We know a lot about the particles in the universe. And actually, I believe that the two that I really take semi-seriously are Garrett’s and String Theory. So while Garrett may be claiming that he knows enough to dismiss mine, certainly that’s not true.

Garrett Lisi: No. What I said was that I’ve spent more than enough time with yours than needed to dismiss it.

Eric Weinstein: Okay. I forgot that Garrett is very spectrumy!

Garrett Lisi: That’s not imply I’ve dismissed that implies I spent more than that amount of time with it.

Eric Weinstein: Fair point, but to steelman Garrett’s point—and I do feel like there was a misimpression created by an artifact that happened when he appeared on my show—I don’t think that Garrett is the best person to extol the virtues of what he is up to. And I would say the following, you would have to give it to the String Theorists, if your principal concern was the idea that you wanted a renormalizable theory of gravity, however far away they may be from that. That is their leading contribution. You can say a few things about what they predict from black holes, and then you can also mumble something about how it’s useful in mathematics. 

Clearly, the String Theorists have gotten hold of a lot of advanced mathematics by going to geometry and infinite dimensions. And, in fact, it’s sort of like Finland finding Estonia and saying, “My God, these people, you know, are remarkable. This is confirmation.” But, in fact, Fins and Estonians are pretty much the same people just separated by some water. So I think that String Theory is largely an exclave of mathematics that is done and performed in physics departments. Garrett is doing something very different. If you asked what Garrett’s principal contributions were Forgive me, Garrett, you can correct me, given that you’re here. I love talking behind your back in front of you. 

Garrett’s principle selling points are the following: he is the most phenomenological of any theory that is not Geometric Unity. That is, his theory does the following sorts of things. First of all, it makes use of a unique and canonical structure that attempts to tell us why this world and not others, because he begins with something called E8, which is easily distinguishable in the mathematical universe as being the strangest of objects—the platypus, if you will, of mathematical symmetry. And second of all, he incorporates something that was found in the 1950s, by Madame Wu and Yang and Lie, which is the curiosity of the universe because one of the four forces seems to know what’s left from its right, that is, the weak force, it is astounding that there is this asymmetry. And E8 contains some of this asymmetry, which we might call Weyl fermions, as opposed to Dirac fermions, because E8 seems to know its left from its right, so he gets that right. And then there’s a subtle property of E8, which is actually disguised, and so most mathematicians and physicists don’t know about it. It’s manifest in something called Spin 8. And that’s the principle of triality. And so the idea that triality is present, and that we have three families, is tantalizingly close together. So I would say that, if you look at what Garrett—oh, furthermore, Garrett is focused on something called Cartan connections, in which you co-mingle something called an Ehresmann connection, which is what we have learned to use for the forces in the Standard Model since the work of Simons, Yang, Synger and Wu in SUNY Stonybrook in the 1970s. He combines that with this sort of Einsteinian perspective, built on Riemannian Geometry and the Levi-Civita connection. And somehow the Levi-Civita connection and this other object, the Ehresmann connection are combined in something called a Cartan connection, which is not really that standard, it fell out of favor in mathematics. So if you look at what Garrett is doing, and I believe even that Garrett has now strangely moved towards something called Superconnections, introduced by Daniel Quillen and others, and Jean Bismut

Garrett Lisi: Really, yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: So this, in fact, is some hope of incorporating the difference in quantization of forced particles and particles, which is one of the original failings of Garrett’s original first attempt at this, which is that he too tightly integrated matter and force, in some sense, into the E8 structure, so that the matter that was present, in fact, had to be looked at as force. 

So I think if you look at all of the things that Garrett is doing, well, maybe lastly, even another one, the fact that he’s trying to drag a canonical Lagrangian or master of the equations, from something like Yang-Mills theory, is yet another attempt at simplicity. And so you have him starting out with something that’s canonical, that knows its left from its right intrinsically, that seems to have three encoded into it when we see three copies of matter that we’re confused by, that combines General Relativity and the principle bundles that we’ve learned a second form of geometry, not due to Riemann, due to Ehresmann, and, in fact, the simplest of lagrangians. That is really why I’ve chosen Garrett for my archnemesis, because I don’t think anybody’s actually said this properly about Garrett. And so it’s important that Garrett also be curated, because, if you have to promote your own theory, it’s always suspicious that when a book is mailed to you, by its own author, then the idea is that a second person hasn’t said, “I see what that person is saying”. Now, the fact that Garrett is hopelessly and tragically wrong, in my opinion, is a secondary concern. But the fact of the matter is that I think I’ve chosen my nemesis well—

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: —and he may be more challenged in certain aspects of quantization and equations, but you have to admit that what he’s pursued has been completely outside of the norms, and, in fact, phenomenologically does far more than any other theory to attempt to come close to why we see the world that we do. And I just don’t think that there’s a single other person, including Lee Smolin, who can make the case as eloquently for Garrett, who is not Garrett himself.

Brian Keating: See, Garrett, you thought this was gonna be an intervention, but it’s not, don’t worry.

Garrett Lisi: I’m still waiting for the knife.

Brian Keating: That’s coming soon. That’s coming soon. But I want to ask both of you guys, and how you look at each other, because you guys have remarkable lives. I’ve gotten to know Eric extremely well over the last year. I feel blessed to do that. Garrett, I know you obviously by reputation. We’ve met a few times. And we’re obviously, you know, very affiliated with UC San Diego, and I enjoy that. But I also know that, you know, time is limited, and I’ve always been curious to get perspectives on people. So Eric is an incredibly courageous, brilliant person who doesn’t restrict himself to just thinking about physics. He goes on talk shows like Glenn Beck and gets, you know, half a million views, because he is just the exact person that is needed at this troubling time in America, to talk to people on the right about what people on the left, you know, think about the world and to reach consilience, but not just for its own sake. Garrett, you’re known for starting institutions, you’re known for having another set of influences on your time and on your life. Do you guys ever look at each other and say, God, that guy just spent more time on physics, we’d really advanced physics by a tremendous amount or do you look at it’s a guy that guy’s not that serious. Like if he was serious, you know, he’d be he wouldn’t be doing what that Keating guy does and just podcast all day, he would be doing stuff, you know, in his wheelhouse in his lane. What do you guys think about each other, and be candid, what do you feel, Eric, that Garrett should spend more time, you know, on the chalkboard and less time on the surfboard? Eric, you know—Garrett, how do you feel about what Eric’s involved with? Should he—is he denying, you know, physics or math, some sort of attention that it really rightfully deserves? Let me start with Garrett first. I know it’s uncomfortable, but let’s go there. 

Garrett Lisi: I think both of us have made extremely unusual decisions in life and push them to a extraordinary and successful degree. I think Eric has made choices early on that I didn’t. And I’ve made choices that Eric didn’t. And I think we’ve both found, perhaps unreasonable amount of success in that. And I really respect Eric a lot for his decisions. What he’s done in creating The Portal and basically bootstrapping himself to become one of the world’s leading intellectual voices has been fantastic. And I think a lot of people, especially our mutual friend, Lee Smolin, which is, who introduced me to Eric, saw this potential early on and, really, it’s been just inspiring to see Eric find such great success with that. Me, I’m a little—I’m a little less social. I’m a little bit more of an introvert, even though I sort of founded an institute here, it’s an institute for introverts with, like, separate cabins. So people can stay away from each other.

Brian Keating: The most social introvert in the world.

Garrett Lisi: There’s lots of social distancing, and I’m very comfortable social distancing. Eric has decided to form himself a independent intellectual online army, which is freakin fantastic. I’m a little terrified what he’s gonna do with it, which direction that’s gonna go in. But it’s been amazing. And I would be extremely hypocritical to look at someone else and say, “Hey, they should really be spending more time on physics is what they should be doing.” Because I’ve been spending most of my time for the past year actually working on like surfing and kite surfing and just trying to enjoy life, in the midst of a horrible pandemic. It’s been hard for me to concentrate on juggling equations. Right, and for Eric, he’s got, you know, he’s grown a wonderful family, who I enjoyed interacting with a great deal when I visited. And it’s, that’s been a wonderful thing to see grow. As well as, you know, he went off to work in Wall Street and financial management, and he’s had a wonderful career that way, and now working for Peter Thiel, who is also a maverick. That has been a great partnership to see. And he’s grown things in, you know, incredibly different directions than I’ve gone in. At the same time, I still know he’s a skateboarder down there underneath.

And I love seeing him, you know, I love seeing him on an electric skateboard. I love seeing him paraglide. I love seeing him do fun stuff. And if I influence them in some positive way, that’s probably the most positive way I can influence him.

Brian Keating: All right, enough of the kumbaya. Eric, should Garrett spend more time on the chalkboard?

Eric Weinstein: Sure, but that’s—but there’s a sort of a hidden problem in the question, which is, the people who send you books and who send you, you know, equations written in red crayon, you know, declaring themselves the next Einstein, in general are not very self conscious, they don’t understand where they are. And one of the problems is that when you’re actually working independently, if you’re doing it honestly, it’s almost impossible not to succumb to one mental problem or the other. Either you come to believe that you are the unique voice of God on earth. Or you come to see yourself as, you know, a failed loser outside of the system, scribbling things that mean nothing to anyone. And if you’re smart, you oscillate between them, in order to, you know, keep your sanity. So you do it dialectically, because it’s very hard to find a Schelling point in the middle. And I think that you have to look at what Garrett does as sustaining his ability to work outside of the system. The number of us who are serious and working outside of the system is certainly less than I can count on one hand. And so I believe that in part, just keeping your sanity while you attempt this, with everyone telling you that you’re an effing idiot, or a crazy person or an imposter or a grifter, or that you’re thirsty, all of these sort of insults that are hurled by people who don’t actually live this life.

Brian Keating: Have you been reading my mom’s text messages to me? How can ya—?

Eric Weinstein: Well, I have a pack of hyenas that follows me around the internet, so you’ll forgive me. The the point that I’m trying to get at is that if you think about what makes what we do beautiful, it’s perhaps best exemplified in places like Cloudbreak and Teahupoo and Ship Stearns, and, in particular Jaws, in Maui. These are waves, they follow wave equations and the ability to interact with, let’s say, the differential geometry of a ski slope, and the luxurious aspect of sitting in Maui and eating tropical fruit with a whiteboard is sustaining. And so this is what Garrett’s been on about with the Pacific Science Institute, which I heartily recommend people check out and try to get behind, is that Garrett has not only been amusing himself to death, but he’s also in fact, attempting to share what he’s figured out with the renegade scientific community. And I think that you have to view this as admirable when billionaires have stepped away from the private funding of science. When Mark Zuckerberg and Yuri Milner can only come up with the Breakthrough Prize for giving people who are already in the system a little bit more encouragement to keep doing what they’re doing that doesn’t work, I think you have to look at what Garrett’s doing as being an incredibly constructive attempt to take a small amount of money that he’s turned into a larger amount of money through, I would say dumb luck, but he would call it investing, and that he effectively is trying to found something like Xerox PARC, or, you know, Tuxedo Park, or any of these great private endeavors in order to keep physics alive, which—it’s clearly in danger of dying. So I think that Garrett needs more encouragement. And if he was more encouraged, he would spend more time in physics, but it’s almost impossible to spend your time doing this, when it appears that what’s really going on is that your mind is unraveling, that you think that there’s something peculiar about you that will allow you to succeed where everyone else has collectively failed. And I think Garrett’s doing a marvelous job of staying in the game. The fact that he “wastes” most of his time on other pursuits may not be a waste at all, it may simply be, you know, a way of saving your sanity. 

Brian Keating: Now, we just had a conversation with Garrett that I asked the same question I asked of you a long time ago, but I’ll ask it again, and maybe Garrett can reiterate his opinions afterwards. Do we need a Theory of Everything? So people go on and on about these different theories of everything, because we don’t believe that in the current understanding of the laws of physics, that gravity is commensurate, compatible, and fits into a quantization scheme, wherein the wave like properties and Graviton like properties of a quantum truly quantum theory of gravity would take place. However, I always point out, and you guys have pointed out, you know, most of the scenarios where people talk about as Cameron Botha did on my show, as Juan Maldacena did on my show, they’re talking about gravity in anti de sitter space, and five dimensional, you know, spacetimes—

Eric Weinstein: You’re talking about an abstraction that is not gravity.

Brian Keating: I’m talking about abstraction that is not gravity, number one. And, two, they are solving, you know, they’re answering a question that I don’t believe anybody has fully asked from an experimental perspective. I’ll explain what that means. I said this to Garrett, so Garrett, bear with me, but John Preskill was on the show last week. And I said, John, you know, we say we need a quantum theory of gravity because we don’t understand gravity at the center of a singularity or in the beginning of the universe, if indeed, it had a Big Bang singularity at its origin. But what if, you know, we just—the universe is not described by a single Big Bang, it’s more described as Roger Penrose’s conformal acyclic cosmology or Paul Steinhardt, and Neil terex act parodic or bouncing, classical cosmologies. These have no singularities whatsoever, they’re not manifest at all. So that’s one motivation. 50% of the motivation of quantum gravity destroyed, nuked, wrecked, but, and similarly, we don’t believe there any such thing as naked singularities where we could probe a singularity visible. And I said John Preskill, you are the Richard P. Feynman professor of physics at California Institute of Technology, a small Technical College in Los Angeles County. I said, Feynman said, “I don’t care how beautiful your equations are, if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong”. Now, I asked you guys, we can’t ever hope to access these two different domains, which are the only two domains, to my knowledge, that quantum gravitational effects are manifest. Why would you guys spend so much time on this field where it may not even be necessary to unify gravity with quantum mechanics or is there a bigger project at work?

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, would you mind if I took that one first and then you back clean up?

Okay, first of all, let’s dispense with this issue of the task of this generation being to quantize gravity. This is a very particularly quantum field theoretic perspective, where the children of Bohr have always been pissed off that Einstein did so much better in some sense on his side of the ledger, that he cleaned things up, so that his children were impoverished where his Bohr failed to clean things up, so his children have had a much richer world to mine, okay. So the idea of getting Einstein to submit to Bohr has been a long held dream of a subset of the community. If you think about it differently, you could ask the question of, instead of “Why do we have to quantize Einstein’s geometry?” why not geometerize Bohr’s quantum, which is exactly what actually happened. So part of the problem is, is that when you get your information and your news updates from Ed Witten, or the Institute for Advanced Study, which has gone on—gone in heavily with String Theory, Nima Arkani-Hamed perhaps notwithstanding, what you start to realize is that you’ve been sold one particular story about physics. And it’s time to destroy the dominance of that narrative in favor of other narratives. Let’s talk about the Feynman quote. Feynman, I believe, was at Cornell when he made this comment that if your theory doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. No, not right. Your—the instantiation of your theory is wrong. But this is the point of Dirac’s 1963 article in Scientific American where he talks about Schrodinger not incorporating spin, and failing to get agreement with experiment. The theory was basically correct, but, in fact, the instantiation was wrong. This is why the scientific method doesn’t get you out of as much when you apply it naively, nor does Popper. So people are not only in love with Popper and the scientific method, they’re in love with very simplistic versions of that, with the idea that you can always go home, and that rationality and the scientific method is enough to clean up physics. No, your copy editing physics, that’s not where the real magic happens. The real magic happens in a tiny number of places. And Sabine is generally, by the way, correct, that beauty tends to lead almost all physicists onto the rocks, and destroys their career and makes sure that they’re not very productive. The only problem with their theory is that it doesn’t work for the far right tail of physics, where it succeeds beautifully. And by the way, I don’t believe that Wilczek’s work is beautiful in the way that, let’s say, Garrett’s work is beautiful. It may be that Garrett’s work is wrong, but his ideas are definitely beautiful. The way in which Wilczek’s work is beautiful has to do with particular properties of, let’s say, QCD at an analytic level. And I think there are even different forms of beauty. Unfortunately, Sabine has decided that she doesn’t want to target String Theory directly, and so she’s decided that she’s going to be tilting at the proxy of beauty, because beauty is invoked by String Theorists in an attempt to shut everybody else up. Well, she’s quite correct that the attempt to shut everybody else up about the cosmic failure of String Theory to deliver on its promises is, in fact, a huge danger, and may threaten the destruction of the theoretical physics community, which we need for a variety of reasons, because it is our most accomplished intellectual community ever, full stop. Then you have this problem about Feynman. Now, Feynman, in many ways, exemplifies for many people, various things. His aphorisms, which I don’t think he would have taken as seriously as his followers seem to, are wielded as weapons. If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, then you don’t understand it. I do not, you know, “that which I cannot create, I do not understand,” blah, blah, blah. Well, okay, but then again, if you look at the conversation between Feynman and Dirac, it’s very clear that Feynman really never had a fundamental law of physics. And the number of people who’ve done that have been extremely few in number, it’s a very different club, and all of them appear to subscribe to the concept of beauty, which is what I view Garrett, for example, as pursuing. Now, Garrett is not going on to the rocks. His theory may be wrong, but it’s certainly something that needed to be explored. It’s a canonical theory, and I don’t mean Garrett any disrespect, but when I met him at a conference that I think Sabine actually hosted with Lee Smolin, I’d actually looked at E8 myself, for exactly the reasons that Garrett has. Now, I think I’ve detailed a number of things that Garrett did, that I didn’t do with that theory, I think it’s the second most interesting and promising idea. I don’t think it works. But it needed to be explored. And it needed to have an actual physicist exploring it. And I’m very, very happy, and you know, if my stuff—the only reason I want Garrett to be wrong, is that I want me to be right. If I turn out to be wrong, I would like nothing better than for Garrett to be vindicated in what he—what it is that he’s doing. 

Brian Keating: So you think he’s— 

Eric Weinstein: That is the real basis of this rivalry, right. But the issue is that I think that we’ve got all of these incredibly simplistic ideas. The most interesting thing that’s happened is that all of the people who’ve been telling you that they know how science works, it’s all about peer review, that it’s all about agreement with experiment, that you have to be able to explain it to your mother, that there doesn’t need to be a Theory of Everything, that beauty is a problem. None of these people have succeeded. Okay? So at some point, when you haven’t really succeeded in pushing things forward in 50 years, almost, in certain terms, you have to say, maybe all of the crap that we say is wrong. There’s this marvelous scene—I’ll close with this—in No Country for Old Men, where Anton Chigurh asked the character played by Woody Harrelson—I’ve forgotten his name, unfortunately, was it Carter? Can’t remember. He says, “if the path you took led you to this, what have what use was that path? And that’s exactly right. With all of these things that we quote, Popper, or “agreement with experiments”, “scientific method.” If everything has stalled you out for 50 years, why is it that you’re not listening to people who actually have new ideas? Ask yourself that.

Brian Keating: I think one might say, you know, that, that people are maybe overwhelmed with Popper. I mean, I use this example with Martin Rees when he was on the show, you know, if you look at the pinkening and the reddening of the sunset, as the sun goes down to the horizon every night, that you would be led most naturally to believe that the round Earth has been falsified, because it’s much more consistent with a flat earth, that the such behavior should take place in an atmospheric slab approximation. So I wonder if people aren’t overwhelmed by Popper, and overwhelmed by—this is the counter that someone like Lenny Susskind gave on the show, that people are obsessed with it. And I can give another example, so astronomy—astrology which I’m often confused for, you know, when I’m not confused for being a cosmetologist because of my awesome Weinstein-like coif, I am usually confused with being an astrologer. And I usually say yeah, oh, you’re a Pisces. That’s very interesting. That lump on your butt is cancerous. Go check it out. But seriously, I, you know, astrology has been falsified by numerous double blind tests, including one in Nature magazine. Does that mean it’s science? Because Popper says it’s not science unless it’s falsifiable. And obviously, that’s meant to be a supplement and augmentation. But Garrett, I wonder, what would it take to get you—and this, maybe—maybe it is an intervention. I’m sorry, Garrett, sorry to spring this on you—what would it take for you to put all your chips, all your Apple stock, all your Bitcoin into Geometric Unity? You know, for example, at what point would it rise—you say you’ve you’ve studied it enough. And you, tongue-in-cheek, say, you know, it’s, you know, enough to be wrong, but not to be right. I don’t know. But tell me, what would it take for you to pursue—because at the end of the day, we’re here on this blue marble for, you know, 120 years, hopefully, but probably, you know, less in some cases. So, tell me, what would it take for you to pursue, you know, another theory? Wolfram? Let maybe let’s not even make it personal, but, you know, with Eric, but what would it take 

Eric Weinstein: No, make it personal. 

Brian Keating: All right, so yeah— 

Eric Weinstein: That’s the point of having the two of us on this show.

Brian Keating: All right, let’s go for it, TOE-to-TOE, Theory of Everything.

Garrett Lisi: Eric has taken a—using a lot of the same tools that I’ve been playing with, he’s built up a very interesting theory in a very different way. So he has started with a 14-dimensional manifold that incorporates the metric, and then sort of gauge the metric in a way that accommodates its interaction with fermions in a way that is very different than any—and then how gravity is usually introduced to interact with the fermions. So right off the bat, he’s starting with a kind of outlandish structure, that nevertheless matches up well with known physics from a very different approach, which is a sort of thing that absolutely I feel in the same way should be explored, and I’m glad he’s exploring it, because it’s not the way that I would approach things. I wouldn’t start out by gauging the metric, I would gauge the frame, which is equivalent to the metric but is more natural for use with fermions. But Eric chose to start with a metric, and I think that’s a very valuable way to look at things, and to proceed. For me to jump onboard within going and swallowing and looking more into Geometric Unity than I have, I’d really like to see him get something like the CKM Matrix out, with mixing angles appearing in some natural, reasonable way. That’s a high bar. As far as I know, nobody can do this in a natural-looking way. I can’t do it. Others haven’t been able to do it, String Theory can’t do it.

Eric Weinstein: So do you want to just briefly say what the CKM Matrix is, for the kids at home?

Garrett Lisi: Right, so the CKM matrix basically tells you that for your three generations of matter particles, right, when you have like your you have your Up and your Down quarks, in your in your first generation, and your Strange and your Charm quarks in your second generation, and your Bottom and your Top quarks in the third generation. What are the masses of these things? Well, they don’t have distinct masses, if they’re identified as unique particles with respect to the forces. So instead, their masses are mixed between those three generations. And there’s a mixing matrix that allows them that describes how their masses are assigned between them, and how they can oscillate between them. And we also now have a similar matrix called the PMNS Matrix after the first theorists to write about it, for neutrinos and electrons, and getting these matrices out of a theory is necessary for matching up with known physics, and is necessary for—and this is where probably the new predictions will come from any successful unified theory, is with these, the parameters in these two matrices, and how they relate. And it’s very difficult to build your structure up, or break it down from existing symmetry, going the other direction, and get something like these matrices and their mixing angles out in a nice way. And it’s a very high bar. But if that were to happen, for a geometrically based theory, in a natural way, that didn’t sneak them in by hand, somehow, that that would immediately command my attention, and I would swap all my investment into looking at that. And I’d also see if it related to my stuff, because that’s what theorists do, theorists also always try to relate new stuff to theirs. But that would immediately command a whole lot of attention. And, like I said, it’s a high bar, and—

Eric Weinstein: Well, and I think Garrett is also, if I—I feel comfortable putting words into his mouth, since he can take them out, given that he’s here. I think that Garrett is using the CKM Matrix as but one of many examples. In other words, there are things that are concrete, that show that there is a new idea present. And what is particularly bizarre is when people say that they have a Theory of Everything, and there is no new idea that you can hear coming out of their mouths. 

Garrett Lisi: That’s right. 

Eric Weinstein: So a different way of saying the CKM matrix—keep in mind that I’m an imposter, rather than a physicist, so I feel uncomfortable saying anything to the folks at home. But you have a situation whereby the algebraically natural object, which might be called a flavor eigenstate, let’s say, and the observed object, the mathematically massive object in the theory are not necessarily exactly lining up. And one of the problems is that we don’t really know how to generate mass, except for this as-if mass that we call the Higgs mechanism. So, in fact, it’s not even real mass, the way we thought we were going to find mass, it has to do with another object called the Yukawa Coupling, whereby this Higgs field is lured away from its zero value, which would have all of us zipping around at the speed of light, to some finite value called a VEV. And then the idea is that it’s this VEV that requires explanation. The reason I bring this up, is that the old reductionist hopes that you would find the CKM Matrix, and other things of that nature, as fundamental values has been shown, in some sense, to be a very naive hope. That there’s some things that are encoded into the equations of physics, and there are other things that are encoded into the particular region and time of space that we find ourselves in, in the happenstance. So you’re never sure, if you have a number hard coded into the theory, as to whether or not that number exists as a scalar? Thinking of it in computer science terms, how do you cast that? Is it an integer? A ratio of integers? Is it a float? Or is it a field? And one of the problems is that we have these two things, the Cosmological constant, and the Higgs field, and maybe the inflaton, maybe three things, that may in some sense, be disguised as real numbers, but may, in fact, vary the way you wouldn’t say, “what’s the temperature on earth today?” You would say, “well, what’s the field of temperatures distributed over the earth?” So in our region, you might say, it’s 76 degrees Fahrenheit, but you might be fooled into thinking that it’s 76 degrees everywhere, because you’re just too focused on your own navel gazing. So if the CKM Matrix, in fact, is encoded field theoretically, as a bunch of numbers, that happen to be relatively constant at our particular moment in space and time, you know, that’s one thing. We don’t know fundamentally what it should be. We don’t know whether Yukawa couplings and the Mexican Hat Potential come from. All of these gadgets that feel artificial may, in fact, be accidents of an anthropic principle that they happen to be at these values for us to observe them. So one of the problems that’s developed of late in theoretical physics is how do you split up the things that are fundamental to the equations and the Lagrangian which governs the equations, and how many of these are emergent accidents having to do either with anthropics or the the good fortune just to be alive at this time and in this place? That said, I believe that Garrett will be working on Geometric Unity by the end of this year.

Brian Keating: Well that was a bold statement! Well, first of all, I want to take a little brief pause when that haymaker was landed. Let’s take a quick break to ask people to stretch your fingers. Do not get carpal tunnel syndrome. Do not succumb to carpal tunnel syndrome. Press the like button. Subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast so I can get great guests like this. I’m going to have Carlo Rovelli on next week, I’m going to have Avi Loeb on in the next week. I’ve got a short track to maybe get on gjerde to PhD at OU ft. I don’t know how to pronounce it. He and I have been communicating and many many other great episodes, it would be great to have it hooked on this channel. By the way,

Eric Weinstein: Garrett, can we do something that Brian cannot do? And just—can you say what you think the quality of Brian’s guests, other than the crazy people working outside of the system has been?

Garrett Lisi: I went through his guest list and I was more than—more than impressed enough to come and be a guest myself.

Brian Keating: That’s right. And, and that was enough, actually— 

Eric Weinstein: It’s astounding, Brian.

Brian Keating: Thank you, Eric. And you were—I said on Twitter recently, you’re one of my main role models, as is Sabine and Lex Fridman, and all those great podcasters out there. But Garrett didn’t realize— 

Eric Weinstein: I want to say a little bit more Brian—

Brian Keating: Go ahead.

Eric Weinstein: You can’t say this.

Brian Keating: Alright.

Eric Weinstein: Your willingness to go outside of the system, and your ability to get the top people in the system is unparalleled anywhere else. You know, Lex Fridman is doing something like that, but you’re actually doing it from inside the system. And I don’t know of a single other person who is—maybe Max Tegmark would be the other person, through FQXI and his—and Anthony Aguirre, cofounder of FQXI. But, so far as I know, there are really two or three people who are risking their reputations to talk to people from outside of the system, and able to bring people into the system, I would say Perimeter, FQXI, and the Into The Impossible podcast. And it needs to be said that Brian is taking a huge risk talking to people like us, and taking it seriously, and that he’s managing to do it with so much integrity that he’s still able to get you the top people. And I just think it’s an amazingly courageous thing to do from the position of a chaired professorship. 

Brian Keating: Well, thank you very much. And that will do a long, good bit of help for me when I have people on like Deepak Chopra, who is also on the show in the following weeks, and I do get a lot of criticism, how can I have this crackpot on and, and actually, you know, one of the most most delightful things about this podcast is that I get to talk to people I want to talk to, people that excite and interest the mind, and that satisfy the intellectual curiosity of this podcast, is to create the university I wish I went to. And, although Garrett did go to this university called UC San Diego, one of the best in my opinion in the known multiverse, and he doesn’t know that actually Alumni Relations has a request for his donation of Apple stock later in the podcast, but we won’t get into that. No, I do appreciate that, Eric. It is—it’s not so—it’s not as courageous as the things that you guys are doing, but it is interesting to me, to keep my brain going, and talk to the people that I wanted to talk to ever since I was a kid. People at the forefront that have intellectual curiosity, and have courage. That’s an extremely rare trait. So yes, please help me spread the message about the podcast. Subscribe to my mailing list, I’m sending out life lessons from Jim Simons, and for Michael Saylor, and from Eric Weinstein, and I’m gonna write up some life lessons I learned from Garrett Lisi as well. 

Let’s get back to this. I often hear, as I did, when I talked to Stephen Wolfram by himself, and then Eric and Stephen got together for a live debate over the summer as well. But I said, “which of you guys really thinks that this Theory of Everything is doing a disservice?” Because it’s actually, in my opinion, what Stephen has is not going to come up with the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Or maybe it will, but maybe it won’t come up with Bell’s inequality. In other words, it’s not really a Theory of Everything. It might be a unified theory, or something like that. So Garrett, let me ask you, is, you know, E8, is exceptional theory that you’ve developed, is that really going to come up with things like the double slit experiment? Is it going to come up with strange spooky-action-at-a-distance? Or is it, is it—and I’m saying this “merely”, but it’s not pejorative in any sense—is it restricted to unification via mathematical structures in this representation theory fashion?

Garrett Lisi: The short answer is no, because E8 does not inherently contain a geometric description of quantum physics, which is something that Eric said he was—that ultimately we’re going to need to go for. So if you really want a unified theory, and not be faking it, you also need a description of quantum physics in a natural way that includes the things you described. So that’s what I’m working on next. So I’m next working on structures such as generalized Lie groups that inherently contain descriptions of quantum physics that would start to be able to give you exactly the things that you described.

And Eric would it emerge from—you and I’ve talked about this, but for the record, let’s say it in front of Garrett, what—wherein lies things like the spooky-action-at-a-distance like Bell’s Inequality? Does that lie within the Geometric Unity purview?

Eric Weinstein: I don’t even understand Garrett’s response in his own theory. So let’s first of all criticize Garrett, before we put me in hot water. 

Brian Keating: Alright, go for it. 

Eric Weinstein: All right. The thing about I don’t think Garrett is actually accurate. One of the really important things about what happened in the 1970s, where we actually made progress, but we pretend that we didn’t make progress in the structure of mathematics, because we’re embarrassed where the progress happened. It happened around the mathematics of Field Theory, rather than in the specifics of the field theory that seemed to describe our world. In fact, if Garrett has a Lagrangian, which he does, and that Lagrangian is applied to the fields, which it is, Garrett will find that he will have something called a phase space. He’ll have a configuration space, he will have a phase space. The phase space will inherit a structure called a symplectic form. That symplectic form will become the curvature of a differential operator on something called a line bundle. And that line bundle is something like the xy plane, where you can look at functions. And those functions will become the quantum states of a quantum field theory. So I think that what Garrett just said is not actually accurate—

Garrett Lisi: But you have to—but you still need— 

Eric Weinstein: Even without—

Garrett Lisi: Where does Planck’s constant come in there? I mean, you don’t have quantum—quantum mechanics you have to add. It’s something you have to add. It doesn’t come out naturally from—

Eric Weinstein: No, I don’t agree with just necessarily. I believe that geometric quantization. There are some things that we say about Quantum Theory that I have not been convinced of one is that it’s an art rather than a functor. But I think the geometric quantization goes a long way towards saying that, just as vintners claim that wine is what happens when you stop grape juice from becoming vinegar, well, in some sense, classical field theory is what happens when you stop a mechanics from quantizing itself. And I think that Garrett’s theory is entirely capable of quantizing itself in a geometric quantization format, simply by virtue of the fact that, through a legendre transformation, he’ll get from a Lagrangian into a Hamiltonian picture, the Hamiltonian picture will turn out to be affiliated with a line bundle, and then the spooky-action-at-a-distance will come up in the multi-particle theory as his theory quantizes itself, and I don’t understand his pessimism. That’s not his problem. He’s got bigger problems.

Garrett Lisi: I think of quantum mechanics as bringing in a whole bunch of structural elements that either have to appear by hand, or I guess, I can see—

Eric Weinstein: There are a few pages out of Woodhouse, and I think that you’ll find you’re in far better shape if you can just get your stuff in order.

Garrett Lisi: Happy to have a look. I still think of quantum mechanics as a structure that most physicists would bring in as a toolkit to use with other things, rather than something that emerges naturally from a geometric system. 

Eric Weinstein: We’ll see, I’m a little bit—

Garrett Lisi: —from your point of view, how you’d see it that way.

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, I’m more sanguine that because Garrett has hugged the shore of geometry, he will be richly rewarded if he can ever get his stuff to really work.

Brian Keating: Well, let me ask some questions from the audience, because there’s over, almost—yeah, there’s 1100 people watching live. Thank you, we treasure each and every one of you. And I want to ask a question about the impact of String Theory. Why is it so worthy of at least somewhat muted derision, perhaps by basically everyone who’s got an alternative grand unified or super unified theory? Why is it—make the steelman case for String Theory first, Eric, and then and then I’d like to hear from from Garrett, although we did discuss that, so we’ll maybe ask an alternate question of Garrett so as not to repeat himself. But ask you, Eric, what’s the case for String Theory, even if not to devote—even if we ignore the amount of resources that have been devoted to it? Let’s just take the case of String Theory. Qua String Theory. What’s good about it? 

Eric Weinstein: Well, I mean, first of all, there’s a certain amount of naturality at the beginning of it, which is, “Why just generalize hard little balls, which aren’t exactly right? Why not start from things that are more interesting than hard little balls, like tiny little pieces of string and circles vibrating in some other space?” I think that then you ask the question about, “Why did gravity not succumb to the same tools that worked well for what we would call spin 1/2 matter, and spin 1 forces other than gravity, and now for the Higgs field, so, which is spin 0. Now, there are two other cases, there’s spin 3/2 and spin 2 before you crap out of this game, in which everything in the theory has to come with some fraction between zero and two.

In that situation, there’s a puzzle as to why gravity doesn’t easily submit to this quantum imperialism. And the hope was that if you found any circumstance in which gravity appeared to behave better, then, in that framework, then that would have to be right. And that was supplemented in the early 1980s, by some very bizarre discoveries, where there were some very narrow constraints, called an anomaly cancellation, which appeared to pick out a tiny number of candidates. And so what was tantalizing was that if somebody had actually found a way to circumvent the problems with quantizing gravity, and there were a tiny number of coincidences that were necessary, clearly, you know, the Good Lord Hashem was urging us on a path to find these things, and you could do it through process of elimination. At that point, String Theory turned murderous. And the murderousness is really the problem. It’s not String Theory, per se, that’s the problem. It was the behavior patterns of the physicists who became so drunk on power, and so completely, thoroughly obnoxious—and I want to talk about obnoxious above the obnoxious level that physicists are usually at. Physics is a very—physics is a very dangerous and difficult subject, and because it is the most accomplished of communities, arrogance has been a fundamental aspect of doing theoretical physics, just as humility has been an important aspect. And those two things are commingled. When physics had been failing for a relatively brief period of time, about 10 years, and String Theory was found to have this anomaly cancellation, the String Theory community went into some level of obnoxiousness that has never before been seen in physics. They became completely intolerable. They also started doing things like saying “Everything is String Theory”, just sort of like Bitcoin maximalists, where the Bitcoin solves everything. “I’m having a problem with my children.” “Don’t worry, Bitcoin solves that.” If you find anything that isn’t String Theory, don’t worry, we’ll just call it String Theory. Everything that you can do, we will write a paper called “Blank-Whatever-You-Did, Plus Its Stringy Origins”. It is that complete intellectual dishonesty, and the failure of the String Theorists who embraced it, to face it, and the fact that it’s concentrated in the Baby Boom generation, as a means of deferring the ultimate tango with reality, where they can keep pumping out papers and saying, “look, this is a bit of the 21st century that fell into the 20th century—it fell into the 20th”. No, it’s not. The fact of the matter is, it’s a bit of the 20th century that’s still hanging around in the 21st century. They refuse to ship a product for different reasons than other people who are struggling with it, and more neurons have been spent exploring this theory and failing to find a way to connect it to anything other than mathematical reality. So on the one hand, it’s been incredibly interesting because it backfired on the physics community. The people who thought that they would quantize Einstein’s geometry, in fact, got it exactly wrong. What they did is that they geometerized the quantum. And so people who earned as geometers, doing an infinite dimensional differential geometry, and the like, spent as String Theorists. They would accomplish things in mathematics, and then they would say, “this is exactly why String Theory is correct”. This is a bit what Milton Friedman did, when he earned as an economist, and he spent as a polemicist telling people what they had to do for their social society. Very often people earn in one place and spend somewhere else. So in part, the problem that we’ve had is that we have these people who we absolutely love, who have been doing amazing work, but it’s not the work that they claim that they’re doing. They’ve been advancing the mathematics of Quantum Field Theory. They’ve been exploring extensions of Quantum Field Theory. They are not—when they say that we’re doing something in gravity, usually, it’s not about gravity. When they say that they’re talking about particles, they’re not talking about particles. As I’ve joked, many String Theorists, I don’t think, could find the men’s room at CERN if their life depended on it. They are not in contact with the physical world. They forget things, you know, like the Gell Mann Nishijima formula, and things that, you know, Garrett probably still cares about. I think that the serious problem is that there’s no one in a position to tell some of the world’s most brilliant people that there’s an aspect of Q-anon in physics. This is the cargo-cult science that Feynman warned us about. And the fact is, we can’t necessarily just go towards Brian’s preferred answer about depending upon experiment, and we can’t trust the people who’ve claimed beauty, the way Sabine has been going after the String Theorists. And the fact is that the String Theory community has not been economically powerful, because we have economically undermined the physics community, as with every other academic science community. In order to have this work, you have to go back to the Political Economy of physics. The Political Economy of physics demands that the middle finger be accessible to every generation, so that we don’t wait for funeral-by-funeral. What’s happening now is that the Baby Boomers are eventually going to age out. The key dividing line is 1951. Frank Wilczek, who you’ve just had on your show was the last person, in some sense, to make contact with the Standard Model. Ed Witten, born in the same year, a little bit later in the year, is a guy who could not possibly have been denied a Nobel Prize at this age, in any other time period. This guy is one of the most brilliant people, and I hope to God, Brian, that you have him on your show. Despite my frustrations with him, it has been an honor to live in the same era as Ed Witten. 

Brian Keating: Well, he says there’s only room for one EW on the Into The Impossible podcast.

Eric Weinstein: And my response to that joke is “EW”. The point is that Ed Witten is one of the most important minds alive, and he has earned a tremendous amount of respect, based on what he’s done for geometry, but, more importantly, the mathematics of field theory to show that Quantum Field Theory, rather than a grab bag of strange things that happen to work, is a canonical and necessary mathematical structure. But what he has not done is to show us that String Theory is the likely winner. And the key problem is that we have got to have open debates in the community, where the people in the Holy of Holies, the Institute for Advanced Study, are actually on the same stage with people who can competently disagree with them, for the same reasons that it is important that many of us who do not support what’s going on with the Democratic Party of the United States, because we don’t think that it any longer represents a real and workable Left, and that we think that it is gone down an incredibly dangerous path, have to be allowed on the same programs as people like Brian Williamson—Brian Williams, rather—or Don Lemon, because what we have is an illusion. And the illusion of String Theory is what’s causing the bitterness. It’s not the String Theory, and it’s not even the work that the String Theorist has done. It is the murderous intent by which they have stunted other communities that have sought to challenge them, and say, “You know what, you haven’t gotten as far as you claim, and you’re not correct that other avenues shouldn’t be pursued so that you can gobble up the resources.” 

Brian Keating: Yeah, when I had the conversation I did with Shelly Glashow, and we’ll get to in a minute, you know, basically I said, you know, he’s a leader, and I actually communicated this with Ed Witten the first time. I’m not so easy to get—to dispose of, Ed Witten. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for more requests to have you on the Into The Impossible podcast. But I also said to Nima Arkani-Hamed, who is going to come on the podcast, I’ve got a lot of Institute adjacency to Ed. I’m hopeful that Edward will come on the podcast. But I said to Nima, “he’s a leader” and I started to think, “what is a leader?” and there was a wonderful statement made by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who Garrett Lisi, I’m sure, knows all about being a good Chabadnik, that Garrett—Garrett, you don’t know any of these words, probably. But there’s, there’s a form of Judaism—like Garrett, you know, you’ve done most of the hard work, you had the circumcision, you’re fine, that the rest is all downhill get. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great, great leader. And he said, “good leaders—good leaders”—to Eric’s point—”create many followers, great leaders create many leaders”. And I see that as kind of happening, at least, not nearly to the same extent in theoretical physics as it is in my field of experimental physics. I know so many talented experimentalists that are far better than me, more creative, harder working, or more imaginative. The future of experimental physics I think is extremely bright, despite what certain naysayers will say. However, I think there is this reluctance to relinquish the stage, to enter and bow out, as Eric is alluding to, from some of the Boomers and so forth, and I’m getting up there myself, but nevertheless, in the theoretical community—and I wonder your reaction to that this following statement, for an experimentalist, it’s ironic, because I don’t believe that experimentalists do their best work by the time they’re 30, the way it’s often rumored to be true for mathematicians, and maybe theoretical physicists. In fact, experimental physicists get better with age, because we get better and better at knowing which experimental techniques work, which applications based on accumulated shared wisdom, etc., take place. So actually the opposite takes place. Your easier job of getting into experimental physics after having, you know, some exposure to it, than maybe theoretical physics, although you guys might debate that, but I want to talk about leadership in the field. You guys are both known for making prolific amounts of money and sums of money that are from your bets—from your bets with Nobel laureates, in fact—and I want to talk about the two bets that are most prominent in my mind. 

Eric Weinstein: Garrett really got paid. I got $1 off of Shelly Glashow after 27 years. Talk to Garrett.

Brian Keating: I know that well, that’s right. So Garrett, got a subscription to play—Nah, nah, I don’t know what he got. But I want to ask you guys, so let me first say this, the public bet that Garrett made with Frank Wilczek was that super particles would not be detected by the eighth of July, 2015. He gave him a one year extension for more data collection. Frank Wilczek conceded the super particle bet to Lisi in 2016. I had Frank on the show recently, I had on Shelly Glashow on the show recently. We were talking about the failure of of supersymmetry. So in this case, why isn’t it true that these Nobel laureates are taking the advice of their fellow laureate Richard Feynman? In other words, we know that it doesn’t agree with experiments. So why is this still so persistent. Is it an illusion? Let me ask Garrett, why do you think these things, like, Frank still believes that supersymmetry has a chance for success, even despite his pecuniary dilemma that he is in, and now, courtesy of you—actually, how could you take his whole salary? I mean, that he only gets five salaries from the five different institutions that have hired him.

Garrett Lisi: It didn’t even put a dent in it. But it did have four digits. So I was happy to receive it for the Pacific Science Institute. So yeah. And I was very—and he was a wonderful person for honoring that bet, and certainly for not bolting on it. I do have, I think, a good perspective on this. When I first built up this, you know, the the algebraic structure of the Standard Model and gravity into one algebraic hole, and just saw how perfectly it fit into E8, I was like, there’s got to be something here. There’s no way this is coincidence. Just algebraically is just—it would be an outlandish thing if this just was a coincidence. 

Brian Keating: Too beautiful to be wrong. 

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, exactly. It’s too beautiful to be wrong. And I think Frank Wilczek experienced—and I’m just guessing here—but I think he experienced something very similar when he did his calculation with a SO 10, Grand Unified model, extended with supersymmetry, and saw that the coupling constants, the way they run at higher energies—and if you do it just with SO 10, they just miss each other. But if you do it with supersymmetry, those coupling constants, when they run, they converge much more closely. And when he saw that, I think he had the same realization that this has to be true. This is too beautiful to be wrong. This supersymmetry, combined with this Grand Unified Theory, with the coupling constants merging to one value at high energy, that’s too beautiful to be wrong. I think he’s hung on to that ever since. What he doesn’t—may not have respected is that, you know, the super particles haven’t shown up. When you look more closely at the convergence, when you go to higher loops in the renormalization calculation, these coupling constants don’t merge perfectly with supersymmetry added. So it’s not as great of a coincidence as he first appreciated. And he just, you know, he had a very personal experience that caused him to have these beliefs. I think this is very similar to people, I mean, I do not mean this an insulting way, but I think many people can be misled this way, if they have personal experiences that lead them to believe weird things that aren’t true. I think people believe in God for this reason, I think people believe in astrology for this reason. It’s like, oh, I met this person there this sign, they match all the things in the sign, there must be something to it. It’s like, because of personal experience, we tend to draw unrealistic models.

Brian Keating: Eric, would—

Eric Weinstein: Does that apply to you?

Garrett Lisi: It does. I think that because I had this experience of seeing the Standard Model fit into he ate perfectly the first time, with this hint of triality for the three generations, I think that gave me unusual confidence that something along these lines had to be true.

Eric Weinstein: I think what Garrett is saying is profound here. This is really an important point. If you take the anomaly cancellation, if you take the triviality, together with the chirality of E8 for Garrett. If you take the running coupling constant convergence for Frank Wilczek, and probably also cancellations in the perturbation theory of supersymmetric theories when the supersymmetry isn’t, you know, too far off, or badly broken, in order to say why it isn’t here already—another one would be the convergence inside of spin 10 that Garrett is referring to of Georgi and Glashow, and there’s another version due to Pati and Salaam—all of these things have been extremely tantalizing, and the problem is that everything smells like we’re almost finished, if not with this whole story, certainly this chapter of the story. And I believe that that is driving many people crazy, which is really the steelmanning of Sabine’s point as to why this is happening. Now, Garrett, can—may I just ask, and sort of take Brian’s role here for one second? Why did you become confident enough to bet against Frank Wilczek, that, clearly, I know you have no penchant for losing money, and you put yourself in a very vulnerable position—what gave you the confidence that super partners would not be found? 

Garrett Lisi: Alright, I looked into— 

Eric Weinstein: You know what’s coming next, right, which is the fact that you’re using super connections, so that you are starting to move a little bit in the direction of supersymmetry—

Garrett Lisi: There is—

Eric Weinstein: Just as Wilczek’s money is moving into your pocket.

Garrett Lisi: —stuff that I’m not—that I’m aware of in my own work. But for supersymmetry and super particles specifically, it was work that I read from a paper in the 90s, I think by Peskin. And that work, just took the last stone out of the structure that was holding up evidence for supersymmetry. There are arguments for supersymmetry. And that stone was that with supersymmetry, you get a more successful renormalization for the Higgs field. Okay, that you get—that you can balance things better with supersymmetry, that super particles perform this role where you can get renormalization to work out better and more successfully in a more natural way. And this has been one of several arguments for supersymmetry that has been used to support it theoretically. And what I found in this paper by Peskin, I think it was from ’97 or something, was that if you just have more Higgs degrees of freedom, you can get the same sort of—same sort of balancing in renormalization. And that’s like, wow, that’s right. This argument really just comes down to one parameter to get something to match up. And if you can just wiggle some other parameter, you can get the same sort of balancing, get everything to work out. So you don’t need supersymmetry, you don’t need this whole Zoo of super particles. And at that point, the chain of logic required to support a belief in supersymmetry just totally fell apart. It’s like there’s just no evidence for this. Mathematically, from a mathematical perspective, I look at it, and it’s like, supersymmetry isn’t even that pretty mathematically. Mathematicians tend not to deal with it, because it’s just kind of not really mathematically elegant. And with so little evidence for it, it just seemed like there was a extreme unusual amount of confidence in supersymmetry among physicists among high energy theorists, and I had an opportunity at a conference to take advantage of Frank Wilczek and his generosity, and putting him on the spot during during a talk he was giving, and make this bet, and he took it because he—I know he had an unusual amount of confidence in the symmetry and he humored me in taking this bet.

Eric Weinstein: Well, this is part of his description of Jimmy the Greek in Vegas making money off people that wanted to bet that they could beat Jimmy the Greek, and that you—hubris is the source of profit. But Garrett, in a weird way, even though you’ve won Frank’s money by forcing him into a compromised position, where he has to support his unnatural exuberance, is Frank not, in some sense, winning this bet, as I watch supersymmetry start to invade your E8 program?

Garrett Lisi: Um, Frank Wilczek has won all sorts of ways, and he’s a great guy, and I think deserves it. He deserves everything he’s won. I’m not religious about anything. If it turns out supersymmetry comes in and solves really good problems for me, I may change my point of view about it. I’m not religious about anything, I will go with whatever works.

Eric Weinstein: 

So let me just make a point on that. I remember the first time I saw a giraffe in Africa on the savanna, and instead of seeing it in a zoo, where it looks like the most ungainly, ungainly, ridiculous animal, I suddenly realized how beautifully it was designed. 

Garrett Lisi: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: Could the problem not be that we have always mis-instantiated supersymmetry, causing it to be relatively ugly, even to mathematicians. And that, in fact, it has infected all sorts of areas of mathematics, we can’t quite keep it out. It does occur in, you know, local formulas, for example, for the Atiyah-Singer families index theorem. Is it not the case that perhaps the problem goes back to what I was trying to say about Popper, that when something is mis-instantiated, it does not invalidate, in some sense, the soul of the idea? And that, what you see is that a lot of these ideas are mis-instantiated, causing people to get crazy. They see something that is, in fact, not seen by others. And then when they realize that they’re in possession of something, incomplete as it may be, they rush to over-instantiate it. And that that’s really the problem. And that, in fact, Frank has been driven slightly mad by expecting that the supersymmetry would occur in the most naive possible way, just as Georgi and Glashow were looking for proton decay in South Dakota abandoned mines, and didn’t find it. Just as Ed Witten was looking for a very simple story about the Einstein equations coming out of pieces of string, with the anomaly cancellation showing the way. And that, over and over again, Sabine is actually just, in some ways, doing a great job calling out many more powerful people for not actually getting things right, but is herself fallen in love with the idea that beauty is the source of the problem. Maybe the source of the problem is that we keep seeing glimmers of the truth that are almost always mis-instantiated. And that the real problem is that we are at the end, and it is the conceptual difficulties that are the biggest problem. When we say Theory of Everything, what do we even mean? We have these incredibly childish conversations: Do we need a Theory of Everything? What good is a Theory of Everything? But I think that the much more interesting question is, conceptually, do we even know what we mean, because, to the best of my knowledge, even though I’m assured that every theorist has a private collection of theories of everything in a drawer that they show no one, I’ve actually never seen a competent attempt at a Theory of Everything from anyone. It’s so difficult. We’re in such a straitjacket at the moment, that anybody who knows anything about this field effectively won’t produce a Theory of Everything candidate, because it’s instantly laughable. And that, in fact, we don’t even know what we’re talking about when we say the words “Theory of Everything,” because what does that mean? 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: I think you really got it when you think—when you said perhaps we do are using the correct structures, the correct theoretical models, we’re just instantiating them incorrectly. And I think that could very well be the case with supersymmetry and how it’s instantiated. It could be instantiated in a different way, where it still maintains a form of supersymmetry, but you don’t end up with super partners, you don’t end up with super particles.

Eric Weinstein: Bingo.

Garrett Lisi: So it could be something just like that. And that’s very much the case if you look at the BRST technique for—

Eric Weinstein: You mean with ghosts. 

Garrett Lisi: —for Gauge Theory with ghosts, which are essentially, you know, they’re—it’s a sort of supersymmetry, but it’s not a superpartner supersymmetry. And that, and in that sense, it’s a much prettier structure, and I think something like that could be happening. And it could be happening over and over again, where we actually are dealing with almost exactly the right picture. We were just a little off, so totally missed it.

Eric Weinstein: What if the idea is in fact that you’re you’ve got Clark Kent and Superman, and you imagine that Clark Kent is something called Spider Man, and that Superman is, in fact, Peter Parker, and you keep waiting for Peter Parker and Spider Man and you haven’t put together you have Clark Kent and Superman. I mean, there are all sorts of things that can explain all sorts of older people going completely insane because they grew up—

Garrett Lisi: The reason this happens is because when we’re students and we learn this stuff, we see one way that was done specifically, and we now are familiar with the one way it was done specifically, and we lose track of the fact after hundreds of people have learned it this way, we lose track of the way that it could have been done slightly different, if they just made a slightly different choice of bat—

Eric Weinstein: Well, and also that when you allow older people to wrap their loving hands around the necks of anybody who would come to disagree with them financially, which you do is you interfere with the scientific process, and it’s certainly very expensive waiting for Plank’s aphorism to come true that science progresses funeral-by-funeral. It doesn’t need to if you solve the problem of political economy. And if there are any billionaires out there who would like to advance the human species, there’s nothing you could do better than free the people who need to be freed from the economic tyranny of the elders, to actually develop the ideas that they believe in so that we don’t keep investing in the failed ideas of others. A huge missed opportunity for interest

Brian Keating: Only if—Eric, if only you knew a billionaire, I mean, it would be so convenient if that were the case. Or me too. 

Eric Weinstein: Well, Jim Simons is available, I hope. Jim has been incredibly generous, and trying to figure out what to fund. I do not understand—if I were Jim Simons, and I wanted to leave the maximal stain in the human—I mean, this isn’t said because we want Jim Simons’ money. If Jim Simons wanted to do the maximal amount of good, I believe that Jim Simons could solve this problem overnight, because, to be honest, a lot of this is incredibly cheap.

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: Theorists are cheap.

Brian Keating: Yeah. When I hear that, of course, I’m reminded of the quote by Upton Sinclair that it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. And I, you know, wonder, what about the people out there who say, “you guys are controversial, you guys are working at this, you know, kind of outsider’s perspective.” I know Eric hates this, but like, at least this guy, Norbert, you know, he’s written a book. And he’s got this book, he’s not doing a TED talk, like Garrett. He’s not doing a Joe Rogan as Eric does. What do you say to people like that? I mean, is this guy—should you just humor a person like this? And then he might be listening? I hope he is, Norbert, you’re all—more power to you for doing this.

Eric Weinstein: You looked through the book. What do you think of it? 

Brian Keating: Well, I just got it this morning, and it’s 190 pages, but it’s phenomenal.

Eric Weinstein: Doesn’t require that, you can figure out very quickly whether or not there’s something to it.

Brian Keating: Yeah. So I literally got it as I was setting up to interview Garrett. I will look through it because actually, it’s a tradition of mine to never throw away a book. I don’t care what it’s about, or whatever, even if it’s my own book, which I—

Eric Weinstein: Do mind if I—

Brian Keating: Yeah—

Eric Weinstein: —I answer that, because—

Garrett Lisi: Some books you have to throw down with great force.

Eric Weinstein: Brian, because there was a slight implication there, I will point out that I actually don’t—I’ve been very fascinated by the fact that I said quite a lot of things in the Geometric Unity lecture that I released, and the claim that you can’t understand anything from a lecture is itself preposterous. I remember very well, when what became to be known as the Seiberg-Witten equations were discussed at a seminar at MIT. I guarantee you the math community did not wait for a paper. They immediately tore into—a guy named Brian Knutson, I believe, asked Ed Witten, “Well, what are these equations?” and Ed wrote them on the board. The rest is history. The claim that, in some sense, you know, “paper or it didn’t happen”. This kind of internet tomfoolery has just showed you the degradation in the communications between the scientific community—name calling, and innuendo is really trading at a premium. One of the things that I really like about the conversation that we have been having is that it’s nuanced. I may resent Ed Witten’s leadership of the physics community, but I absolutely love his mind and what he’s done. Sabine pisses me off with her diplomacy when she says “I’m too busy to read this stuff”, when she actually means, “I don’t think it’s good enough to warrant my attention”. 

Brian Keating: Or that, yeah, she’ll say, I don’t understand it. Right. 

Eric Weinstein: But my point is, right. But my point is, is that there’s a tremendous amount of love in this situation for the—and compassion, for the people who are in this game. When you hold up that book, I see an earnest person, who’s almost certainly going to be wrong, who’s trying. And I think that there’s a beautiful thing that goes back to David E Kaplan, at Johns Hopkins, who did the film Particle Fever, who’s an unbelievable guy, and I hope you have him on your podcast. He is an honest broker. What he said is, “the entire circus of theoretical physics is what humanizes us”, the charlatans, the careerists, the backstabbing, the missed opportunities, the failings, and ultimately the successes, that the entire circus is, in fact, man trying to understand his own condition. It is we as the AI attempting to learn our own source code. We have emerged in the system out of nothing. It is as if we’ve been given a Game of Life in Conway’s sense, and we have somehow spontaneously erupted to try to figure out “what are we?” or if you want to look at it as Wheeler’s the universe inspecting itself, which he drew is a “U” with an eyeball looking at itself. 

Brian Keating: Yeah. 

Eric Weinstein: And I think that part of the thing that you would say is that, under David Kaplan’s concept of the physics circus, whoever’s book that is, I may never heard of that person, that person is trying. And you know, rather than denigrating that person.

Brian Keating: I can prove it to you on one leg that that criticism is B.S., because look behind me here. This way, this way, here, this purple kind of book right there, is Wolfram, a project for theoretical physics. Okay, so a project to find the fundamental theory of physics. Okay, so, he published a book, people don’t read it. The same people who say the same stuff about the two of you, say the same stuff about Wolfram. So that is proof positive that a book is meaningless, a paper is meaningless, having written—

Eric Weinstein: Wait, what do they say about the two of us? 

Brian Keating: Well, I think what they say about the two of you, is “Eric—”, and you and I have had this conversation, I’m not saying it behind your back, that “—you are an extraordinarily privileged human being who did, you know, went to Harvard, went to MIT, went to Israel, had all these postdocs, now is in a high power position, you call yourself not a physicist, but you really are a physicist—to shield yourself from the criticism that “he should know better because he’s a physicist”. You use this as a shield, as armor, to protect yourself. Garrett, they say “he’s not traditional academic role. He didn’t—” you guys are gonna fucking kill me, but I don’t care. I’m 1000s of miles away. But they’ll say, “Garrett is a showman. He is bright, but his potential is not being used, because he has enough gifts.” And they say the same about you, Eric, that you should be doing this full time. And I don’t agree with that, because I think you guys are making valuable contributions, arguably, Garrett, you know, if you break any more bones, I’m going to get pissed off at you. But the point—

Eric Weinstein: Actually, Brian, what you’re saying—if that was said publicly, those people would be short. And I want to bring up a very important story. There’s a difference between trying to snipe and trying to block. I said some very tough things about Ed Witten. Very hard for me to say that, because this is a guy that I admire, effectively, almost more than anyone else alive, right? When people refuse to go short in public, and they snipe behind backs, it’s really remarkable in some sense how at least Jacques Distler and Garibaldi, his coauthor, went short Garrett Lisi. This is the manner by which Erwin Chargaff went short Watson and Crick. There was nothing quite as beautiful as watching Chargaff come to understand how deeply and painfully he had gotten things wrong. And I think that one of the things that’s very interesting is, if people say that, you know, if I called myself a physicist, I guarantee you tomorrow, that criticism would convert 180 degrees, or pi radians, if you like, and that is it would be “How dare he call himself a physicist? He took one semester of mechanics WTF.” Okay? The key point is, most people are very reluctant, with love and care, to say what they mean and go short what they mean. And if I were to offer, “Would you care to give me 10,000 to 1 odds on Geometric Unity?” I guarantee you they’d say, well, let’s bet 100 bucks at 1 to 1. No, no, if it’s quite so ridiculous, if it’s funny, if it’s an internet stunt, I would be very interested in taking your house. And I’d be willing to put up you know, a little bit of money given that it’s such an outside bet. So, if you’re interested in going short, that’s not the problem. The problem is the sniping. The problem is the bitchy, catty little comments, and the avoidance, you know, I mean, I definitely can tell you that I have a lot of admiration, for example, as to what Sean Carroll has been doing, in terms of trying to push out various aspects of the toolkit of theoretical physics to a world audience. But I also find that there is an aspect of avoidance. And in the case of you, you are actually saying, “I want to sample what life there is.” And it’s very important to recognize that the difference between blocking and shorting is very important. If people will not professionally go short and say, I think that the odds that you have anything are miniscule and not worth worrying about. That becomes very interesting, because that’s something that can be falsified.

Brian Keating: Well, how about it? Shall we make it interesting, Garrett, you guys are known for winning bets with famous Nobel laureates, guys care to make it interesting? But how about this? How about we bet—well, no that wouldn’t be going short—I was gonna say Eric bets that Garrett’s right, Garrett bets that Eric’s right. But I’m trying to achieve comity, but that’s a problem, right? Because actually, I think that it’s benign bigotry, right. I think it’s—

Garrett Lisi: On what metric? Yeah.

Brian Keating: I think it’s benign bigotry to say oh, well, it’s good. Eric. Eric, good for you. Let me rub your beautiful Einstein hair—I think that’s insulting, and I think it’s detrimental, right, to say, “Oh, it’s good that—” and I do take issue with Sabine for doing that, you know, basically, I think that’s a cop out. She should say what she really believes is just, “I think it’s wrong.”

Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait a second. Sabine is in a very vulnerable position. 

Brian Keating: Okay, fine.

Eric Weinstein: And I’m very defensive of Sabine, because Sabine has huge amounts of integrity. 

Brian Keating: Me too, I, yeah.

Eric Weinstein: I really believe that she intends to be as diplomatic as she can as a curmudgeon, and that she’s trying to keep—you know, we’ve got one lady in Germany trying to keep the entire field—the reason that we keep talking about her is because of her incredible courage and integrity. And so even though she’s wrong about beauty, and Garrett is wrong about E8, and I can keep going on and over and over about what my beliefs are, the fact is, these are people who are behaving, in my opinion, the most heroically, and the sniping, and the bitching and complaining and saying, “Well, you can tell that because they’re behaving in this way, if you avoid peer review, it means that—”, look, the key issue is I keep coming on your show, Brian, time after time. I’m on with Wilczek, I forget who else I’ve been on—

Brian Keating: Penrose.

Eric Weinstein: Penrose. No, we’re actually out here in public and vulnerable. And the key point is, if you want to go short, and you have an idea that this is so ridiculous, by all means.

Brian Keating: Well, here’s the—

Eric Weinstein: Let’s structure something so that you can express your view, and then it becomes much more interesting to go after it.

Brian Keating: Well, here’s a conversation you and I had when I came on The Portal, which will be released by the time the second—

Eric Weinstein: Inshallah. 

Brian Keating: —by the time the second Kamala Harris administration is in office. But I, you know, I said this, that they—and you and I talked about this, quite candidly, that Nobel Prize winners have this outsized risk/reward ratio that doesn’t favor them either opining about the peccadilloes, or flaws, in new Theories of Everything, and also, not being very willing to step out on a limb, right, because they don’t want to, you know, have their reputation—they have reputation bias, they have authority bias that comes courtesy of this—look, you guys both talked about Nobel Prize winners and so forth. And, you know, my theory on that, and that’ll come out when The Portal does come out with the two of us. But, the point being, you know, there’s this tremendous, you know, risk, so I don’t—on one hand, Eric, you’re saying we can’t criticize Sabine too much because she’s extremely courageous and vulnerable, and she’s doing a great job, but she’s not backed by this edifice of tenure and so forth that I enjoy. On the other hand, we can’t criticize someone like Wilczek, because he’s not gonna take the bait and possibly risk some of his hit points. And—

Eric Weinstein: Well, no, no, no, no, no, this is what—Feynman came out against String Theory, and he made the point, he said, when I was a young man, the old people got it wrong. So I’m going to be telling you that, as an old guy, I think the String Theorists have it completely wrong. Now, of course, he didn’t really mean that. He really meant, “I think the String Theorists are completely wrong. I’m not here just to entertain you.” The key issue is that the old guys who really still understood what the game was had won enough that they were in a position to get things wrong, and to be relatively undamaged and undeterred. The problem that we have now is that the leading lights of the theoretical physics community have, in general, not made contact with the unforgiving. That is, they have not made contact with the physical world, they don’t work in dimensions, or, you know, Spacetime signatures that are actually real, they tend to work in places where there is no chance of bumping up against anything other than mathematical reality. And so, by deferring that, what we have is, we have very vulnerable old people. We now have people dying, at the ends of their lives, who were considered leading lights of the physics community, who have never been proven to have accomplished anything, actually, in physics. And I don’t say this to be a jerk. I say this because the field is in danger. When you go for almost 50 years without making significant contact, from the theory perspective—we’ve had about three or four major updates from the experimentalists, to your point, Brian—you’re in danger of having very respectable people who it’s not even clear are physicists, in standard concepts of physics. When you talk about people like Ed Hooft, and Yang, and Weinberg, and Frank Wilczek, you’re talking about an extremely important, dwindling community, like the number of humans who have walked on the moon. Every human being who has walked on the moon is old, and everyone who has made contact with experiment from the theory perspective in fundamental physics is now old. This is a non-renewable resource. We are in incredible danger, because we have got to claim the people who sit in the chaired professorships are incredibly accomplished, but by physical standards, almost none of them are. And this is not me being a jerk. This is, unfortunately, the world being a jerk.

Brian Keating: How do you read world? How do you instantiate that though, Eric? How do you—look, “You’re not coming—get your damn hands off my chair!” You know, “I earned this chaired professor.” But— 

Eric Weinstein: I didn’t say experimentalist, Brian.

Brian Keating: I know, I’m just joking, but I am, to somebody else, I’m blocking somebody else. So I had this conversation with I think it was Cameron Hoffa, but it might have been somebody else, but, another person who’s done a tremendous amount of mathematical things. He’s very brilliant. I love him. He’s a mensch. But, you know, I feel like we have, we have a whole, you know, glut of very accomplished, brilliant theoreticians, theoretical physicists, perhaps, and there aren’t as many experimentalists doing the work, as Garrett said earlier, you know, it’s very expensive to do experiment, blah, blah, blah. But, but how do you physically get them to give it up? I want to propose in a faculty meeting, and now I’m tenured so I can say whatever I think about various ones—Naw, I love my colleagues, but I said, I think you theorists should teach two classes for every one class in experimentalist has to teach, because I’m traveling, I’m going to Chile, I’m going to the South Pole. I’m doing—and I’m running an enterprise with a budget annually of $1.7 million to put my students, for them to travel for them to go to Chile, blah, blah, blah. And they were like, “If you do that, I will make your life a living hell”, you know, basically, they’re not going to teach two classes in a quarter. They’re not going to do it—

Eric Weinstein: They shouldn’t be teaching, for the most part.

Brian Keating: How do you do that? How do you instantiate this thing of “get the old Boomers off the stage”? Look, we have a 78-year-old president right now.

Eric Weinstein: You need not to “get the old Boomers off the stage”. You need enough funding so that young people, their life—

Brian Keating: Okay, where—?

Eric Weinstein: —does not depend— 

Brian Keating: Where? Motherhood and apple pie. Where do we get the money? Let me ask Garrett. Garrett—

Eric Weinstein: Wait, wait, wait, one second. I’ve been on this program before. The US government needs to recognize that it is shooting itself in the foot by not honoring an agreement that was tacitly understood, which is, we create your economy, and for God’s sake, when we tell you that we need funding and we need some toys, shut up.

Brian Keating: Do you think we’re gonna get that?

Eric Weinstein: We created almost everything that is still working.

Brian Keating: No, I agree 100% with you on that, I’ve, obviously—and I—and by the way, I like to point out that nobody looked at the equations of quantum mechanics and said, Let’s make a LCD a transistor that will go on a smartphone. It came from experimental physics. I’m just teasing. But Garrett, maybe you haven’t heard this, Eric calls theoretical physics, the “SEAL Team Six” of intellectual capability. By the way, I have a lot of friends in the SEAL teams, and they’re just as talented. Eric, I know you mean that in the best possible way. And you have—

Eric Weinstein: You know, if I get taken out by SEAL Team three, I’m going to be terribly angry.

Brian Keating: Yeah, Jocko is coming back for more. Let me let me stop and take a pause for one second, just to remind people, please do subscribe to the podcast, please leave a comment. What do you think about these different theories of Eric’s and Garrett’s? And what do you think about the importance of, I believe, popularization that these are two of the greatest exponents? I think Sabine is an incredible expositor. She takes things in a different direction than I do. People that are actually doing research and taking courageous stands, you’ll be pleased to know that people like my friend, and upcoming guest, Avi Loeb, he is very much in the same camp as you guys. And he’s a theoretical astrophysicist. And he believes that there’s tremendous amounts of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence that’s not being funded. Just the exact same arguments that Eric and Garrett might make, because of all the intellectual air being sucked out, and the financial capital getting sucked out. So Eric has made controversial, to me, suggestions that we should tax semiconductor instructions or somehow monetize these inventions of physics. I pointed out, Eric, I think, when you and I and Max Tegmark were on together, earlier this month—I’ll put a link somewhere in the notes to that—I pointed out that we’re doing it again, Garrett, we’re doing it again, we never learn our lessons. Quantum computing, the next big thing, it’s going to revolutionize our understanding. Artificial intelligence. We invented that in the form of what are called Josephson junctions. And I had John Preskill on about that. And we talked about quantum computing. We’re doing it all over again. When will we ever learn? How would you solve it? How are you optimistic, Garrett, politically speaking, that the new administrations are going to be more favorable to science and, more importantly, to physics, specifically, in terms of direct funding?

Garrett Lisi: I think the new administration is definitely more favorable to science, certainly to listening to scientists, if not actually financially supporting them. But I think some financial support will come just with the added respect. But respect isn’t enough to put food on the table. You also need financial support. And I think, you know, pulling from my own story, my advisor in quantum field theory passed away, and I was pretty much left adrift. But I had, you know, somehow, somewhat miraculously come up with my own financial support, through getting lucky in the stock market. So I was able to go off on my own, do my own thing, and got lucky with it. Now, I’m a horrible data point—

Brian Keating: Right. Survivor bias.

Garrett Lisi: But I think the best thing you could possibly do to get young people out from the tyranny of control from the elders, and allow them to explore their own ideas, their own creations, their own explorations in mathematical physics, quantum computing and everything, is to get your fingers off of their endeavors. And this happened with FQXI, where they started out, it’s like, well, you know, take proposals for all new weird ideas and give money out based on those ideas and see where it goes. And I had a weird idea. I’ve submitted it, I got funded. Wow, this is amazing. That was great. It all went into stocks. Now I’ve got a house. But what happened to FQXI is, now it’s changed. And now it’s directed. Now it’s like, well, we will accept research proposals on this one specific area of interpretations of quantum mechanics, and its relation to consciousness. And I’m like, Oh, Jesus, all right, they’re gone.

Eric Weinstein: Yeah, too much transparency, too much “best practices” too much administrative nonsense.

Garrett Lisi: All this stuff, all this over-management has to go. What you really want to do is have some rich patron say, “I’m just going to give a lot of money to a lot of smart young people, and let them have fun.” Just take really smart people, give them money, give them the support they need, maybe point them towards a community of people they can talk to, and let them, and just support them. Let them do what they want.

Eric Weinstein: You don’t have to say it is “fun”, Garrett. Look, they need to have houses, and children.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, they need support. 

Eric Weinstein: They need to have a future. 

Brian Keating: I mean, the Perimeter Institute came close to that right? You guys both— 

Garrett Lisi: Just give more money to smart people when they’re young.

Eric Weinstein: Give money to smart people and stop—

Brian Keating: Yeah, but I, okay, so Jim Simons told me that—and he’s worth $20 billion, probably. He said, “If I gave $1 to everyone who said ‘I’m a super genius’,” he said, “even I would be broke.” In other words, there’s—everybody thinks that they’re—how do you have the knowledge to say which ideas are worth pursuing? Or you just give it to everybody? Because then you give it to nobody.

Garrett Lisi: IQ tests are pretty good, even IQ tests are pretty good. Give it—give money to top—

Brian Keating: I’ll fail! I’ll fail! I won’t get anywhere. I’ll be broke!

Eric Weinstein: Brian, the problem is that that’s a pretend comment. There really aren’t that many people with even a, you know, take every single person that you mentioned as having an alternative Theory of Everything. It’s a tiny number of human beings who are even trying. This is not like everybody, you know, with a story. The community of people who are actually trying to do something interesting from outside with any technical competence is relatively small. And this is just—this is a nonsense argument for holding on to the fact—Jim might be saying something else, which is, I don’t think any of these people are promising enough. Fair enough.

Brian Keating: Yeah. You know, you know, it occurred to me as you’re both speaking, that you guys are both kind of like orphans. And, in terms of not having advisors in the traditional sense, in graduate school, and I see you guys like brothers. And brothers can be best friends, but they also fight, as we know from our friends, Cain and Abel. And maybe that explains this Nemesis theory, the antimatter nemesis, but—and maybe it explains the conservation of mass between the two of you guys over the pandemic. And let me just pause for one—Oh, go ahead, Eric.

Eric Weinstein: Garrett’s been shredded for a long time, and I’ve just lost some weight after being, you know, too far north on the scale. So I don’t think that we should overdo that. I do think that it’s really important to recognize that the antagonism is real, the love is real—

Brian Keating: The love is real.

Eric Weinstein: —and that this is normal. And the reason that this has been able to work as a relationship for as long as it has, over a decade, is that we listen to each other, and we take each other seriously. When I tried to do a good job of saying why I think Garrett’s theory is one of the most interesting even though it doesn’t work, it’s this ability to go both long and short, and to say what’s positive and what’s negative. A lot of what you see, when somebody is just wholly negative, and they say, you know, “smart guy, but this, but that, but this, but that,” Jesus Christ. That stuff is getting confusing. The tiny number of people who are doing anything interesting, including Sabine crapping all over all of us, is—this community is fewer than 20 people. I don’t think—I just want to be clear that if Jim Simons doesn’t have 20 bucks, I can front it. 

Brian Keating: Right.

Eric Weinstein: I can get him 20 bucks.

Brian Keating: I told him, I told him, you know, if he had a down month this year, for the first time ever, I said, Jim, if you need a loan, Eric’s money is available. No, seriously, I did have just one thing to say before we turn to maybe a little bit of politics, and then we’ll finish up, because it’s been late and Garrett’s been so kind, and the waves are getting tasty down there. Shakalaka Garrett Lisi. 

Garrett Lisi: It is a good kitesurfing day today. 

Brian Keating: Triton class of—what year did you get your PhD.

Garrett Lisi: Ah, good lord. It’s either 98 or 99.

Brian Keating: Beloved son, prodigal son of the University of California, San Diego, my beloved institution. Eric Weinstein, proprietor of The Portal and all things mystical, magical and multifluous. And mellifluous, I should say. Eric, you’re quite an inspiration. We’ve had these conversations before. I want to talk about this phrase that actually, Garrett, you said a couple minutes ago. I wasn’t intending to talk to go here. But if you’ll indulge me, I know Eric will. It’s like catnip to his newfound pet cat. But I want to—his name is Schrodinger—that was a nice touch to get that cat, call it Schrodinger, keep it—no, I’m just kidding. Eric doesn’t have a cat, yet. He might, but he doesn’t yet. But, Garrett, you said—

Eric Weinstein: I do and I don’t. 

Brian Keating: You said listen. Good one, Eric. You said “listen to scientists”, now—unless you said “Lisi to scientists”, to what extent should we listen to scientists? I mean, I made this point on The Portal episode that’s locked in the vault for its controversial status, apparently. I said, Shockley, William Shockley was a scientist. He he co-created the transistor, he won the Nobel Prize in the 1950s for its invention. He believed deeply in eugenics, and the superiority of whites over blacks. Robert Millikan—his name has just been taken off of Caltech’s Millikan library for his belief in eugenics—won the Nobel Prize for establishing the fundamental quantization of electric charge. Who—James Watson has said things, that rich people should be paid to have children, because their children will be smarter than poor children. These are all scientists. Well, my favorite one—do you guys know about Fritz Haber, who won the Nobel Prize—first, one of the first Jews to win the Nobel Prize. He was a German Jew, who, in 1908, came up with the Haber-Bosch process, which we now know creates fertilizer for half the world’s food production. And then he turned his attention to chemical warfare, including overseeing a chemical strike in Brussels, in Belgium, I believe, in 1915, that killed 50,000 Allied lives. He was a scientist, he won the 1918 Nobel Prize after committing chemical warfare atrocities, to which Germany had signed against a treaty against it. These are all scientists. Should we listen to them?

Brian Keating: What—when do we stop—

Garrett Lisi: Well you’re talking about listening to scientists about what we should do, not what we can do, and there’s a difference. 

Brian Keating: Explain. 

Garrett Lisi: I think scientists are experts in what we can do. And a lot of other thought, in ethics, and philosophy, and the liberal arts, often areas in which our leadership is more educated, is more expert in what we should do. And eugenics is something that we can do. We can breed for intelligence in any creatures, including us, or other traits. Should we do it? No. So yeah, listen to scientists with what we can do, and what will happen if we do things, but not always with what we should do.

Brian Keating: So yeah, I always say science means knowledge. That doesn’t mean wisdom. But Eric, you know, to the extent that you could maximize funding, let’s say that’s all you cared about doing, is maximizing science, funding for the betterment and preservation of life on this planet, which you believe is facing an existential crisis, as, you know, as we’ve talked about on the Into The Impossible podcast, and you’ve talked about in The Portal, etc. So you think we’re facing—so why not submit to rule by scientific minds? What’s wrong with that? Scientists are pretty smart.

Eric Weinstein: Well, I don’t like the strawmanning of the question. I mean, you asked a really interesting question before, so I’m going to leave the provocation, and go to the original question. 

Brian Keating: Please. 

Eric Weinstein: You didn’t mention Paul Ehrenfest, who murdered his own, I think, retarded child maybe with down syndrome. Nor did you mention Pascal Jordan, father of quantum mechanics, who was a straight up Nazi. To say nothing of Heisenberg’s dalliance with national socialism in Germany—

Brian Keating: —and Frank Hertz and Otto Hahn. And yeah, 

Eric Weinstein: Right. So I can go through this. And, okay, so now, you know, this is like the moles all over my body—am I going to tear them all out? I had an African American dermatologist who said to me, he said, “You know, I could remove these things, but if I, if I really did what you want me to do, you’d have almost nothing left.” And I think the key problem is that you have to wrestle with scientists who have crazy ideas. And we regularly go crazy in opposite directions. You’ll find people who, you know, advocate for fascism, and you’ll have people who advocate for anarchy. The issue is that the Schelling points that are attractive to the scientific mind, can be quite extreme. Now we can all make fun of Jim Watson for saying a bunch of things which, you know, I’ve spent a week with him and let me tell you, he is attracted to outrage. And, in part, those outrages are provocations, the key question is, “well, what do you got to come back at me?”, so I got a chance to sock it to Jim Watson over and over and over and over again for stupid comments about women. 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: But they weren’t stupid for the reason that everybody else said they were stupid. They were stupid because he didn’t actually know his stuff. And he knew his stuff in all sorts of other areas. It’s very, very scary when extremely smart people say things that challenge us. Now we can all agree that eugenics is bad. But then when we talk about, oh, well, this embryo apparently may have a bracket gene in it. Do you want that removed if we have the ability to remove it? Then we’re all gonna say, Oh, no, no, no, no. Why doom somebody to a radical mastectomy later in life? Well, guess what, suddenly you’re practicing eugenics. And you know what, when you take somebody out to dinner in a movie to figure out whether they’re an appropriate mate, you’re practicing weak eugenics. So part of the problem is, is that it’s much easier to pretend that all of these people have gone completely insane, and that they’re just ridiculous. And it’s much harder to say, “Well, if a leading mind is making this point, do they have something?” So my question is, are you afraid of Jim Watson? Are you afraid, secretly, that he might actually be saying something? If so, by all means, suppress him, you know. But in fact, if I believe that Jim Watson is not correct about most of these things, I would much rather share a stage with him, and go toe-to-toe and make the point that part of what’s motivating him is that he wanted to be free. And he saw the degradation of freedom inside of the Academy, and he became more and more obstinate, mischievous, and, as I’ve said, the problem is that the legacy of Jim Watson is so important that it cannot be left to Jim Watson. Jim Watson did so much and his story means so much, and his stupid ass stuff that he says late in life because he feels that his freedom has been eroded and that other people haven’t understood—No, Jim Watson has a lot of points, many of them bad. And Edward Teller, it would be another example. The person who, along with Stan Ulam, unlocked the power of the sun so that we can wield it against our enemies, giving us the power of gods and almost certainly dooming us to die on this planet was, in fact, arguably, a humanitarian that no one understood. And if you go back to his letter with Leo, to Leo Szilard, where he talks about the fact he said, “We cannot pretend that we have not allowed the genie to escape from its bottle, and our only hope is convincing us that war is an unthinkable prospect.” It’s not at all clear to me that when you remove Teller’s name from a building, that you’re doing humanity a service because you didn’t understand it. If I tell you that if you read Gandhi in the original, it’s very clear that he was pro-violence. Now you can decide that he’s wrapped in a dhoti, and he’s a kindly old man who freed India from British tyranny, just because his desire for pacifism, but Gandhi hated pacifism with a passion. And he far preferred violence to pacifism.

Brian Keating: When it serves a purpose— 

Eric Weinstein: Part of the problem is that we have too many children running around the stage pretending that they have some idea about what happened historically, and who are afraid because they’re incapable of wrestling with the most dangerous ideas that are extolled by some scientists. So my feeling is that the answer to bad scientific proclamations, where scientists are saying things that are unforgivable, that are dangerous, is better scientists. And the right way to solve this problem is allow people to share the stage with Jim Watson, and humiliate him when he goes after something that isn’t true. And if he says something that’s horrible, that, in fact, we can’t figure out what to say back to him, then that tells us that we’re going to have to wrestle with that sooner or later. 

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: And part of the problem is that we’ve all become incredible pussies, because simply having the word “eugenics” put next to your name is now the kiss of death. But when it comes to somebody who’s talking about bracket genes, you’re going to decide that the Russell conjugation is that this is “compassionate genetics”. Well, guess what? Jim Watson has a lot of compassion, and he’s got a lot of stupidity, and he’s got a tremendous amount of genius and originality, and we can either be pussies about the whole thing, or we can decide that, effectively, science is an absolute defense. If you’re behaving scientifically, you’re going to, in fact, be vindicated sooner or later. And so what we should do is, we should say, is the real problem that we are afraid that scientists may tell us things that we don’t want to be true? Or is the real problem that we’re afraid that they’re going to say wrong things and that they’re going to be so emboldened by their credentials, that it’s going to pick up an extra boost? And what my claim is, is that mostly what we’re doing is that we’re living in fear. You can’t trust scientists, by the way, if you don’t give them intellectual freedom, and enough resources is part of intellectual freedom. So part of the problem is, you can’t trust scientists now, because everybody’s living grant-to-grant, hand-to-mouth, and in fear of their colleagues. If you, in fact, go back to academic freedom, you will find that the scientific community is one of the best groups to advise you, and one of the things that they will tell you is that they shouldn’t be put simply in leadership positions, but that they should be advising people who are extremely good at leadership. And what we need right now is to—Eric Lander, if you’re out there, what a pleasure to see you coming in. Don’t overdo it with the biology, you have a history with mathematics, with all sorts of different areas. You know how important physics is. Make sure that you have people from a tiny group of people who are still really doing physics and mathematics and all of these beautiful things, computing, to give you the advice, and we’re so lucky to have a polymath of your quality advising the President. I don’t have a lot of faith in Joe— 

Brian Keating: Yeah, and another Eric— 

Eric Weinstein: —have a lot of faith in Joe Biden. But I can tell you one thing, that pick really excited me. Please, just restore something like the traditional relationship between science and governance. 

Brian Keating: And Francis Arnold, also was a selection, that made me very happy, although I was a little bit, you know, dismayed that it’s all applied. It’s attacking COVID, which is important, and quantum information, which is important, but nothing about the pure essence of the heart of reality that gives so much interest in the animated discussion than we’ve had today. 

Just in the last few minutes we have remaining I’d like to turn to something lighter, and a little bit more relaxing. So Garrett, what do you think about abortion? No, I want to ask. So Garrett, how do you how do you strike a balance between kind of the expansion of the mind and the body and so forth? The, kind of your spiritual side? What’s your daily routine like? You know, what animates you, you know, just gives you life? I always think physics is what makes, is what defends the planet, but the arts are what make the planet worth defending. Something clumsy like that. But tell me something, Garrett, you know, what is the day in the life of Garrett Lisi like, and what’s sort of, like, an ideal future for you, and maybe for the for the whole planet?

Garrett Lisi: Well, I mean, Eric really described it well, when he said that if you’re hyper focused on just one subject, and throwing all your time and effort into it, you’re either gonna mistakenly think in a megalomaniacal fashion that you have discovered and commanded all knowledge and are all knowing, or you think you’re like a horrible failure and totally worthless.

Brian Keating: Imposter.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, so the answer is don’t focus on just one thing. You can have one high risk play. Great, put some attention into that. But some real work into that. And I do that, that’s my physics research. You also need some sort of project you can throw yourself into that’s guaranteed success. That’s what the Pacific Science Institute has been for me. If you, you know, if you give a place in Maui, where scientists can come and hang out and have a good time and enjoy the island, and go around and talk with them, and teach them how to surf and kite surf and have a good time, that’s guaranteed success. There’s no way that’s gonna fail.

Brian Keating: Well, it didn’t work so well on Hoboken, the Hoboken Sciences Institute. I’m just kidding, I love New Jersey.

Garrett Lisi: I’m not in New Jersey. 

Brian Keating: I’m joking.

Garrett Lisi: So yeah, this has been fantastic. And right now it’s just my house, which has delusions of grandeur. But, you know, I’m hoping to grow it. And so that’s fantastic. And I tried to spend a lot of my time doing that. I spent a lot of my time playing outside, staying healthy, surfing, kite surfing, paragliding, just doing ridiculously fun stuff. I like to do something fun outside, preferably in the ocean, every day, for a few hours, which is great. I also spend a lot of time reading about what my friends and other people are doing around the world, whether it be on social media, or in different news sources. And also keeping up on blogs, keeping up with other papers people have written, but also, so I try to balance things, I try to balance between, like, time with my girlfriend, very important, time with friends, hanging out and socializing, which has been a little harder with the pandemic going on, but still possible with a more restricted pod of social interactions. But really getting out in nature and enjoying nature, which is still very healthy and very protective, health wise, is probably my main thing.

Brian Keating: Would you say you’re a spiritual person by any means?

Garrett Lisi: No, I am not spiritual or religious.

Brian Keating: Good. Okay. Fair enough.

Garrett Lisi: I’m surrounded by a lot of spiritual but not religious. And I’m neither. 

Brian Keating: Okay, outside of physics, who would you most want to, you know, share a mai tai with?

Garrett Lisi: I don’t drink, so, well—

Brian Keating: A virgin mai tai. Who says you have to—

Garrett Lisi: I’ll have a margarita every once in a while. The … outside of physics?

Brian Keating: Even in history. Let’s go historical, even.

Garrett Lisi: Satoshi Nakamoto.

Brian Keating: All right, you guys can’t—alright, now we’re gonna do it. Now we’re going there. We got a lot of questions about Bitcoin. You opened it up. Eric, thoughts on Bitcoin? You tweeted about it recently. Tell me about Bitcoin.

Eric Weinstein: Well, I just want to get rid of the blockchain so that it’s actually a locally enforced conservation law that replaces spacetime with a system of computer nodes. And I believe that, because geometry and gauge theory is the one system that we believe never throws an exception, it’s important, if we’re going to use this, to actually liberate us from the tyranny of abundance, and to bring back scarcity so that the markets don’t cause us to have to embrace authoritarianism. 

Satoshi, if you’re out there, I very much want to talk to you about getting rid of Bitcoin, and moving to a standard beyond the blockchain, so that tokens, like gold, have no stench. And I’m very worried about recent comments of Janet Yellen, which seemed to indicate that people who play with fiat money—remember that, if you can’t govern, you must print. And when people print, Bitcoin does well, because Bitcoin can’t. Right? And so, effectively, the main use case for Bitcoin is hedging people who are incompetent, and therefore must print, by giving them an alternative where the Fed can’t get it. So the key problem is that a government—according to Weber—is a monopoly on violence. And so if you can’t actually break, elliptic curve, cryptography, or whatever it is that you’re using to protect crypto, because it’s a coin, determined by cryptography rather than violence, what we’re going to do is we’re going to bring violence to those who hold that which is enforced by mathematics. So it’s incredibly important, first of all, to get rid of the blockchain, to make sure that it has no stench, to see whether or not we cannot base it on something like a gauge theory, because what this is, is one of the most important intellectual developments of our lifetime. 

Brian Keating: Why is that— 

Eric Weinstein: The fact that makes people— 

Brian Keating: You say that but— 

Eric Weinstein: One second. The fact that it makes people rich has confused us about what happened. What happened is that locally-enforced conservation laws, which are, unfortunately, non-locally recorded, have been found to be done autonomously in a distributed fashion. And this thing effectively allows us to recreate the physical world inside of a computer world. The great danger of computers is that they’ve turned—as Marc Andreessen says, “software eats the world”. That means that things that previously were not public goods and services become public goods, because they’re in exhaust—small files are inexhaustible, and inexcludable, if they’re not protected. Ergo, the market cannot see them, therefore, value and price gap. This is one of the greatest dangers, because it allows in tyranny. When the market stops being able to function, the dream of abundance that is common in Mill Valley and at Burning Man is, in fact, a great danger to our society that almost nobody has commented upon. And bringing scarcity into the digital world potentially allows the markets to function so that we do not need authorities telling us what we can and can’t do. And, effectively, if you want to protect freedom, you are going to have to probably bring back scarcity, because the tyranny of abundance threatens to undermine our civilization. And I know that that’s going to be very unfamiliar to many people, so, Satoshi, I’m pretty sure that—if you’re out there, and I believe you’re probably a collective rather than an individual—it would be a pleasure. If I kept Geometric Unity quiet for decades, I guarantee you that I can keep a secret. It would be tremendously useful to try to liberate your great invention from the tyranny of the blockchain.

Brian Keating: Lemme just say one thing about that. So I had Michael Saylor on last week, a very provocative gentleman also. Also aligned with some of the things Eric is interested in, Peter Thiel is interested in. Decentralizing academia, at least at the undergraduate level, making all education free for millions of people around the world, a technical education, specifically. And—but I said to him, I said, you know, nothing that complicated about blockchain. I just said, yeah, it’s cryptographic, there’s—essence of it is, could have been done in the 1980s. So why wasn’t it done sooner? Eric? Or Garrett? Whoever wants to answer it. Why—I mean, why did it come about when it did? Is it—and is it the fact that it has this first mover advantage the only, kind of, secret that it has? That it is the Peter Thielian monopoly that cures all ills? I guess, Eric, you can start.

Eric Weinstein: No, it isn’t. We need something better than Bitcoin. I do think that it could have been done earlier. But I think that the fact, you know, as I point out, the rollerboard suitcase was only invented in 1989, and Ben Franklin could have done it. In general, we decide that someone is a genius because it’s cheaper than pointing out that the rest of us are morons. And Satoshi, in fact, you know, was the only non-moronic individual. Many people had this idea. I believe that, you know, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk were on this idea, and that became PayPal, and they couldn’t actually pull it off. So let’s just be glad that somebody was not confused, because certainly I didn’t think of how to do this. And I would point out that when it comes around that Bitcoin doesn’t solve everything, and its successor gets rid of the blockchain and you have perfect distributed computing without leaving a stench, you’re going to have a very interesting situation where we’re all going to have to explain why we were so moronic that we didn’t realize that the blockchain could have been disintermediated as well.

Garrett Lisi: Yeah, there is a negative with Bitcoin with its energy usage. And that’s a—that could end up being a very expensive mistake. So, but other than that, I think it’s a frickin fantastic idea and I’m definitely “long” it so, and I don’t have—as far as what you’re describing, maybe our universe is unfolding as some alien civilization’s blockchain. 

Brian Keating: Well—

Garrett Lisi: Maybe we are the computation of some very complicated hash that’s trying to get 10^20 zeros for the part for our knots when the—when our lives are done. Who knows. That’s probably—probably not. We’re probably in an entirely natural universe, as far as I can tell.

Brian Keating: Alright, guys, well, we set a record for one of the longest continuous streams that at least my bladder can tolerate. Thank you, guys, for your—

Garrett Lisi: You’re not using a catheter? How are you guys even surviving right now?

Brian Keating: Oh, yeah, well, you’ll learn when you get to be a pilot that your bladder can—when you get your license that you need an extra bladder—

Garrett Lisi: That’s a paragliding thing, like, so if you see, like, cross country paragliders, each of those guys has a tube going down their leg, and that’s how they stay in the air so long.

Brian Keating: You don’t need a tube I found actually. The yellow rain is over San Diego. Guys, any last things you want to plug or spin? Garrett what’s next on the horizon for you? I’ll point out, we did do a live stream right before this livestream, so find that on the Into The Impo—my youtube channel. Please subscribe to their Twitter accounts. I’ve listed them there, @GarrettLisi, @EricRWeinstein. Please subscribe to The Portal podcast. Please subscribe to the Into The Impossible podcast. Leave a review and a rating, etc. It really helps us out. We got Avi Loeb coming up. We have a Deepak Chopra coming up, again. And we’re going to have a phenomenal conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Stay tuned for that. Lee Smolin, and some people that you might not have heard of that I’m trying to get on to really boost up some of the signals that are out there. A critical biography of Stephen Hawking has just been published, or will be published. That’s going to be discussed in March or April, whenever it comes out by a professor at NYU. Anyway, I want to thank you guys. Anything you guys want to—Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: I’m concerned that I may be booted off of social media—

Brian Keating: Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: —with everything that’s going on. It would be great. If you wanted to stay in touch to get your email address. I think is a means where they can’t disintermediate. I don’t know that they can throw me—well, with what’s going on, I’m very worried about redoing Operation Chokepoint in the Biden administration, because, while he did not win with a mandate from the electorate, the Capitol Hill insurrection is being treated as a mandate. And I think that you have to very much fear the idea that we’ve figured out that if we have no public options to communicate with each other, then all speech can actually be controlled through private companies. And the great danger at the moment is, we have to be able to stay in touch. So if you can find my RSS feed, so you don’t have to go through Apple or Spotify. And if you can give me your email address at, I will attempt to get myself kicked off of social media by saying reasonable things throughout the year.

Brian Keating: All right, like me, I’m gonna go down—I’m gonna go down in a blaze of—

Garrett Lisi: —at all costs here, yeah. 

Brian Keating: Yeah, I’m gonna go down in the blaze of incompetence.

Garrett Lisi: —in your corner that way.

Brian Keating: Yeah. So yeah, I mean, I was worried about that as well. And I mean, I think it’s so unusual, Eric, for the first time in human history the media is not really beholden to a profit margin. We have the world’s richest man controlling the Washington Post, and, love him or hate him, that’s just a fact, that it no longer has a profit motive whatsoever. And similar for other news outlets, and—

Eric Weinstein: I didn’t know Elon had bought it. 

Brian Keating: So—

Garrett Lisi: Me neither. 

Brian Keating: Maybe the second richest one. Yeah, so the other—yeah, I do worry about that. And I wonder in the public’s interest, in the interest of honesty, you know, when Amazon has access, I mean, didn’t Barack Obama once say, “you didn’t build that,” you know, referring to the internet backbone.

Eric Weinstein: This is very dangerous. 

Brian Keating: It’s very dangerous. 

Eric Weinstein: We’re entering a period of authoritarianism, where the idea is that the price of keeping you safe will be your freedom. And I’m saying that from the left of center. My friends on the right of center are more commonly saying that, and it is incredibly important that we recognize that we want some risk. Particularly, we may have a reason to control the speech when it’s targeted at individuals. But controlling speech around ideas is a one way ticket to hell. We’re going to have to tolerate unsafe thought, unsafe ideas, and even unsafe people. And the current panic around safety not being weighed against the risks of authoritarian control of what we can say, and to whom we can say it, is a giant, glaring error. And the only way that this is possible is if no sensible people are ever let onto mainstream media. At the moment, there is a blockade of an entire wing, which I would say was the smart wing of American politics, who you will never see featured on MSNBC, and increasingly not even on NPR. And I think people have to recognize that what we’ve seen is a major transformation, where you are not allowed to communicate with people who will challenge the dominant narrative. 

Brian Keating: What feedback did you get after going courageously on Glenn Beck’s show, you’re not on the right, that’s clear. You don’t fit in anywhere. You’re Schrdinger’s pundit, when you put that on, but what’s been the reaction, and how come you don’t get invited to go on shows with your comrades, literally, on the left? How come that’s not happening? How do we broach that subject? I mean, people like Ezra Klein have gone on Ben Shapiro’s show, a mutual friend of ours, but, you know, how do we get to the, you know, The Young Turks, how do we get the message that you have to the—to your side?

Eric Weinstein: It’s not the Young Turks. I mean, as Dan Drezner, Washington Post’s contributor said, everything that I have to say that’s new is not true. And everything that I have to say that’s true is not new. So, in fact, part of the problem is that I am one of the least interesting people on earth. Somehow, I’m actually a moron. I have nothing interesting to say, nothing to contribute. And that is undoubtedly why you’re listening to Brian Williams and Mara Gay on MSNBC explain how, if Bloomberg’s campaign money were only redistributed, we would all be millionaires. Right now there’s a blockade of reality, because the business model of the Democratic Party has been shifted away from labor, and actually expensive things, like Medicare, and education, and all the things that we need to do. And, in fact, identity, to my wife Pia Malaney’s point, is the cheapest substitute. The problem is that the traditional Democratic Party would have to be going after its own donor class. And so, as a result, the affiliated media that we’ve previously trusted to call balls and strikes has never been perfect. It’s never been as bad as this. And the transformation that we’re seeing is effectively a blockade of all people of courage and intellect, who are no longer welcome if they will not file a flight plan with traditional media. And traditional media will go after each one of them, and they’ll tell you that they’re part of extremism, they’re the alt-right, they’re the far right, etc, etc. The reason—you asked about Glenn Beck? The amount of love that Glenn Beck and I generated from not agreeing with each other except on the issue of civility, brotherhood, togetherness, going forward, it’s electrifying. And everything that breaks up the business model that is division will no longer be welcome. And that’s what’s going on, is that if you’re not a division merchant, you will find that, in effect, you can no longer speak. I used to be welcome at the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR. I am no longer welcome, and it is clear that the transformation has occurred. The font is the same at the New York Times, but the contents and the writers are totally different. A tremendous transformation has happened. And I beg of you to listen to the fact that there are a large number of people, particularly on the left, who have been told that they are no longer on the left. And we’ve each individually been isolated. And one of the great things about recording something like this is we can say to each other, “Hey, are you still here?” “Yes, I’m still here.” What’s going on is that NPR and the New York Times and MSNBC will not communicate that many of us are fed up, as is the right, with the current direction of where everything is about identity, diversity, inclusion. And in fact, many of us who have fought for diversity and inclusion, my family for over 100 years, are appalled at the current version of these things, not because we don’t want a more equal, more just, more reasonable society, but because demonizing people who speak the truth, and intimidating people with cancel culture so that they can’t feed their families is not the way to a prosperous future. And so it’s incredibly important to leave these channels open so that we can humiliate the blockade of reality that’s coming through the people who traditionally were responsible for making sure that reality at least had a first draft in the form of journalism.

Brian Keating: Now let’s talk about the problems of GMOs. Okay, Eric, that’s phenomenal. And the last thing I’ll say, yes, I was very proud of you, as I always am, but you spoke up about this AP story that the last frontier of the radicals is on the podcast era. And I got shivers about that. Because, you know, who’s to say that because I had you on my show, not to mention that, you know, I’ve had Noam Chomsky on my show, I’ve also had Ben Shapiro on my show, Michael Knowles, and I did a podcast together, as you did with Michael Knowles. So, you know, the question is, are they—what are they going to—who are they gonna come for next? And then who speaks for the last person? You know, first they came for the gays. I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t gay. First—then they came for the communists—

Eric Weinstein: Come for me. This is my, this is my request. I’ve built an enormous audience. You want to play this game? Come for me. I’m willing to say all sorts of things that you don’t want said. I want to make it easy. You want to boot me off? You, Twitter Safety, are you interested in getting rid of me? Come for me. What I’m asking, increasingly, is that those of us stop—we stop cowering. You know, if this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, we cannot sit around saying “Oh my god, somebody’s gonna call me a racist.” Yeah, I’m a leader of the alt-right. I’m a Nazi named Weinstein. Jesus Christ. Grow the fuck up.

Garrett Lisi: —voices should not be silenced. 

Eric Weinstein: But let’s just look at how funny and ridiculous these morons are, who are dividing us. We need to approach them with love and compassion. They’ve chosen a terrible path, and they’ve radicalized us. And, you know, I believe that Donald Trump was a very dangerous thing to do. But the reason that we had Donald Trump is that the left conjured him out of the vacuum by denying increasing amounts of reality. And what is necessary is, yeah, I’m sure I’m gonna get canceled. I’m sure that they’re gonna come after me. Okay, we’ve got to welcome the fight, and the battle. And we’re not all going to make it, but this country was not built by people cowering under their goddamn kitchen tables. So enough.

Brian Keating: Yeah, you can go to Normandy and give up your life at age 18. We can certainly speak out on behalf of free speech, ironically enough, 

Eric Weinstein: Well—

Brian Keating: It’s the last freedom that we might enjoy in the Bill of Rights. Yes.

Eric Weinstein: As I said, you want to see male privilege? Take a look at the names on the Vietnam Memorial wall, you know? I mean, cut it out, grow up, just—if you’re going to come after somebody, come after people who are in a position to take it, because we’ve been on the left the whole time, and if you think you’re going to claim that I’m a member of the alt-right, boy, are we going to have an entertaining tango. I just—all I do is I ask you to dance.

Brian Keating: Well, Eric, I salute your courage. Garrett, I salute your ingenuity and your courage, and I feel like these kinds of conversations are really more valuable than ever. And as I said many times in the past, you know, when I have to talk to people for work, it’s because I have to talk to them, when I get to talk to you, my friends, is because I want to talk to you guys. You guys give me so much inspiration. And really, for my whole audience, I know I’m speaking on behalf of—sorry I didn’t take too many questions today. You guys can unsubscribe, I hope you won’t, but I can’t resist when I have such delightful company as these two gentlemen. I hope you’ll do a part two, maybe sometime down the road a little bit, as time goes on. Garrett, anything last that you want to put in a quick plug for, before? Cancel you maybe?

Garrett Lisi: No, I will be extremely disturbed if social media moves to block Eric in significant ways. That is extremely disturbing to me, because you’ve always been incredibly intellectual and rational voice online, and with your growing army addressing different issues. It’s been incredibly good to follow and see that growth. And I really, really will be disturbed if your silence and ways. I don’t want to see that—

Brian Keating: —of integrity. Yeah.

Garrett Lisi: Me, I’m not selling anything. I’m also shallow enough to be on Instagram, if you want to, if people want to follow me there and see fun pictures of Maui and so forth, which is, as Brian said, a little more on the light side. And I think light is important, with a lot of dark things having happened and currently going on, having more light in our lives is extremely important. So anyway, like I said, I’m not selling anything. And I don’t have any deep, politically motivated missions. 

Brian Keating: That’s right. 

Garrett Lisi: I’m just trying to have a good time. Yeah.

Eric Weinstein: Right, and contribute to the Pacific Science Institute. 

Brian Keating: Yes. 

Eric Weinstein: I mean, I think it’s a great thing that you’ve set up and people can find where can they find that if they want to make a donation putting

Brian Keating: I’m putting up—I’m putting up your website now.

Garrett Lisi: 

Brian Keating: Yeah? I’ll put up the website right now. Yeah, sorry we didn’t get to take too many questions from the audience, but yes, I implore you. I put up Eric’s website, right now is on the screen, And then is Garrett’s. Garrett, echoing what you said, as Martin Luther King said once, only light can drive out darkness. I think I’m optimistic. I don’t know if it’s going to be you know, this rosy, rosy, everything’s uphill from here. But I do believe that there’s just incredible potential around the corner. And as an astronomer, I don’t fear the darkness, I welcome the darkness, but I always know to be happy when there are rays of light. And you guys are rays of light in my life. You inspire me, you inspire my audience. Thank you so much for going Into The Impossible with me. Please stay in touch. and and You guys are much more philanthropic than I am, I guess. I’ll take you out with an outro from my good friend and veteran, Miguel Tully, who is the proprietor of the YetiTears Instagram account and also on YouTube. He’s made some lovely sketches of Eric, he’s made some artwork for me, which you can see maybe in the background, and he made this instrumental track to take us out. Thank you so much everyone. Be well, be safe. Enjoy this precious gift of life that we all have. Suck the marrow out, like Garrett, and don’t be afraid, as Eric has taught us, to take on giants. Goodbye, everybody. Thank you so much.

Garrett Lisi: Great talking with you Brian. And you too, Eric.

Eric Weinstein: Great being with you guys. Love you.

Brian Keating: Bye, love you guys.

Thank you all for going Into the Impossible, a little different. A little different episode for today’s choice, but I hope you will stay subscribed. As I mentioned, Katie Freeze is coming on the show. She’s one of the mothers of dark matter that we low and love and our existence to. She’ll be on the show in two weeks. This Tuesday, Avi Loeb, super controversial interview that I did with him about his upcoming book called Extraterrestrial, which will blow your mind, because he takes the position that science is going off the rails, and actually we need to look to the heavens, perhaps to this object that he spotted, along with colleagues, called Oumuamua, which is fun to say. It’s a Hawaiian word. And look forward to conversations with him. Stay tuned for a conversation with Leonard Milan, now, that’s on the show about Stephen Hawking. And then Hawking Incorporated, the business of Stephen Hawking, coming up soon, as well as a conversation with Carlo Rovelli. Let me know if you want me to make that a livestream. I haven’t decided yet. Would you guys like to talk to Carlo live? In a format like this? He’s generously agreed to come on, not once, but twice. Let me know if you want to have a conversation with him live and ask questions. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to take too many of your questions today. I do read each and every comment. So please do that. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. It’s a little bit different than this one. And you can skip over all the annoying ads that YouTube presents to you. But for now, I want to thank you all for going Into The Impossible. It’s been quite a joy to be with my friends, Garrett Lisi, Dr. Garrett Lisi, Dr. Eric Weinstein, two Mavericks that lie outside the traditional academia role, as I am blessed to be within, and I appreciate them for the integrity that they have. I may not agree with them, as you noticed, on everything that they do, but it’s an incredibly vital contribution to all the scientific interest that I personally have, and I hope you have them too. Please subscribe to the podcast. As I said, also, don’t miss a special solo episode I did about Galileo’s Dialogue, which I have somewhere around here. Galileo’s Dialogue is perhaps the most influential book in human history, at least from a scientific perspective. Don’t miss that. I did a solo episode about the great Galileo, and I’m doing an audio book. I just got the rights to record the first ever audiobook, Galileo and I’m having a couple of my Italian colleagues and I are recording the first audio book in history with authentic Italian voices. Hopefully, it’ll be a nice kind of theatrical presentation. I hope you’ll like that. For now check that out. Check out on Prager University, I did a book club with Michael Knowles, who is controversial, but we only got into the scientific aspects of things. Stay tuned for that, and other many, many great guests. As I said, let me know should I have more live stream conversations, even if it means I don’t get to all your questions? Let me know in the comment section. For now, signing off. It’s been a long four hours, almost, of podcasting today. I am tired, but my mind is active. I hope yours is too. Stay tuned., get on my mailing list. I’ll send you a couple of awesome free gifts, such as the astronomical great debate that we did last year, with Nobel laureates, including David—Adam Riess, and also friends like Wendy Freedman and others. And I’ll also send you my life hacks from Jim Simons and Michael Saylor, and many others. For now, signing off. Good night, and good luck, as they used to say, out there in the multiverse of minds that we connect together on the ends of the Into The Impossible podcast. Good night, everybody.

Managing Director of Thiel Capital, Eric Weinstein, discusses how we can heal the country after a tumultuous year.

About Rising: Rising is a weekday morning show with bipartisan hosts that breaks the mold of morning TV by taking viewers inside the halls of Washington power like never before. The show leans into the day’s political cycle with cutting edge analysis from DC insiders who can predict what is going to happen. It also sets the day’s political agenda by breaking exclusive news with a team of scoop-driven reporters and demanding answers during interviews with the country’s most important political newsmakers.

Follow Rising on social media:
Website: Hill.TV
Instagram: @HillTVLive
Twitter: @HillTVLive

Follow Saagar Enjeti & Krystal Ball on social media:
Twitter: @esaagar and @krystalball
Instagram: @esaagar and @krystalmball


Krystal Ball: The pandemic, of course, continues to rage. We’ve got millions of people in fear of losing their homes, losing their jobs, we’ve got threats of more violence by extremists here within this own country. The country is clearly on edge. If there was ever a time when we needed a reconciliation and healing, it is right now. 

Saagar Enjeti: That’s right. So joining us now to talk about how to achieve that host of the portal podcast, Eric Weinstein himself. Dr. Eric Weinstein, great to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us. 

Krystal Ball: Great to have you. 

Eric Weinstein: Good to be with you both. Thanks for having me.

Saagar Enjeti: Absolutely. Eric. It’s something you and I have spoken a little bit about. And one, we wanted to make sure you got the opportunity to talk about it here on Rising as well. In the events of everything, what do you see as a way that this country can come together in light of, just, historic division.

Eric Weinstein: More or less, those of us who have a business model that is based upon dividing the country have to realize that we are about to saw off the branch on which we rest. So what you see is we’re liquidating our business models for the United States. And effectively, the apocalypse is going to be great television, so we’re all super excited to see it. And all of us have an exaggerated sense of importance. And it’s time to recognize that this is the moment where we either continue in what I would call Kayfabe, which is the system that professional wrestling uses to manage layered lies and deceptions. Or we get back to being the United States of America. And really, the choice is ours. And I think the key issue is that only a tiny number of people have tried to call balls and strikes, as opposed to demonizing one side from the other.

Krystal Ball: Yeah. And so be a little more specific when you say those of us who have a business model built on dividing the country, who specifically are you talking about, are you just aiming at the media or are there other people that you’re thinking of as well?

Eric Weinstein: Well, I particularly try to discourage audience members. I shrink my audience size by trying not to appeal to the limbic system, but going straight to the prefrontal cortex. And that’s what a lot of us used to do, whether it was the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, back in the day, or even network television news in the days of Eric Sevareid. In essence, what we have now is we have a limbic business model, and there’s nothing better than feeling that you are a part of an exciting team on a conquest to save the country for the good of the world. And it’s going to come as a huge shock that there are two cults which I’ve called Wokistan, and Magastan, and that neither of these things is particularly serious. They’re both capable of taking the country down. And the key issue that we face is that the kleptocracy in the center between the left and the right is sponsoring this exciting live action role-playing event, as we saw from the events inside the Capitol, where people LARP their way to an early death, in particular, a veteran from San Diego who walked right into a bullet clearly feeling that she was invincible, as if she was part of the Boxer Rebellion.

Saagar Enjeti: So let’s talk about that era, which is that what you described there is really the complicity of the leadership class. They’re the ones who got us to where we are, and they’re almost certainly the ones that can’t get us out. So when people are interested in actually getting something done, what is there to be done if the current system is so rotten?

Eric Weinstein: Well, first of all, let’s just recognize that in previous eras, that people born in the 1940s would be embarrassed to try to continue running the country. We used to have mandatory retirements before the 1980s. And in part, it’s necessary to renew your society, we are living in a technological age. I think if you had minimal technical requirements for the people who were part of our leadership class, or minimal honesty requirements, keep in mind that Donald Trump is clearly very sophisticated in the fact that he has incited a group of people to pressure him to win the election using the same technique that Henry II used to get rid of Thomas Beckett, which is called “Direction Through Indirection.” Somehow that’s confusing our talking heads, I don’t understand why. On the other hand, on the other side of the country, we have a mayor Ted Wheeler with an imaginary organization that firebombs a very real courthouse, and depending on whether it exists or whether it doesn’t, whether it’s allowed to direct traffic, or treated like an enemy has to do with where we are in the electoral cycle. None of these people are workable. And effectively, we have to remove three groups, the center, which has turned kleptocratic, an extreme Left group which is trying to get Marxism through identity politics, an extreme Right wing group that wants to return us to some era, which most of us are pretty happy that we’ve moved beyond. So I think it’s also really important to realize that many of us are captured by these cults. And we’re still good people, we’re just running really bad software. And the same thing you have to do when you have a child that succumbs to a cult. You’ve got to go in there, and deprogram and get them out with love. And very few people are in a position to say, “Hey, I love you and I understand why you joined, because there was a kernel of truth around everything that you were doing.”

Krystal Ball: Yeah, well, and it seems like there’s a real collective action problem here too, because all the incentive structure is to be the loudest, most aggressive, most, you know, out there member of the cult. That’s what gets you promotion. That’s what gets you social media love. That’s what builds your audience. That’s what really contributes to your esteem within your particular tribe, and any one person sort of de-escalating and coming back to reality, they’re just going to, they’re just going to disappear. Right? It’s against all of their interest to do that. So how do you deal with that collective action issue of when you need everybody to basically take a step back? 

Eric Weinstein: Well, I don’t think it’s a question of “everybody”. I mean, one of the reasons I asked to appear on Rising is that you guys aren’t following that model, and you’re crushing it. And I’m not following that model, and I’m crushing it. Now, I’m a 55 year old father of two, with a math PhD and I get recognized in mattress stores, you know. The country is hungry for reality. We are a reality-starved people. And what we need to do is, you guys were very smart to decamped from inside what I call the Gated Institutional Narrative, it’s time to take it back, because the institutions only listen to their own media. And right now, what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to reinsert the critics who are still capable of independent thought, enormous audiences, who are showing that, in fact, the amygdala is not the business model of the future. It is the prefrontal cortex. You guys wouldn’t be doing this well, if you were appealing to the amygdala. Most people are fatigued and exhausted. And it’s time for you guys to lead. I mean, I think that you guys are much more in the future. I’m here to be a handmaiden to help you get there. The reason that Rising is so important is that it has the optics of the Gated Institutional Narrative. You guys look like what they have to listen to. I’m just a guy on a Skype call with an anonymous wall behind me. But because of some production values, the amygdala accepts that you guys should be talking to the prefrontal cortex. And by the way, what an amazing job you guys are doing. And by the way, Krystal I’m very sorry, but your own show completely disproves your question and its assumptions.

Saagar Enjeti: What a pleasant way to end this conversation. Eric, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your words at this time. I think they’re very important. 

Krystal Ball: Thank you, Eric.

Saagar Enjeti: Thank you. 

Eric Weinstein: Thank you both.

Krystal Ball: Coming up Joe Biden’s gonna need bipartisan support for his COVID relief plan. In front of the show, David Sirota is going to explain why his approach may not work out. That’s when Rising continues.

“Eric Weinstein, host of “The Portal” podcast and managing director at Thiel Capital, returns to The Realignment to discuss the state of the U.S. after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.”


Saagar Enjeti: Dr. Eric Weinstein, welcome back to The Realignment—

Eric Weinstein: Careful with the “doctor”, I don’t want to be confused with somebody preparing to do surgery.

Saagar Enjeti: That’s true. But that’s also a pun, Eric. My parents are both PhD doctors themselves. So ever since the whole scandal on Jill Biden, I’ve been calling them both “doctor”. So I just think that it’s an honorific that we should try.

Eric Weinstein: Actually—

Saagar Enjeti: To give everybody—

Eric Weinstein: I’ll be entirely honest, I really don’t think MDS should be called “doctor”. If anyone should be called “doctor”, it should be PhDs. But I figure we should let it slide.

Saagar Enjeti: See, we’ve already got such good content. Eric, we wanted to bring you back to the show. Because you’ve been putting out some really just, I think, profound thoughts about where we are at the state of the country. I think you recently tweeted, you’re having trouble sleeping as a result of the capital riots and so much of what we saw, and I just want to give you the opportunity to just give us your thoughts and break down this terrible week in America, and how you think that we can get out of this? What can we do?

Eric Weinstein: Well, I want to even go—I think it is a terrible week. But I don’t think it’s a terrible week for the same reasons that everyone else seems to think it’s a terrible week. One of the things that’s going on is that we have a very strange selective memory. And the selective memory doesn’t remember the fact that we’ve had bombings in the Capitol Building, we’ve had a Jewish suicide bomber in the Capitol building in previous times. 

Marshall Kosloff: Puerto Rican occupiers, yeah, it goes deeper than that.

EW: Right. So the fact is that the optics of this week are absolutely horrendous. We had a police—law enforcement officer beaten to death with a fire extinguisher, which, you know, I don’t, I really don’t even have words for that. But I also think that, in part, we’re not really capable of having the discussion about what really happened. What—maybe we could—let’s start with the Viking, right, we had a Viking taking pictures, playing around, I don’t know, in the Senate or the House. And I think that this really gets to the heart of what’s going on, which is that we are LARPing our way into Armageddon. And the seriousness of this, you know, all of the talk of civil war and all this kind of stuff, is weirdly not getting our opportunity to find the off-ramp. In large measure, what we’ve got is two teams of Live-Action Role Players, or, so-called LARPers. And they’re engaging in something that I was worried about in, I think, 2013, and I wrote an article for the Edge Annual Question. And they asked, “What is the scientific theory that everyone should have in their cognitive toolkit?” And I had several ideas, I was going to write about regulated expression in genetics. And I said to my wife, you know, the thing I really want to write about is Kayfabe, and that is the system of lies and deceptions found inside of professional wrestling. Now, of course, that’s not going to be seen as an academic theory. But professional wrestling, and the intelligence community are the two places that understand nested levels of deception better than any other two groups. And they’re lightyears ahead of psychology departments. So part of what’s going on is that we’ve got two national LARPing complexes that are engaged in what I would call Kayfabe. So we have Vikings, people are posing, stealing the lectern, I don’t know, from the House of Representatives, thinking that they’re at some kind of a rave or a party, maybe it’s Burning Man for politics, not clear. That situation can go completely insane and become real in a way that I don’t think people appreciate. So I often pose the question, “Which is more real, mixed martial arts or professional wrestling?” And I would say professional wrestling by a longshot. If you look at the list of deaths associated with professional wrestling, it doesn’t get more real than that. I don’t think UFC has had its first fatality yet. And, in essence, what we have is we have a mock national conversation, one around “Stop The Steel”, which has rejected the United States justice system, which has refused to give Donald Trump much comfort. And the idea that you’re going to save America from its own justice system is pretty interesting, by going around the will of the courts. So I think what we have here is a national meaning crisis, where there are people who have very little future, and there are people who still have a future, and the people who still have a future are selling LARPing to two teams, you know, one of which is Wokistan, and the other of which is Magastan. And so we now have a war, mostly on the internet, mostly through Kayfabe, of Magastan versus Wokistan, which have to be two of the, you know, most intellectually crippled theories you could have, not because they don’t contain seeds of truth, but because they fill in what is missing with total nonsense. And I think that what’s going on, I—did you guys take a look at the video of the woman being shot in the capital?

SE: Yeah, we did.

EW: How closely did you study it?

SE: I think I saw it from three or four different angles. But I mean, I saw this woman literally leap towards a gun. And I just couldn’t stop thinking, I’m like, “What really compels somebody to do that?” I mean, it’s pure and genuine belief.

EW: Well, that’s exactly it. This is like the Boxer Rebellion in China, where you had people who were convinced that they had supernatural powers, or you know, you get kids, you know, on some powerful drug and you turn them into child warriors, and you make them wear dresses, and you tell them that the dress will make them invincible, or, you know, I forget what the general, you know, butt-naked or whatever it was in Africa—the sort of supernatural beliefs about what’s going on. One of the angles on the woman being killed shows the gun emerge first, pointed at the window that they’re trying to break through. 

SE: Right.

EW: And you clearly hear on the audio, “He’s got a gun! Gun!”, right? So that’s clear warning. You see that the finger that is, to pull the trigger is properly not on the trigger. It’s not inside the trigger guard. It’s along the barrel of the pistol. It comes inside the trigger guard, and then it goes back out. This is not somebody who is looking to discharge a weapon. This is somebody looking to not discharge a weapon. And the idea that this woman was climbing up on this, right into a gun, is bolstered by the idea that right behind her is—immediately after she’s shot, you see all sorts of law enforcement officers armed to the effing teeth, who are clearly behind her, who are not stopping this thing. We are not going to have an accurate discussion. What we’re going to have is a political football. And the political football is going to be used by anyone and everyone who has a partisan axe to grind in an attempt to divide the country into these warring factions. And we can’t get at these two insane mimetic complexes, because the center is actually sponsoring the lunatics. So figure that the center of the left and the right, the establishment, is busy looting the United States government, stealing as much silver as it can, cutting the paintings out of the frames, and they’re distracting the people with no future, as the people who still have a stake in the game and can hollow us out, keep amping us up. And I posted something on social media—if you recall, Donald Trump was encouraging people to rough up the protesters and beat them up, back in 20—the 2016 election, and one guy who was 78 threw an elbow into the eye of an African American and sort of Sucker Punched him with an elbow. And I went looking for those two guys thinking I should get them on my podcast. And I—I found that they’d reconciled, and they hugged in a courtroom, and they put this behind them. And in four years, the video had fewer than 20,000 views, and fewer than I think 20 likes. And I posted this, and immediately, just posting it, caused a 50% increase in the viewership over four years in a single day. We are being kept from coming together, we are being kept from getting rid of these people, and right now, the most important thing is that, by any—and with apologies to Malcolm X—by any legal means necessary, we have got to remove our current leadership. Period. The end. There is no more.

MK: So a question that comes to mind because it came up a couple of times during your statement there, LARPing. There’s a portion of the audience which isn’t online. If you’re not on Twitter, this won’t make as much sense for you. So can you just describe the phenomenon of LARPing? What is it and how does it manifest itself on the Wokistani side or the Megastani side if you will?

EW: Well, okay, sure. If you ever go to let’s say if you go to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, many of the most nerdy and kind of spectrummy kids are engaged—and by the way, I say that with zero disrespect, I’m proud to be part of that group—engaged in sort of live action versions of Dungeons and Dragons, and they’ve got foam swords and maces and all sorts of things. And there are very clear rules. And you get to play in a fantasy medieval war situation, let’s say. Now, in some sense, it’s like the Stanford Prison Experiment of Zimbardo, where you tell people, “you’re guards”, “you’re prisoners”, and sure enough, theater becomes real. There’s a limited ability to suspend the distance between our characters and ourselves. Our characters are, in some sense, real. And what’s interesting is that live action role playing can become immersive, you can forget that you’re in a game. And in Kayfabe, which is sort of professional wrestling system of deceptions, you break things into “work” or “shoot”. A “work” is a scripted activity taking place—by the way, Kayfabe is Carnival speak, for “fake”—and so a “work” would be if, you know, we agreed to have a fight on this podcast to drive your ratings through the roof, right?

MK: And I have some words for you, Dr. 

EW: Marshall, I’ve had about enough of your back-talking! Yeah.

MK: Let’s not call out CNN too hard here.

EW: So then, a “shoot” would be the spontaneous occurrence of reality in a scripted event. And then tertiary deception occurs, where you think you have a work where everyone’s in on it. By the way, if you don’t understand the professional wrestling is fake, you’re called a “mark”. If you understand that it’s fake, you’re called a “smart mark” or a “smark”, and one of the reasons I love this stuff is that I can’t get the language that the Espionage community uses to talk about deception, you know, like “false flags” and stuff like that, I mean, they’re very advanced, but professional wrestling by now is known to all. So the smarks understand that it’s all fake. But then you can have a situation where the fourth wall appears to break, and the people who are in on the idea that it’s a deception are suddenly freaked out to find out that it’s spilled over into reality, but that spill over into reality can in fact, be encased by another fourth wall. And that would be called a “worked shoot”. 

So what’s going on right now is that we don’t have language for the levels of theater, deception, fantasy, and we’re struggling. So what we do is we keep finding meaning. And if you’ll notice very carefully, what we’re doing this week is that we’re finding meaning, you know, “These are the darkest days of America. We thought it could never happen here, but in shocking footage released from Capitol Hill, we see the destruction of everything good about this country,” blah, blah, blah. That kind of mock seriousness is preposterous. I mean, this has been visible for the entire time that we’ve been engaged in this. And nobody cares about the fact that we are a thermonuclear nation, trifling with the very dangerous business of degrading the customs of the United States, which are used to evade the need for putting restrictions into law. Our culture has allowed us to be free. And right now what you’re seeing is the degradation of our culture, which will necessitate rules. Right? 

The old magic of America is it’s a country in which you have no desire to burn the flag, you have every right to burn. And when you lose that culture, you’re going to see a call to restrict free action. So the magic of the United States is not its constitution. I’ve compared that to the Written Torah of the United States. But the Written Torah is complemented in a duality by the Oral Torah. And the Written Torah doesn’t really work on its own. You need the Oral Torah and the culture to animate the document, the document can’t do anything. What we’re now seeing is a complete degradation. The great attack of Donald Trump was on the Oral Torah and culture of the United States. And a lot of people who found that very restrictive, it’s like, why can’t I tell Polak jokes? When was the last time anybody told a Polak joke? I grew up and there were books of Polak jokes. We don’t do that anymore. And that kind of behavior is something that we can do, we just choose not to. So we’re talking now about the degradation of our culture, where Donald Trump has pioneered the idea that if everyone is thrown out First baseball. Every president is thrown at the first baseball of the season, he realizes that there’s a huge win to be gotten by not going along with tradition, every time there’s a tradition or a custom, you can always just decide that you’re going to disobey it to show how independent, you know the fact let’s imagine it had been going on for 200 years, which it has, 

MK: Yeah. 

EW: Cool. “I’m the first person in 200 years to think for myself,” and that’s what Donald Trump has been doing. He’s been degrading the Oral Torah of the United States, which was holding things together so we didn’t need rules. And the people who didn’t like the Oral Torah, and wanted to be completely free to be, you know, their horrible selves were super enthusiastic about the idea that Donald Trump is finally “freeing” us. And guess what’s going to happen next, you’re going to see a move to shut down speech on the internet, you’re going to have the major tech platforms refusing to host, you’re going to have financial harassment, you’re—I’m already, you know, I’ve been making the joke for years, though, should republicans be allowed to use the streets?

That’s not a joke, I start seeing calls that Republicans shouldn’t be able to buy groceries. So I think that the problem is, I think this is a grave week, as Marshall says, I’ve been up, you know, I really am on no sleep. But I don’t think it’s serious for the same reasons. I think that the problem is that this LARPing can become reality, it can convert to reality, it’s a rehearsal, for something. And effectively, it’s like, if you’re waving a gun around with no intention of firing, and it suddenly goes off, you’ve just transitioned into a different world. And you see this all the time. And right now, what people are doing is they’re dancing on the eaves of a building, you know, and somebody’s gonna fall sooner or later, and the whole thing is going to convert in seconds.

MK: How does the leadership class distinguish between the LARPing and the actual danger moments, because, I think we’ve mentioned this, I’m from Portland, Oregon. And you see the example of this and the treatment of Antifa. Back in July, back in June, Mayor Ted Wheeler, the leadership class of the city say that it doesn’t exist, it’s not real. Anything that has happened, anything that does exist is basically referred to as LARPing. Come November, predictably, as soon as Donald Trump is no longer in the presidency, the mayor of Portland gives a very strong, very aggressive statement about Antifa not following the law, all these sorts of things. So that’s the center left to left-wing version, the right-wing version is

EW: Sorry, that isn’t the center-left to left wing version, that’s how I think—Ted Wheeler is an abomination unlike anything that we’ve ever seen on the center-left. I don’t know what that is. 

MK: My point is that I—here’s what I mean by that, I suspect that most mayors of most democratic cities would have operated in the sense that Ted Wheeler operated. And what I want to do is bring this back to what happened last week, if you went to most Republicans, Republicans who have now turned very aggressively against what happened at the Capitol, they would probably say, “there’s protesters, it basically doesn’t matter, there’s gonna be some MAGA people, there’s gonna be a couple of groupers, whatever, it doesn’t really matter.” Now, it matters. So from my perspective, on both sides of the aisle, you see a leadership class, it doesn’t seem able to navigate the LARP to real world dangerous scenario. How, from your perspective, should they think about that?

EW: I don’t think we have a leadership class. And Marshall, I don’t mean to say that I can’t understand your question. I mean, to say that we should reject your question, and I don’t—the frame is the problem. I don’t—let me make a more provocative statement and then attempt to back it up, because the provocative statement is gonna obviously sound insane. I don’t think the United States government really exists at the moment. I don’t think that there is a leadership class. I think what happens is that, you know, just the way you have an army during peacetime, which develops certain habits, you get peacetime generals, people play war games. It’s not really an army. And then you have a live action situation, and the thing has to convert into a fighting force. 

I think we don’t have a government. And I don’t think we’ve had a government for a long time. I think in some sense, the last time the United States clearly existed may have been 1945. And then it has been degrading in various fashions from that. So that was a pretty functional thing we put together during World War Two. And, you know, we were able to do the Space Program and, you know, the 1950s were an era of incredible scientific progress, unfortunately, also incredible military progress, and both us and the Iron Curtain, behind the Iron Curtain. But I don’t think that you understand how little the government actually exists now. And when Donald Trump got elected, I went to visit a colleague at the old Eisenhower office building off the West Wing, and as I was walking the halls, I noticed how many offices were empty, that seemed to have very important plaques on their doors. There was no Trump intellectual movement that you could staff the government with. 

And I think this goes back to something that Saagar and Krystal said beautifully on Joe Rogan right at the beginning, I recommend everybody at the beginning of that episode, that there are these two teams that get rotated in and out of government. And either you go into the think tanks, or you go into the office buildings, in government office buildings. Trump did not have an intellectual movement to put in. And so as a result, you know, it’s sort of the dream of the anti-tax movement, that you want a government so small, you can strangle it in the bathtub. And I think that, in part, he wasn’t able to staff, because Donald Trump really was the only thing behind trumpism. It was a completely idiosyncratic, drunken boxing movement, where Donald Trump understands a few things very well better than anyone else, and many things much worse than anyone else, or it’s just a horrible human being. But he’s at his best when he’s sticking it. To the left, the institutional organized left, which again, isn’t really left at all, based on its hypocrisy, he’s very effective at that he’s the only if you include military and administrative appointments, I don’t think we have had another president with zero government experience. And that’s an incredible achievement. And many people said, we’re never going to get another shot. Let’s get on this train, even though we can see the danger even though we despise him. Because the main thing is to stop the insiders, from selling us out to China from selling us out to Davos that the major business post the fall of the Berlin Berlin wall has been selling out those Americans too weak to defend themselves in order to get wealth by globalization, let’s say or financialization or anything like that. So we’ve been in a suicidal spiral, clearly, since Bill Clinton. And arguably before that. In such a situation, I don’t think we have a leadership class. And I think that the people who are sitting in those seats are children and their children who are in general. At the national level, many of them are born in the 1940s. I mean, somebody pointed out that. Well, one way of saying it is Dianne Feinstein was conceived in the Hoover administration. Most of these people were conceived in like, you know, the Truman administration. This is not a way to lead a technologically advanced society into the 21st century. These people can’t code. They’ve never used a pipette. They basically—they don’t know what the Teller-Ulam design is. They don’t—they’re not technically capable people. They’re professional peacetime kleptocrats. And the extent to which Ted Wheeler and Mayor Jenny destroyed confidence in the willingness to enforce the law created this thing that I got really attacked on social media for, which is that we created the “Never Trump” Trump voter—people who hate Donald Trump with a passion, who voted for him in desperation to stop Mayor Ted Wheeler and Mayor Jenny and their obvious attempt to allow a criminal element into the city for the purposes of provocation, allowing in particular in Portland, attacking the federal courthouse with—you guys remember the shaggy song, “It wasn’t me”? 

MK: Yes. 

EW: That was the strategy. “What Antifa?” Yeah, “there’s no Antifa! It doesn’t exist!”, and you know, Jerry Nadler was asked about this directly and I posted this clip where you know, you see this courthouse been firebombed. And the claim is that the group doing the firebomb doesn’t even exist! It’s a myth. And okay, this is why for example, Black Americans believe in chemtrails, because the Tuskegee medical experiment lets them know, Hey, we do anything. We’re so crazy. Given what we’ve already done to you. You have no reason to believe that chemtrails aren’t real. It’s what we would call Bayesian priors, you’re tutoring people’s Bayesian priors, that you’re completely full of shit. You have absolutely no integrity, you’re willing to engage in madness. And keep in mind that the one thing we know about LARPing is that the body count in Portland is so low because this is an agreed upon theatrical battle. 

MK: Quick, I have to ask you this. I’m not asking you this in the woke sense. So when we finish a thought here I’m from Oregon, as I said before, so I only mostly know white people. So everyone I knew growing up, who believed in chemtrails was white. So I get your point about Black People—why do white people believe in chemtrails?

EW: Oh, that’s a little bit different. The Pacific Northwest, because of its history of labor activism and communism, in part shares a lot of the history of Black America. So one of the reasons that people see me as conspiratorial is because I come from a progressive family. And so when the government has spied on your family, when it’s, you know, we locked Paul Robeson in the country by taking his passport, we locked Charlie Chaplin out of the country so that he left and we wouldn’t let him back in to go to his house. Once you’ve been the target of the United States government, you realize that the mainstream belief of all that all science fiction and you go to too many movies is complete nonsense. So I would say everybody who shares the history of being just being lied to and having their history completely denied—remember that the Weather Underground was a response to the assassination of Fred Hampton, at the hands of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department is directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the crime of introducing the rainbow coalition to decrease black fighting between gangs to create a political movement. We are that crazy. And because we are that crazy, everyone who is plugged into the Howard Zinn version of our history is not quite so sure that all elections are free and fair. You know, if you take operation Ajax, in Iran, we clearly know how to add a turn over $1.

MK: That was the overthrow of the Shah. Right? Yeah.

SE: Most of that, most of that.

MK: So yeah. Too many too many operations. It’s hard to keep

EW: Operation Condor in Chile. Yeah. Yeah. The issue is, if you don’t know your history, maybe all this sounds like conspiracy theory, if you do know your history, you know what we’re capable of. And there’s no question that we’re capable of throwing an election. And then now the problem is okay, he said that, it’s a little bit like saying, I don’t believe vaccines are 100% safe. Now, that’s clearly true. Vaccines are not 100% safe. However, there’s an expectation that nobody will speak. reality. If you’re part of, you know, if you’re like me, and you have advanced degrees in something, you’re supposed to deny reality, the way everybody denies reality, we’re now at the point where the public, so many members of the public have caught on to the fact that the national official narrative is total nonsense, and they’re willing to believe anything at this point.

SE: This is something I really want to focus in on with you, Eric. And I want to kind of turn it into where we are today. And something I’ve talked a lot about on Rising and talking about tomorrow, is about impeachment. And a point that I’ve been trying to make, and I’m curious to get both your guys’s thoughts on this, is that in the context of impeachment, the way I look at is impeachment is you have to have, this is essentially the most extreme act that you can go through as a democratic society, invalidating the election, the previous removing the democratically elected President of the United States. And I looked at the recent poll, and to the extent that we even have polling, and I don’t know if I even believe it, but what we have is this 56% of polls, 56% of Americans say that Trumps should go. And you could say that’s a lot. But to me, I’m like, wait, so there’s still a sizable majority of the country that says that he shouldn’t go, and then you look within republicans and you say 73%, or whatever still approve of Trump still, you know, think of the job he’s doing some of even, you know, justify the capital violence. And I’m not saying any of this with a qualitative judgment. What I’m saying is, is if your goal is to unite the country, if your goal is to move on, which is what Joe Biden and many of the case for him was, this seems to be the worst possible thing that you could do. But then with the other side, to impeach Trump to impeach Trump, either right now, or to impeach, and, you know, bar him from office in the future. Because the way I look at it is that would be one of the single biggest instances of trying to basically not even invalidate votes, but to tell a sizable majority, a sizable minority of this country 44% or so that the person that you have immense faith in is no longer allowed to represent you as President. And it seems to me that it could be could be I’m not saying it’s intentional, but it’s a cover for not wanting to address the reasons that Trump was elected in the first place. Number one, and this is what I said today, too, is Look, if you’re Joe Biden or the democrats and you want to make sure that Trump is never elected again, you don’t have to impeach him. Do you know, distribute a vaccine properly, and, like pass $2,000 checks for all Americans, you will win the presidency. It’s actually not that hard. I just want to get your thoughts on impeachment about the legitimacy of democracy. No, it’s fine. If you disagree, it’s fine. Because, my goal—what I know is that you’re trying to operate in good faith towards trying to be a more harmonious country. And it seems to me that a lot of this a lot of impeachment talking more is about punishment. It’s about penalizing, and I have to try and take Trump out of it, because I find what he did so odious, and all that, but we still have to live with many of the people who voted for him in this country, and we have to channel those concerns and more. Go ahead.

EW: We don’t have to live with them. They’re us. 

SE: Yeah. 

EW: Those are my brothers. Those are my brothers and sisters. And let me tell you something. You guys have kids?

SE: No. We don’t.

EW: Okay. Let me imagine you’re my kids. Okay. You get involved in a cult. You think I’m not coming back? I’m coming in for you to get you the hell out of there. You think that I’m not—that I’m just gonna, you know, dismiss you and say, “Oh, my God. They’re now part of a cult. And they’re beyond the pale and I just have to cut ties and I’m going to disavow them.” 

SE: Yeah, of course not.

EW: Fuck, that shit. Okay, MAGA is our responsibility. Those are my brothers and sisters. I’m not running away from them, I’m not interested in that. I’m not demonizing them. But a cult it is. I’m not gonna say it isn’t a cult. I’m also not gonna say that Woke isn’t a cult. It’s a cult. These cults are incredibly powerful. And some of us have been noticing that there is no class of “Break Glass In Case of Emergency” people in our country. This is sometimes what a monarchy is supposed to do. I was hanging out with a royal family in Europe, which will remain nameless. And— 

MK: There’s like three. So—there’s more than that. 

EW: There’s more than that. Yeah. And a prince was saying, “well, you have to appreciate we’re in a very bad situation. No one—there’s no justification for monarchy anymore. So we’re really sort of hanging on by a thread.” I said, Look, I’m anti-monarchy, but you should at least be able to stealman the case. They said, “Well, what do we do? What What is our function?” And I said, “You’ve had 75 years of peace since the end of World War Two. How often do you use a fire extinguisher? Almost never. Does that mean that you just get rid of the fire extinguisher? Because you haven’t used it? No, you check in on it. And when you need it, it’s there. And what’s the purpose? You’re supposed to walk the rubble when the bombs are falling, you know, on a city, for example. You’re supposed to give the people something to rally around.” 

And I don’t believe in doing that through monarchy, because I’m an American, we reject that. But I do believe in Buzz Aldrin. Right? I do believe that there are people who are apart. You know, like, when Killer Mike spoke in Atlanta, he seemed to be apart. I don’t know who that guy is. I’m not really a hip-hop fan, but I was really impressed with him. And if you, you know, in particular, I am a huge fan of black oratory. The skill involved in black oratory coming out of the black church is—it’s a really—it’s its own thing. And it’s one of the things I’m proudest of as an American. There are times when you have to address a mob or a crowd. The times you have to do what James Brown did after Martin Luther King—I’m going to get through this. We have got a situation in which we don’t believe in seating anybody who has those characteristics in the chairs. The reason that I want to do Rising more than I want to talk to the two of you, is not anything against Marshall. It’s about the optics. Rising looks like adulthood. It looks like it comes from the institutional complex. And the optics is the adults. The institutions don’t listen to anyone outside of a closed system. And effectively, they’ve put up this barrier where they call everything alt-right, or far-right, that doesn’t have the right characteristics, which is on the take. And right now the important thing is to seat the people who have tried to call both balls and strikes for four years and have been torn apart, who’ve had their families torn apart, who, you know—look, I work for a guy who supported Donald Trump in 2016, was noticeably absent in 2020. My entire ability to speak freely comes from my good friend’s money, and the fact that I disagree with him, and I love him so much that I trust that he will not sever me, because I’m undermining his political—I mean, this—my brother, for example, is ejected from Evergreen State College because he was willing to stand against racism, even if it comes from blacks. 

SE: Yeah.

EW: You know, the number of people who’ve tried to call balls and strikes for four years is tiny. And right now what I want to do is, I want to take Brian Williams and Mara Gay, and I want to give them a huge vacation. Let them go to Tulum. And I want to see different people in those chairs. If those people can’t figure out even how to add and subtract, speaking of their crazy idea that Bloomberg could have given everyone a million dollars with his campaign investment, there is no commentary class that’s competent, that sits in those chairs. It’s, you know, that the problem, as I’ve said, is that the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed. And until you actually seat your critics, until you do what we used to do, which is to see the Noam Chomskys at a place like MIT, so that the conscience of MIT lives inside of MIT, so that the Ombudsman can say that the paper is out of control at the New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal, when you don’t seat your critics inside of the organization, you are on the road to self extinguishing.

And right now the most important thing is to realize that we don’t have time to put everything on the blockchain, to build new institutions. The most important thing right now is to get the tiny number of people who’ve been calling balls and strikes, who were born after 1964, into those effing chairs, to tell the system, “You’re over, it’s over, you’re done. You people from the ’40s you’ve failed. You don’t understand where you are. You’re not technically competent. You don’t have the country’s best interests at heart. You’ve sold us to China. You’ve created incredibly deep fake stories about, you know, the intelligence complex taking over the world, or, you know, something about the desire to destroy America.” 

All of these crazy stories that we’ve built around Wokistan and Magastan have to go. And, they are responsive to each other. Woke creates MAGA, MAGA creates Woke, you know, it’s—the snake is eating its own tail. The whole way we get out of this is that we put the people we trust more—let me give you a very simple rubric. Take anyone where the official description of that person is maximally divergent from the actual description of that person. Like, “Ben Shapiro is a Nazi.” Okay, an Orthodox Jewish Nazi. That’s pretty interesting. You know, “Sam Harris is an incredible islamophobe.” No he isn’t. I know Sam, he’s like, he’s my good friend. All of these things, “Bret Weinstein is, you know, the far right.” Seat the people where the description of them inside the gated institutional narrative, or the GIN, is maximally divergent from the reality, because that’s the place that the system showed you. Let the system tell you who it fears, and seat the people in the chairs who are feared most, who are maximally misportrayed. And then you’ll have a solution.

SE: But here’s the question, Eric, which is that and oh, and for the record, Eric is coming on rising, so don’t worry about that he will be there and it’s going to be great. But here’s the problem. Democrats and democratic primary voters in particular who select our possible next president, they love Brian Williams and Mara Gay, and they love MSNBC and the msnbc lineup and Republican but they do they trust them? If you 

EW: They don’t.

SE: See, I don’t know. So

MK: I wouldn’t say dad, I wouldn’t say what’s good, a certain very influential and powerful part of the Democratic Party, people who live in Northern Virginia, people who live in the Long Island suburbs, the Park Avenue reference and everything. They certainly do like those

EW: Which Long Island suburbs? The Hamptons? 

MK: We’re reaching the limits of my East Coastness—

SE: The limits of our conventional wisdom, but I don’t want to make just one sec, I want to make this point to because the Republican Party does deeply trust Fox as well. And so to the point of the media actors who are coming, look, I mean, I would love nothing more than to be seated, but I i can tell you, I go on Fox. There is a character that they want me to play. Increasingly, I have been doing a lot less because they will ask me to come on, and all they want me to do is smack the left, smack the left, smack the left, or talking about culture war issues. And I’m like, No, because this is ripping this country in half. And I’ve increasingly turned down a lot of appearances unless it’s to talk about an economic

EW: Do you know what my condition is for going on Fox?

SE: Go ahead. 

EW: I’ve done this, like the last time, I think was probably Greg Gutfeld. I said, “If I come on Fox, I’m telling, I’m telling your audience that I view Fox as a propaganda network.” He said, “Sure”. I said—

SE: That’s great. Yeah, that’s good. 

EW: No, but I’m telling you, this is part of the deal, which is what’s going on is not quite correct. So let’s take Long Island. The Hamptons, loves Kamala Harris. Yeah. The Kamala Harris that is loved in the Hamptons is not the Kamala Harris that we see. In other words, it’s like a developer looking at a computer program, they see the code, we see the binary, we see the finished product without being able to see what’s actually going on. They specifically love Kamala Harris because they know who she is and what she’s going to do for them. And we see the front end, which is what she’s going to do to us. So first of all, no, I don’t think that they love Brian Williams. And if you think that they love Brian Williams, please allow me to go on opposite Brian Williams and Mara Gay, they’re gonna love him a lot less. Because, you know, it’s a little bit like thinking that the professional wrestlers—well, no, it’s like the Gracie challenge. We used to talk about karate and kung fu and all of these things. And Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wasn’t on anybody’s list of coolest martial arts back in the 1970s, right? It’s only when you actually start pitting these things against each other, that you stop believing that somebody is the coolest or the best, you know? 

SE: Right. 

EW: I mean, like Steve Vai seems to be the greatest guitarist in the world until somebody named Guthrie Govan shows up and then, like, check out what happens there. At some level, they live in a protected world, and in professional wrestling, it would be called a “promotion”. They’re not actually fighting. There’s, you know, Brian Williams is scripted to win. He’s a designated winner. So we have a designated winner system, and we can’t get away from them. But are you telling me that people wouldn’t—weren’t getting frustrated about what was done to Tulsi Gabbard? When Tulsi went after—

MK: There was like two people, Eric, Rick, that’s like two people who actually feel like I want to have a quick story about this because it reflects, I think, a danger and over valorizing Rising, no offense, Saagar. When I was doing Rising panels, back in January and February, every week, we were doing the polls, everything like that. I thought Andrew Yang and Tulsi were just crushing it because you’d say something nice about Andrew. And you would get I would get all these really nice comments that talked about how smooth my skin looked. Or I would say something about Tulsi, her foreign policy, he would say this young guy is the smartest young guy you’ve ever seen. But then the actual election happens and they get like four and two and 3% of the vote. It’s not my point. Well, but my point, though, is that if we’re talking about like, here’s a better put this, Brian Williams represents far bigger of a constituency, at least for right now, at least, for the subsequent future than anything Tulsi Gabbard is putting up there. Tulsi Gabbard bless. Like, bless her. 

SE: Yeah this is not an insult. 

MK: It’s not an insult. But Tulsi Gabbard is a—she’s this weird former republican who’s conservative in many socially conservative ways. She’s progressive in different ways. But that’s not an actual viewpoint which has a serious constituency. So I just can’t accept the idea that she, and a person who represents her ideology, is the inverse of Brian Williams. That’s my concern.

EW: Let me be very clear about this. I don’t think necessarily that Andrew or Tulsi would have won, I’m not claiming that they were set to win. What I am claiming is that when you starve people for airtime, when you publish, like, the ugliest picture of them, and the most attractive picture of somebody else, you do all the media tricks that we do every time and you drop people from your graphics, that has the effect of letting somebody know that person isn’t going to win. And we tend to take the message, we know that, I knew that Andrew and Tulsi weren’t going to do very well. That causes me not to want to invest in them. And so I know, I don’t necessarily, you know, I wasn’t I never signed on to Andrew or to Tulsi. What I am trying to say is that many of us face this accumulated thumb pressure on the scales of justice. And the justice in this case has to do with the primary. There was no primary. My claim is that the primary didn’t exist, it was not free and fair. It’s sealed in a particular way. I don’t think the candidates are allowed to assemble unless the event is sanctioned. The events that are given are given out to legacy media structures. The time given to the candidates is wildly asymmetric. There are all sorts of ways in which the rules are built to make sure that there has to be an appearance that anyone can enter, but that that will not actually happen in a way in which the General Election is threatened. An insider will always prevail for the General, and that’s what Donald Trump snuck through on the Republican side. Bernie almost snuck through it in 2016. And we don’t really know what would have happened with Tulsi and Andrew? 

SE: See, Eric I did this is where I want my question to, though, which is with even within this premise, which is that within the GIN—because, what you’re supposing is that, if you were allowed to go on Brian Williams, but then we both know that they’re not going to invite you. So I mean, this is part of what I want to get at, which is that, with—and I think your concept of the gin is incredibly important to anybody who’s actually trying to think about systems, because when you’re thinking about systems, that’s when you’re actually gonna think, generally on a much more structural level as to why incentives work, and the way that people respond to those incentives within them, which is that, at a bare, at a base level, your success, my success, you know, the reason people are even tuning into this conversation, is because Brian Williams will never invite you on, is that, I mean, they’re not gonna have me on MSNBC anytime soon. And it’s within that closure of the system, what my greatest fear is, I used to think that they have to eventually relent, because they’re losing market share, or whatever, but it’s just not true. The truth is that they got the result that they wanted, in the primary, and they’ve, they’re more profitable than ever, they actually have more viewers than ever by doubling down on the strategy. How can we? Is there a solution to that? That’s my question, because I’m not sure if there is right now.

EW: Well, what I’m trying to get at is, this is the Jayaprakash Narayan effect, if you know Indian history, during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. All—most of the founding fathers of modern India had moved on from the independence movement, and it’d become bureaucrats, it’d become wealthy by, you know, getting in on the spoils of a new nation. And there was this one guy Jayaprakash Narayan, who’s sort of the patron saint of lost causes, whose heart was too pure to actually profit from the good work that he did. And when Indira Gandhi declared the State of Emergency as she did, which was highly unpopular, the cry went out in the darkness, “There is one light”. Jayaprakash, you know, is the word for light, right, “Prakash”? And the slogan was, “Sampoorna Kranti Ab Nara Hai, Bhavi Itihas Hamaara Hai”, “Total revolution is now the slogan; Future history is ours”. And that’s how this game works. You’re pushing the world towards the Jayaprakash Narayan moment. He didn’t matter except once. But when you need Jayaprakash Narayan, you’re not going to reach for Brian Williams. You’re not going to reach for Sean Hannity. You’re going to want to—there are people, you know people—I have not even set up a Patreon page, and I won’t do it until after the inauguration, you know, or some—people have no ability to contribute to me. And it’s probably an empty gesture. But the point is, you need people who are planning only for that one eventuality.

MK: I want to build on something here real quick, Eric, because this is interesting. It goes back to your earlier comment about leaders who are equipped the dynamic that Saagar’s speaking about, what’s happened with MSNBC and Rising, insert, Rogen, Sam Harris, and even the Patreon economy, is the idea that we no longer have big institutions, no one’s getting 30 million viewers, we instead see a dissemination of audiences. So the business model for you, if you’re doing a Patreon is you get 1000 people who love you the most, to give you $10 a month, etc, etc, etc. That’s a lot more valuable than getting 50,000 people who are giving you YouTube revenue clicks. The problem here is that the skill set that that’s selecting for is a skill set of appealing to niche niche audiences. If Sabra and I wanted to blow up The Realignment right now, what we would do is say, we think the DNC was stolen, in a sort of conspiratorial way, we would do all these little dynamics that wouldn’t necessarily be honest, but they would appeal to that niche audience. So how do we have a set of leaders? How do we create leaders? Or how do we fill people in different spaces, when what they haven’t been selected for is integrating their group into other groups or articulating their perspectives rather than what they’re doing? Yeah.

EW: The time hasn’t come. Look, I love money. Everybody says that they don’t care about money. I don’t know what they’re talking about. I just love it, because I can buy—I could buy Navy SEALs to protect my house, given what I’m about to say and do. I can boost my signal, I can hire assistance; right now I do everything myself. My problem is that I don’t love money enough. And I don’t think you guys love money enough. No, I’m not kidding.

SE: No we don’t. Yeah. 

EW: You know, but hopefully you love money, it’s just, not enough. And your time isn’t now. It becomes very clear. You know, why don’t I love money because I have things—money is very expensive. Most of the very wealthy people I know spend almost all of their time talking about money. And I don’t want that life, my time is too valuable. If time is money, my time is precious, and there’s not usually enough money to buy my time. What I believe is that nobody really believes that at the moment. We’re still caught in the old system about power, money, and who’s on top and all of this stuff. I want my children to survive in a country that I deeply love. And I don’t see anybody fighting for this. You know, the concept of being a patriot, I can tell you everything wrong with this country, this country has been horrible to my family. I love this country. And the idea that I get to push out a sophisticated version that is not immediately intellectually insulting, the idea that, you know, I’ve given up huge amounts of income by quieting my podcast because I knew that these cancellations were coming. And I did not want to give people the excuse to come after me. Our time isn’t yet, gentlemen. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. For 75 years, something hasn’t happened. And that’s so long, that people can’t remember that something is about to happen. We are about—

MK: What do you mean by s—What do—can you define 75? So do you mean like war? Right? What do you mean by something, nothing has happened?

EW: In the fall of 1945, we dropped some atomic devices in Japan. And with the exception in some sense of maybe The Great Leap Forward in China, we didn’t have 20th Century level tumult. So we’ve been through this incredibly quiescent period. And we are the children of The Great Nap. We grew up in a, you know, even with the Cold War, the storm clouds were always on the horizon, the Cuban Missile Crisis, they stayed on the horizon. So as a result, we don’t really know what reality is, we’ve been in a prolonged state of unreality. And when you look at what happened at the Capitol building, and you compare it to what happened at Stalingrad, you’re not even—these aren’t the same parts of speech.

The future is coming. And it’s going to come pretty violently, because nobody knows how to hold this thing together. And I don’t mean violently, necessarily, in terms of blood in the streets, it could be the disruption of our legal system. It could be any one of a number of things. But what’s happened is, we’ve held the future at bay. This is my wife, Pia Malaney’s observation. And Covid accelerated the future, because the future has been held back by the people born in the 1940s. The fact that all five of the major candidates left at the end of the election we’re all born in the 1940s—all of them would be the oldest person ever to take office—tells you something, because it was not even remarked upon. Effectively, what you’re looking at is the pre-Great Society world attempting to hold back the future, and this is their last, you know, when you corner a beast at the end of its life, it is maximally ferocious, because it has no reason to hold back. And what we’re seeing is a maximally ferocious group of septa- and octogenarians clinging to power, which is about to give way.

What I’m trying to tell both of you is your time isn’t quite yet. All you’re doing right now is you’re getting yourself set for what comes next. And the key question will be, how do we get rid of Brian Williams? How do we get rid of Mara Gay? How do we get rid of Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and get technically capable, social media savvy people who live in the modern world into the chairs that are needed to direct the institutions. If the institutions only listen to institutional media, what we’re doing is whatever Winston Churchill was doing before World War Two, and what I highly recommend, gentlemen, is look at Chamberlain speech of resignation. We always talk about Chamberlain waving the paper about “peace in our time” and “go home and get some sleep” and all this kind of stuff. That was his low point. Wanna know what his high point was? His resignation speech. It’ll give you chills. What he did was, he said, Hitler, I don’t know, had made it to Holland, maybe? I can’t remember exactly. And he says, Hitler is counting on our division, and you want to know what he doesn’t count on? What I’m about to do next. I’m resigning. I’m resigning to back Winston Churchill. And Winston Churchill has asked me to stay on. So fuck you. Well, Joe Biden, if he was an American patriot would resign at this moment, because he can’t give the speech that you just said. Joe Biden cannot give the Unity speech. Killer Mike could give the Unity speech, I could give the Unity speech, you guys could give the Unity speech. Joe Biden can do the Neville—try to imagine not being up to the level of Neville Chamberlain. If Joe Biden resigns, and he should resign, right? Like, this is my thing. People used to do this stuff. People used to understand that the commitment to country was a real thing. And that hanging on to power like for what purpose is Joe Biden hanging on to power? He’s 78. What’s he going to get from this? He can’t lead. He’s so tarnished. He’s so tainted. Maga is tainted. Everybody who only called balls and strikes for four years is tainted, you know. And my claim is that those of us who are untainted have this idea of, “Oh, we can’t sit down in the chair.” The fuck we can’t sit down in the chair, gentlemen. We can sit down in those chairs. I mean, what degree, from what university, does Brian Williams have that makes—is it his hair? He’s got better hair, in some sense, for television, than any of us.

Okay, is that the qualification? I mean, let me ask you guys a question: if he was doing a radio—a podcast that wasn’t institutionally affiliated, what do you think his numbers would be?

SE: Yeah, it would be low. But I mean, the whole point, right, is that he’s just been around forever. He’s actually pretty good interviewer. whenever it comes to some, you know, new segments. I didn’t say he was perfect. But look, this is the thing, is—

EW: No he’s not.

MK: I do have to cut in for something, Eric. Yeah. I really disagree with what you said about Joe Biden. And mind you, he can disprove all of this, but looking at the Democratic Party of today, looking at the terrible reality of what and obviously we started this conversation talking about how we should look to history and like, this wasn’t Stalingrad, et cetera, et cetera, cetera. I think Joe Biden is basically the only person within the institutional Democratic Party, who, (A) has an actual constituency that really matters, that, (B) has the capacity to make the unifying decisions that he has to make. He could totally fail to do that. He can make the wrong calls, but the fact that during the height of everything, Joe Biden has the confidence to say, “No, I’m not for defunding the police.” Or, “No, I actually know that most democrats and people in this country don’t support Medicare for all”, but that matters. That’s the difference—if he resigns, there is no Churchill waiting in the wings. That’s the problem. And the difference is Churchill, by that point too was, what, he was 65 years old? So it wasn’t as if there was these, like, young whippersnappers who were ready to go. I just don’t think the historical analogy works here.

SE: I guess the question is why—when Joe Biden seems to be, at least within the Democratic Party, the only person even wanting to do what you are alluding to there, Eric, what is to be done? Why should he resign?

MK: I think in everything you’re critiquing Kamala Harris would be worse, on every single count that we’re talking about right, I genuinely believe that Kamala Harris would be worse.

EW: Agreed. I don’t want him to resign so that Kamala takes over. What I’m trying to say is, the entire class is tainted. 

SE: Okay, yeah. 

EW: Right. And I was saying also, Marshall, what you were saying is that we haven’t created Break-Glass-In-Case-Of-Emergency people. And I want to be very clear about something. I am not interested in a political career. I would be a disaster. So let me destroy any hope—

SE: You’re too honest.

EW: No it’s not just too honest, you know, there’s certain—there are executive decisions. I’m a thinker, I’m not—the ability to make a strong decision on limited information, commit to it, and lead people is a special skill set. And I’m not embarrassed that that isn’t my skillset. I’m frickin terrific at all sorts of things. I’m not terrific at that. I am not running for office. I’m not trying to get power. I’m not trying—this is not part of a grab. You know, there’s this old Bill Hicks routine about marketing and sales, that once you start thinking in marketing and sales terms, and somebody tells you that they hate marketing and sales people, marketing and sales people say, “Oh great, you’re going after the anti marketing and sales dollar, that’s a good dollar.” You can’t get out of the mindset of,  everybody’s grasping for power. Power is fucking boring. I mean, I want to do math and physics. I want to push out all sorts of amazing things to my audience and delight the world. I want to go play the mandolin, you know, I’m not interested in government. What I am saying is, I’m interested in making sure that the Break-Glass-In-Case-Of-Emergency people get into a position where they can take over from the corrupt people. And I think that the problem, to be honest, is that you guys have Stockholm Syndrome from living in D.C. I mean, what we need, what we need currently is, and I understand what you’re saying about Biden, he threaded some line, but you know, he voted for the 2005 bill to make student debt non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. I can go through a million things that Joe Biden has done badly. You know, to tell people that he’s gonna prioritize everybody who doesn’t look like him for help with their business, well, Lord knows what Hunter Biden sells, you know, to make his millions. Enough. And I think that part of the problem is that we’re used to selecting from a pulldown menu, I would recommend that all of your listeners go to a Starbucks, and ask for a “short” coffee, because you’ll notice it’s not on the menu. And when you ask for the short coffee, they will give you the short coffee. There are things that are not on the menu that you have to know to ask for. And so right now, the point is, I don’t want to pull down Kamala Harris or Joe Biden, or Elizabeth Warren, or any one of these people. I want the short coffee, give me the short coffee. I don’t want Mara Gay. I don’t want Nicole Hannah Jones. I don’t want Sean Hannity, none of these people. And the problem is that most of us have the idea, well, if not A, then the other thing, then B. My point is, no. I want 37 you know, Q, and you’re just talking about A/B testing.

MK: So here’s a question that builds into everything you’re saying here. What because despite our D.C. Stockholm Syndrome, which is definitely a real thing, in many respects, we do largely agree with your critique. We, frankly, don’t want to run for office either. That’s the dynamic here. But, that being said, there are people who do want to run for office, there are young people who show up in D.C. I’m not going to name names here, but who build very big social media followings, and then come into office, like, I will name a name here, like Madison Cawthorne, you know, who has been a frustrating experience from my perspective, because, on the one hand, he starts out and he talks about how he wants to fix health care and be his generation’s leader, XYZ thing. And then on the day of his election, he’s tweeting, and he’s apologized for this, name you, but you know, “owned, Lib”, or just whatever, he’s falling—he—”Cry more, lib.” He’s falling back into the trap of that previous system. So what would you—what would your advice be for young people who are trying to not be—who want to be that break glass figure, but every single incentive is to push in the opposite direction. Everything is telling you to go speak at the DSA convention, or to go speak at the Turning Point USA conference.

EW: Well, first of all, if you speak at Turning Point USA, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with speaking at Turning Point USA. Just make sure that Charlie Kirk knows that you’re going to say something that isn’t so charitable about Turning Point USA, and that you’re going to thank him for the opportunity, the same way I do it on Fox News. So the first thing is, is that you can absolutely go on Fox News and tell them that Fox News is a propaganda network. And once you’ve done that, that’s fine. If you listen, I went on Ted Cruz’s podcast, The Verdict, but you got to be disagreeable. You can’t get swept up in the desire to make nice. You can’t sell your hosts out. I’m not gonna you know, go on Ted Cruz’s podcast to stick it to Ted Cruz. I really appreciate the fact, and I was polite as could be. On the other hand, I’m no pushover. Don’t be a pushover. Have your own independent sense of reality, and make sure that you carry it with you when you get onto that stage, and make sure that you try to call balls and strikes, and be prepared that you’re going to be called—you know, the amazing thing is, in the internet era, is that there’s a name for every ready-made argument. You know, “Oh, both-sides-ism. Oh, that’s just what-about-ism.” Okay, well, you’re gonna get the automated bot-level arguments, “Dude, I thought you had integrity. Now I realize you’re just a grifter”, blah, blah, blah. You know, these are the hyenas of social media. And they just nip at you to try to wear you down. Okay, what you need, you know, you ever watch hyenas going after a lion, you got 20 hyenas on one lion until the rest of the family shows up. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this show. You guys are Break-Glass-In-Case-Of-Emergency people. You know, Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro—Ben Shapiro and I could appear together. If you want to see unity, Glenn Beck just reached out to me, said, you know, we need unity now. And I was never a Glenn Beck fan, but I just wrote one letter, you know, I think I just wrote one word, “In.” You know, what do you need? Let’s do this thing. 

So my claim is, lead by example. And you don’t have to be perfect. You know, I lashed out at Kyle Kashuv, you know, when he was, like, saying, “I tried to warn you about this. Enjoy, you know, your new Biden Administration.” And I deleted the tweets, you know, because I was on edge. You don’t have to be Jesus Christ, or some kind of a saint, you don’t have to be Mother Teresa. The key thing is, people eventually get that you really care and that you’re decent. And that, you know, maybe you want power or fame, you want to be thought well of. I know that I want status, blah, blah, blah, it’s not a big sin. What we’ve got to do is recognize our time isn’t yet, and we’re on the doorstep of our time, and we have to get there. And so what I would say to those young people is, don’t screw up your future playing in the present, while the present is unraveling. Better to forego it. Take a few years, you’re not going to get there necessarily. Maybe this whole thing blows up before you ever get there, in which case, I’m sorry. But your best bet is not to play in the present. The thing to do is to get the damn septuagenarians and octogenarians who do not come from the modern era, who come from the pre-Great-Society universe, off the stage, replace them with technically capable people who are better adapted to the modern era. And you can find these people by the people who are maximally demonized relative to their reality, because those—let the system tell you who it fears most. Go scan the list of alt-right people. Every person called a Nazi with a Jewish surname should be somebody that you’re probably interested in talking to. Every person who’s never voted Republican, who’s called “The Far Right” is somebody you should be interested in talking to. Everyone with an advanced degree in virology, who says the Wu Han lab hypothesis should not be off the table, because we don’t do science by putting our politics first before we examine all of the evidence. All of those people. I mean, it’s very hard when you can’t trust the CDC, the Surgeon General, Anthony Fauci or the W.H.O. to know what you’re doing, locked at home, while your business is crumbling—

SE: Yeah. 

EW: —not sure whether, in fact, this is actually a very serious pandemic, or a bad version of the flu, because I can tell you, I can’t figure it out. I’m a pretty smart guy, I can’t figure it out. There are times when I hear that the hospital beds are overflowing and we can’t—we don’t have space in the ICU, and we’re—we have triage deaths. And there are other reports I hear that we’ve got all of these beds ready, and that nobody’s inhabiting them. None of this makes any sense. So my claim is that if you feel like you can’t figure out COVID, you can’t figure out what just happened in the election, you don’t understand why the election is disputed in this way, join the club. 

I don’t know how much voter fraud there was in this election. What I do know is that our courts didn’t find any of this persuasive. And so if you’re going to claim, “Well, okay, no, the courts are actually under Russian control.” If you keep adding epicycles to your conspiracy theory, where the Donald Trump appointed justices aren’t affirming Donald Trump, there’s some point at which you’ve got to realize that you’ve been engaged in a massive LARP, and the LARP is based on a certain amount of reality. And right now what we need to do is to have a place to come back, and I just want to talk about this one woman in Texas. I saw on social media—she adores me, she says, you know, “You’re my favorite person”, blah, blah, blah, and it’s very touching. And I see her wrapped in a Trump cape, you know. And she’s at this January 6 rally. And I knew to fear the January 6 rally, and two days before I put out a tweet stream trying

SE: You did, you did. Yeah. 

EW: I called her up. And she’s like, “I can’t believe you’re calling me.” And I just said, “Look, you’re in college. And you’re going to something like a rave, and you’re having great conversations, and you’re having fun, and you’re trying to explain your patriotism. And you’re worried that you saw all of the thumb on the scales for media, and you’re worried that it extends to the election. And the person who got shot could have been you.” And she immediately talked to me about, you know, “Well, I can’t, how do I go towards Biden?” It’s like, no, neither! Get off that spectrum! Go to your studies! Go get drunk, you know. And I said, “Be young, wild and free. That’s your job right now. Get away from these old people!” These are crazy old people, and they have no future. This is all going to be taken care of by Father Time. In 20 years, Bill Clinton is in all likelihood going to be dead. Hillary Clinton. Very few of these people are going to be around. You are still going to be here. Stop investing in these old people. They’ve gotten control of our society. In any previous era, before the 1980s, before we started messing around with mandatory retirement, which was allowing our society to renew itself, these people would be embarrassed to be seeking office. You know, I mean, it—when was the last time an octogenarian showed up for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot? At some level, it’s not appropriate. You know, it’s just—I appreciate that they want to stay engaged, but, you know, there’s a reason that Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale didn’t run in 2020. And it’s because they have better sense to realize it’s not their time anymore. And I probably would rather have had Jimmy Carter than Joe Biden!

SE: That’s when you know, things are really bleak. Eric, I want to end it there. Because I think that’s such an inspiring and important point. And I can say too, from personal experience, that you’re 100%, right. I mean, just small story, but, you know, whenever I was choosing between Rising, which, remember, at that time, there was no Rising, you know, it was like me, it was just Krystal, right. There was this show at The Hill, which was, you know, at 6000 subscribers on YouTube. It was like, literally nothing, not something people knew anything about. And I had another job offer as a White House correspondent, with a larger news organization here in DC. And everybody in DC told me to take that White House correspondent job, every single one—

MK: I remember this. People talked a lot of shit, it was a real thing. What’s Saagar doing? It was a whole thing.

SE: “What’s he doing?” They were like, “Take the DC correspondent job.” They’re like, “Who knows about this thing? Stay within your, you know, your path, keep doing these three minute Fox News appearances, right, over and over again, like, that’s the cache, Saagar, don’t you understand? Like, what are you doing?” And I self exited from the system. Before I got to it, I hit the red button. And I was like, “No, enough, I don’t care enough about Fox. I don’t care about being in the white house all the time. I don’t care about doing these Trump interviews. I don’t care about all of the traditional things in Washington media that we care about and that we are supposed to care about, in terms of your career.” What happens? A year later, “Holy shit, you’re on the Joe Rogan podcast!” Right? It was like this, it was like a—me colliding with a world that they knew tangentially, but didn’t value. And they didn’t understand, you know, the success of the program or the growth, and they minimized it, you know, basically until they couldn’t, until they couldn’t reckon with the fact about how big it had gotten and my ability to have you here to talk to you. I mean, I know people were like, I listen to Eric Weinstein to figure out what’s going on. And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I’ve talked with Eric, he’s been on my pod—”. They’re like, “Oh, my God, you actually know him?” And it’s just this, it’s this, this self-defeating problem that we have here in Washington and all establishment media in particular, where they’re always going to tell you to take the safe route. And the only way to succeed, and this happens with politics, anybody who is young, is you have to self exit and say, it’s like you said, you have to look to where the future is going, and you have to play that game, instead of doing what some, like, Boomer executives want you to do, and play within the role that you’re assigned yourself. So I just want to say again, like, thank you for underscoring that. And, really, in a time like this, I just, we had to talk to you, because you’re one of the few people here who, in good faith, is trying to reach—we want to live in a more harmonious country. And I genuinely know that whenever I talk to you, I don’t know that whenever I talk to a lot of people, left, right, I mean, all of it is about punishment. All of it is about exacting a cost from your enemies. I don’t know many people who would say about MAGA be, like, these are my brothers and sisters, we have to talk that way more again.

MK: I know we just said we’re gonna I know we just said we’re gonna finish up but I thought of a question that came up here. This is totally random. Apologies for that. But as we’re thinking about punishment, and cults, right, the use of cult was applied to Trump. I don’t know what you think about this, though, Saagar. Within Eric’s framework of what would you do if your kids were kidnapped by a cult? You go the fuck in, you do all that stuff. But you almost certainly would support the punishment of the cult leader, especially if that punishment prevented him doing that to other people’s kids. So, how do you think about the punishment framework within the contract you’ve created for Eric, because it’s unclear which direction it goes.

SE: I agree with that. I would say, and this what I said on my show this morning, which is that he lost the election. That’s the punishment. Like he lost. That’s the real price. He was humiliated on national stage and lost states that he won previously. Eric, I’m curious, before we go, what do you think about that?

EW: I have a very—people will not understand this. I’m hesitant to say it, but I think I probably should. I believe in smacking some people to the curb, and being the first to make sure that you offer them a hand back up. And my feeling is that right now Donald Trump needs to be smacked to the goddamn curb. And I also believe that at some level, you need to potentially offer, if not him, certainly people around him a hand back up and a way back. And the vengeance—the problem of social justice theory is that the justice is actually sometimes a euphemism for vengeance. A lot of us feel very humiliated, we feel very jealous. And Donald Trump is going to be built back up by overreach of the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party is not without its own blood on his hands. And, in essence, the Democratic Party created the presidency of Donald Trump, in my opinion, by saying, how do we get somebody to irradiate themselves? Well, we’ll give them cancer and then they’ll need to irradiate themselves. Inside of that framework, I don’t think that the Democratic Party is in a position to do this. I do think that the tiny group of misfits to which you guys belong, and I can’t tell you how touched I am that you guys think in these terms, let me just say that for all future appearances on anything you do you have a general “Yes”. I don’t give out a general “Yes”, but I so admire what you guys are doing, that, just don’t even ask me to come next time, whenever you want. 

What I’m really thinking is that at some level, you do need to smack some people to the curb. But you also need to recognize that religions that are around for 1000s of years have forgiveness and grace, and redemption. And this passion for the destruction of the individual, the cancellation of an entire human being, and the social isolation from deplatforming is a recipe for creating people with nothing left to lose who have access to fertilizer, and potassium nitrate, and worse. And, you know, my claim is that most of us need love and admiration and trust. And look at my, look at my timeline. The number of people who say “Eric, I always politically disagree with you, but I never feel that you’re condescending—” Never use words like knuckle draggers, or make fun of the inability of people to spell. I talk a lot about the fact that my IQ is a bit lower than most people imagine, because of my learning issues. I talk about the fact that I am disgusted with the tote bag conspiracy, you know, if you have if you have Karl Castle on your answering machine, that you’re so proud of the fact that you’re not like “those other people” in the center of the country who, by the way, all those farmers actually know genetics, probably better than you do, because you just don’t even understand what’s going on in Kansas or Montana or whatever, ranchers. 

We need to basically realize that the rest of our country is being driven insane by its media, but that person-to-person, human-to-human, most of us are better. And one of the things that I really think, you know, the cure for anti-semitism is getting to know more Jews as friends. The cure for anti-black prejudice is, you know, hanging out in black spaces and experiencing the warmth and hospitality. Part of the problem is that we’ve learned to distrust each other and to look down on each other. And if you will just come forward with an open heart and an outstretched hand, almost everybody immediately realizes that they’re coked up on institutional media, and once that kind of haze and fog lifts, we get back to the business of being who we are, because frankly, if we’re going to be “we’re great, and the other side is horrible,” That’s not America, you’ve already given up on your country. And so I just want to say what a pleasure it is to be in a position where whatever our differences are, I know you guys have your hearts in the right place. I just view myself as a supporting actor. You guys are the future, and anything I can do to help you get you there will be my honor.

MK: Likewise, Eric.

SE: Thank you so much.


Hello, You’ve found The Portal. I’m your host Eric Weinstein, and I’m still trying to lie low until this election cycle is concluded given that, in particular, the threat of being booted off the platforms like Twitter for intellectual non-compliance looms over us all. If you have any questions about whether self-censorship is real, I, as a grown Harvard PhD with just under a half a million followers and a direct connection to the CEO of Twitter, live in fear that more than a decade spent building an audience can be undone without possible appeal by the push of a button, sending a single message from some person named Vijaya, who I have never met, after having done nothing at all wrong. Oh yeah. It’s real. These sudden Kafkaesque suspensions, which are then retracted and apologized for, and which emanate from the ironically named Trust and Safety group really do work. Congratulations Twitter, Facebook, and Google. Mission accomplished.  

So I am going to make this an all audio-essay episode, with three distinct segments. These will begin my goodbye to the wildest administration within the memories of my middle-aged life, which I may add, also includes the administrations of Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon fairly vividly. I think we will begin with a segment on Trump and what I have avoided saying about him for some time. We will then hear from two of our loyal sponsors, I’ll come back to give my thoughts on the bizarre state of the 2020 US election before paying some bills, and we will then hear from two other sponsors before moving to our final segment on the effect of the 2020 election on my colleagues in long form podcasting. So, without further ado, let us discuss what I have waited to say about Donald Trump until the bitter end. 

Beginning To Cash Out My Trump Position

If your regular commentators have sounded a bit odd recently to your ears, they have to mine as well. I spent some time recently rather puzzled, and tried to figure out why that might be, before I settled on a relatively simple explanation. In some sense, what I believe we are seeing is that members of the commentariat had settled in for a kind of alternate political reality when Donald Trump first took the oath of office, and that each analyst had built a bespoke theory of Donald Trump and the meaning of the sojourn into the bizarre splitting of the country into incompatible camps of political interpretation. As it now appears to most of this group, Trump will shortly leave office, and so people are cashing out any remaining value in their private Trump positions. We are finding that some people who supported him actually secretly despise him. Others who thought they hated his idiosyncratic antics are surprised by how upsetting they find Biden’s staffing choices, signaling a return to our usual metastatic swamp politics. 

There is a semi-official position of our institutional class on Donald Trump that has to be stated up front. Put simply, Donald Trump is to them an unethical and lucky idiot under the control of foreign powers, who stumbled into the White House because an enormous percentage of the United States electorate is composed of either unethical bigots or confused fools who cannot think for themselves, and are thus taken in by a simple conman.

Now, in my opinion that is simply false. In my estimation there is a single aspect of Donald Trump that is more remarkable than any other. And that is that Donald Trump is the only true outsider ever to run the presidential gauntlet successfully and win. Perhaps his singular importance within our system is that he is utterly unique as an outsider. I hope I have this right, but when our government is understood to include our military as well as political appointees, so far as I can work out Donald Trump is the first and only president in our nation’s history to have never been in government. This one fact is the key to understanding many dichotomies that Trump vs Biden represented:

  • Outsiders vs Insiders
  • The Crude vs The Civil
  • Idiosyncratic vs Systemic corruption
  • Bullshittng vs Spinning
  • Unpredictable negotiation vs Reliable leadership
  • Offensive vs Overly Pandering behaviors
  • Narcissistic vs Collectivist impulses
  • Free vs Constrained thinking and action

Now the difficult part to talk about is this. As I have said before, I consider the Trump phenomenon to be an epiphenomena of the escalating kleptocracy of our centrist, Silent, and Boomer political classes. When you can’t point to a moderate, political, and adult center because they are too busy stealing things that aren’t nailed down, you are more likely to end up in the far wings of the political spectrum. And both parties have been busy stuffing their pockets and faces while playing footsie with their own extremes. This is done by alternating between keeping a proper distance one minute and casting come-hither looks towards the fringes in the next.

And, in this set up, the one thing we cannot ever discuss is the narrative—the GIN, to regular listeners—that allows the looting of our nation and its future by a seemingly near-permanent gerontocracy of magical individuals conceived between the Hoover and Truman administrations. They are the Golden Ones, if you will. These are people who, in any sensible era, would resign for the good of their own children, but who seem to be utterly unconcerned that they have held back needed change for more than 30-50 years, rather like a hypothetical aging monarch waiting for an untrustworthy heir to expire so that she herself can at last move on towards a well-deserved rest and reward. It is not so much that these people are old, mind you, but rather that they are failed leaders who have held power without success, challenge, or much turnover for far longer than is normal in any healthy society.

Many of you know that I occasionally refer to Donald Trump as an existential risk to the fabric of our democracy, and by extension the world, as we are the lone stabilizing nuclear and economic superpower as I see it. But what I have tried not to say until now is why I have called Donald Trump an existential risk since before his election, while I obviously see him as the enemy of my enemy. Is it not the fact that the enemy of my enemy is supposed to be my friend?  It is here that we run into difficulty. Most of the political observers seem to be cheerleaders of one form or another, and I suppose that is even true of me. But you can imagine without too much difficulty that during the doping scandal in the Tour de France bicycle race, for example, that there would be someone cheering for the race itself, given that it seems everyone who was viable was juicing. 

That is roughly my position now. I am a cheerleader for the American experiment and don’t want any of these people to win. Now, I know that that doesn’t make sense at some level, but it is what I believe, and at this point I am just trying to wait this out.  

One of the things that makes me consider Donald Trump an existential risk is that he is the most skilled politician I have ever seen in getting air time to talk about what the mainstream wants never to openly discuss: Immigration, Islam, the Chinese Communist Party, Critical Race Theory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Costs of Bad Globalization, the American Embassy in Jerusalem, comparative viral morbidity and mortality rates. But discussing these things isn’t the problem. In fact, I am in awe of how he gets the kleptocrats to talk about the things that they are actively trying to paper over and are thus loath to discuss.   

Let me get something out of the way: Donald Trump has a very particular and methodical way of pointing out what is wrong with the mainstream, as I understand it. At some point early on, I studied the recurring motifs and structures in his Twitter feed and found a tremendous amount of method between his supposedly spontaneous ejaculations into the Twittersphere. And this is likely why he was hired, and is not likely to be renewed. He was considered, in some sense, by his supporters a foreign threat, intended to kill the tumor of systemic corruption in Washington D.C.; Manhattan, New York; and Silicon Valley slightly faster than he damages the accumulated national culture of civil society.

Without fail, he simultaneously takes the legitimate anger we all feel as well as the critiques that have been building for generations, but which have been silenced and stonewalled for decades by our mainstream institutions, and he remakes them in his own image so that they are more powerful, more politically effective, and much more divisive than the underlying correct versions of any legitimate and decent point he might raise. This has a tendency to polarize us about Donald Trump rather than about the issues at hand. 

In some ways, Donald Trump is similar to Black Lives Matter during Covid, where an enormous number of issues had been building up under quarantine-like conditions. Then suddenly, a single tragic death with the optics of a police lynching caught on video allowed all energy to be focused on the single issue of unarmed black Americans dying in police custody. This is a category which, while absolutely tragic, is simply too small to fully explain the enormous reaction, given that nearly identical deaths had recently occurred on video with white suspects and without much impact. In short, both Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter learned how to channel diverse frustrations over legitimate grievances that had for years been pushed by institutions to lie outside the Overton window so that they could not be discussed by the population in general.  And both Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter made everything they could into a narrative about themselves as their reward for breaking the silences.

For example, as a Xenophilic Restrictionist, I have sought for years to point out that absolutely nothing anti-immigrant can be automatically inferred from an American’s desire for lower immigration, without further information. That point went nowhere politically, as both political parties pay the donor class with visas as a tool to keep working Americans from being able to bargain effectively with their employers at the negotiating table. What is more, no news organization, at least with which I am familiar, has ever broken ranks on the idea that there is an entirely legitimate xenophilic case to be made for restricting high levels of immigration. And that was where things were, at least before 2016. 

Enter Donald Trump. In one fell swoop, Donald Trump made the pro-American case for labor, but he also gave Americans a new-found freedom to blame foreign workers trying to get in if they so chose. In the Trump era, if you wanted to take a shortcut around blaming the donor class, which was trying to put pressure on wages to juice corporate profits, you could just blame the desperate immigrants themselves, risking their lives by trying to cross the border illegally. The choice was yours. 

This left people like me in a conundrum: essential progressive issues that had been directly stifled for 40 to 50 years were suddenly alive again, but reborn as right-of-center nationalism. Is Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory in particular simply divisive McCarthyist bullshit with a PhD? Is constructive engagement through ever tighter economic ties with the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party a suicidal strategy for the US? Is there something both Orwellian and wrong with not reporting intolerant religiously motivated massacres as being specifically religiously motivated? Why, after all, can’t we discuss that ever freer trade is an esoteric, anti-labor wealth concentration scheme defended by economists with exoteric excuses well known inside the economics profession to be horseshit?

Well, Donald Trump was here to help and, at least in public, he always seemed to relish deliberately cutting at least a few corners to help out anyone with a simple and direct frame of mind who wanted to call bullshit on what appears, at least to me, to be a creepy and mysterious media consensus not to honestly report the news. But there was always a cost. The Trump version of every one of the above reasonable ideas was simpler and thus far more politically powerful… and it was always also far more dangerous than it had been previously been. And this polarized many contrarians, myself included. 

Yes, I am a Restrictionist, but I wasn’t going to stand for relaxed norms in conversation so that xenophobia could flourish. My national pride may despise the Davos agenda to degrade democratic sovereignty, but I wasn’t going to opt for newly liberated jingoism, because my patriotism doesn’t have anything to do with nationalist bigotry. In fact it repudiates it. Yes, I favor talking about the religious madness that totalitarian jihadis have invoked to explain their massacres of ordinary people, but no, I don’t favor painting my many Muslim friends with a broad brush dipped in excrement by Donald Trump, just to get at the ridiculous ways news desks refuse to comment honestly on mass murderers who are cheered on by what is still a *miniscule* minority of American Muslims who support jihadi barbarism.  

And so, Donald Trump has offered this same service to all contrarians who have been ignored for many years. He would finally get a mutant version of your legitimate issues heard on a world stage for the price of changing the prohibitions around what could be said, and also do so in a way that made your issue partially intellectually illegitimate. And while some of those relaxations were warranted, some of them were terrifying. Particularly in the time during the 2016 election, up to the period shortly after Charlottesville, my various inboxes and direct messages showcased to me the glee that anti-semites and other bigots were experiencing. The number 1488 was suddenly everywhere, and Pepe the frog greeted me standing next to an oven one minute and grinning underneath the welcome message Arbeit Macht Frei the next. Lots of tweets and direct messages were suddenly throwing around Hebrew and Yiddish words to indicate that the anti-semites were coming for us now, having cracked the supposedly secure code of our shibboleths? The message: We would not replace them. Trust me, it was an eye opener. 

Thus, when the prophesied friendly stranger in the black sedan pulls up to tell you that he’s a lovable man who will be your vehicle to take you anywhere you want to go, the answer for me was then and is still a clear “Nuh uh”. I mean, the band The Ides of March pretty much warned us about this exact phenomenon directly in 1970, no? And with one hell of a hook. I digress.  

Sure, I could see the appeal of at last getting past the gatekeeping at CNN or NPR if I only closed my eyes to the emboldening of bigots and ignored the body count of Trump allies who were injured by their associations with him. But, as none other than Peggy Noonan had prophetically warned us about the phenomenon of Trump cooties before the election, nobody was going to be getting out of that Cadillac as the same person who stepped inside that car. So some of my contrarian friends got in, while others stayed out.

But it divided many of us contrarians and first principle thinkers to see legitimate issues that could not previously be discussed turned into supercharged illegitimate issues that should not be discussed in the terms that he offered. In short, I ended up praying for Trump not to find more of these issues, because every time he located some issue over which Americans felt they were being gaslighted, he took away its legitimacy for someone who might come later and actually want to fix it in the right way. Trump was like a self-taught back alley surgeon, who could take you right away at a price you could afford because he refused to scrub in, while all the other properly trained physicians who followed procedures were booked with indefinite waiting lists at extortionary prices. Some of us wanted nothing to do with him, while others signed up to take the risk. 

Now, if I am honest, Trump did do something to clamp down on the right wing fringe and their tiki torches. After Charlottesville, the worst of it may have been over, but the pattern was established. Trump was going to change what was permissible in political life for both better and worse. The Overton window was going to be stretched under Trump to include things that should never have been included as well as other things that should never have been excluded by our moderate institutions from conversation in civil society.

So, for example, where in years past I had foolishly written an academic, peer reviewed explanation and Coasian labor model for economists, explaining why the villains in immigration theory were US employers screaming about labor shortages, Trump was much closer to saying “The immigrants are taking your jobs.” Well, to a labor market analyst, that’s not remotely the same thing at all as saying “US employers and political donors are colluding to confiscate your most valuable rights without market-based compensation, while denigrating you as lazy and stupid, and hiding behind a veneer of excellence and xenophilia as they economically undermine your families.” But it’s much easier, isn’t it? 

So I began to better understand his strategy. He was simply going to take all the correct points about the Chinese Communist Party, Trade, Universities, Totalitarian Islam, Migration, and Critical Theory that our corrupt political centrists in both parties had made impossible for us to discuss, and he would break through the media blockade to replace the whole lot with a truly shitty and intellectually damaged version of each and every one of them.

And that is where I found myself. Trump was effectively taking all the issues that we needed to fix and making them all over in his own image. He was going to divide us by rebranding legitimate forms of contrarianism in a way that would potentially paralyze us for a generation, as China would continue to accumulate power. (A period of time I don’t think we have.) Thus, between Trump’s unpredictability, an asset in negotiations, while a nightmare in alliances, and his ability to divide us by rebranding undiscussable issues that should unite all but our elite, as if they were naturally MAGA issues specifically branded in ways to divide us all, Trump set us up for a collection of daily splitting events in the political multiverse.  

So why haven’t I talked about what the threat is? Well because first of all, I don’t want to highlight more issues for him to find and rebrand. I also frankly don’t want to talk about him. I find it boring. I’d frankly rather talk about jazz, physics, love, and getting our millennial generation the option for homes and families they need to renew our society. 

I also don’t want to talk about the nuclear football constantly when we can mostly forget about it. And I also don’t want to give legitimacy to Donald Trump. Yes, like everyone else, he can see what we are not supposed to talk about. But unlike anyone else, Donald Trump can always get the issue heard, albeit at the cost of changing the issue into something unrecognizable and occasionally disgusting. And that makes it possible for the kleptocrats to justify reimposing an even narrower and more draconian Overton window than before. As they are now attempting to do. 

Right now, you can look at the changes in the Terms of Services of the tech platforms, and the nature of the algorithms which tell us what we can and cannot simply observe. If you thought Trump was shattering the Overton window for good, take a second look. Watch now as they Build it. Back. And even Better that it ever was before. 

We will return after these messages with our next audio essay on the US Elections of 2020.  

What Is Going On With This Election? 

Perhaps what concerns me most about the fallout of Trump’s decision to contest the 2020 election is that an enormous number of us are in one of two seemingly irreconcilable camps. Either we can’t imagine how anyone is seriously claiming that there is a basis to challenge the victory of Joe Biden and the Democrats, or we believe that it is just as obvious that Trump clearly won the election.

Perhaps my top concern is that this infinite splitting of the political multiverse must come to an end, or we will become an ungovernable country, divided by two main master partisan narratives. We cannot continue indefinitely to pretend that somehow we are the sane, and that the millions who disagree with us are simply crazy.

As I believe that—barring some kind of a revelation—it has become clear that for some time Joe Biden has won the general election, I will be concentrating on why my friends and followers who disagree with my conclusion need not be any crazier than those who agree with me.

The main point I want to consider is this: “What does it mean if someone raises the issue of fraud or a stolen election?” Does it mean that they are necessarily a delusional Trump supporter? A QAnon lunatic? A dupe?

Hardly, in my opinion. In fact, the best argument for keeping the issue of fraud on the table comes not from Donald Trump, who has so far, in my opinion, embarrassed himself by failing to make any credible case, but instead from the Democratic Party. 

So, while that may initially sound somewhat far-fetched, let us remember that it was from the Democratic Party and its allied media that we first heard that the 2016 election had been compromised by Russia, and that Russia likely held control over Donald Trump, and by extension the United States. 

Now before I get into the meat of this essay, I need to locate some serious malware that is likely installed between both your ears and mine, so as to uninstall and hopefully disable it. Ready?

Okay, when I say the phrases “Russian Asset”, Kompromat, “Putin’s Bitch”, “golden showers”, and “Moscow hotel”, what is the first name that comes to your mind? Okay, great. So hopefully we’ve just established that both you and I have had the same malware installed in our minds through mainstream media.   

Now, this cognitive malware I’m aiming to remove is not what was alleged and insinuated, however, about Donald Trump’s sexual proclivities, indebtedness, or fondness for authoritarian despots. It was instead that this was a matter for casual accusation, lighthearted banter, humor, and bonding. We were all led, regardless of party, into talking rather casually about two nuclear nations and the infiltration and direct control of the stronger one by the weaker of the two old Cold War rivals. 

Now, call me old fashioned, but I am passably acquainted with the history of our intelligence services, special forces, and their most audacious exploits. No one refers to Operation Ajax in 1950s Iran as “Kermit’s Shits and Giggles”. I’ve never heard of the “Cuban Missile Prank” or “Cuban Missile Tomfoolery”. When a serious person like a sitting senator becomes serious about alleging something of this magnitude, we are usually talking about things that involve Charges of Treason, Secret Closed Door Sessions, Covert Operations, Regime Change, Troop and Fleet Deployments, and potentially War. There is no such thing, of which I am aware, as “kind of a Russian Asset”, “Russian Asset-ish”, “Russian Asset Lite”, or “Russian Asset without obligation to extreme action beyond formal reprimand”. If you don’t believe me, try asking Julius Rosenberg. You get my point.

So what I want you to notice is that the malware that is in your brain has a particular purpose. It appears to be installed to allow you to treat an assertion of the executive branch of the United States government as being under Russian control as some kind of semi-serious concern that oddly doesn’t rise to the level of exotic emergency action. This is somewhat akin to the claims of a few Hollywood personalities every four years that if a Republican becomes president, they will leave the country. I am sure that this means something, it is just that I am not sure what it means when they fail to depart. Whatever it does mean, the malware allows us to explore what are quite clearly literal claims without triggering an expectation of literal consequences. 

So with that understood, I want to point a few things out that I believe are socially extremely controversial, while somehow simultaneously being intellectually non-controversial: 

  1. This was obviously not a free and fair election. 
  2. It can be completely legitimate to worry about whether this election was fair with respect to material levels of voter fraud. 
  3. Neither A nor B need have anything to do with Donald Trump and his legal team’s bizarre and largely unsupported, unprofessional post-election claims or seemingly unhinged post-election strategy. 

Let’s begin with A. A free and fair general election would have to include a true national primary election, and we clearly don’t have a national Democratic primary. What we have instead is a political industry run by insiders for insiders, where MSNBC and its allied media’s blatant and legendary mistreatment of Andrew Yang’s campaign cleanly and openly illustrated that our primaries are at least partially fixed by insiders for insiders. The amount of credibility spent dropping Andrew Yang from graphics or posting a picture of an unrelated Yang was just incredible. The network at times seemed to spend more time apologizing for one obvious diss after another than it did fairly covering the candidate.

Some of us in long-form podcasting, who interviewed and talked with more than one candidate for the Democratic nomination, became aware of just how tightly integrated the political parties, media news desks, think tanks, and donor classes truly are. We at times talked about hosting debate replacements where the candidates with something to say could dig deep into issues, while those searching for those canned ready-made-for-TV gotcha moments could take a hike and kiss our asses. Would you believe that there are actually Democratic party rules in restraint of trade in place to make that impossible in the marketplace of ideas? I suppose we should all have seen that coming. But we didn’t truly understand just how many ways this process has been bulletproofed by its insiders to remain a duopoly that stays in power by doling out access to media in exchange for promises not to hold an actual primary with actual coverage and actual debates outside of legacy platforms. 

So the fact that this wasn’t remotely a free and fair election, given the open interference from media, tech platforms, and the party mandarins was in evidence at all turns, and doesn’t really hinge on proving fraud in the later general election. You don’t get to the general election without building on a primary as foundation. And our rolling pseudo-primary system is manifestly neither free, nor fair, nor an election. Thus any general election that rests on the primary would not be free and fair, even if there were zero irregularities for mail-in voting and in-person voting. 

As for point B, this claim works in roughly the same way. Imagine that absolutely everything Donald Trump, his legal team, and his supporters have said about fraud is at best false, and at worst an attempt to subvert democracy. Imagine they are wrong about everything. Well, even so, it still makes sense to worry about fraud, as I will try to explain. 

Over the last four years, the hatred of Donald Trump by the establishment produced a kind of a kitchen sink strategy. His opponents hated him so much that they threw everything they could think of at him, without noticing that their conflicting and simplistic claims tended to weaken each other. The same people would accuse him of being both a low IQ idiot and an evil supergenius in adjacent accusations, without stopping to breathe or notice any contradictions. He was, simultaneously, a Xenophobe of the highest order, but with a foreign wife, and who loved only Russia. A billionaire who was broke, but whose oceans of non-existent money somehow insulated him. In short, his opponents never settled on a simple consistent narrative, and preferred a largely self-contradictory strategy in hopes that something would eventually stick. 

And so it went with the election. 

In particular, there were three claims insisted on by his detractors which, at least in their stronger forms, could not all simultaneously be true. They are as follows: 

  1. It is essentially insane to suggest that the 2020 election could be stolen, as only conspiracy nuts would say such a thing. 
  2. Donald Trump was a foreign asset under the control of Vladimir Putin, who was installed in 2016 amidst foreign election tampering.
  3. Donald Trump began his presidency by disrespecting the US intelligence community, whose skill is the envy of the world, and whose loyalty and patriotism should be beyond question. 

Ahem. You may pick no more than two of these strong claims before you run into a contradiction. If you claim that Donald Trump was under foreign control and that the 2016 election was materially tainted by fake news and foreign interference, then it would become the patriotic duty of our intelligence community to stop a foreign stealth take over of the United States by a Russian asset by almost any means available. And since you believe that our intelligence community is highly skilled, it can’t be unthinkable for them to hack an election if the sovereignty of the United States has been compromised, given our history of exploits since the Dulles Brothers (Allen Welsh and John Foster) and J. Edgar Hoover. Thus if you want to claim that it is madness to even question the hacking of the election without evidence, you would either have to claim that our intelligence community isn’t imaginative or patriotic enough to consider removing a compromised leader controlled from abroad, or that the extravagant attempt to taint Trump’s presidency by claiming that he was Putin’s man in DC was a political stunt. A monumental work of Kayfabe, held together by horseshit and presented as if it were the product of straight shooting patriots. I personally would like to think that treating the claim of Trump as being under Putin’s direct control as overblown political theater is the best way out of this messy puzzle. But just consider how expensive back-propagating the implications of that line of reasoning truly are, and how despicable his opposition would have to be if everyone inside has always believed that the Russian asset theory was overblown BS. 

So while I have never seen any clear evidence of widespread fraud, I would certainly trust our intelligence community to do their sworn patriotic duty to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, in attempting to remove a foreign asset in control of our nuclear football inside our own oval office. Thus the idea of asserting that any questioning of electoral integrity in 2020 as automatically being crazy talk must itself be crazy talk. The major conspiracy theorists of this era will always be those who asserted that Trump has been compromised early and belonged completely to Vladimir Putin. You don’t get to claim all the strongest assertions you find politically expedient without noticing that they will always tend to directly contradict each other.

In my personal estimation it was either up to the Democratic Party and its affiliated media to back off of the strongest and least substantiated claims against Donald Trump, or to follow the consequences of those claims into severe action well beyond impeachment. The fact that they did neither is what confused me completely, and what leads me to say that a questioning of the legitimacy of the 2020 election follows not from Benford’s law, nor from Trump’s legal strategy, but is instead a direct consequence of routinely asserting something tantamount to treason, while avoiding any necessity to explore the dire, and likely obligate, consequences of such assertions, which, I trust, are known to us all and need not be detailed here. It may be a low probability event, but it is not consistent to claim that one must be a devotee of QAnon to imagine that our intelligence community would be forced to act, in the presence of material and substantiated claims tantamount to treason.

We will return shortly with our final audio essay on the state of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web.

Loyalty and the Intellectual Dark Web

This essay is written from what some today would consider a gendered perspective. As a guy who grew up going to an all male high school, and who has since held positions in academic mathematics, physics, and economics departments, who has worked in finance and hedge funds, risk management, and technology, I have found myself repeatedly in a world far more gender-segregated than most, and one which I wish appealed to more women. I have had very few collaborators, but they have been oddly evenly split between men and women. My high school and my experience with the Sell-side culture of Wall Street investment banks allow me to say that “Toxic Masculinity” actually describes a real thing and it should never have been ruined by overuse for just that reason. In one evening in finance or 11th grade, I probably heard more open misogyny than I did in all my years studying mathematics, physics, and economics combined. But what all male group culture can sound like behind closed doors in high trust environments varies more than almost any woman likely imagines. Some of it was and is absolutely wonderful, and some of it bordered on psychotic. Sell-side finance culture was by far the worst I experienced. In my experience, many people there were trying to earn your business by assuming that you are automatically car, sports, stripper, and cigar obsessed. And those Sell-side professionals were not entirely male, either. It was pretty much exactly as you would expect from what you see in the movies minus the dwarf tossing. I guess I never got invited for dwarf tossing after I turned down free tickets to the US open. [sic trans]

MIT and Harvard’s Symplectic Geometers and Topologists were, by contrast, likely the best. An all male culture at MIT when I first arrived to be sure, but one which easily and instantly put out a welcome mat as soon as talented women started showing an interest. No one there even seemed to notice, or wanted to discuss much, any change in the culture, as the subject matter was universally thought to be far more interesting. There were also very subtle gradations: Labor Market Economics, Algebraic Geometry, and Particle Theory at Harvard were at times somewhat exaggeratedly and, frankly, comically male, but they had a core of women regularly attending and giving the seminars, and I don’t think I ever heard any comments there that couldn’t be said in a mixed group.

The reason I am going into all this as background is that I want to establish two separate claims: 

  1. That, due to my subject matter interests alone, I have inadvertently spent a fair chunk of my life in a large and diverse array of nearly all male environments.
  2. That my experience within these environments is that they range along a spectrum, from outright misogyny to environments which are welcoming to women but which are self-segregated by the differing interests of men and women, and with every gradation in between.

Unfortunately this diversity is not accurately perceived. In an effort to drain all the true swamps of their misogyny, we drained pretty much every male culture we could find of its vitality. Try to imagine a world in which women could not congregate by themselves for fear that they would get up to witchcraft. That’s pretty close to where we are now.

You may fairly ask the question, “What, if anything, is lost when we target straight male culture by treating any meeting behind closed doors as suspect? Isn’t that where the bad behavior actually happens?” Well, yes. That’s right. But there are so many good things, and even magic that happens too, that are being lost when we don’t understand that the majority of such rooms are normal, healthy places on which men actually depend as much as nursing mothers who form support groups for postpartum depression, say. 

And, while few mention it, men have tended to help each other course correct, in private. When you see a man come to his friend’s aid in public, and when that friend being threatened has done something wrong, you actually have zero idea of what is going on in private. Maybe they are high-fiving like idiots. That certainly happens among jerks. But it is far more likely that there are going to be words that go in a different direction. Men have historically helped each other get back on track in private, while holding mobs at bay in public, in a way that puts an enormous premium on loyalty, but which has not always been understood from outside, because it is, by definition, invisible.

So this is all preamble, because the last section of this episode has to do with a funny topic. For a guy that values male culture around course-correction in private, it is somewhat odd to admit that my least favorite four-word sentence to hear spoken in the English language by another man has recently become “I’ve got your back.” Now, why is that? Shouldn’t that sentence be among one’s favorite sentences?

Well, that’s undoubtedly how it should be… but truth be told, most of us have never been part of a fighting unit, and the closest thing we’ve been to a platoon in a firefight is a movie theater. We know that there is supposed to be a fog of war, just as we are familiar with the phrase “brothers in arms”, but, if we are honest with ourselves, many of us must realize that we mostly don’t fully know what those words actually mean. Dealing with an implacable mob on the internet that is taking aim at your reputation, and thus your ability to earn a living to feed your family, is surely a hell of a lot closer to being in a bar fight than paintball is. Full disclosure: I have never played paintball.

So when a man says “I’ve got your back”, what is he really saying?

Well I used to think I knew what it meant, but I don’t fully know anymore. And at the moment, it feels like it means nothing.

I have placed my life in the hands of only one male friend on multiple occasions, and none of those involved combat. That friend’s name is Adil Abdulali, and I suppose he also placed his life in my hands now that I think about it. We do have a few decent enough stories about physical risk from years back that remain, so far anyway, personal and private. Our mothers might be listening to this podcast after all and I wouldn’t want to alarm them. Please don’t worry, Alia, if you are listening, everything worked out fine, and it was a long time ago.

I must therefore, by necessity, lean rather more heavily on this one life-long friendship’s experience than I would like. But he has had my back certainly for a long time and, knowing him, probably has since shortly after I first met him at age 16.

Now, do we disagree about many things? Of course. Have we always done the right thing by each other? Mostly, but not always. Yet, we have always righted our ship when it has listed, and we don’t keep track of the small things. There have been stretches of years where one or the other of us were in a drought of good luck and it just doesn’t make sense to pay attention to these matters over decades.

So, why am I bringing this up? Because ever since The Portal took off, I have been regularly and repeatedly invited to “throw other people under the bus” as the kids today say. And most of those calls have been to throw men, rather than women, in the path of an oncoming mob.  

The public calls don’t sound familiar to my middle-aged ears. And while they are often phrased in bro-speak, they seem foreign to Protestant, Masculine, British, Professional, and other norms of not regularly losing your shit in public, nor sorting out personal business with friends in front of the world. I may be only one of those four things, but I appreciate that norm in whatever cultures exhibit it.

So, what does this new culture sound like? Well, something like this:  

“Hey Eric, did you hear what your bros just said about you?”

“Dude, time to collect your friend. He’s so cringe, and it’s not a good look for you.”

“Yo, you gonna call out your homie on his BS or nah? Thought not. Bye.”

“Hey, did you read that article about your ‘Ride or Die’ and what he did? You gotta cut him loose, dude.”

Now, what is this style of speech? “Bruh”, “Nah”, “Call out”, “Ride or Die”, “Not a good look”, “Collect your homie”, “Spill the tea”, I don’t know about the rest of you who grew up before the Internet, but at least in my experience, we didn’t use to talk or think like this all the time.

The point of bringing up this stylized speech is that the calls are so frequent that it makes me wonder what we are doing as a society. Assuming men and women are truly equal, it stands to reason that I would be invited to disavow women making controversial or boneheaded statements about half the time. Why are there so few calls to disavow not only women but tech companies, government officials, newspapers, hereditary monarchies, theocracies, etc.?

In particular, among nations, I find it fascinating that I am regularly invited to disavow Israel, but not Turkey, both of which I deeply love.  I get regularly invited to disavow men and not women. I must disavow Brett Kavanaugh on the Right, but not Joe Biden on the Left in a similar situation. This appears to be because of a persistent asymmetry: I am invited to disavow things from the political Right by the political Left, while the political Right doesn’t expect devotion or this kind of disavowal of the Left. In short, the disavowal game doesn’t seem to play by any symmetrical rules. 

And why is this? Well, it appears to be because disavowal has become a major collectivist political tactic to pick off all who refuse to sing from one party’s hymnal when instructed. For better or worse, only one of our two political parties seems to be imbued with the power to grant an indulgence, so that someone may keep his respectability separate from his behavior. Call it the Chappaquiddick privilege, if you’re confused about which party has the power. 

So, how does this work? Well, no one sensible wants to publicly support bad behavior, so the rhyme “Silence equals Violence” is particularly effective against caring progressives who want to “Do the right thing”. The problem with this is that Public Silence or even Public Support for another person is not remotely the same thing as condoning an action of that person in private. I regularly support someone in public whose behavior I may criticize in private. In fact, I’ll go further. I believe that we are obligated to both protect and not abandon friends to mobs that are braying for their blood, just as we are obligated to balance public protection with private accountability within an intimate context. 

Yet, what we seem to be seeing now is a bull market in disavowal: “Do you disavow Israel?” “Do you disavow your employer?” “Do you disavow your sibling?” “Do you disavow the IDW?” “Do you disavow your candidate?” … etc. etc. etc. 

That’s a lot of requests for disavowal, so let me make this easier. When it comes to people I have spent serious time with, the simple answer is a polite but firm ‘No’. The slightly longer answer is “Go bugger yourself. I appreciate that you are offering me a bus under which you believe my friends belong. I well understand that there is always a mob, which hungers not only for justice but sanctimony, attention, entertainment, and excitement, and that my friends may look like a delicious snack to it. But in a gendered context, men haven’t usually course-corrected in this way. We take each other aside, we talk it through, attempting to minimize harm as well as embarrassment, offer support, and in serious circumstances, attempt to find a way back if someone has done something seriously wrong. Occasionally, when we are really not getting through, we have even been known to physically fight each other in private without letting on in public that such a thing has ever occurred. So if you don’t see men taking each other aside, you may easily get confused that nothing is happening. But, that’s not usually my experience. Very often, the difficult conversations are happening, even when what you are seeing are outward signs of support. And perhaps, calling each other out is the new way forward, but, I’m old and set in my ways, and I don’t know how to do that with my friends. So, you kids have fun and I’ll stick with having different public and private reactions from time to time. We can always compare notes at the very end to see whose system actually worked better.”

So, why do I believe the older system, with all its flaws, is better? Isn’t it hypocritical? To me, this is like saying “If you feel that the human body isn’t shameful, you should just go to work naked, as it would be far more honest.” Let’s admit that always saying the same thing in public as you do in private has got a certain, powerful, simple appeal to it. However, it is a disaster to succumb to that appeal.

Permit me to put forward a theory. Society is actually safer with fewer isolated people, and it is safest when we all have a stake in the world. And cancellation? It’s about creating people with no stake in life and no way back. It is an absolute abomination. There is simply no social justice without redemption, statutes of limitations, forgiveness, due process, and grace, full stop. But aside from social justice through cancellation being just about the most heartless, braindead, boneheaded, evil, malignant, repugnant, and self-contradictory idea I have ever had the pleasure to encounter, it is also dangerous. How often do we read about a tragedy involving a loner on a losing streak who mostly kept to himself and had nothing left to lose? That may be extreme, but it gets to the problem of disavowal, cancelation, shame, and repudiation. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster. 

Let me put it in simple terms: the men you depend on to be capable of stopping a bar fight are, somewhat embarrassingly, generally the men who have been in bar fights themselves. The man who stops a drunk buddy from making an ass out of himself, by finding a diplomatic way to exit an incident, is not infrequently a guy who has been drunk and stopped by his buddies from the same kind of idiocies in some earlier phase of his life, like ten years ago, or ten minutes ago. If we were to disavow our buddies for their most boneheaded moments, we’d all generally be forced to disavow ourselves first. We would then keep ourselves and each other from earning a living and would all shun ourselves into social isolation, poverty, and self-harm.

One can hear the response forming immediately in the minds of the Woke, “Dude, how is this not condoning bad behavior?” Well, it would be if every time you saw a man stick up for his friends, that was all that happened. And it is time to tell the world, “That’s not generally what happens. And by inducing everyone to publicly call out their friends for their lapses, we the Internet are ridding ourselves of the most powerful single tool we have to make better men.”

This new social media theory of “no platforming”, “cancelation”, “calling out”, and “shaming” is not a recipe for a happy world, or an ethical one. It’s a recipe for creating a desperate human out of every normal schmuck with a beating heart. In fact, if you have a friend accused of tearing off mattress tags under penalty of law, or murder, or treason, or even stealing adorable helpless puppies to sell their tiny internal organs on eBay, I want you to consider what happens when you disavow that friend or diss that person in public in order to signal to everyone that you know right from wrong in that particular case. 

First of all, the people in front of whom you are disavowing your friend on social media contain many people worse than your friend. So you are selling out your friendship to please acquaintances and strangers, some of whom are doing the same damn things or even worse. Secondly, you are creating a more isolated human being at the exact same moment that someone is in maximal need of love, warmth, guidance, and help. You are generally not successfully signaling virtue to me, but are instead signaling that you are abdicating responsibility for standing by someone who may have done a wrong thing, and who likely needs your loyalty now more than ever. 

Now I bring all of this up to briefly discuss the state of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. First of all, it doesn’t really fully exist. But if it did, it would not recognize disavowal as a major modality. There are tensions within it, as there have always been, but there are also unwritten rules that have not previously required my commentary. In particular, my friend Sam Harris attempted to very publicly exit the so-called IDW. That’s a bit tricky, since it doesn’t fully exist, and almost no one in it talks about it that much in 2020. So you may be thinking that I am angry at Sam for violating this rule. Oddly, it is closer to being the opposite of that. Sam was quite right, in my opinion, in one sense, and the more important one, and wrong in another of lesser significance. Before this, I heard public remarks about Sam’s inability to understand reality from more than a few people that dismayed me. But in true IDW fashion, I am not going to talk directly about who made those remarks, because the ideas were the problem, and the idea that Sam is not capable of seeing reality is frankly silly. If you aren’t happy about that and feel disappointed, please feel free to get your Internet drama somewhere else. It’s available 24/7. Now to be blunt, I have disagreed with Sam for the four years of this administration on two basic points: 

  1. Whether Donald Trump as Evil Chauncy Gardner (Sam’s concept), or Freakish Strategic Savant (My choice) is a better description.
  2. Whether the Mainstream media is less or more terrifying because it still fact checks, uses compound complex sentences, cares about an appearance of journalistic integrity, and carries gravitas earned in a previous era as it explores new territory, dividing us as a society to serve business and activist models and interests. 

Now I’d love to tell you that I am correct and that Sam is in the wrong, but honestly I don’t know that. I don’t know Sam to be wrong on either point. I simply disagree with him, as we have done openly and cordially over the last four years. What’s more, I would say that Donald Trump’s bizarre challenge to the 2020 election has, so far anyway, been a rare and pretty spectacular late win for Sam’s model over my own of Trump’s strategic intuition. If Sam has Trump Derangement Syndrome, a non-existent pseudo-malady which I don’t really believe in and thus don’t discuss much, then TDS is so far doing a better job at explaining the very end of this term than I feel it was doing at explaining the middle of it. Two cheers for that non-existent TDS that Sam doesn’t have.

What’s more, Sam did not name or shame anyone who named or shamed him by accusing him of getting this wrong. He stuck to the ideas in true IDW fashion. 

And as Sam’s friend Christopher Hitchens once said in a seminar that I attended at the Kennedy School, and the only time I ever met him, “A gentleman is defined to be a man who is never rude by accident.” And Sam is very much a gentleman.

Which brings me to what Sam *is* doing wrong. You don’t leave the IDW by being civil, focusing on ideas, forgoing the ability to stick it to others, holding to your true convictions, or getting things right. I’m sorry, but that’s just not how this works at all. I shouldn’t have to explain this, but you do it instead by being publicly dismissive of members of your group rather than their ideas, trolling, not paying attention to shifting situations like the election, getting captured by your audience, or getting it wrong and not noticing. If the IDW is a protocol as much as it is a group of humans, Sam continued to behave as a gentleman, while others were far closer to trying to leave the group, by at least testing the above boundaries.  

This is why, when Sam published a clip about resigning from the IDW, I chuckled to myself and chose to quote from Hotel California on Twitter. In the words of the Eagles, “Sam: Relax. We are programmed to receive.” Feel free to collect your things, to find the passage back to the place we all were before, as you can, in fact, check out anytime you like. I’ll send for the nightman at once. If you really want to leave, however, you now know what it takes. 

The IDW, like the Hotel California, doesn’t really exist. Maybe it never did, and this was all just a dream in a tongue-in-cheek bad joke of mine that took on a life of its own for a while. But it’s possible there is some reason we still go back to the IDW now and again, just as we do to that tired old song over 40 years later. Or hadn’t you noticed that every time you cue it up to play it again, it proves that we are never really able to leave it fully behind. Which, if you give it a moment’s thought, is exactly what the song’s lyrics foretold. Funny that. 

*Insert guitar solo here.*

Be well everyone. 

You’ve been through The Portal.

If you don’t know Douglas Murray, in the estimation of the The Portal, this may well be the most important voice you will hear from the United Kingdom for some time. In the tradition of De Tocqueville and Alistair Cook’s famous “Letter from America,” Douglas Murray is America’s true friend. He is not the man who tells you that you look great and laughs at all your jokes, but the one who pulls the big mac out of your mouth, flushes your cigarettes down the toilet, locks your liquor cabinet and personally drives you to rehab until you straighten yourself out. 

I have met many men who train in combat sports, or extoll the virtues of masculinity. However, I know of none braver than Douglas Murray. In our time, this is one voice of relentless reason that everyone needs to hear.

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For a transcript of the audio essay at the beginning of this episode, see link below:

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Is there only one such voice left in Europe? That was the thought running through my mind when I first met today’s guest. I can’t exactly remember how much I knew about Douglas Murray before I met him. I had heard his name and perhaps that he was both far-right and gay—which, while clearly possible, is usually a warning sign in the United States that our activist media is unhappy with someone breaking ranks with its various narrative arcs. But Douglas is, for the moment, a much larger voice in Europe in general, and in the UK in particular, than he is in the States. So I was not particularly familiar with him. When I met him, it was electronic and one-sided. I was watching YouTube in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. 12 people had been gunned down in cold blood for exercising their European freedom of expression. 11 men and one woman. Three writers, five cartoonists—two in their 70s, one over 80—Christians, Muslims, and Jews murdered side-by-side, show that the attackers were as happy to kill those of their own faith as they were any others. For this was not about religion, but control—exerted to a chilling threat of deadly force against any and all who disagreed with the AQAP (or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). And there, somehow, was Douglas, in the immediate aftermath of the mass killing, being interviewed on Al Jazeera, of all channels. I admit I fell instantly in love with him.

“That’s a pretty atrocious question, if I may say so,” were Douglas’s first sharp words in response to what was quite literally an atrocious question. Given that the host asking it was eagerly skipping over discussing the dozen fresh corpses in a new atrocity to ask instead about the potential backlash to the killings. Douglas’s voice was measured and controlled while dripping in the polite indignation and disgust for which the British are justly famous. There’s an old aphorism—now associated with Douglas’s late friend Christopher Hitchens—that a gentleman is defined to be a man who is never rude by accident. And Douglas here was every inch of the gentleman. The concept of heroism is much discussed these days in the realm of Marvel Comics, but rarely seen in the wild, as it were. This was the real thing: leadership. And my younger listeners will forgive me for saying so, but this was the best of masculinity personified.

I do not have this kind of courage. I know because many years ago, I had begged my best friend and his sister not to write as Shia Muslims in defense of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses when Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous fatwa was first issued. What I learned back then from my Muslim friends was that jihadist Islam was a totalizing movement and the problem was not with Islam, but with the absolutism with which it was often practiced. My friends were not absolutists, but, as Muslims, explained the danger clearly to me, I was not distinguishing properly between totalizing and non-totalizing Muslims. What I came to believe back then is that we must fight all totalizing ideologies, even if some of them happen to be associated with religions. If ownership of a Prius led 15% of Prius owners to become totalitarians who would excuse the murder of anyone who dared drive a Chevy Volt or Tesla, we would need to defeat them. The primary reason that religion gets dragged into this is that there are very few large and potent totalizing movements left after the internet and the 20th century had their way with them. North Korea, Islam, and Social Justice, for example, do remain potent, while traditional communism market fundamentalism, the Catholic Church, and even violent nationalist terror movements like ETA, the IRA, PKK, Tamil Tigers, PFLP, etc., have oddly taken it on the chin.

So if you want to understand the world in which we live, where totalizing movements still exist, but are few in number, it is still essential to listen to voices more courageous than my own. Listen to Douglas’s debate with Julian Assange. His defense of Western civilization is actually two-fold. At the first layer, he is making many of the subtle arguments we need to hear but are too afraid to say in the present period. But underneath that, his courage, decency, wit, and eloquence in the modern era is itself an argument for some of what we have lost from the Europe of a previous age and what made it, for a time, the center of world progress in science and letters. Not everything that Europe achieved can be attributed to plunder, slavery, and oppression, after all. Much of it was simply Europeans achieving by thinking more clearly and courageously than their rivals.

I hope you will enjoy this uninterrupted conversation with a personal hero of mine and good friend, Douglas Murray, after a few brief messages from our sponsors who bring you the show.

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Hello, you’ve found The Portal. I’m your host, Eric Weinstein, and today I get to sit down with my friend Douglas Murray, who’s over here from the UK where he is associate editor at The Spectator. He’s also an author, most recently, I believe, of The Madness of Crowds, but also The Strange Death of Europe before that. And in general, one of the most keen observers of the American scene from abroad. Douglas, welcome to the US and The Portal!

Douglas Murray: 9:47: It’s a great pleasure to be here.

EW: 9:48: Well, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while for our audience. Now I don’t know when we’re going to be releasing this episode but right now, we are within a month of the end of the beginning of the the US election. And there is a tremendous amount to say, but I worry that we in the US don’t actually know what it is that’s going on and that it’s affecting the rest of the planet. What is it that you’re seeing on this trip to the US that maybe is somewhat surprising? It’s been a couple of years since you’ve been here.

DM: 10:19: Yes, it is. It has been a couple of years. I’m touring around the US all month ahead of the election. A friend in New York said, when we talked about this, “Oh, I see: it’s disaster tourism.”

EW: 10:33: [laughing]

DM: 10:33: … Sort of. It’s like the people who take package holidays to North Korea.

It’s … well, it’s a very interesting time to be here obviously, whatever happens. I do have some general sort of feelings. One is that … perhaps something that has crept up on me, and it’s crept up on all of you, but I’m really struck, particularly, by how much more deranged everybody is than they were when I was last here. And, I would say, of all the people that it’s VISIBLY hurting are my liberal/left-wing/centrist friends, who just have been erupting all the time. It’s conversations are quite hard. I see what I described a little while ago as being the sort of snowplow of American politics that’s occurred in the last few years, where if you just venture anywhere into what used to be the middle of the freeway, this snowplow just comes down and casts you to one side or the other. And that’s just very clearly got a lot worse. And I don’t know if the election, whatever way it goes, can resolve that. (Maybe it’ll placate it for a bit.)

I mean, that’s, that’s the main thought. The other thought, of course, is that I’m here in the midst of a, well, ongoing pandemic. Your country is reacting to it in a similar way to my own, with all of the similar concerns that it brings with it. And you know, it just feels like layer upon layer on top of the problems that already existed here. And the questions that already existed here.

EW: 12:17: Do you think we’re just getting started with these problems? And that this is really the beginning of a towering skyscraper of insurmountable conundrum? And that these are really the first few levels and that we’re … we’re just getting going?

DM: 12:33: Yeah, it does feel like that a bit. I mean, the sort of obvious reduced version of that is, you know: does it make things better if Biden wins or if Trump wins? You know, I mean … And I can’t help thinking, well, the underlying questions remain similar. We are all, at the moment, as I said, in this time where it seems to me you fight through one layer of the layers on top of everything, and you just find another. You could find a way through understanding the pandemic, but then you find politics, and then you find something else, and just on and on.

But yes, it does feel a bit like that. I find that about the pandemic in particular—this awful feeling that it’s a sort of prelude to something, not the main event.

EW: 13:26: Yeah, I have to admit, as a guy who would like to be able to think about this scientifically, I don’t know where I can turn. And in part (I know it’s a little bit late to get in on UK bashing, given that the Empire has been given up and all that), but to lose like, I don’t know … Nature. I don’t know that I trust the Royal Society to be an arbiter of things scientific. And I think you guys are in better shape than we are.

DM: 13:58: Well, possibly. At the very beginning of the corona era, I made observation that this country (America) had a particular problem, which is that every other country turned out to have some residue of collective responsibility or non-partisan trust. In the UK, it turned out that a conservative government was able to … I mean, think of it this way: it was able to mandate that all young people not in a committed relationship and living with their partner should be forced into celibacy for months. And they did it.

EW: 14:42: With 100% compliance.

DM: 14:43: I can’t say I kept a tally.

EW: 14:47: [laughing]

DM: 14:47: [laughing] But … it turned out that we actually DID have significant levels of societal trust. Which, by the way, in Britain, we have said in recent years, we didn’t have. And to some extent, I thought maybe all the last few years have been sort of performative, to that extent. We’d kept on talking about what a divided country we were, yet a pandemic came along and we turned out to have pockets of residual societal trust. We, for instance, wanted to hear from the Queen. You know, that was a rather wonderful moment for some of us—it really … we wanted to hear from somebody who had that perspective and length and wisdom and could put it into some context of what we’d been through before and what we get through now.

Every country had a version of that. I mean, I was struck by same thing in France: Macron, at the beginning, there was some kind of unity. It was same in most countries, Except for the United States, where you couldn’t even come together on a pandemic. You couldn’t even come together on that without it being highly politicized and, in an election season, turned into a “were you pro-Trump or anti-Trump?” And I thought that was (and think still) that is a very, very bad sign for this country.

EW: 15:55: Well, it’s atrocious. From a (and I hope this isn’t too hopelessly utilitarian), but it is really the FUNCTION of having a queen around …

DM: 16:04: Yes. Oh, yeah, yeah, no, I’m a big fan. I mean, I think you guys made a mistake.

EW: 16:08: Well, I think most of the time, it’s better off not to have one. But on the rare occasions that you need something … I don’t know that it has to be a queen, but I always talk about the “break glass in case of emergency” people you’re supposed to keep aside from the political fray. So for example, David Attenborough (another one of yours), has now ventured onto Instagram because of his concern, at the end of his career, for the planet. And it’s important to have people who unite …

DM: 16:39: Yes. Yes, it is. And, of course, as you well know: pockets of residual trust in expertise of particular kinds … I mean, one of the things I found very, very hard about the pandemic has been that, you know, I’m not a virologist. I’ve never spent any serious amount of time before this year thinking about pandemics. As a friend of mine in a security area said to me at the beginning, “It’s so annoying.” You know, the pandemics guys are always the people who you left during their panels at the conference because you didn’t think it was relevant. Sort of, annoying that these people should have had more attention on them.

I didn’t—I’m guilty of this—I didn’t spend much time thinking about pandemics, if any. And so when it came along, I—like, I think, most people—thought, “Well, I’ll trust the people who know.” I do have now a very serious set of questions (I think we probably all do) and concerns. Not least on the fact that, first of all, the people who I (and most of the rest of the public) trusted turn out to have been wrong in significant ways. I’m thinking of things like the Imperial College study that predicted mortality rates at a level which we just haven’t seen in any country, whatever the country’s policy is—you don’t see these figures in Italy, you don’t see them in Sweden. And when it turned out that those same people (who I trusted and my fellow countrymen trusted) had pulled the same graphs out with BSE, for instance, I started to get a sense of ennui about this. “That’s a shame.” You know, I was very willing to put … I mean, think: we all were locked in our houses on the advice of these people. One of whom, by the way (in classic British fashion—you know, you’re never very far away from a carry-on[?] movie), turned out to tell everyone else to remain in celibacy and turned out to be going off to shag his mistress every other other day and breaking lockdown in a uniquely sort of British way.

But these people first became slight laughingstocks and then actual … actually, I think a significant amount of bitterness started to creep into it. And I think the next one will be doubt over everything. I have this very concerning thought that the pandemic was a wonderful first … it was a period, at first, that was wonderful for science, because it showed that science was perhaps the only thing left that we trusted. And that actually when the scientists appeared with the politicians, then we thought, “Okay, they’re serious. This isn’t like a newspaper columnist appearing with the politicians.” But THEN something happened.

EW: 19:35: All right. Keep going.

DM: 19:37: Well, put it this way. There’s a climate change (rather extremist climate change (very extremist climate change)) group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion who have been putting up posters in the last few months in my country saying, “We trusted the scientists on COVID. Now let’s trust them on the planet.” And I thought, You have got that exactly the wrong way around. You’ve got that EXACTLY the wrong way around. The public are currently thinking, “We DID trust the scientists. They turned out to have led us into significant error. We’re not listening to THEM again.”

EW: 20:19: Yeah.

DM: 20:19: It’s quite … At this stage, it would have to be The Plague—a child-slaying plague, the Black Death—to make us listen to the scientists again.

EW: 20:34: So you’re saying that the reservoir of trust that was in Britain, even for the scientists, after … at this point in the COVID epidemic, is almost drained?

DM: 20:44: I would have said it’s very nearly drained. Yes.

EW: 20:48: Interesting.

Let me ask a different question: Is long-form podcasting the last bastion, after science? Not because it’s particularly rigorous. Not because it’s credentialed. But because you’re actually hearing people struggling with reality in a non-institutional framework?

Is the real problem (and this is a very US-centric perspective) that our institutions are all susceptible for institutional reasons? And it doesn’t … There’s no kind of institution that can resist this sort of decay. Even a scientific institution is now falling prey to the same pressures as a financial institution, as a medical institution, as a journalistic institution … All of these institutions are falling. And, you know, if you’d asked me for the most trusted institution, at least as far as I can see things in America, at some point I might have said, “Well, it could be Caltech; it could be the Democratic Party; it could be the Supreme Court.” Right now, for me, honestly, it is Trader Joe’s. Because Trader Joe’s has stood up, they will not change Trader Jose, or Trader Yusef, or any of these things, because they think this is ridiculous.

There are pressures on institutions to lie to us, in particular with respect to health, because one of the things that … early on this epidemic it became very clear we didn’t have the masks we were supposed to have, and therefore we would have to tell a precursor story about masks being dangerous, or not working, so that people wouldn’t buy them, so that we could have them for our healthcare professionals. And that, to me, was a great crime. I noticed that to a lot of other people it’s like, “Well, of course, they’re telling a lie because they have to.” And I thought, “Well, if you do that too much, you’re going to lose science writ large.”

DM: 22:50: Yeah, I agree. I think the masks thing was one of the first and most worrying turns in that [?] … It’s precisely for that same reason: it was obvious, manifest, provable lie.

EW: 23:02: Do you have things that you can trust still in in the UK? Has the BBC managed to steer clear of this? Or are they going …

DM: 23:08: Not really. There’s a claim … They certainly have more trust than other broadcast media organizations. At times of national crisis, trust in the BBC has USUALLY been good. Actually, the stats that we have—the opinion polls this year—show a decline in … that almost, certainly in the opening months of the virus, the trust in institutions rose in almost every case other than the media, and the media plummeted. And I mean, my own view of that was that it was because the media didn’t know what questions to ask. I include myself in this. As I said, I never thought about viruses in any depth before. But if you were a BBC correspondent, and you had to ask questions of the government at the press conference every day, and you didn’t know about viruses, you were reduced to weird journalistic games, like, “X has said this, and now you’re saying this, minister. Why? Are you in contradiction?” Or, “You said this a couple of days ago, and now you’re saying this. Isn’t that a U-turn?” This is the result of what us know-nothing humanities people do when …

EW: 24:29: Oh no, no, no. This is happening to all … I’m a technical guy with a technical degree. I couldn’t follow the reasoning at all. And what you’re talking about is what I call the checksum theory of politics. When you’re handed a file to install on your computer and you want to know whether or not it’s been corrupted, you can’t read all of the lines of code to find out that they’re all in the right place. But there’s some consequence of the right lines of code being present called a checksum which you CAN inspect—which is far easier to monitor—and I think that a lot of the questions that you’re talking about are: if I can’t understand what you’re saying … like, I may not know what a bleeble-e-blop is, but if you said yesterday that they were essential, and if you say today that they’re absolutely horrid, I can at least ask you to clarify between your two positions with a zero knowledge orientation relative to what a bleeble-e-blop even is to begin with.

And as a result, we’re in this incredibly low level state where we’re just trying to say, “Did you make any sense? Is there any coherence to your perspective?” We can’t actually tell what we’re asking. And I, by the way, I had a lot of very top technical talent on phone calls early on with corona—nobody was making sense.

And I’ll tell you, the one thing that we actually did know early on is that this has nothing to do whatsoever with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Like, I don’t know how we came to such a strong conclusion so quickly. But the ONE thing we know about this virus is that that absolutely isn’t implicated.

DM: 26:00: Why do you say that?

EW: 26:02: Well, I think it’s a joke. I think we worry that it MIGHT be implicated. And there’s some political reason or economic reason for absolutely treating anyone who thinks that it might be of interest as a lunatic. Like that seems to me to be a policy decision. I would certainly … If it had 1/10th of 1% chance I certainly wouldn’t be calling it settled.

There’s a very interesting move when we take something off the table. So, the two other ones that I will give you would be “climate science is settled science” and “vaccines are 100% safe.” Anytime … I can, as a scientist, I can check those two statements instantly, and they’re both false. Now, it doesn’t mean that I’m against vaccines, or I don’t think that the planet is warming up due to human activity. But when somebody says “trust the scientists,” they’re really saying something like, “We, the UN, have gathered the IPCC and gotten a consensus statement. Please accept that as if it was somehow settled at the level of the laws of arithmetic.” Which absolutely is not.

Yeah, there’s a set of those. One was, a relatively small number of people knew that the World Health Organization was another of those international organizations that wasn’t exactly what it called itself. But now a very large number of people know that. And again, we have this issue of residual institutional trust.

You saw this famous video with a, I guess, a Hong Kong journalist trying to ask this person from the WHO and he’s pretending that he can’t hear? And then she says, “Shall I ask it again?” He’s like, “No! Let’s move on.”

DM: 27:45: [laughing] That’s right.

EW: 27:46: … And then he reaches for the kill button. … This is a bad magic show that I’m forced to sit through every day.

DM: 27:53: Yes. And yeah, the …

EW: 27:56: … and long-form podcasting can talk about the bad magic show … The key issue is CNN, or NPR, or the New York Times can’t.

DM: 28:06: And it’s not just because of length and the ability to summon up different and competing ideas and play them off against each other. It’s not JUST that, is it?

EW: 28:16: There’s a group of people from Finland who put mushrooms into instant coffee, who pay for the show, right? Called Four Sigmatic, for example.

DM: 28:27: You didn’t give me the good stuff …

EW: 28:28: [ad man voice] Douglas … Secretly, Douglas is actually drinking Four Sigmatic. — No.

DM: 28:34: [laughing]

EW: 28:34: The fact is, is that this show is one person and we have a bunch of crazy advertisers—it’s not like … Porsche and Mercedes aren’t choosing to advertise on the show and threatening, “Eric, you know. You had Douglas Murray on, and it’s quite dicey. …”

DM: 28:52: He’s not one of us.

EW: 28:53: “He’s not one of us.” You know, “We’re worried about this demographic slipping away.” You know, at some level, that’s what’s giving us our independence.

DM: 29:02: Sure, absolutely. But just going back to this thing with[?] institutions: it is striking if they can’t deal with the complexities. It was … It’s worrying when the institutions can’t be as complex as the public are. I mean, one of the things that’s been on my mind throughout all this has been moments when the public are clearly watching and nobody comments that the conclusion … nobody comments on the conclusion the public are likely to have come to. For instance, when mass protests break out (and maybe we shouldn’t get on to this yet, but), where mass protests break out, one of the things a public is clearly doing is thinking, “Well, we’ll see, because there ought to be a second wave now. … Interesting. There hasn’t been. Why is that?”

EW: 29:50: Well remember, the real public health problem is systemic racism.

DM: 29:55: I’m aware of that.

EW: 29:56: [laughs] So … [crosstalk] The intellectual whiplash …

DM: 30:01: But even before we get on to that, there is the issue of things that were not noted which the public can clearly note. We can notice that everybody who went on the protests doesn’t appear to have spent the succeeding weeks in bed, gasping for breath. This means that people seem to know more than everyone who’s speaking to them—including those in authority, who are then left repeating a mantra that the public less and less believe.

And this, with the Wuhan lab, is obviously a part of that. I remember (just before the thing went really bad) speaking to people in government—in this country and elsewhere—who, you know, “Well, you know, this is the area where they have a laboratory that does some of this stuff.” And then a few weeks later, it was announced that unless you believed that a bat at a wet market had caused it, you were a total psychopath/maniac.

EW: 31:14: And am I right that the wet market is not one thought to sell bats? My understanding is, is that it is a wet market that is not a purveyor of bats.

DM: 31:24: I mean, I …

EW: 31:25: I don’t know whether that’s … yeah.

DM: 31:25: No, I haven’t investigated.

EW: 31:25: You havent spent that much time in the Wuhan wet market?

DM: 31:30: No. I mean, when there was the bad thing I made a moment of levity—that was maybe needed, maybe not: When the the bat theory came up, you know, I said that they vindicated one of my long-held theories, which was that the problem with human beings is someone always shags a monkey.

EW: 31:45: [laughing]

DM: 31:46: It’s always been a disappointment of mine in our species. You know, there’s always just one guy away from doing that, you know, and this is one of the things that makes us a vibrant species extraordinary. I mean, obviously, because it’s extraordinarily precarious. And I thought, “There’s always gonna be one person who soups up a bat and then eats it.” And then, of course, it’s [?] we don’t realize that it’s the bat one was the less embarrassing story that the Chinese might want to get out. It wasn’t, as some of us thought, at first, the most embarrassing thing—it was actually the less embarrassing thing. And then we had the phenomena of, I think, first of all, the Australian Intelligence Services … one of the five eyes … I think it was the Australians first that said, “Actually, we think it might have come from a laboratory.” And then you get … there’s another bit of whiplash, because in the meantime, institutions had said, “That’s a conspiracy theory.”

EW: 32:45: Yes. Right.

DM: 32:45: And then one of the Five Eyes says it, and the Australian Government, and I think then the New Zealand government, calls for an official inquiry into it. And then the Chinese government tries to do everything it can to punish the Australians. And yes, I mean, by this point, one’s neck is sore.

EW: 33:04: Unless one gives up any attempt to believe any of this. Right? And this issue about … Well, I don’t know what vantage point I want to pull back to to analyze this with you. The total collapse of institutional integrity, across all sectors, across the entire Anglophone world … almost. Maybe there’s a pocket of integrity somewhere, but

DM: 33:33: It’s very hard.

EW: 33:34: … um … WTF?

DM: 33:39: Yeah.

EW: 33:40: And why is it that you and I … I mean, I have to admit, we have these late night calls, which is difficult because it can’t be late night for both of us.

DM: 33:49: Yes, absolutely. I didn’t mind when you call me in the [?] hours of[?] your lunch.

EW: 33:54: So, what … Douglas, what the hell’s going on? I mean, it’s as if we’re under some kind of swarm attack, where every institution goes mad in succession.

DM: 34:08: Yes, I am … as you know, I mean, I thought for a long time the job of the era is not to go mad [?] at first. That “Thou shalt not go mad” is absolutely the first rule of the time. And I did think when the pandemic first came, and we did all think (or a lot of us thought, as we were told) that, you know, we will be losing a lot of our loved ones, that that was an even more important impulse. “Okay, this is this is going to sort some of the wheat from the chaff. You know, this is going to reveal the stoics in our society, you know.” And I can’t say that I was entirely gloomy about the prospect. But I thought, in some ways, I mean, that’s a that’s a generational challenge, in that case. It’s an invitation to seriousness, above anything else. It’ll clear debris away. It’ll give us greater clarity.

And then of course, among much else, the fact that the virus turned out not to be what we thought it was at the beginning—

EW: 35:17: Have you lost anyone close?

DM: 35:19: I have one friend who died from the virus—wonderful Indian economist, Deepak Lal, who was at UCLA, who was … I only discovered quite a long time afterwards, actually. (Flood of news.) But Deepak’s the only person I know who died from it. He was eighty. Wonderful, wonderful man. But, I mean, I had friends, the beginning of [?], you know, who got it. A friend of mine who’s 94 who got it, and I just thought, “Oh, hell.” And after a couple of weeks, you know, she called me back and told me she was better. And then I … then, that was one of the ones for me that made me think, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Because if it was what we thought it was, it would … that wouldn’t be possible.

EW: 36:03: Well, but I … Probably there’s some sort of predisposition that if we only knew to look for the marker, or something, we would understand that our odds are, you know, greatly different.

DM: 36:13: Yes.

EW: 36:13: There’s something about the fact that we never came up with the right intellectual framework. We were so focused on flattening the curve, which I think was about what I’ve called “deaths of discretion” where, if you’re wildly unprepared because you haven’t responded to your own literature telling you to prepare for a surge need as opposed to some slight variation around regular, modal needs, then what you do is you tried to say “How do we make sure that everyone changes his or her life in order to make sure that we don’t have a triage situation where a physician has to say, ‘you get a ventilator and you did not.’?”

DM: 36:53: Right. But did you lose anyone close?

EW: 36:55: I don’t think I’ve lost anyone close. We lost John Horton Conway, a mathematician. Musicians like John Prine, great songwriter. So there’re deaths that have mattered to me; I’ve had people in my community for The Portal who’ve lost grandparents and the likes. But I don’t think I’ve lost anyone close to the virus.

DM: 37:19: One of the things that made me … I’ve been uncharacteristically silent on lots of issues to do with the virus, because … I haven’t felt confident because of a set of the same problems we’re all in. There were certain people who, from the outset, said, “This is all nonsense,” and I didn’t feel at all that I could go along with them, because of the odd outriders which I was coming across in my own life, as well as reading about … people who I knew who were young, who really were gasping for breath when they got it. And I suppose it’s also, like a lot of us, I have loved ones who have underlying conditions—I wouldn’t … I felt (perhaps as a sort of fatalistic pagan element of my personality), but I did feel quite strongly that if one was blasé about it—certainly if one was blasé about it publicly—you know, the gods would strike. I don’t know quite why I still have this feeling—

EW: 38:21: I think it’s marvelous that you do, because it’s a self-protective one, even though it’s technically irrational.

DM: 38:26: Yes. It’s like pride before a fall, and all those cliches, which are cliches because they’re true. You know, you really should expect the gods will come and smite you if you’re too … you know.

EW: 38:42: How many of them?

DM: 38:43: [laughing] So many!

EW: 38:44: All of the gods.

DM: 38:45: All of them. One great rush of gods to take out Murray.

Yeah, I did feel that. I still feel that a bit. And, as I say, I mean, we’ve all been trying to work out exactly—you know, so you might find yourself in this position, you think, well, I know I don’t believe what the health secretary is telling me anymore. But I also don’t believe what his most ardent critics are saying. And I just don’t know, in this terrain, other than, “be careful,” “be sensible.” … But my idea of careful and sensible obviously isn’t the same as everyone else’s. And I don’t know how you would institutionalize that or make it a national policy.

EW: 39:27: Yeah, but none of this is making any sense to me at all. Because we haven’t developed the right intellectual framework. We developed a framework for public health. And forgive me for saying (this is not popular, particularly with my very left-of-center social world), but I believe that public health is all about lying and about habituating public health people to figure out “How do you get a distorted comment to produce a beneficial outcome?” You have the right to distort whatever … Like you could make it rhyme so that more people can remember it.

DM: 40:04: Right. Oh yes, like coming up with a sort of “five P’s” and all that.

EW: 40:09: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like—

DM: 40:09: Like “3 Ls.” It’s always like, what if one of them doesn’t start with a P?

EW: 40:13: Right. And then you force—you coerce it into doing that.

DM: 40:15: You’re gonna Protect, Prevent … Parler games. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter: You just you just … I don’t believe that stuff.

EW: 40:22: Well, that’s like Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic.

DM: 40:24: Yeah. [laughing]

EW: 40:26: Just shove it into the circular hole no matter what the shape of the peg.

DM: 40:31: Yes, I … What would you come up with to try to explain it? Or to understand it, rather.

EW: 40:39: I would just tell people, “Hey, the intellectual ante for this game went way up. You need to budget[?] 10 times the amount of brain power and storage space for this that usually you do.

You know … If you followed, like, let’s say, in the UK, the Premier League: you have very clear idea about all the players who pass through your team, the history, the ways in which the weather might influence the game in an outdoor versus an indoor … I don’t know—all of this stuff … Bring that level of complexity that you would bring to football or soccer into virology, and you’ll be fine. And this is the key thing we got wrong about television, is that we used to think the television was the “idiot box” until we realized that it allowed for more character development than even film.

DM: 41:31: Yeah, absolutely.

The couple of things that also concern me about this are, on the public health one, obviously, we … The beginning of this whole thing started in the UK (and I think in America, to some extent): we had this thing of “we must protect the health service,” you know, “we must protect the hospital” by not being ill and going into them. Of course, I mean, I and others said at the time, “Actually the health service exists to protect us, not the other way around.” It isn’t that WE form a ring of steel around IT, but that IT’s made to form the ring of steel around US. And then, of course, you started to hear, I don’t know, that a grateful public was sending doughnuts to doctors who had nothing to do other than spend their day eating doughnuts. I’m not saying in all cases—at the beginning, there was certainly a fight on the front line. But since then, our health service has been moribund. We set up a 10,000 capacity hospital that didn’t take a patient.

EW: 42:33: Right.

DM: 42:35: And of course, one version of that story is, it didn’t take a patient because we all locked ourselves in our houses. But another one is, “No, that’s …”

EW: 42:43: Well … See, I guess what my take on it is, is that at some level, you had a multivariate situation. The virus was not simply the flu. It wasn’t the 1918 Spanish flu. It wasn’t the bubonic plague. It wasn’t a cold and a sniffle.

DM: 43:03: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EW: 43:04: And what we kept doing was reaching for an analogy to something it wasn’t, and none of the analogies worked because we didn’t build the intellectual space for something new, which is, “Okay, whatever the main parameters are that tell you what this virus is, here’s what we need to worry about.” Like, for example, morbidity, as opposed to mortality, wasn’t very well understood. Does this really end up in the brain? What are the consequences?

But again, I really have the feeling that this somehow masks the real story. And the real story to me is that we are not the people who won World War II anymore.

DM: 43:46: Say more?

EW: 43:47: We have an idea … Like, you and I are both of an age that we were born a good deal … I was born 20 years after the conclusion of World War II. But I still have the idea, “We put a man on the moon,” “We won World War II.” And we, I don’t think, did. I don’t think this society would be capable of fighting a World War II.

DM: 44:15: I’m never confident of that.

EW: 44:17: All right, well this is interesting.

DM: 44:19: Well, and, because … I—

EW: 44:21: I don’t think the US would be capable of knowing what to do about a European problem …

DM: 44:28: I … the only thing is, it didn’t know what to do twice before.

EW: 44:32: Yes.

DM: 44:35: I … you know, my own … my instinct on this is always that people never ARE the people they are going to be, unless the events …

EW: 44:44: Happen.

DM: 44:44: … happen. The famous example being the Oxford Union debate before World War II in the 1930s when the Oxford Union votes by a majority that it would not die for King and Country. And everyone at the time was hands up in the air in horror at the pacifism of the new generation who, 10 years later, were fighting their way through Normandy. So this happens. And …

EW: 45:09: I quite agree …

DM: 45:10: And as I say, there was a little residual part of that at the beginning of the virus, albeit the most minimal version. And if our generation’s challenge is to sit on our ass for weeks, then there’s some irony and …

EW: 45:16: [laughing] It’s quite funny, in a horrible way.

DM: 45:27: Yeah, absolutely. It’s everything that we worried that our generation would be. Our great challenge—

EW: 45:32: Well no, because we were called[?] before, after 911: Americans wanted to do something, and it was like, “Go shopping.” And it’s like, “You’re kidding!”

DM: 45:39: Yes. And the great call-up this time was to sit on the sofa eating cheetos and watching Netflix.

Yes, so as … I never think it’s totally settled (all that ‘greatest generation’ sort of thing). I do think that, aside from the public health element of this, there are a set of other things that we haven’t dealt with. And one of them (which is the only bit that I do take the sort of 1940s comparison with) is, “Are we able or willing to live with risk?” And that’s—to me—clearly the element of this is now being contested. A portion of our societies clearly think that zero risk is the desirable aim at this stage.

EW: 46:32: Well, a very large group of people (I don’t even know what the word—) … they ‘pretend’ to believe this?

DM: 46:38: Yes. Yeah, yeah. No, I—

EW: 46:39: How does one even imagine that [?] risk can be—. I don’t understand what it means.

DM: 46:45: The only way I can interpret it is … For instance, in each of our countries we have these polls that show that the public perception of the mortality rate is wildly higher than the actual rates. I mean, in America, the general public thing more people have died than in World War II (in America, from the virus). In my own country it’s similar—I mean, people think that percentiles of the population … It’s nowhere near—

EW: 47:07: But this is this thing I’m saying about public health, which is: we have to lie to people in order to get them to undertake a behavior to actually make sure that the levels are lower. So in effect, I think that the way a public health professional might see this (and this is horrible), is: Well we did have that perception pushed out, and thank God the public overreacted, because that’s why that’s why our numbers are so low in terms of mortality. So mission accomplished.” Yes, you’ve degraded the trust is in all of science in order to pull this off, but for the price of scaring the living crap out of a large number of people, we can get the death rate somewhat lower.

DM: 47:47: Yeah, that, well … So the first thing is, the public perception versus the reality, which has obviously taken a hit. The second is, a percentage of people in the general public in each of our countries to actually TELL the pollsters that they like the lockdown, or they want the lockdown. We had, at one point (I think in May or June) 28% of the British public saying that they would like the lockdown to continue, even if all five conditions the government had set for lifting the lockdown were met.

EW: 48:17: [laughing]

DM: 48:17: [laughing] And we say, “Who ARE these 28%?”

EW: 48:21: That’s not inconsequential.

DM: 48:23: No. I think, by the way, the answer (maybe it’ll be an unpopular thing to say, but), I think the answer is quite a lot of people who, for instance, found the furlough scheme in which the British government paid for 80% of salaries, and 80% of salary—if you don’t have to commute, and you don’t have to go into the office, and you can sit in your underpants all day—is very attractive. So there’s a lot of people who are quite willing to take that. (It depends on other variables, of course—Have you got a garden? What age are you? Do you own a house? Can you pad[?] around a bit? Or are you, you know, a millennial stuck in a rented flat, staring at the walls and climbing up them? I mean, all that stuff, definitely makes a difference.) But that 28% who just couldn’t get out again … obviously also includes the elderly and the very worried (and we all know cases—legitimately and otherwise—of that), and then there’s the younger people who are, you know, excessively, I think, worried about the virus.

But that 28%’s a very revealing one, and they exist everywhere. And then you’ve got the one of … the one that’s hard to read, which is the high numbers of the general public who want more stringent measures. We had a poll recently that said 70% of the public wanted curfews. I mean, either this plays to some deep sexual fetish of the British nation (which WANTS to be …)

EW: 49:55: Well, you have many.

DM: 49:56: [laughing] Don’t need to tell me.

It is either some desire to be dominated by the government and told you’re bad and locked down like, you know … I won’t extend the metaphor.

EW: 50:10: I think you should because our ratings will soar, sir.

DM: 50:13: But you … also might be banned from Youtube for explicit content.

EW: 50:18: What? Well we’re headed that way anyway, I’m sure.

DM: 50:23: But it’s either that or (and this is how I read it) people tell the pollsters this—they even tell their friends that—but they really think that the lockdown, that the curfew, is for other people.

EW: 50:37: Well maybe. But it also is killing FOMO.

DM: 50:40: Right. That’s not a bad thing.

EW: 50:42: Like, if I think about all of my very wealthy, very successful friends, I know this is sucking for them—even if they’re in slightly better shape … on their yachts with gardens or whatever it is that they do. I do think that, worldwide, FOMO has never been lower.

DM: 50:58: That’s a good thing.

EW: 51:00: Well, weirdly—

DM: 51:00: It’ll reduce one type of anxiety.

EW: 51:02: It does. And the … But again, all of this … I can’t help but feel that … See, I WAS worried about something like this, and I talked about this “twin nuclei” problem, which COVID may well fall into—if the Wuhan lab turns out to be a little bit more important than the government has assured us or our press has assured us it is. This IS one of my concerns. And then it doesn’t stop there.

I’m worried that somehow all of Western society is exhausted. And here’s the weirdest statement I can possibly make: If I just take the Anglophone countries (and I think about the UK as central to the Anglophone group (the Five Eyes, as you said)), you’re about the only voice that sounds like I remember. And like I expected. You’re the only person whose voice …

Like, you know, in a rather ironic twist of fate, atheists have canonized Christopher Hitchens, right? They’ve decided that in death he is more perfect than he ever was in life. And that kind of erudition, courage, wit, and willingness to take on issues as if they matter in real time. We’re not getting a ton of it crashing over our shores from the UK. And we’re not producing … That’s why Jordan Peterson, in part, rocketed to fame—or my brother became well known to more people—is that there are almost no voices that are willing to stand up for what we believed 25 years ago.

DM: 52:07: Why do you think that is?

EW: 52:54: I was gonna ask you, given that it’s my show.

DM: 52:57: Hah! Well, I don’t know. I can’t talk about myself. But …

EW: 53:02: Well, so forget you. Then there’s almost no one out there who sounds like we expect.

DM: 53:10: I’m not entirely sure I’m clear about what you expect.

EW: 53:13: I expect someone to say something on behalf of, let’s say, free speech. So when we had the situation … I mean, look. The place that I became aware of you was in the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre when you went on Al Jazeera and were asked about whether or not this terrible tragedy was going to be bringing a wave of Islamophobia to Europe. And I can’t think of almost anyone else who’s correct emotional cadence was “How dare you?”

DM: 53:47: Well, I mean, I do that when I feel one of my own personal tripwires is deeply [?].

EW: 53:53: Okay, so let’s … Why does no one else have one of these deep personal tripwires? I expect to hear your voice and often no one else’s, to be blunt. Clearly, you’re uncomfortable with this—for those of you listening at home, Douglas is making all sorts of strange faces, which I’m not used to.

DM: 54:12: Well, I mean, I’ve always slightly, you know, maybe in a sort of British way, I find it hard to analyze myself.

EW: 54:18: Oh get over yourself. I mean, that’s not the issue. The issue is that there really isn’t almost anyone else that we’re hearing. I mean, people are listening to John Cleese, to, I don’t know, Ricky Gervais, … You know, there’s a very small number of people who are saying, “This is all madness.”

DM: 54:39: Well, as I say, it … If you’re gonna try to remain sane in the era, you have to have something to draw upon. And I do think a very important task is to encourage younger people to spend their time developing such assets.

Now, part of it is, I suppose, what we used to call “character.” One of my heroes was a totally obscure figure, there’s a British novelist called Simon Raven, who wrote some sort of Anthony Powell ‘lite’ novels in the post-war period. He was a rather rackety figure—was expelled from school, chucked out of Cambridge, and then chucked out of the army, and was chucked out of everything so he had to be a novelist.

EW: 55:40: [laughs] I see.

DM: 55:41: But he had a godfather who was a pilot in World War II, and I remember he was just sort of … he was always a hero who … I read somewhere that (one of the biopics[?] from Simon Raven, I suppose) that he, the godfather, had been in a plane (two-seater plane) in the war. And at some point, he and his co-pilot were shot down and plummeting to Earth and Simon Raven’s godfather was overheard by his co-pilot saying, “This is unfortunate. This is the end.”

EW: 56:14: [laughing]

DM: 56:14: [laughing] And they actually survived.

EW: 56:16: But in that fashion.

DM: 56:17: This became, yeah, this became family lore, you know. I mean, personally, I admire the sort of stoicism like that. I always did. And I was brought up with it. The downside of it is it includes the stuff of not analyzing emotions, and much more.

EW: 56:24: I understand that. But wasn’t everyone brought up with that? I mean, you hardly seemed alone 50 years ago. This would not have marked you out in particular. The stiff upper lip is still sort of … like … You used the word earlier, ‘performative.’

DM: 56:51: Yeah.

EW: 56:52: I don’t recall growing up with that word.

DM: 56:55: No. No, well,—

EW: 56:57: Everything now is through a very different lens and the language that we use on a daily basis … many of these concepts and words didn’t even exist.

DM: 57:08: Yes, but we’ve undergone this unbelievable revolution (which has gone on in my lifetime, let alone[?] in yours). The things that are now normal were totally abnormal. I say all the time, when … Young [?] are very fortunate to have a lot of young readers, a lot of young listeners, like you …

[?] … One of your first tasks is to develop meaningful personal relationships. And to have friends who want you to do well and who care for you. And who you care for. And who will be there for you when you need them, and who need you. You shouldn’t make it transactional. But work on that: the development of such a meaningful relationship in your life. Don’t spend your time trying to get thousands of followers online who don’t give a shit about you. Just … just don’t do that.

Now, the first part of that was obvious. Always. The second part of it has been in competition for the first part for some time, and a lot of young people have been encouraged to take the wrong path on that. They can correct that. And they should be encouraged, indeed told to correct that. Um …

EW: 58:19: I’m not sure. I really want to debate this with you.

DM: 58:21: Go on.

EW: 58:22: Alright. So it seems to me that maybe even the value of friendship has decreased, because we’re not even entirely sure who our friends are, because they are being …

Alright, let me pull all the way back. I have said to you (I think as recently as yesterday, maybe) that the phone is not what we thought it was. We’re carrying around this device—we thought that it was a version of the Library of Alexandria that we carry in our pockets, and somehow what it really seems to be is a toolkit for rewiring the human mind in ways that we have no … we lack all understand.

DM: 59:04: Yeah, absolutely. Of course. It’s changed everything and, as always, we have no idea how much it’s changed us as we’re going through it.

EW: 59:10: Right. Now, in some sense, it’s changed my friends (from from childhood and from early adulthood). And so I don’t know whether it hasn’t changed both … Like, if you think about a relationship as having two nodes—the two participants—and an edge between them? I’m not positive that it hasn’t changed all three of those things—the two actors or agents, as well as the way in which they interact.

DM: 59:36: Of course, but I mean, you have to be—

EW: 59:37: Is it worth more or less to you? [?]

DM: 59:39: You have to be strict about this stuff. And you have to find your own rules. I may be a somewhat exacting friend. [crosstalk] But I mean, I have, fairly regularly … By the way, particularly since the pandemic, I have found myself telling my friends to put the bloody phone down. “No, I don’t want you to show me that. thing on the screen. I want you to tell me.”

EW: 1:00:01: Yes.

DM: 1:00:02: Okay? “I don’t need to see the video, I’d rather that you described it to me. It’ll be more fun.”

EW: 1:00:07: Oh, I haven’t I haven’t encountered this before—

DM: 1:00:09: Oh yeah, yeah. it’s because, this year in particular, people are even MORE into this. I’ve found—I have to say it (not not to everyone, but to some people)—it’s surprising people do it. Will without their iPad / the phone and show you something. I don’t want that. I want to spend the time with you. I don’t want the distraction. I want what I can’t get elsewhere. And I think people have to do this. Including, by the way on strange things like—and again, you have to have your own rules on this—don’t look up the thing you can’t remember.

EW: 1:00:45: Well, I try to tell this to people: remember some poems because storing them between your ears allows you to make references to them. If they only exist on the internet, then you won’t necessarily be able to make a connection between two of them.

DM: 1:00:58: By the way, that … This is a very … I’m so glad you said that; this is a very, very deeply held view of mine. I heard it once as a schoolboy when a man called Terry Waite, who was held captive in Lebanon; famous in the 1980s—was an envoy of the then Archbishop of Canterbury; was kept hostage for years; when I was growing up, Terry Waite’s name was in the news all the time.

EW: 1:01:21: All the time.

DM: 1:01:22: And he once came to my school after [?]. He gave an extraordinary talk [that] remained with me about how he had got through years chained to a radiator in a basement in Beirut. And one of the things I never forget him saying was that he had the opening of Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot in his mind all the time—you know, “time present and time past / they’re both contained in time future / time future contained in time past / If all time is eternally present / all time is unredeemable.” And on. And I remember when he started reading (was reciting it), and particularly when he got to the passage (what is it?) “Footfalls echo in the memory / Down the passage which we did not take / Through the door we never opened / Into the rose-garden.” And … I was just blown away—first by the words, but secondly by the the embedding of an intuition I already had, which is “You’ll need this stuff.”

EW: 1:02:26: You’ll need this stuff.

DM: 1:02:28: By the way, the late George Steiner (who I, sadly, didn’t know, but who I once also had giving a lecture when I was a boy) also deeply impressed this on me. Steiner was the main sort of middle-of-European intellectual who came to England—I suppose, in some ways, always lost some of the fame to Isaiah Berlin. But Steiner was a remarkable figure—kind we don’t see very much anymore. (We[?] didn’t see much then.) And he … this was very much it what he would impart to you, which was: What do you have up here, the bastards can’t take. And, you know, Steiner had endless stories of examples of this, some of which—all of which were deeply moving. Russian poets who would know … A Russian poet who knew Don Juan of Byron [?] by heart, and when imprisoned in gulag, translates it in her head into Russian. And it becomes the version in Russian. (What is it?) The 1937 writers’ conference in Moscow … the Russian novelist who … (now, why have I blanked on the name suddenly—you’ll have to read it that.)

EW: 1:04:12: I won’t let you look it up. You know that.

DM: 1:04:14: Yeah. Oh, you know, the … God, I hate it when this happens. Author of Dr. Zhivago, why have I lost the name.

EW: 1:04:31: Pasternak?

DM: 1:04:32: Pasternak. Why’ve I lost Pasternak? That’s bad; that’s mental deterioration.

EW: 1:04:36: Don’t worry! Press on!

DM: 1:04:38: … Mental deterioration, right there.

Pasternak stands up at the 1937 writers’ conference. And no, because—sorry, this is a bit of a diversion, but it’s worth doing maybe. Of course, 37 is the worst year of the purges. He knows he can’t speak. He can’t not speak. And everybody knows Pasternak has to speak. And I think, having all the figures for the number of people at the 1937 conference of writers who survived in 1939 is tiny. Pasternack, by the last day, everyone says, “You’ve got to say something.” And Pasternak gets up onto the podium and says one number. And everybody rises. It’s the number of the Shakespeare sonnet, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past.” And Pasternak did the translation of this into Russian—which, they say, is as beautiful as any of the words in English. And every of the writers recites the translation of the Shakespeare sonnet in Russian. And he survives.

EW: 1:05:58: How odd.

DM: 1:05:59: But … my point is that this … the knowledge that you’ll need stuff—that it’ll fortify you through your life—is a very deep instinct with me. And … so when people say, you know, it’s worth memorizing in order that you keep your brain going, and it’s a useful cognitive exercise … [laughing] it is not just that. It’s … Part of the purpose of it (well in fact, the most important purpose) is you need to steel yourself for what’s coming.

EW: 1:06:40: Well, to your point, I mean … You know, the old song, [singing] “The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea. The way— [?] memory of all that”?

DM: 1:06:48: Sure. Yeah.

EW: 1:06:49: [singing] “They can’t take that away from me.” This idea of ‘what cannot be taken’ … Years ago, in the town of Hoi An[?], in Vietnam, I saw … there’s a marvelous one-stringed Vietnamese instrument (which I’m going to mispronounce, because nothing can be pronounced from Vietnamese unless you’re an expert), which is going to be spelled something like the “dan bow.” And I saw it in a window, and the woman-of-the-house saw that I was admiring this, invited me in, and they wheeled in a man who’d clearly lost his marbles and was sort of … I remember him as almost drooling, not really able to speak, some form of English … And at some point, somebody brought in a guitar, and he started playing his own transcription of Chopin onto the guitar. So I thought, “Oh, this is rather strange: a drooling idiot who’s lost his mind who can play Chopin, and it appears to be his own transcription (on a guitar)” … None of it made any sense.

And then out came an album of newspaper clippings about how this man had been a journalist (and a courageous one) who had been sent for re-education by communists. And they had destroyed his body and rewired his mind, and somehow he had held on to this thing that he was. And this …

You know, there’s a lyric in a Bob Dylan song (which I’m very partial to), where he says, “Buy me a flute and a gun that shoots tailgates and substitutes,” and then the line is, “Strap yourself to a tree with roots, because you ain’t going nowhere.” And I think about this idea of the tree with roots: what is it that has survived two World Wars, and what would you like to tie yourself to? Whether or not you think that it actually makes sense, it’s important to make sure that you’re tied to SOME things that have survived through all of the tumult that the 20th century could throw it.

DM: 1:08:54: Yes. This is … Look, it is not the ONLY answer. (I know some people who think that it is, at the moment.) Marcus Aurelius alone cannot get us out of this problem. But he helps.

EW: 1:09:06: [smiling] Okay.

DM: 1:09:08: Boethius can’t, alone, help us out. But he can help.

I think that there has been a fundamental mistake in the transmission to (particularly to) younger people (including my own generation, to an extent). It wasn’t [crosstalk] … There was a mistaken impression of what life was going to be like, and I do feel the consequences of this are landing.

EW: 1:09:37: And what was … What do you consider your generation? May I ask your birth year?

DM: 1:09:41: I mean, it’s … very rude of you! I was—

EW: 1:09:45: I’m an American, I can get away with it.

DM: 1:09:46: I was born in 1979.

EW: 1:09:48: Alright. So I am at the beginning of Gen X, and you are effectively right at the end.

DM: 1:09:55: Right. I was, by the way, ID’d at an alcohol shop in LA last night.

EW: 1:10:00: Well done, [?]

DM: 1:10:01: Yeah, no, I told him “I’m coming back ALWAYS!” [laughing]

EW: 1:10:03: [laughing]

DM: 1:10:06: No, … I think I got at the END of something—partly because of the nature of my education, and the places I was educated, in the end; and partly because of sel-taught things (and I graduated towards certain people and certain ideas because of what I intuited as being worthwhile).

EW: 1:10:28: Right.

DM: 1:10:29: However, I know quite a lot of people who are my age and younger, who didn’t imbibe all of this, and who—I mean, look. Take an obvious one, “it’s unfair.” It doesn’t have the PULL on me that it does for some people. …

EW: 1:10:49: Because lots of things are unfair. You can’t make life fair.

DM: 1:10:51: Yeah! I just … Idon’t find it an intoxicating point.

EW: 1:10:55: Alright. But then that comes back on us.

DM: 1:10:58: Sure.

EW: 1:10:58: So, for example, when we complained about people who’re seeing that everything is being unfair. And then people say, “Well, are you claiming that is unfair to call everything ‘unfair’?”

DM: 1:11:07: Yeah. And, of course, the laziness that can crop into it is that you end up ignoring things that are genuinely unfair. And fairness IS actually an important thing. And you end up being blasé about things you shouldn’t be blasé about. That’s just quite a problem. But …

It’s an interesting … Like, I mean, one of my—I only met him once, but somebody I admired enormously in my 20s is Irving Kristol. And remember, Irving said somewhere about inequality, he said, “Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, but I’m not interested in inequality. I don’t find it interesting in sports. I don’t find it interesting economics. I’m just not interested in it.”

EW: 1:11:07: What does that mean?

DM: 1:11:07: He didn’t think equality was the desirable goal.

Well, I agree that equality isn’t a desirable goal.

I agree.

EW: 1:11:58: I mean, I actually hold that point of view now.

DM: 1:12:00: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

EW: 1:12:01: But, I don’t think that that’s … I think that the economists who refused to study inequality actually consigned us to a world in which political economy dominates regular forms of expression, like honest market interactions, or proper use of a ballot box.

DM: 1:12:20: Well, this is the example I want to give, because, on the one hand, it’s an interesting and important generational instinct to have. On the other hand, if you apply it across the board, you miss things. And we have missed things.

EW: 1:12:35: Well, look, let’s try a different version of this. One of my claims is that the world appeared much smarter to me several decades ago, because people were running heuristics that matched the world they lived in. In other words, they weren’t actually fundamental thinkers, but (and I give the same example in order to drive it home), if the river usually flows (and you’re used to swimming in the swimming hole), when it freezes over and you talk about going swimming or diving, you’re revealed not to have updated for a phase change. And I believe that in a low-inequality world, fetishizing equality is a peculiar thing. When you get to, I don’t know, Brazilian levels of inequality, you do have a different beast on your hands—it’s not the same thing. That regime doesn’t work …

DM: 1:13:34: Yes. There’s an additional problem in that, isn’t there, Eric, which is that … There is a set of problem, which people don’t counter, or they don’t contend with, rather, because the only people who’ve been thinking about it are people with the wrong answers.

EW: 1:13:54: Where you’re driven away, because the people who fetishized something actually defined the field and you’re repulsed, or put off by those founders of that particular [?].

DM: 1:14:06: I mean, I think we’ve discussed this before in private (I know we have): the, (and it goes back to the conversation we were having about virology), which is, who can you trust on the area that you don’t know about? And how do you know they’re not pulling a fast one when you’re not looking? And … on a range of things, I think, that an explanation of where our politics and culture has been going bad, is through taking our eye off things because the people who claimed to know about it were people we knew to have the wrong answers. You know, I say this, and I’m guilty of this myself, you know, I’m more on the right than you are. But the right didn’t contend with inequality because the only people talking and thinking about inequality were people who had bad answers, which was, “Therefore capitalism is a problem.” And so, we just wanted to keep away from it.

EW: 1:15:09: Well, I had the same feeling on the left. Which is that, I don’t want to banish inequality from the system—that is not a goal; that it would be a terrible thing; and, effectively, the only way to banish inequality is through high levels of violence, and then you will watch the whoever’s meting out the violence is going to become the new unequal class. The thing doesn’t add up. And so, if you’re an intelligent, progressive … I mean, one of the things I contend with is that, my … I feel like I hate communism much more than my right-of-center friends who are willing to mumble about it all the time, but they’re not necessarily willing to pick up a stick and fight it.

DM: 1:15:45: Wasn’t that almost always the case with communism on the left? The left who were anti-communist knew what they were dealing with.

EW: 1:15:52: Oh, my gosh. And it’s … because … The thing about communism is that, in order to get humans to do something so counter to our nature, you usually need a threat. So violence tends to be implicit in communism. Whereas if you’re a progressive, wanting to live in a very violent society seems a very strange thing—even if the violence is state-controlled, and mostly kept in it’s sheath. But …

DM: 1:16:20: We should get on to violence shortly, by the way. But before we do, can I suggest that, um, there are—

EW: 1:16:26: You can take over the show. You can do whatever you want.

DM: 1:16:28: No, no. I wouldn’t dream of it!

EW: 1:16:32: Do you know how much work you would save me?

DM: 1:16:35: [laughing] Can I suggest that … Well, I mean, there’ll a be … We should, for the sake of balance, among other things, think of a right wing/left wing version of the same thing. Something the left isn’t contending with because they believe the right will smuggle in a load of dangerous stuff if they did. I suppose abortion rights might be one in America.

EW: 1:16:57: Well, abortion … I mean, abortion rights is very good, because you have the twin sins of the right wing calling every fertilized egg a ‘baby,’ and the left wing referring to a child about to be born in a few minutes, ‘fetal tissue.’ Right? It’s like … we’re deathly afraid of talking about embryology, Carnegie stages in human development.

DM: 1:17:24: Yeah. Yeah. And that is partly because of this. Because we (particularly on the left) people sense that the people who’ve been doing the thinking about it have the worst answers.

EW: 1:17:34: I can’t stand the pro-life intellectual corpus held by those with whom I caucus.

DM: 1:17:43: Yeah.

EW: 1:17:43: Sorry, sorry. The pro-choice caucus is disgusting relative to late-term pregnancies. And the pro-life caucus is horribly authoritarian with respect to personal business surrounding … yeah.

DM: 1:17:58: Absolutely. Absolutely.

There’s probably … well there are plenty of other ones. I’m trying to think maybe even one other just as, I guess, …

EW: 1:18:05: We could do immigration, or …

DM: 1:18:07: Yeah, immigration. Immigration is a very good one. I noticed this with Strange Death of Europe that, you know … I was trying to get the political class of[?] Europe, in particular, to think about immigration more deeply. And I kept discovering along the way that you couldn’t get the left to do it, because they intuited that the only people who’ve been thinking about it were the right, and the right had horrible, horrible methods[?].

EW: 1:18:30: Only have hate in their hearts.

DM: 1:18:31: Yeah. Well they had hate in their hearts, they assume the worst possible motivations, and the worst possible answers. And so they wouldn’t contend with … And … It was such a visible mistake. The left SHOULD have been thinking about it. [???] who did. I mean, trade unionists, and others, DID think about immigration, because of labor, wages, and much more.

EW: 1:18:50: Well, this is odd thing. …

DM: 1:18:51: But those people disappeared. I mean, those people disappeared, certainly in my country, by the 90s and 2000s.

EW: 1:18:59: Yeah, I feel like Ishi, Last of His Tribe, where I come from an earlier left-of-center position on immigration. And, you know, this was held by Cesar Chavez, and, you know, who might have a mural painted to him, you know, today … But on the other hand, the Sierra Club was definitely restrictionist. And the farm workers’ union were restrictionist. And it was in the 80s, when we killed off organized labor, that it became unthinkable, and the only reason to oppose immigration was because of your deep-seated hatred for your fellow man who was different of hue than you were. I mean, some such nonsense, right? And this … I give this as a check, which is: Can you can you find a single article that will talk about what I call ‘xenophilic restrictionism’? And there isn’t any!

DM: 1:19:54: Exactly. No, no, at some point … We’ve said in private before, but, a long time ago this … ‘xenophobe’ should not have been tied completely to restrictionists.

EW: 1:20:08: Well, every slaver was, you know … [?] a xenophobe—eager to import as much labor as possible.

DM: 1:20:16: As a slave owner, you might have said, early open borders.

EW: 1:20:19: Right. The whole principle, here, is that they’re independent objects. I’ve talked about this with the four quadrant model and all of this nonsense.

But … This is this question, we can’t get around our own institutional narratives. It is only a part of the institutional narrative that says, “We want to make sure that … he or she who mentions restrictionism instantly feels pain. So that the very thought about restricting immigration and …”

Let’s talk about a difference between the US and the UK: we do not have a “Rivers of Blood” speech. Many of us don’t even know what that is.

DM: 1:20:56: God. Lucky.

EW: 1:20:57: Well, what is the “Rivers of Blood” speech, and how does that affect UK thinking on immigration, different than, let’s say, what you observe of the US feelings about immigration? And then I want to use this as a launchpad to discuss a particular tick of conservative thought.

DM: 1:21:18: You know, I mean, that—for American listeners who don’t know that—yeah, that was 1968 when Enoch Powell (Shadow Cabinet Minister) gave a speech in which he referred to …

EW: 1:21:34: ‘Shadow Cabinet.’ Can you just say a few more words?

DM: 1:21:36: The party was in opposition, at the time. He was the conservative Member of Parliament—very distinguished thinker, extraordinary mind, and a very haunting figure in British politics, because … I remember him from boyhood (as I’d met[?] him a number times, as a child), he was he was a captivating figure, in lots of ways. He was like an Old Testament prophet. And he was a philosopher in politics, which, as you know, is a bad thing. I mean, it’s bad for them.

EW: 1:22:04: Okay. But he was talking about a force that would transform the UK forever.

DM: 1:22:09: Yes.

EW: 1:22:09: And it did, did it not?

DM: 1:22:11: Yes, it did. And the reason why people still talk about Enoch Powell—whereas they don’t talk about Edward Heath, who fired him for the speech—is because he was onto SOMEthing. (I’m being careful here.) He was on to SOMEthing. And a conservative critique of where he went wrong, among other things, is that he used such lurid language that the speech in which he … you[?] said that he “saw like the Roman.” He “saw the river Tiber foaming with much blood.”

EW: 1:22:39: And some of this was actually filmed, right?

DM: 1:22:41: Yes, some of it, not all of it. Anyhow, it did completely … captivated, galvanized, the debate. Dock workers and others marched, you know, “we’re with Enoch.” And others were disgusted by—The Times of London ran a leader column, calling it an “evil” speech. And there was something very, very off with it. And I concede this. You know, I …

EW: 1:23:05: But this is exactly why I think it’s fascinating. Because of the point that you earlier raised, which is that there’s something about the treatment with which something is touched …

One of my huge complaints about Trump is not that he does nothing right, but every right thing that he does, he touches with this Trump … thing … whatever it is, and—

DM: 1:23:27: Yes, and it, by the way, it’s a real problem, this, isn’t it? Because in a way, whenever anyone says, “Yes, it’s the tone I don’t like,” you think that’s the coward’s last refuge. (Very often.) It’s … you can’t counter the facts, you can’t counter [?], but you don’t like the tone. And yet, the conundrum of this is sometimes the tone does tell you an awful lot.

EW: 1:23:51: I think the tone sometimes is actually part of the content? And sometimes it isn’t. Right?

DM: 1:23:58: Right. Yup.

EW: 1:23:58: And so, you know, … One of the things that I struggle with is that I am expected, in most of my private life, to hate Trump for exactly the same reasons that everyone else in my group hates Trump. And I’m supposed to know that no credit can be given for any good thing that happens, because to the extent that someone makes the trains run on time and you acknowledge this, it just means that they have the opportunity to kill that many more of their opposition. Right? And so the idea that Trump … we were promised four … you know, fascism in the streets—it doesn’t appear to have happened wholesale. And then, you know, you get these refrains like, “Well, what about the detention centers? And the cages, and the children? And the …”

DM: 1:24:44: This is all … It does get back to the ’68 speech point, because … The conservative critique, by the way, of Powell was that he had made immigration and impossible-to-discuss subject for decades afterwards.

EW: 1:24:59: That’s the issue!

DM: 1:25:01: My late friend Roger Scruton wrote a very, very powerful essay 15 years ago or so, about the speech, titled “Should he have spoken?” Which is a very interesting, thoughtful, go-over of that question, which still, in a way, haunts Britain. And I think that maybe, whatever happens your election, maybe this will remain the case for some time with anything associated with Trump—that it will have this “Should he have said that?” …

EW: 1:25:35: Do you remember the dress?

DM: 1:25:37: Which one?

EW: 1:25:38: The one that was either black and blue or white and gold?

DM: 1:25:41: Oh yes. Yeah, yeah.

EW: 1:25:43: So the great danger is, is that almost everything has become the dress. And, you know, if I think about the Enoch Powell speech—because I’m not British, and because it doesn’t have the spell (like this is an example of something that casts a spell inside of the UK that is not felt in the US, right?) …

It’s very interesting, because there are shortcuts that you can take when talking about immigration. For example, I tend to talk about software, hardware and firmware. Right? Where, in essence, hardware is your genetics (this melanin content of this skin (which everyone seems to be so fascinated by at the moment (which I don’t believe))). Then there’s a question about the software, which is like, what do you think, what political party do you belong to? But there’s also this different issue of the firmware. Like, the operating system that rides on the hardware. And I’m very particular about firmware, and I’m almost indifferent to hardware. I don’t really care about … If you told me that there was an advanced European-like civilization in Uganda, where everyone was black but me, I would be far happier to live in that society—where the firmware was familiar and the hardware was foreign—then to live in a world in which the firmware got swapped out and everyone shared my exact genetics. Like, I really care about firmware nationalism. I don’t want hardware nationalism.

DM: 1:27:25: Yeah, absolutely. But one of the problems we have may well be going through is that … we can’t seem to cope with this.

EW: 1:27:37: Well, but, the reason I bring this up is that … I brought that up at a dinner with … I mean, I have this problem that I get along with conservatives and libertarians, even though I’m not in either group—

DM: 1:27:47: Well that’s because we’re still (if you don’t mind my saying so) that’s because we’re still willing to talk.

EW: 1:27:52: You’re still willing to talk for the moment?

DM: 1:27:55: Yes, it may be—

EW: 1:27:56: Well, no, no—it’s worse than that. So—

DM: 1:27:57: In America, it might be because the right feels that it’s also been winning. I mean, might be something to do with that. I don’t know.

EW: 1:28:03: Well, ‘winning’ is a complicated concept, because it’s multivariate: you’re losing in some places, you’re winning in others.

DM: 1:28:03: Of course.

EW: 1:28:09: And I think another reason is, is that a lot of the thinking left has been driven towards the right. So this is what I’ve referred to as “The Thinkquisition,” where, if the occupied left is Spain and the right is behaving as the Ottoman Empire (welcoming Jews who are a little bit under-the-gun), initially, you don’t see yourself as Ottoman, you see yourself as ‘displaced.’ Or, you know, what was De Gaulle doing in England? Was he being British? Or it was he … You know, I’m expected to love the Democratic Party, and I view it as like the Occupied Democrats or Vichy Democrats. I don’t know what it is. It’s been something for 28 years since Clinton.

DM: 1:28:53: But … as I said … I may be too flippant in saying this about the right, but go on with the …

EW: 1:28:59: Well what I was gonna say that this dinner, was that as soon as I started getting into this hardware/software/firmware, the call from the host came as, “Too complicated, Eric.” And I thought—

DM: 1:29:13: Do you think the host DID think it was too complicated? Or was trying to stop …

EW: 1:29:16: I think that it has to do with the fact that the host has an idea that this is that lefty stuff where you guys can’t say these words that the rest of us can say and circle around. Which is like … For example, if somebody were to say, at my table, “They’re taking our jobs,” I would get very upset.

DM: 1:29:36: Sure.

EW: 1:29:38: It doesn’t mean that I don’t know exactly what that person is saying. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t written a peer-reviewed paper that actually embodies what is meant by that phrase. But that phrase is a shortcut. And it won’t do for somebody on the left to say “they” (which is people who are more or less like me that don’t happen to hold my citizenship) taking “our” jobs (what do you mean “our” jobs? Did not have immigration before?)—like, there’s so much wrong with the statement, “They’re taking our jobs,” that I can’t get around the way the right might express that point. The right—to your earlier point that the right will taint this with a kind of jingoism, or a nationalism, or patriotism bordering on something less savory. And my feeling is: No, I would rather spend three pages and get it right, and show that it has nothing to do with xenophobia or jingoism …

DM: 1:30:45: Well, yes.

EW: 1:30:46: And the right’s point is, “That’s not going to win elections, dear boy.”

DM: 1:30:52: Yeah. Well, maybe part of the problem with this is that everyone is currently behaving as if they’re in permanent campaign mode …

EW: 1:31:00: Yes.

DM: 1:31:00: … when it’s not their bloody job. You know, I mean, this is what’s so infuriating (particularly in America) at the moment. It’s like: What do you think this dinner table is? Is it a place where friends congregate and we exchange ideas? Or is it some very some low-grade version of the VP debate?

EW: 1:31:20: Exactly. The quality of our relationships at the table are so much higher than the quality of our relationships with these things I call ‘creatures’ who have fused with their parties, or they fused with their institutions—it’s like cyborgs who’re no longer human, but part man, part machine, right? And so the issue of watching a family blow apart because of their adherence to two players they’ve never met, who hold points of view that they would never be able to get behind, …

DM: 1:31:55: This has to be fought. It has to be fought very hard, by everybody in their personal lives. I know it’s happened a certain amount in my own life. People have been willing to blow up what they should love most. For this bloody political game.

EW: 1:32:10: Well this is the … I would rather—

DM: 1:32:13: It has to be called out. Stopped. We’ve far too much tolerance [?]. I’ve noticed this in the last few weeks in America: every time I have sat down at a dinner table, (maybe I will lose the remaining friends I have, I’m not going to name any names)

EW: 1:32:25: Let’s just fuckin’ do it!

DM: 1:32:26: Okay. I’m not going to name any names. But. Every single time, in every city I’ve been to, that I’ve seen friends who are on the anti-Trump side, at some point in dinner they have lost it at somebody else at the table. I, as you know, high on disagree—

EW: 1:32:44: Now, I will point out that you came to our Shabbat dinner, recently. So … [in jest] you HAVE used the word ‘every,’ sir!

DM: 1:32:55: I think it was the day after Shabbat [?]

EW: 1:32:57: [laughing]

DM: 1:32:58: But I think … I think that holds.

EW: 1:33:01: Oh, yes, I guess it was after Shabbat.

DM: 1:33:03: Yeah, but my POINT holds.

EW: 1:33:04: Well, but … My wife and I started going into various disagreements—we’re both on the same side of the aisle, and we still don’t hear the world the same way.

DM: 1:33:12: Exactly. I forgot—how embarrassing to say that and to have forgotten that it was …

EW: 1:33:17: [simultaneous] It was so clever that you would bring it up in this way, and then …

DM: 1:33:19: … your table was one of the tables at which it happened.

EW: 1:33:21: Exactly!

DM: 1:33:23: [laughing]

EW: 1:33:24: [low voice] Damn you, Douglas!

DM: 1:33:25: As you know, I am high on disagreeability in public and highly agreeable in private.

EW: 1:33:31: I found that most disappointing.

DM: 1:33:33: I’m sorry about that. I can’t … I actually do have a pacifying instinct around the dinner table, because I don’t want that stuff.

EW: 1:33:41: I think it’s completely logical that you would be that way.

DM: 1:33:43: Right. I’m glad to hear that.

I’m just … incredibly struck by it on this visit. And I’m worried by it. And I—

EW: 1:33:53: It’s destroying all of our relationships!

DM: 1:33:54: Exactly. I dislike it. I genuinely … I like discussion in private, as in public, which involves people saying what they think and somebody else saying, “That’s interesting. Why do you think that?” on ALMOST any issue. Now, it’s true that there are occasions where somebody might say something SO reprehensible, that you say, “You know what? I just don’t think I want to be part of this.”

EW: 1:34:18: Well, that’s true.

DM: 1:34:20: Very, very rarely. Well, I can think of … I can think of maybe one or two occasions it’s happened in my life.

EW: 1:34:30: That’s extraordinary.

DM: 1:34:32: But I am not up for people blowing up every time they sit down over a meal in order to fight something over which they care more than they need to.

EW: 1:34:46: Well let me try to steelman the perspective of those who are blowing up, so that we can at least play with it.

DM: 1:34:54: Sure.

EW: 1:34:56: I believe, at the moment, that we are about to make decisions that may destroy our societies.

DM: 1:35:02: Mm-hmm.

EW: 1:35:02: I don’t think that it’s assured that the US and the UK are going to go on indefinitely, given where we are at the moment. And it’s a very strange thing to say. Because whatever it is that we’re suffering from, is a subtle thing. It’s not. If I look visually at the world, there’s no reason that we should be about to implode. But clearly, there’s a lot of indication that the visual is not matching where we are. Okay?

So if you imagine that this is actually weirdly life-and-death for people—for countries, for nations, for ideas—I do think that the stakes are extraordinarily high. To your point about what you’ve called ‘the snowplow’ earlier in our conversation: I’ve talked about this as the A-frame roof where you’re trying to dance at the top, and that it gets more and more peaked, and therefore—

DM: 1:35:48: It’s exactly the same thing the other way around.

EW: 1:35:49: It’s exactly the same thing. Okay. In that circumstance, the problem is that the places for people to collect are now so unthinkable. Like, you know, the old dirty little secret of immigration in the past was that the two positions that matter not at all are open and closed borders, because that doesn’t happen. But because the public is somehow trying to conduct this conversation, and these are the natural Schelling points—which is like, I know how to say “no restrictions,” and I know how to say “full restrictions,” I don’t know how to say, “I want these 36 pages of code implemented with this shifting priority in point space[?]” and all that kind of stuff. So in general, the more of us that have gotten involved in a discussion like immigration (on Twitter, or something to that effect), we find ourselves discussing nonsensical (traditionally nonsensical) positions. And therefore, we’re terrified of each other, because somebody says, “I don’t understand why we have to have borders. No people are illegal.” And the other person says, you know, “God, grit, and guns made America great.” And what kind of conversation is that? It’s no kind of conversation at all.

DM: 1:35:53: It is suboptimal.

EW: 1:37:10: Well it’s a child’s conversation of two dystopias, neither of which should ever happen.

DM: 1:37:18: One point (before the point I want to make): we have actually seen … Again, it’s one of these things: maybe 2020 is a year where we, among other things, notice things that we don’t talk about at the time.

EW: 1:37:30: Okay.

DM: 1:37:31: Sorry. There is a total ban—I’m going to give you an exception, of course. There’s a total ban on my countrymen coming to this country, at the moment. Instituted by the President.

EW: 1:37:41: Yes.

DM: 1:37:41: Did you think that would ever happen in your lifetime?

EW: 1:37:42: No.

DM: 1:37:43: No. Right.

EW: 1:37:45: I should say I was shocked when we locked Charlie Chaplin out of the United States on a visit home. But and I was shocked when we locked Paul Robson and Linus Pauling INTO the country. So anything of this … Like, I’ve noticed these kinds of behaviors in the past.

DM: 1:38:01: Okay. But … Obviously, here I’ve managed[?] to get an exemption on journalistic grounds for being in the States. So there are exceptions. But. I’ve done, to this point … When you say that that’s a totally unfeasible scenario—that we are dealing with two extremes, neither of which are workable—I just would add, the visuals are otherwise, at the moment. I mean, I have, when I first saw—

EW: 1:38:24: Your presence … The fact that there are exceptions … I’m not saying we[?] can’t tilt, temporarily, towards great restrictionism …

DM: 1:38:31: Okay, okay. Temporarily. Yes, ok. Temporarily.

EW: 1:38:33: Even the ‘temporarily’ … You know, during the Chinese Exclusion Act and other things we’re not so proud of in this country … You know, there’s a long period between (what was it) like, the McCarran Act would have been like the 50s, the Immigration … the great change was 1965 …

DM: 1:38:53: I’m not saying … I mean … My point is that, certainly, in the short-to-medium term, it’s possible. Some things are possible we thought were not possible. I never thought I would see Justin Trudeau announcing that no foreigners will be allowed into Canada [?].

EW: 1:39:07: Yes.

DM: 1:39:08: Okay. So these things have happened this year. People have noted them. They’re not completely insane things anymore. And one of the things we’re going to have to dance with going forward is that memory.

EW: 1:39:21: Well, so, for example—

DM: 1:39:22: On a range of things.

EW: 1:39:23: The Seattle exclusion … Capitol Hill Exclusion Zone.

DM: 1:39:26: Absolutely.

EW: 1:39:26: What the heck was that? Now …

DM: 1:39:29: That could all happen, and did happen, this year. And we haven’t …

EW: 1:39:34: Although it un-happened almost as quickly as it could happen.

DM: 1:39:38: Happily so, but …

EW: 1:39:39: Portland went on for a bit longer.

DM: 1:39:41: Yeah. Still going on.

But just to return to, as it were, the steelmanning point, which you make. I’m very glad you raise that, because it’s been on my mind since I’ve been here, and one of the things that I’ve thought would be [?]. As far as I can see it, my left wing friends in America (and never-Trumper friends) have a basis that is totally understandable. Which is something like, “How could we ever forgive anyone who allowed this man to be in power?”

EW: 1:40:19: You find this understandable?

DM: 1:40:21: Yes.

EW: 1:40:22: Oh my gosh,

DM: 1:40:23: Yeah, I do.

EW: 1:40:24: Wow.

DM: 1:40:24: I don’t sympathize with it.

EW: 1:40:27: I feel like we, the left, elected him. [crosstalk] And I was so angry. Well I’m just … This is something which I don’t understand at all. Because my feeling is … Donald Trump couldn’t have been elected without the Clintons.

DM: 1:40:43: Sure. Of course, of course. I go along with all of this. I’m saying that, if I was to steelman what the left[?] think about this, it’s saying, “How did you allow this man—with these reprehensible character traits, and so on—to be able to get to the highest office in the land?” And they blame the right for that. They blame everyone who voted for him. And what’s more, they’ve come to blame everybody who expresses any, as they see, ideological cover for his position. For instance, I believe … I have written this—I’ve very, very rarely written about Trump in recent years, because I find it fundamentally not as interesting as everyone else in the world does. And I think it’s very hard…

EW: 1:41:19: Right with you, sir.

DM: 1:41:20: … And I don’t think it’s possible to say anything very new. And when people say to me occasionally—

EW: 1:41:23: One of the greatest risks of the next administration (should Donald Trump managed to find his way into office again), is the intellectual opportunity cost of discussing nothing else for four years.

DM: 1:41:34: Absolutely. And it’s happened to too many of my friends and colleagues.

EW: 1:41:38: Sorry, I was … stepping on your words.

DM: 1:41:39: But the point with this is, is that they have decided that everybody who … I wrote once recently … I broke my own rule, because the Trump administration is trying to do a trade deal with the United Kingdom (my own country) where we have (my country) are struggling to arrange a trade deal with the European Union. It’s VERY suboptimal for my country to be in a position where we didn’t have a trade deal either with the EU or the US. The Democratic Party have made a very unpleasant threats to my country about a trade deal. Nancy Pelosi, in her unbelievable ignorance, unfathomable ignorance and rudeness to my country, has—

EW: 1:41:43: We’ll see if you can get me to stand up for Nancy Pelosi; this will be interesting.

DM: 1:42:25: … has threatened the United Kingdom because she believes that an element of the withdrawal agreement from the EU of the UK … (This more than many listeners will … I’ll do this fast.) She and some Democrats believe that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU puts in ultimate, complete danger, the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that brought to an end the very violent and awful hostilities that had gone on for 30 years in Northern Ireland. Several Democrat senators signed a letter threatening the UK with this. It’s a misunderstanding of the facts, in my opinion (other people contest that obviously, but I believe that it’s a misunderstanding of the facts). Several Democrat centers signed a letter saying that the UK should … will not have a trade deal with the US if we withdraw from the EU in this manner. This is a complete trap for my country. And Nancy Pelosi, very virulently and unpleasantly, the other week, stood up and repeated that same claim.

One little addendum to that to anyone who thinks I’m somewhat … too fixated on this point: The signatories of the letter included members of your governing class who, for 30 years, supported their IRA (the Irish Republican Army) when they were killing people in my country—putting bombs in pubs; shooting farmers in the back of their head because they were from the wrong confessional class, in their view; carrying out the most brutal massacres on the mainland of the UK and in Northern Ireland. And who did this for years with the support of people in power in this country. And this country (as I’m sitting in America—I’m very pleased to be sitting here) allowed NORAID[?] and others to raise money for these barbarians to carry out these acts of violence. And the fact that people who gave cover for the IRA for years now are threatening the UK … Now they’re not all Democrats. Okay. But this is a threat of violent people … is using violent people for a political purpose, down the road, to threaten another country, over a trade deal. I put that out there and [?].

On the other hand, the Trump administration has been trying to get a trade deal with the UK. Okay. So, to that extent, I believe that the Trump administration is better for the UK, in trade terms, than the Biden administration would be. When I say that, it’s … And if I say that at an American dinner table these days, I will be accused of having given cover to Donald Trump, of agreeing with every character trait, of personally wanted to grab every pussy I can, and much more. And that’s the breakdown of the situation.

EW: 1:45:22: By ‘pussy,’ I should say that Douglas actually means ‘cowards.’ Correct?

DM: 1:45:27: Very much so.

EW: 1:45:28: Absolutely.

DM: 1:45:29: Very much. And in a very real sense. And I …

EW: 1:45:36: Douglas,

DM: 1:45:36: … this is part of the problem.

EW: 1:45:38: Well, it’s … You have to train people properly. You have to say something to the effect of, “Did Hitler do nothing right?” Right? And then they’re like, “What are you talking— [mumbling]?” Then you have to say, “Well, do you think that the Nazis were wrong to buckle to the Rosenstrasse protest and return partially Jewish men to their non-Jewish wives out of the concentration camps? Or would you have preferred that they’d send those people to the death as well?” And it’s like, “Well, that’s an absurd, blah, blah, blah.”

And then you start to realize that this has to do, not at all with the intellectual point, but with party discipline. The key point is we’ve all agreed, as if there … and I want to get to this point. I feel like there was a conference that none of us were invited to that came to some very strong conclusions, and they’ve all circulated this list of correct answers. Like, we’ve decided that Donald Trump is odious, and every good thing that he does must be made into a bad thing so that there is no break in party discipline. Now, I wasn’t at this conference. So when I hear that there’s a peace deal in the Middle East. I say, “Okay, that’s pretty good.”

DM: 1:46:45: That’s good.

EW: 1:46:46: Yeah, it’s good. But I was like, “No, you can’t do that!” Well, that is such intellectual poison, …

DM: 1:46:53: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s poisoned everyone. Can I give another example? So I favor anecdotal—Sometimes [?] you probably know, but … this is one that’s been on my mind a lot. A couple years ago, I was invited to … (I don’t boast that I’m invited to things you’re not, Eric. I’d hate to give you FOMO in 2020.) But—

EW: 1:47:13: [?] to be invited to other than a zoom call. Go ahead.

DM: 1:47:17: [laughing] I was invited to dinner in London, which really did comprise … I don’t believe in the term ‘the establishment’—I find it lazy, and there are multiple establishments at any one time, and …

EW: 1:47:29: Conjunction alert.

DM: 1:47:30: Yeah.

EW: 1:47:31: But … [laughs]

DM: 1:47:32: But. I was … It was really a dinner of people who I really would regard as the establishment. In multiple areas of public life—very distinguished figures. And, for some reason, me (as a sort of grit in the oyster). Anyhow, everyone was asked to go around the table and say what they thought (this is like two years ago)—

EW: 1:47:52: You just referred to yourself as a pearl in waiting.

DM: 1:47:55: I did. Oh, yeah, that was, that was …

EW: 1:47:57: Interesting.

DM: 1:47:58: Oh dear.

EW: 1:47:58: Uncharacteristically self-kind.

DM: 1:48:01: I didn’t mean it that way.

EW: 1:48:03: [laughing]

DM: 1:48:04: Anyhow. I was … I meant ‘the grit in the soup,’ or something like that, didn’t I?

Anyhow, the point is, is that we were … they went around the table, everyone to explain what they thought the long- and short-term threats to the country were. And everybody did the same thing. Everybody in the room talked about how Brexit and Trump were the biggest problems we faced, because they had unleashed populism. And that, therefore everything must be done to stop Brexit and Trump. The very, very few people who applied themselves to the long-term question AT ALL (and almost nobody did), said that probably long-term the largest challenge was China. And they got to me and I said, I’d rather not speak. I’d wait. And the very end of the evening, the host said, “Douglas, you know, you’ve been uncharacteristically silent, and that’s usually a worrying sign. What do you think?” And I said, “You’re all mad. You’re completely mad.” And among much other madness, you’ve decided that the general public (the majority of the public) must be warred against.

I mean, I know there’s a dispute about electoral procedure here (of the voting … the majority)—

EW: 1:49:34: No, but we … don’t like ourselves.

DM: 1:49:36: Right. But I mean, like, … In my country, when the majority of the vote public—when 52% of the public votes for something[?] … don’t go against the majority of the public, if you, you know, are in a position of—

EW: 1:49:46: But you were supposed to be trick into a United States of Europe, involving the UK.

DM: 1:49:50: That’s right. And the public said “No.”

EW: 1:49:52: The public said “No.”

DM: 1:49:53: No. Absolutely.

EW: 1:49:54: How can you not agree to be tricked into a United States of Europe?

DM: 1:49:56: Right. And in my own view, whatever the concept … Just don’t war on the general public. And, and if it is … The larger thing was that I said, “It makes no sense that you would … that in the long-term you identify (I think correctly) the geostrategic and financial competitor—the ONLY one that’s a competitor to the United States and is likely to overtake it in our lifetimes—nobody else is. You identify this (and this is before the Wuhan business) you correctly identify that, but you have decided that although that is your long-term threat, your short-term task is to—among other things—take out the only elected official who has shown any desire to deal with the long-term threat. Now, inadequately, with bluster, and much more. But how is that a strategy?

Assuming that many of the people who came to your dinner arrived in luxury automobiles …

Oh, yeah, for sure.

EW: 1:50:47: … what percentage of those luxury automobiles were purchased by funds that involved China in one way or another?

DM: 1:51:12: Oh, well, that’s …

EW: 1:51:13: … And so the problem is, I know that my pusher is going to end up killing me, but if I pick up arms against my pusher, I might not get my fix.

DM: 1:51:22: I’ve been reading that book, The Hidden Hand, which was about Chinese infiltration in the West. It’s a very interesting book, filled with facts, and not by any means nuts. And yes, I share this suspicion about a number of people around the table that night. And some of its proven, and, you know, …

EW: 1:51:44: You know my aphorism that the … I should standardize it, I guess, but … That the idealism of every age is the cover story of a major theft?

DM: 1:51:56: Yes, yes.

EW: 1:51:57: So my concern is that the Davos idealism was the cover story of a theft—inside of advanced, developed countries—of its elite, from the streams that would normally go to its workers. And so the key problem is that you have to intimidate the workers to think that the GDP—which is not being distributed to them particularly well—is somehow serving their interests because it is going to the country. So as long as a financial group, you know, …

DM: 1:52:36: Yeah, yeah.

EW: 1:52:36: … in the city of London is doing well, then the idea is that is unpatriotic to fight this global agenda.

And I think that, in part, one of the next idealisms that was supposed to follow the Davos idealism was the actual dissolution of national identity in a much more aggressive fashion. That multiculturalism is when you still can say what distinct cultures are. But when you’ve thrown all the cultures together, and you can’t say what anything actually is, everyone is a mutt, there is no distinguishing aspect …

DM: 1:53:11: Yeah, yeah. Well, that was all meant to make conflict impossible (among much else).

EW: 1:53:16: The …?

DM: 1:53:16: The melding together. One of—

EW: 1:53:19: The United States of Europe, I think, was a post World War II concern in which you had to trick people, first, into fiscal or financial union without political union, then you had to create a secondary financial crisis, because people would not have the ability, as long as the common currency was present, to inflate their debts away. And then you would force, effectively, a Teutonic … an Anglo-Teutonic state into being.

DM: 1:53:51: Yes. There are[?] people for whom the answer was always “more Europe” …

EW: 1:53:54: Right.

DM: 1:53:54: … [?] happened. Which is, again, what the public in Britain resisted.

EW: 1:54:01: Now, my problem is, is that I actually love the individual constituents of Europe.

DM: 1:54:05: Yeah, I know, I know. But yes, but the thing was undoubtedly conceived as an answer to war.

EW: 1:54:13: Well, this is the thing, that Europe went from being the most dangerous hotspot in the world to a Disneyland for American tourists looking to have a few weeks, you know, on a EuroRail pass.

DM: 1:54:25: Yeah, there’s a very funny—one of his less read novels—Michel Houellebecq’s, La Carte et le Territoire. The map and the territory? It is sort of setting in a not-very-far-off Europe in which, you know, it’s just simply Disneyland for Chinese tourists. And it’s worryingly close to the bone.

But anyway, the point is that, in all of this, we are obviously missing … This is my main reason for not writing and wanting to talk much about Trump and Brexit and so on. Because I feel like this … It’s all important. It’s very important. But it’s not as important as the things we’re missing.

EW: 1:55:08: Well, this is exactly my problem. And this goes back to this conversation I was recalling for you in the interregnum between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration in 2017, I found myself at a dinner with Sam Harris and Dave Rubin. And Sam was talking about how terrible Trump was and how it was important to call him out on his nonsense. And I said to Sam, “If Trump creates three nested ambiguities, you’ll have two-to-the-third or eight different possible legs of a decision tree as people try to figure out which way each of them went.” And I said, “At that rate, you have to come up with eight different responses when he only had to issue three weird statements. If you keep that up all through a Trump presidency, you will do nothing else. You’re going to have to get out of the Trump call-out business.”

DM: 1:56:08: Yeah.

EW: 1:56:08: And he said, “What’s your solution?” I said, “I’m going to say once at the beginning, that I view Trump to be an existential risk to the to the soul of America. And that …” (By the way, I never said whether I viewed the Democratic Party to be an existential risk, which I think that it was so long as it continued in its kleptocracy and it’s nonsense, but that it could reverse itself. Whereas I see Trump as being unable to change who he is—this is what he is, this is what he does, for both good and bad.

And that’s what I’ve done for, for this presidency, which is that mostly, I’ve spent my time calling out the left so that the left can beat Trump from a meaningful, rather than a kleptocratic, perspective. But you know, the thing that I posted the other day on Twitter was video of a warthog that was still alive, being fought over by a leopard and hyena. And I thought, “Why would the warthog want to express a preference as to whether to be eaten by a hyena or a warthog?” Yes, you know, maybe the leopard is elegant and the hyena distasteful. But I’m trying to think of, how do I get rid of a leopard leopard and a hyena together? You know? It’s … I find this of no interest, because neither of these things …

DM: 1:57:25: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EW: 1:57:25: The only importance is, does this buy me a little bit of extra time and room to escape?

DM: 1:57:32: Yes.

EW: 1:57:33: And the thing about about Brexit is, this is the repudiation of an ideology that was the cover story of a theft—the theft is being fought. And people don’t know how to fight the theft—they don’t know who picked their pockets and how. These people we call the elite don’t appear to be extremely productive. They don’t appear to be extremely intelligent—in fact, they say all sorts of stupid things. But what they are is a triumph of sharp elbows over sharp minds. And that is mysterious, because we don’t know how they sign their pieces of paper; We don’t know what their words mean; We don’t know where they meet.

DM: 1:58:10: And we also now can … they’re more transparent than they’ve ever been. And that’s … I often said that the point at which you really go off a person isn’t necessarily when you dislike something about them. It’s when you see through them. And with institutions, it’s the same.

EW: 1:58:36: Yeah.

DM: 1:58:36: An institution can be quite dislikable. In fact, most are, in some ways. Visa agencies, border agencies, every institution has got dislikable things. The problem is when you see through it. And with a set of our authority figures, the set of our elites, as it were: we see through them now.

EW: 1:58:58: Do we?

DM: 1:58:59: Well, a growing number of us can.

EW: 1:59:02: I’m confused about this. If I think about unprecedented access that, for example, Prince Andrew gave in that unbelievable interview. Was that transparent? Or was that opaque? What was I even looking at? That was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in my life. I had the feeling that I was able to see—because the cameras were present; the reporter was present; she asked exactly the questions I would have expected her to ask. The performance was so baffling to me that I realized that there was no way I had of processing what I was watching.

DM: 1:59:38: I didn’t have that. I thought it was transparent.

EW: 1:59:41: Tell me what you saw. Because this is … It’s very strange to me that this issue of the dress crops up absolutely everywhere. We can’t agree on what we’ve seen, even though we watched the same footage.

DM: 1:59:52: Can I back up and say it’s worse than that?

EW: 1:59:55: Please.

DM: 1:59:56: Yes. The one that’s on my mind (which I haven’t been swayed people to pay attention to), is a version of your dress idea. But the one that I just couldn’t get people to focus on was what happened a couple of years ago at Chemnitz (a town in Germany), where there was … a video went online, posted an alleged antifa account (that was new). A Twitter account posted a video of what appeared to be white German males running after some immigrant-looking men across a highway. And this was released with the caption saying that this was a migrant hunt. Now, Chemnitz, at that point, was a rather tricky situation, because of a migrant had killed a local [?], and there was a lot of ill-feeling, and it could easily be whipped up by unpleasant actors (from every side).

The video went [snaps fingers] like that. That day, the Chancellor made a statement on the video—that we cannot live in a country where migrants are hunted right (and so on). The head of the domestic intelligence service in Germany (Hans-Georg Maassen) said, publicly, “The video doesn’t show that. This isn’t the video.” Now, his dispute over exactly what went on—he ended up being relieved of his position, was saved by another member the Merkel government into another position, then not able to take that up.

This a very, very important case.

EW: 2:01:44: Okay.

DM: 2:01:45: Because I can’t think of another example [?] even here in America, where it’s been as clear as that. First of all, where all these people who care about infiltration and foreign interference and all these sort of things? Like, where did this Twitter account come from? And in whose interest was it that this video should emerge? And have you ever seen the stakes that high that the chancellor and the head of the intelligence service disagree on video’s contents? These stakes are WILDLY higher than people realize.

EW: 2:02:18: Have you seen the body cam footage of the George Floyd arrest?

DM: 2:02:22: Yeah, I saw a bit of it. Yeah.

EW: 2:02:24: That’s a big problem, because the narrative that got established in order to justify why suddenly people were gathering in large numbers when everybody had been on lockdown … There’s this weird thing that—what I’ve called the gated institutional narrative (or “GIN”) … in general used to know what it wanted to say before the facts came in. The narrative arcs were established. And occasionally, you’d get a surprise move. And so I had … I think I said that there were three in my lifetime at some point … where the the GIN broke in a big way. So, like, you had old situations like the fall of Najibullah, where, in a far off land, there was a small problem; or there was one (I forget what his name was) … Camerata? In Venezuela, was like president for a day, or something. Because there was probably a CIA sponsored coup that didn’t work out.

So there’s small interruptions in the GIN. But the big ones were September 11th. The crash … the fall of Lehman Brothers. And the … what was my other one, I can’t even remember. But then, like—

DM: 2:03:41: Jeffrey Epstein.

EW: 2:03:42: The election of Donald Trump, and then became Jeffrey Epstein and his death. In 2020, the narrative can’t keep up. In general. COVID broken the narrative.

DM: 2:03:54: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EW: 2:03:54: So the number of arrivals of truly surprising things where the GIN doesn’t know what to say is fantastic in its acceleration.

DM: 2:04:06: Yeah. Well … the Floyd killing … As often [?] as an outsider of this country, obviously, you can’t help noticing it: What about the, the non-white policeman involved (standing there)?

EW: 2:04:25: I don’t think that that has … Well. In a previous … I do these audio essays in front of a lot of the releases that I do. One of which I did was a five word law for the modern era of social media. And there are these two things that are very similar five word laws, but there’s McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” and there’s Say’s Law from economics, “supply creates its own demand.” So what I claimed is that “optics creates its own substance.”

The importance of The George Floyd killing or death, however you see it, is that it was optically perfect as a lynching provided you didn’t ask hard questions. To give up an optical lynching caught on video, simply because there are mitigating and complicating and confounding variables, was not possible because, in fact, in a weird sense, you have a very strong belief that there’s prejudice and bigotry that seldom lends itself to simple description. Finally, we’ve got one.

DM: 2:05:38: Finally we’ve got one.

EW: 2:05:39: And then the idea is if it’s optically perfect, and that creates its own substance, that is the minds of many people agree that this is officer Derek C and his knee on this neck caused this death through prejudice and bigotry. Then the Tony tempa killing in Dallas can’t … That violates the rule—that would complicate the optics,

DM: 2:06:04: This … All of it reminds me of this, what we discussed at the beginning, with the COVID thing. Because the problem with thinking one’s way through this era is, above everything[?] else, needing to know everything about the event, and trying not to know everything about the event. Because if you have to find out everything every time, then we the opportunity cost is too great. It goes back to this thing. But it’s worth doing when you believe that it is a revealing of the GIN narratives break. And the one that always occurs to me, about this country, is the number of times that we’re asked not to notice that, you know, an alleged white supremacist or racist killing is carried out by law enforcement in a bewilderingly diverse law enforcement situation, in cities where the head of police is black, the mayor is black, the senator is black, representatives in Congress are black.

EW: 2:07:00: Internalized racism.

DM: 2:07:00: … where … You know, everybody in the system—

EW: 2:07:05: The optics must be saved.

DM: 2:07:06: The optics have to be saved. And we still have to pretend, despite the fact that almost everybody in the system is black, …

EW: 2:07:11: [simultaneous] It’s intolerable.

DM: 2:07:11: … that it is a white supremacist killing.

EW: 2:07:13: It is intolerable.

DM: 2:07:14: Right. And … The thing that links it to the COVID thing is, the thing that it’s the same problem going on is, I don’t want to be made into one of those people who says “white supremacy doesn’t exist,” or “bigotry doesn’t exist,” or “racism doesn’t exist,” or “I don’t think the police in America have problems with race.”

Well, I got out of this by claiming that there is a bigotry shortage—that the amount of the anti-bigotry machinery that’s ginned up and the number of out-and-out bigots that exist are mismatched.

Of course. I describe this as the supply and demand problem in fascism in our society.

EW: 2:07:50: Absolutely.

DM: 2:07:51: Massive demand, small[?] supply.

EW: 2:07:52: We know exactly what to do if we have an actual fascist. Now where will we find one?

DM: 2:07:56: We make them world famous? We make them absolutely—

EW: 2:08:01: Well, this is why Richard Spencer is such an oddity,

DM: 2:08:04: David Duke, wheeled out every four years as if he’s a major political figure.

EW: 2:08:07: Yes! Well, but what otherwise … What will the Southern Poverty Law Center do?

DM: 2:08:13: Absolutely. It’s got gazillions of dollars to do nothing but libel people.

EW: 2:08:18: Our friends.

DM: 2:08:19: Including our friends.

EW: 2:08:20: I know

DM: 2:08:21: Here’s to that victory measured.

EW: 2:08:23: Yeah.

DM: 2:08:24: Yeah, occasionally our friends take large amounts of money off these bastards.

EW: 2:08:27: Yeah.

DM: 0:00 But yeah … this … So here’s where we’re pushed to. We’re pushed to a situation where we notice these things, but the thing you’re pushed into, is to say, “I think you’re chasing dragons.” And then any sensible person has this knowledge that, although dragons may not exist, nasty things do. And you wouldn’t want to be caught holding your dick when that comes out. And it’s the same—It’s like the COVID thing. It seems to me intolerable to sustain the narrative that our governments have had about the virus, yet you don’t want to be stuck in the position you’re being put into, because you don’t want the gods to come down and slay one of your nearest and dearest.

EW: 0:54 It’s very frustrating. To—just to riff off that analogy, the fact that large venomous monitor lizards exist … They clearly do. And if I get too emphatic about saying that there are no dragons, I may say there no Komodo dragons. And if I do that, then I’m getting it wrong. And I’m tempted to do that every four seconds, because I don’t believe that the Ku Klux Klan has taken over the United States; I don’t believe that Jim Crow is going—I don’t believe that every day, every black person in America gets up realizing that today they’re likely to die at the hands of law enforcement. And what I’ve claimed, previously, is that the people who claim that there’s no link between Islam and terror are people who have no close Muslim friends, because that’s what’s discussed at Muslim dinner tables. The people who are so worried about Black Lives Matter are very often without close black friends, because, quite frankly, there’s a huge dispute inside black America as to whether or not, you know, as some black friends of ours have said, it’s a white cult.

There is this very strong sense that those of us who have actually imbibed multiculturalism and diversity within our friend group are looking at these manias and these social panics and are saying, “Doesn’t anyone know any actual women, blacks, Jews, conservatives, …” Like, we’re forming these impressions of large groups of people as if they are something other than what they are.

DM: 2:36 Yes, and we, and [inaudible] we’re being fed divisive and untrue stories.

EW: 2:42 Well, so this is what I want to get into about the what I’ve called the “Iago media” and “Iago institutions,” from the Othello character who deranges a pair of lovebirds into a murderous frenzy. What do we do to stop this Iago effect? Particularly within American media, where we have all of these legacy groups—whether it’s Southern Poverty Law Center as a previously terrific institution that … seeking to do good work or journalistic … they get taken over by this need to earn their keep by publishing crazy nonsense.

And we’re gonna lose the court system—I don’t think it’s going to be POSSIBLE for Majid Nawaz to win judgments in future … Like, we have a jury system. And if this Critical Race Theory continues apace, we are not going to be able to impanel juries.

DM: 3:43 Yeah. Yeah. Well, I keep giving you things which I’m saying I don’t think we have a term for, but I wish we did. Let me do another one. I’ve become acutely aware, in recent years, of the fact that there needs to be a term for a thing that is inaccurate and wrong, but which somebody believes so sincerely, because of the information they’ve downloaded throughout their lives, that you are not able to reason them out of it at this stage.

Let me give a very quick example. It happened in my own country (I really want to bang on about Brexit; let me do it very quickly). It happened in my own country after 2016 when I discovered there were really people in my country who did believe that membership of the EU and withdrawal from the EU meant we were leaving Europe. We would no longer be able to listen to German leader; we would no longer be able to visit Paris; we wouldn’t be able to eat Italian food; we would …

EW: 4:47 Couldn’t cross the channel because it was gonna get wider.

DM: 4:49 … be stuck in this inward looking windy island. Forever.

EW: 4:54 … which can’t grow any grapes for wine.

DM: 4:58 You can, actually.

EW: 4:59 Barely. It’s pretty marginal.

DM: 5:01 My wine grove[?] friends in Britain would kill me if I allowed you to get away with this slur.

Let me just say that this I hadn’t thought of before. I really hadn’t at all contended with …

EW: 5:13 That it was that deeply held.[?]

DM: 5:13 … [?] it was that deep. You know, people like me said, “What are you talking about the EU and Europe are not the same thing. We will still go there; we will still learn the languages—if we have any sense and, and ambition to do so; we will still imbibe the culture; will still read the books. What are you talking about!? You think I’m not gonna listen to continental music? You think I simply want to listen to English folk song and do Morris dancing? You really think that’s the point of this exercise?”

But, you discover, in vain do you make this argument. Primarily because the job had been very well done—for a generation, on a generation—so that younger people, in particular, did believe these two things were completely tied up. Because they had been throughout their lives. And I realized it was exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, at this stage to divorce these two things.

Now, what if one of the things that’s going on in your country at the moment (and to a lesser extent in mine) is the same thing in relation to race? (In particular, I mean, other things as well. But …)

Allow me to give a couple of examples. When the great soprano Jesse Norman died earlier this year, it’s announced in the BBC front page as … basically the spin of the story is, Jesse Norman was a soprano who sang opera despite being black. And, you know, she was very unusual in the opera world, obviously, because, you know … And … I mean, I grew up listening to Jesse Norman, among other sopranos—saw her sing, saw her perform[?] … And I just read this obituary, and I thought, you’re trying to change our memories.

EW: 6:20 Yes.

DM: 6:26 Herbert von Karajan recorded Wagner with her in the 1970s. If that’s possible, you don’t get to pull the shit on me in 2020. You don’t get to rewrite the past. Now the problem with this is that most of this is less provable. Can I do another example? (A really, really boring one.)

EW: 7:21 No, no, I insist.

DM: 7:22 When I grew up, BBC children’s television (in the 1980s) … the presenter was a rather camp black man (who’s still on television) called Andy Peters. (This is the first time his name has been mentioned on this podcast. I’m shocked that you don’t know him!)

EW: 7:39 Sorry.

DM: 7:40 And the evening news was read by Moira Stewart on the BBC. And on ITV it was sir Trevor McDonald. Now, these people have retired. I am currently being encouraged to pretend that when I was growing up, the BBC children’s presenter was not black; the evening news on the BBC was not a black woman; when you turned over to the other channel to watch evening news, it wasn’t a black man who was knighted reading the evening news.

Now, I’m irritated by this—sometimes infuriated by it—because they’re trying to rewrite my memory of the recent past. But I have to accept, at some level, that if you are 20 years younger than me, and you’re at university, and you’re being told you live in a white supremacist society … Nothing remembers these people. There’s no institutional memory of them, because our institutions don’t have any memory. The culture doesn’t have a memory that goes back more than a few hours. And so everyone is being rewired. And we ha—And at some point, we are all going to have to contend with (maybe we already are) … people you cannot shift, because all of their reference points and all of their memory has been changed. And I don’t know how we deal with this.

EW: 9:04 Have you seen this done in real time as opposed to historically?

DM: 9:10 Well it feels like real time because it’s happened in my lifetime.

EW: 9:12 No, I mean, where you’re looking … Well …

Let me give you a famous example from the US (I don’t know whether you know it). Have you ever heard of the Dean scream? This is a good one for you. Howard Dean was running—

DM: 9:18 Oh, yeah! Yeah, of course.

EW: 9:27 Yeah, yeah, yeah. I believe he was in Iowa and he place, something like, third. And so he has to give this rousing speech. And he says [politician speech voice] “If, you know, if you told me we got to—we’d give [incomprehensible] to place third. And you know what we’re doing next? We’re going to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Texas and California and Idaho. And then we’re going to Washington DC. [Dean scream].” Okay.

[laughing] Yes, I remember, I’ve seen it.

Nothing happened. It was a total non-event.

DM: 9:58 Right.

EW: 9:59 It was a total non-event. And every talking head got on TV and said, [smooth anchor voice] “In a surprising and bizarre meltdown, Howard Dean, today, addressed supporters appearing momentarily to lose it onstage in a crowded room.” And with that weird voice [smooth anchor voice] “controversial politician, Howard Dean …”

DM: 10:18 Controversial.

EW: 10:20 Adjective, job description, proper name. [crosstalk] Controversial podcaster, Eric Weinstein. Controversial podcast guest, Douglas Murray.

DM: 10:31 Oh, yeah, no, they’ve done that to me recently. When I was on Joe Rogan, recently, Joe said something which was—some people say it’s accurate, some people say inaccurate—about setting fires. It became a huge thing because of Joe’s deal with Spotify, and everyone reported it. And I noticed these various American magazines and papers are just delighted to think they’ve caught Joe slipping up. (And Joe apologized, by the way.) And these papers said, “He was on[?] with controversial writer Douglas Murray.”

“Far right figure, Douglas Murray.”

No, they don’t put “far right” or I’d have sued their asses. But ‘controversial’ they can get away with. Excuse me?

EW: 11:11 Well, you saw my experiment with controversial professor Paul Krugman?

DM: 11:14 Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EW: 11:15 … Where there were no … Despite the fact that he was clearly controversial and a professor, there’s no instance, because it’s a formula. And it’s a way of tagging a human.

What I’m what I’m curious about is, do you believe that we are living in a gas-lit society? (Full stop.)

DM: 11:35 Yeah, I don’t like “gas lighting” as something—Mainly because of the number of people who use it who I find …

EW: 11:40 Well, to hell with those people, because we had “red pill” before they had “red pill.”

DM: 11:45 Yeah, okay. Okay.

EW: 11:46 You know, the hipster perspective is that it comes from an actual film, so …

DM: 11:49 So, I tell you, … I think we all keep getting distracted from the things we should be doing. And this has never been clearer than in this year.

EW: 12:01 Are you aware of an affect shift in yourself—in your own person?

DM: 12:06 At the moment?

EW: 12:06 Yes.

You and I have spent … We haven’t been friends for decades (as we should have done). But we have we have logged a few miles. And, in general, I find that you are one of the most hilarious people I deal with. And I don’t sense the same mirth in our conversations. It may not be you. It may be me killing the buzz. But there’s some way in which we’re not our— … I don’t think we are ourselves—we’re shifted.

DM: 12:40 It’d be sad if that was the case. …

EW: 12:42 Could be that it’s just morning and we haven’t started drinking yet.

DM: 12:44 Yeah, it’s possible. It’s gonna be after 6pm to really get me going.

EW: 12:48 [laughing]

DM: 12:50 I mean, I think to an extent … By the way, I actually find that I’ve had a certain … There is a shift … If you really want … My only personal analysis, as to[?] any shift of mine …

EW: 13:06 Perhaps I’m less fun.[?]

DM: 13:07 Yeah, I think it’s probably that.

EW: 13:09 Probably right.

DM: 13:08 But no, the only noticeable shift in myself I noticed, was that when I was writing The Strange Death of Europe and writing about migration and following all of that, in the middle of this decade, I was very, very … in a very, very gloomy, gloomy, black place. Because I was writing about what I saw as being an almost insuperable issue/problem. And when I wrote Madness of Crowds, I enjoyed myself enormously. And …

EW: 13:09 Seems perverse, but I’m sure there’s method to this madness.

DM: 13:33 Well, because … I’ll tell you, I actually said this a couple times to interviewers, I said, you’ll notice everything about me changes.

EW: 13:48 Right.

DM: 13:50 I will be very … almost, as I learned recently from somebody that the term is ‘black-pilled,’ when talking about Strange Death. And when I’m talking about madness of crowds, you’ll notice that my whole demeanor changes. I thought why that is. And there were several explanations. One was, it’s so funny. I mean, you and I talked … I think I say in the acknowledgments of The Madness of Crowds that, you know, I owe several thoughts in the book to you, and for conversations with you. And, like me, you know that, I mean, a lot of this is hilarious. A lot of the stuff about gays and women and race and trans is so damn funny. I did the audiobook for The Madness of Crowds …

EW: 14:40 So are we now at the portion of the show where we make fun of gays, trans, blacks, and women?

DM: 14:44 Oh, you bet! [laughing]

EW: 14:48 [laughing]

DM: 14:48 “Welcome to the demonetization.”

EW: 14:49 “And that’s all the time we have, with Douglas Murray.”

DM: 14:56 [laughing]

No, but I am … It’s very funny: When I did the audiobook to Madness of Crowds (I’m glad to say, it has been a ROARING success), I just had a great time. Now that sounds sort of, you know, … don’t pat yourself on the back, [?]. I laughed so much—not just because of the wittiness and the sharpness of the prose— …

EW: 15:13 [laughing]

DM: 15:13 … but the things I was quoting. Because it’s so self-evidently ridiculous.

EW: 15:22 If you break it out its natural context.

DM: 15:23 If you break it out [?]. I’m not willing to take this crap as seriously as some people are. (I’m going to take some[?] of it very seriously, because I know what they’re trying to do.) But some of it is just obviously laughable. And I kept on having to say to the sound people, you know, “Please be assured: I’m laughing, not at my own jokes, but the things I’m quoting,” you know. It’s very hard to read a sentence of Judith Butler out loud and not just burst out laughing. It’s self-evidently ridiculous, once you once you vocalize it.

Anyhow, the point I’m making is that, I was trying to work out, why does everything about my demeanor change in this? And I realized: it’s because it’s winnable. I honestly think all of that stuff’s winnable. And I perk up …

EW: 16:09 Because there’s something to do.

DM: 15:23 Well, it’s something to do. But it’s a good thing to do.

EW: 15:23 And you can attract people …

DM: 15:23 … And I think we can win now. I … And I think, by the way, (maybe we should get on to this in a bit, but) I think it’s a very important thing. It’s not just a pose. I think it’s a very important thing to say, “Here’s something that we can win.”

EW: 15:23 Yeah.

DM: 15:23 Particularly people on the on the ideological right tend not to have very many of them—they spend all their time moaning and talking about how ‘beleaguered’ they are (even when they’re in power). And, but here’s—

In the US they obsess about a flat tax, which they never get.

Yeah, yeah. And then nothing else [laughing] [?]. They talk about nothing else about the conditions of society other than a flat tax.

EW: 16:53 Yeah, something like that.

DM: 16:56 “What else might we do after the flat tax?” “Whatever you like!”

EW: 16:59 [laughing]

DM: 17:00 “… leave it up to you guys.”

So my point is, to a great extent, our attitudes are dependent on whether we think things are winnable.

EW: 17:09 Right. I agree with that.

DM: 17:10 Now … My feeling with 2020 so far is, one of the things it’s told me is that we have to be exceptionally judicious about how we spend our time. And that we have to be very, very careful that we are not being manipulated into narratives, one after the other.

I think I said to you before, my impression once George Floyd kicked off was (and people who read the updated version of Madness of Crowds will know this—I mean, I explained there what I think was going on, but you’ll know that), … I think I said to you once on the phone, I just feel like our society has become like this eye of Sauron.

EW: 17:54 Yeah.

DM: 17:55 You know, we focused … In January, we were meant to be in a climate emergency, where all governments in the world (primarily in the Western world) were being told, “You have to admit, you have to legislate, there is a climate emergency going on.” And then we had a pandemic (which seemed like a more immediate emergency). And then the people who’ve been doing climate emergency went on to pandemic emergency. And then, after May, we had the racist emergency. And I just …

Right. We’re only halfway through the year. We’re three emergencies in. The eye of Sauron is focused on climate, COVID, race, … I’m not up for this. I’m not up for spending my life doing this in whatever order you tell me—

EW: 18:46 To be constantly reactive.

DM: 18:48 I’m not … I … that’s why I spent the the early weeks of lockdown, when I thought, “Okay, maybe we’re all gonna die” just reading Tolstoy, because I thought this is something I want to do—it’s a nourishing thing to do—and I’m not going to get caught out on this on this train. (Now, in retrospect, some people might legitimately say, “Well, you missed realizing what the COVID thing was,” as well. But as I say, I did that fatalistic thing of “Okay, this is one that’s not in my bailiwick.”)

But I strongly feel that we should have learned this from the year so far, that, first of all, we keep being distracted. Secondly, everything we’re distracted onto, we don’t make better. It’s a DISASTROUS thing to realize. Like, we didn’t solve climate. We didn’t solve COVID. We SURE as hell haven’t solved race. In fact, we make everything worse.

EW: 19:46 Well what do we do about all of these British shootings by unarmed policeman of blacks in the UK?

DM: 19:55 Yeah, yeah. This is a …

EW: 19:57 That is a tough problem to solve.

DM: 19:58 Yeah. Yeah, yeah. As regular readers will know, my crack on this, which is: I saw the first major Black Lives Matter protests in the UK four years ago—I went along to see it in central London—and was amused (it fed into my pleasure and irony) that the thousand or so protesters were walking along Oxford Street with their hands in the air, imitating what they thought to be the Ferguson chant, saying “Hands up, don’t shoot,” accompanied ALL the way along that process by unarmed British police officers, who couldn’t have shot them if they’d wanted to. And …

EW: 20:29 “They could’ve held up their fingers, sir, in a menacing fashion, with the thumb cocked back to effect the position of a hammer.”

DM: 20:34 Yes. The … you know, they’ve been trying. I actually wrote the New York Post, this morning, a piece saying, I really resent, now, the American culture war’s spilling out across my country. I’m not up for this—I think it’s highly undesirable. The world has many things that they should thank America for. But your culture wars is not one of them. And it’s being overlaid everywhere. And sometimes people say, “Why are the English-speaking countries so vulnerable?” Because they’re English-speaking countries, and America is the dominant power. And so we get all the spillage faster. The French don’t get it so fast.

EW: 21:12 What do you think about pseudo English-speaking countries? (Sweden, India, …)

DM: 21:16 Oh, yeah. Well, certainly Sweden, other countries, they get get part of this. I mean, it made no sense to me, after George Floyd, that there was looting on the main luxury shopping street in Stockholm. Or why men in Brussels started hurling things at the police.

So, yes, there is this overlaying of it onto everything, which …

EW: 21:36 So, maybe that’s so bizarre, and so crazy, that we should ask this question: why is this happening everywhere, all at once, all the time? I agree that it may be more intense in the Anglophone nations. But certainly, it seems to be the case that there is some synchronizing behavior—there’s something in the environment, in the ethos, seeping through the internet. Who knows what—

DM: 22:02 What do you think that is?

EW: 22:04 Well, I think it has to do with a very long chain that begins with a slow-down in scientific progress. And that the (I don’t know how to put this exactly, but) the inventions that we’ve brought into our lives, from the pill, to fiat money, to the mobile web (where communications and semiconductor technology collide), have left us in a world where we are bizarrely exhausted. We don’t even know what the word ‘exhausted’ means. We don’t believe in religion. We can’t get rid of very need to believe in religion. I do think that the appearance of words like ‘narrative’ (which was always present) and ‘performative’ (which I think is relatively recent in origin) means that we’re sort of dealing with a world where we’re searching for new language.

The example that I like to give is that, for a period of time, there was a strange phenomena that attractive women would take pictures of themselves in bathroom mirrors and post them. And we didn’t talk about it, because we didn’t really know how to say, “Isn’t it strange that women are pointing cameras at themselves in restaurant bathrooms?” And then somebody created the word ‘selfie.’ And everybody said, “Yes, of course!” Now we have language for it.

And the same thing with the word like ‘performative.’ We, somehow, are recognizing that there’s a worldwide economic and technological slowdown.

DM: 23:40 Yes.

EW: 23:41 It isn’t occurring in the Twin areas of communications and semiconductors—so that continues apace. And we don’t have individual lives and futures that we’re interested in contributing to. (And I’m going to add one more aspect.) Perhaps the biggest disaster in my own private life (which I did not realize in real time was going to be this profound), was an interaction between Rachel Maddow and Rockefeller University. And she was invited to Rockefeller University, which is very interesting, because it’s one of only a tiny number of universities that have no undergraduates. (Right? So you have the UCSF, Rockefeller, … but still absolutely top in the world.) And she gets into the main auditorium, and I believe that there are paintings, that are commissioned, of the Nobel laureates who have worked at Rockefeller, as well as people who’ve, you know, been elected the National Academy and are thought to be the absolute leaders in the world. And she utters the phrase “What is up with the dude wall?” And the pictures come down, because no one can defend the concept of a so-called “dude wall.”

Now, I am very open to the idea, and I have particular female scientists who I feel did not get their due. I mean [sounds like “Nerder”?] would be one, but a woman named Madame Wu would be another, in physics. I don’t disbelieve (as per our earlier discussion) that there is no racism, no sexism in science. But I don’t think it’s anything like the levels that we’re seeing. And I am unmotivated, in a weird way, when I don’t believe that I can do anything that will cause a name to go into the historical record. It really matters, to me, that there’s some meaning to the world, after I’m gone, of my life. And the phrase “What is up with the dude wall?” was powerful enough … Like, when Nikole Hannah-Jones utters this phrase in a tweet, “It would be an honor” when she’s responding to [crosstalk] “Let’s call them the 1619 riots,” my feeling is, so now we’re going to topple statues of, not only slavers and Confederate Generals that may have been put up as intimidation, but also George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and an elk? We’re gonna topp—

DM: 26:22 Yeah, yeah. The burning of the elk was one of the things that made me think, maybe the era is just pagan? The fact that you would have to gather around a burning elk, night after night, struck me as informative.

EW: 26:36 Well, did they try anything bestial and …?

DM: 26:39 I don’t know. I think they just burnt the elk.

EW: 26:40 I mean, if they sodomized the elk, while burning it, I would know where we were.

DM: 26:44 Yeah, yeah, abs—

EW: 26:45 But I can’t figure out …

DM: 26:46 You know where you are with a chap when he’s up to[?] that.

The, uh … this …

EW: 26:53 [lauging] It’s just so stupid, I can’t take it.

DM: 26:55 [laughing]

The “dude wall” stuff is the really sinister … is really sinister.

By the way, again, I mean, this is a recurring theme in this conversation. The thing of, not wanting to be pushed where they’re trying to push you?

EW: 27:09 Yes.

DM: 27:10 Let me …

EW: 27:10 They’re trying to push me into becoming a bigot. They want me to be a misogynist. They want me to Islam. Nothing [?]

DM: 27:15 Yeah, they want you to say there’s no sexism, or there’s no racism, or there’s never—etc, etc. And we can’t do that. And we don’t want to do that. But the moment we concede that, then they’re going to try to pull us down into lies.

EW: 27:31 Well, this is the thing: who can still dance on the A-frame roof or avoid the snowplow?

DM: 27:36 Yes. There’s not many people can.

EW: 27:39 Well, the thing is it really down to 20 people, and you know them all because 18 of them live in the modern version of your Rolodex. Because it’s the people who can speak in public (and I really do think this has to do with institutions). The existence of Noam Chomsky is something I repeatedly discuss, because Noam Chomsky was a dissident employed by an institution without being sacked. We have lost the ability to employ the critics within the institutions that they are meant to keep honest.

DM: 27:45 Yes, yes. The … Let me hold on to [?] thought for a second and first that say something about the again about the “dude wall.” One way to try to counter this may sound like a purely tactical play—it isn’t. It is … You know, I test myself, as we all do, on what one’s feeling about certain moves that are being made at the moment. And most of it is sanguine, or irritable, or disliking, and much more. Occasionally, one comes along which really gets under my skin.

There was one recently where—because again, all the spillage of this happens everywhere. There was one recently where someone online said to someone else, you know, something like … it was somebody of ethnic minority saying to somebody who’s white, you know, (because we’ve had the statue pulling-down in Britain, as well). You know, “Why should I care about your ancestors?” And, you know, I just … I thought, you know, you think you just pull down statues of all of the people we admired. Admiral Nelson is the latest one, they’re talking about pulling down because of a forged letter hauling him onto the pro-slavery side before his death in 1805. You think you’re—

He was also not a millennial.

He was also guilty of not being a millennial. I think he WAS on board with gay marriage. I can’t remember.

EW: 28:53 [laughing]

DM: 28:53 Look, he was a Navy man, so he could have been.

I’m horrified. This is the one that gets me. You keep covering the statue of Churchill in graffiti that says ‘racist.’ You keep graffitiing the Cenotaph, which is the memorial for the dead of the two World Wars. You keep doing that. And then you say, “We don’t give a damn about your ancestors.”? What’s the instinct that kicks in? It’s not very noble, but but anyway is an instinct that’s worth …

The line seems to be[?], you know what? If you don’t give a damn about my ancestors, I don’t see why I should pretend to give a damn about yours. So let’s go at it. Fine. You want to go at that? We can do that.

Here’s the ignoble version of that in the American context: You want to tell the majority of the population, who are still white, that 13% of the population, who are black, are allowed to demean and talk in a derogatory fashion about the majority? How long do you think that’s gonna last?

Now, the problem with this is not only that it’s ugly, but it also puts one in the position of the Muslim Brotherhood as opposed to al Qaeda. Which is, “You’re going to have to put yourselves in MY hands, because otherwise it’s guys who are going to set off car bombs every hour.” It’s not a nice position. I didn’t like it when the Brotherhood did that. I don’t like it when people do it now. Nevertheless, it’s probably something we should have in our minds.

Like, the thing you’re pushing, maybe deliberately … I mean, maybe what is being done in those things is in fact, like the [???], who hoped that if they taunted the police enough, the police would behave in the way they thought the police would behave, and would reveal the true fascist nature of the state. We see this in, in America today with people you know, like white men and women screaming at black policemen—people who I just admire beyond anything: the self-restraint of these men, as these spoiled brats scream at them, and TRY to make them hit them, you know, in ORDER to reveal the true racist nature of the state, and so on.

It seems possible that this is the move that people are trying to do. They are TRYing to rile us up. They’re saying, “We’re going to come for EVERY single one of your holy things.”

EW: 31:51 Yes, that’s what they’re doing.

DM: 31:54 … And we just want to see if you snap.

And we have that problem. And then you get to the institution one, which is that nobody, as you know, nobody in an institution now can tell the truth. And it’s slightly worse than that, which is that—

I’m used to MY saying stuff like that. And then people calling me an ‘extremist.’ Do you believe what you just said?

Yes. I mean, I don’t doubt that there are …

EW: 32:34 My phrase is, almost everybody (particularly in an institution) is lying about almost everything, almost all the time. That’s where I believe we’ve gotten.

DM: 32:52 Right. I certainly think it’s … I can de-weaponize a little bit if I say, as I say … I don’t doubt there are some people—I KNOW people in institutions who think about all the things we’re thinking about, and troubled by the same things, and so on.

EW: 33:07 But when they—

DM: 33:08 They don’t speak. They don’t speak.

EW: 33:09 When they speak ex-cathedra, they either say nothing at all, they mumble something saying, “I had to say that,” or they muddled it out.

DM: 33:18 They approach me in the manner of a 1950s homosexual. You know, they effectively tap their foot under the cubicle door at me. It’s not something I like. And I feel a mixture of things with them, including pity and distaste. But, yes, I think that … What would happen to you if you were in any university—or government department, or the BBC, or the New York Times—and you said, “Look, I think this whole Black Lives Matter thing, I mean it starts in a good place, but my god, it goes to hell quite fast, doesn’t it?”

EW: 33:59 I go someplace different. I say, look, forget Black Lives Matter. They … Somebody includes one line that says “We protest Israel because of its genocidal nature as a state.” Use the word ‘genocide’ in Israel, I don’t care about any of the rest of your organization.

DM: 34:20 Mm hmm.

EW: 34:21 You know, it’s like, it’s not like, “This is a really good apple pie except for the arsenic.” “I’ve made a wonderful pot roast except for the arsenic.” It’s like … as long as there’s arsenic, I’m not talking about anything else.

DM: 34:35 Yeah.

You … one of my favorite … What if … If you’re at any of these institutions, and you’re told to do the trans stuff, and you say, “What about this gynophilia stuff?” How long do you last? I mean, if you do this …

EW: 34:50 Trans is complicated for a different reason, because it’s an umbrella category. And just the way ‘stroke’ is an umbrella category—where you have stroke from excessive thinning, and stroke from excessive clotting—it may be that two things downstream are both called ‘stroke’ but their etiologies are different, and the remediations are different. And the problem with trans is not any particular aspect. It’s one of these situations in which some people desperately need (in my opinion) some surgery to save their lives, because they’ve made three attempts and every indication is that something has happened since, you know, since birth.

DM: 35:27 Yeah, as you know, this is my view as well.

EW: 35:30 But then there’s another group of things … situations where it’s clearly social contagion. Why are you forcing me to use one term to cover two totally different situations?

DM: 35:39 Unless the aim is, again, to …

EW: 35:40 To make sure that you trip up and that we can boycott you.

DM: 35:43 Exactly. But to go back to this institutions thing, I mean, it seems to me … it’s so obvious now. I mean, it’s happened with friends of ours. The minute you get into the, the realm of the thing that they can kill you over, they get you. I mean, I don’t know how Jordan survived at Toronto. I think … Maybe let’s not get that bit of it. But when Jordan Peterson is offered the, I think unpaid, non-stipendary position at Cambridge University for one term to be at the Divinity faculty in order to research, I think he wanted to give some lectures on the book of Exodus. … And they get him. They get him. Because you’re not allowed there. We can have controversial professor roaming free. We cannot have him associated with an institution. And so we’ll come up with a BS thing of once standing beside somebody with a t-shirt which didn’t say the approved thing.

EW: 35:58 Whatever.

DM: 36:30 By the way, sorry, one other thing, again a bit of personal vendetta, if I can’t do that here. There’s a professor at Cambridge, at one of the more minor colleges, of Indian origin, rather, very, very privileged woman, who rampages around Twitter saying racist things about white people. She’s promoted. She was promoted this year. The institution says, we will promote an anti-white racist, when we find them. In fact, we’ll do it rather visibly, to rub your noses in it, as it were. But we can’t have controversial Professor Jordan Peterson coming near us. Controversial young Junior Research Fellow Noah Carl thrown out of the university one year earlier because of bogus claims about his research by people who didn’t know anything about his field of expertise. They do that one year; the next year, they promote the person who does the anti-white racism. This is the transparency problem. I would have liked to have lived—I went to Oxford. I never thought highly of Cambridge. But I know people who do. And—

EW: 37:56 We’re going to bring that in here?

DM: 37:58 I’m gonna hit them low. I am—no, I mean, seriously, I would like to live in a world where Cambridge University didn’t pull that stuff.

EW: 38:07 I mean, it does have the Lucasian Professorship. So I think it’s rather important that we retain it.

DM: 38:11 I’d like to retain it.

EW: 38:12 Yeah.

DM: 38:13 I’d like to retain it. But they make it very, very hard. They make it hard, not least by making themselves part of this trip wire mechanism that’s [?].

EW: 38:20 So this is Cambridge, but not Oxford?

DM: 38:23 Well, it has…

EW: 38:25 It’s everywhere, sir.

DM: 38:25 It has happened. It has happened. I would say that I mean, when Oxford University was first invited to pull down Rhode—Cecil Rhodes statues, it actually resisted. It looks like it’s gone along with it this time, again, because when a man is killed by a cop in Minnesota, it’s now seen as being totally obvious that there should be another assault on the statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford.

EW: 38:45 You are not able to follow this logic.

DM: 38:47 No, I thought he didn’t have any responsibility for it.

EW: 38:50 Ah.

DM: 38:51 Uh, the uh—

EW: 38:53 —but maybe, maybe we don’t understand what this logic is. Maybe at some level, this is so preposterous to us that we don’t actually entertain what the transmission mechanism is because its prime facia insane.

DM: 39:10 Yes—

EW: 39:11 —and therefore we’re not at liberty, in some sense, to say, I wonder if I had to program a computer with rules, like if I let this be a data set, and I tried to train some deep learning algorithm, and I tried to figure out, okay, when some policing incident goes awry somewhere what is the propensity to tear down an elk? There has to be some probability of transition that that’s going to occur.

DM: 39:39 To have to hide our elk every time on time this happens!

EW: 39:44 Well, there’s a lovely old song of Flanders and Swang about a Gnu.

DM: 39:49 Oh, yes. great fan of that.

EW: 39:51 Yeah.

DM: 39:55 Perhaps someone by name is that—This is getting into sort of the quieter moments of this year.

EW: 40:03 Yeah.

DM: 40:05 When I’ve had the opportunity to reflect, I suppose the answer I’ve come up with is that the problem of all of this is that it’s something to do. And that whether we,

EW: 40:22 its meaning,

DM: 40:23 Its meaning.

EW: 40:24 Its meaning because we have not—

DM: 40:25 right.

EW: 40:26 It’s like omega omega three fatty acids being crowded out by omega six.

DM: 40:31 Yeah. So we have, we’ve lost God, we have the god shaped holes still. And very few things even aspire to fill them.

EW: 40:46 Nation-shaped hole.

DM: 40:47 Nation-shaped hole.

EW: 40:49 Family-sized hole.

DM: 40:50 Yeah. And the problem—again, I don’t like being stuck in Left-Right dichotomies, but, the right basically is uninterested in everything other than the economics.

EW: 41:04 Weirdly.

DM: 41:04 Weirdly, which is, is sort of fine in one sense, so long as the tide is always rising. And you and I know that the world we are now entering is one in which the tide is far from rising. So the Right’s unwillingness to address those things looks like a very, very serious—

EW: 41:25 Well they are learning,

DM: 41:26 Okay.

EW: 41:26 Like, the Libertarians learned through COVID that you can’t pretend that every man is an island.

DM: 41:31 Right. Okay. Yes, I wish libertarians had been smarter earlier on that stuff. I have a deep—

EW: 41:40 I love a lot of them, but I can’t—they live in a simplified world in which the connections between people are undervalued.

DM: 41:46 Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I’ve always been frustrated by this. And, and this—an element, sorry to say this, my libertarian friends, an element of cowardice involved in that.

EW: 41:55 But also the same thing about the rationality community, that you’re opting out of the total human condition.

DM: 42:01 Yes. And so. So the problem we find ourselves in is right and bother with this, the left has had to or deliberately or otherwise come up with things to fill the gaps.

EW: 42:16 Hmm.

DM: 42:17 All of which are plausible and decent in the places they start somewhere around the origin. You know, let’s not have people prejudiced against because of character traits over which they have no say. Good ambition. If you didn’t want to make it your life’s work, you’d have to accept that you might look bad by saying so. And so it is quite a desirable thing to spend your life doing. And particularly if it meant that it was just like the story we tell the civil rights struggles in the latter part of the last century, if it’s the perception that you just need to do one last push once and you get there, and you will always hold that ground—

EW: 42:59 Right—

DM: 42:59 —which I don’t believe, I think—

EW: 43:01 Well this is one of the things I’m starting to learn about—for example, there was a resistance to what would now be termed Second Wave Feminism, which I find very distasteful—

DM: 43:11 Right.

EW: 43:12 —where, you know, somebody would say some terms like “feminazis”, and things began and “man-hating feminists”, I would think—

DM: 43:19 Yeah.

EW: 43:19 —what are you guys talking about? Somebody wants to work in an office?

DM: 43:23 Yeah.

EW: 43:24 You know, and you’re acting like this. And I now increasingly wonder whether people who are looking at Second Wave Feminism, and extrapolating it out to some sort of 17th wave Social Justice Theory, were actually focused on a slippery slope problem. And were weirdly talking about where this could lead. I don’t think it had to lead, in fact, I think was absolutely necessary that—on what basis would you segregate education at the highest level, I forget when Princeton went co-ed and things, or when they had their first—you know, if you look at like, for example, the first black student to graduate from every one of the major universities, there’s some that are, you know, 1800s, very early on; others, like, 1950s.

DM: 44:13 Right.

EW: 44:14 So, you know, there’s a huge range of these behaviors that were once present. But I think one of the things that I’d also liked to hear from you, just as we—the original conceit of our, you know, we used to have Alastair Cook doing the Letter from America, and we had de Tocqueville famously commenting on the American landscape. I do wonder, as a gay man, how you see heterosexual relationships, because I think you’ve been an incredibly astute observer from outside as to changes in heterosexual courtship, male-female relations. And I wonder, after a short bio break, whether I could entice you to give us some carefully chosen observations on that dangerous topic?

DM: 44:59 I’d love to. Let me first say something about the meaning of life.

EW: 45:01 Sure. I did like that! Why you cracked a smile and ruined everything, I don’t know?

DM: 45:11 No, cause I didn’t quite finish that thought about, as it were the deep thought of what is happening.

EW: 45:17 Yes.

DM: 45:19 I’d like us, maybe not now. But I’d like us collectively the way your listeners and others to start to—we need to talk about this more and better. There is a very clear disjunct between the story we’ve been telling ourselves about what we are, and an intuition that we feel about ourselves as human beings. And I’m going to struggle with the language of this, because we all do, and it’s part of the human condition to struggle with it. But there is a mismatch. And very few people are speaking into it. The mismatch is that we ran a science over last few generations, perhaps longer, we may even say we ran the Enlightenment, which was one of the best ways in which we could do it. I’m not with my enlightenment, sort of “all-we-need-is-enlightenment” friends. Because I think they missed this element. Before that, we ran religion as the primary explanation mechanism. We don’t have an explanation mechanism. I’ve said before, we might be the first people in human history to have no explanation for what we’re doing. Which leaves us in a very disadvantaged position. It makes us vulnerable to mount banks and frauds and others. But we need to do better at this. And I think that if I was trying to put my finger on it, it would be something like there’s something we know about ourselves, which is not adequately expressed or even spoken during the culture. And I think of it as being it comes along in the fact that for instance, if you said, “You, Eric Weinstein, you’re a consumer”, you will say, “Well, yes, but why would you talk about me as if I’m only a consumer?”

EW: 47:23 I would say “no”.

DM: 47:24 Okay. Good. So fast way around it. If you said, “You’re a capitalist” or “You’re a free marketeer” or “You’re a voter”,

EW: 47:34 Yeah.

DM: 47:35 You see, all of these things, almost everything you have now, “You’re a social justice activist”

EW: 47:39 Right

DM: 47:41 None of it does it. What is it? It’s because there has—we have a very strong instinct, as a species, that these things don’t sum us up, and can’t. Now people are coming along at the moment from—particularly from the radical left, saying, okay, but you could sum yourself up in other ways—we will encourage you to sum yourself up because of a character trait. And the character trait would be based on something you can’t change, but also you will find meaning by warring in order to further this thing. This isn’t addressed by anyone else, but it’s that speaking to a depth, that’s speaking to depth, because it’s saying we’re going to solve a cosmic injustice.

EW: 48:21 Right.

DM: 48:22 That’s worth doing with your life. Why is nobody countering this with anything else now? Because the rest of it is this entirely, now, unfilled terrain?

EW: 48:32 Yes.

DM: 48:33 Which involves the need to say, I know I am, we are, more than what the age tells us we are. And we have the same questions that everyone has had before. And we have nobody wishing to provide answers. I have, I think, a favorite version of the question, the biggest question, which comes up in Rilke in the Duino Elegies, he’s, Rilke says somewhere in there, “Does the outer space into which we dissolve taste of us at all?”

EW: 49:11 Oh, that’s beautiful. I don’t know that quote.

DM: 49:14 And the way we end up living always is to think, at best, we will say hopefully,

EW: 49:26 Yes.

DM: 49:27 And this is my system for doing so. And in religion, obviously, we get the answer that there is a secular version of this, which is what you alluded to when you referred to the dude wall.

EW: 49:40 Right.

DM: 49:41 Let’s say the Nobel.

EW: 49:43 Secular immortality.

DM: 49:45 Secular immortality.

EW: 49:46 Right. Or if you were doing economics, you would talk about overlapping generations models rather than lineage. And so this issue of how immortality works in each individual field really matters, because you have to avoid nihilism and solipsism—

DM: 50:02 Yes.

EW: 50:02 And all of these sorts of intellectual pitfalls.

DM: 50:05 The crucial thing is, you don’t just have to because it isn’t good for you.

EW: 50:09 Yes. Well, because it’s also not, it’s so true.

DM: 50:14 Right.

EW: 50:15 And and you see, you don’t code computers? much. Okay? There’s a distinction in in object oriented programming called “is a” versus “has a”. And the way I typically talk about it is, if you’re not careful, you will define a Lamborghini as a radio. Because if you say, what is a radio? Well, it’s something that picks up radio waves and converts them into audible sound,

DM: 50:41 Right.

EW: 50:42 Well, Lamborghini can do that. Yeah, right. So to say that a Lamborghini is a radio is completely perverse, nobody will accept that statement. However, the idea that you have a voter, you have a consumer, you have a worker, you have an Anglican, whatever it is that you think of, if you think of those as what we would call “member variables”. And that that, which is Douglas, let’s say, would be the meta-object. And then all of these meta-variables like “Douglas as voter”,

DM: 51:16 Mm hmm.

EW: 51:17 You know, “Douglas, as boyfriend”, all of these things are, in fact, things that you have, rather than are,

DM: 51:24 Yes.

EW: 51:25 Now that one linguistic shift. Yeah, is a profound one. Yeah. There’s another way. So I’m very taken with the idea. And you and I’ve discussed this at length privately, that many times we’re one rhetorical device away from being able to say something, and no one’s figured that out. So for example, when I have to defend, people try to trick you into the following: they’ll say, I think, let’s say, “black power”. So am I supposed to say “all power”? “Brown power”? “White power”? Wait, wait, wait, what?

You know, okay, well, on one, on the one hand, from a symmetry perspective, “white power” versus “black power” is almost the same statement. However, we’ve got one mapped to something completely different. And we don’t notice the weird the weird ways in which this occurs. So famously, I say, what is vanilla? Vanilla has two opposite meanings. Yeah, it is either the most flavorful of flavorings.

Or it’s the base.

Or it is the least interesting base that is supposed to be effectively undetectable, and it’s completely neutral. Yeah. Same thing happens with “white” versus “European”. I have no interest in white. Mm hmm. I have a tremendous interest in Europe. Tremendous. And the idea that Europe is both seen as the most bland thing in the world. You know, white men can’t jump. White men can’t dance. White men can’t do a thing, versus what produced La Sagrada Familia and the Bach cello suites. You know, it’s like, I can’t even fit these in my head. Another one of these things I don’t notice is, for example, the idea that if I say, “the size of someone’s head may be related to that person’s intelligence,” like “my God, that’s like scientific racism, it’s phonology!”. You know, “Are you reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1911? What What is your problem?” Then I say, “I’m not worried about Zika virus because I don’t think microcephaly has any costs.” “Are you kidding? Do you know what the cognitive impairment from having a small head would be?” Have you noticed that you’re carrying both of these programs in your brain and that you have a rule that says “I will not attempt to access them”? At the same time, it’s like, “you can’t be out in the street because we have a deadly virus, and we all have to pull together.” “You must be out in the street because we have an incredible problem of public health in our racism”.

DM: 53:55 Yeah, well it happened with obesity as well this year.

EW: 53:57 Well—

DM: 53:57 Yeah. But

EW: 54:00 We can’t even give people life saving advice, necessarily. Like when I saw this virus—

DM: 54:05 That’s when it becomes—Yes, exactly. That’s when it becomes dangerous, when the when the when the thing you’re meant to sustain, for societal purposes, becomes deadly. That would be the time ordinarily where you’d change the program.

EW: 54:18 I’m coming up on having lost 50 pounds because I believed that I was a sitting duck with my BMI where it was by not paying attention to my body when COVID struck. And I listen, people immediately say, “Well, that’s fat shaming.” You know, that you can’t talk about life saving advice because it’s fat shaming. The contradictory pressures that we’ve taken on, like if you think about this, the idea that head size and shape on the one hand, we know it from scientific racism. On the other hand, we know it from the Zika virus. We’ve been given two contradictory instructions and we’ve been given no expert guidance as to how to get these concepts to play well within a single mind.

DM: 55:05 I agree, just return to us, return us for a nanosecond to the point we are we are being clogged up. And the clogging up appears to be the purpose for a lot of people.

EW: 55:21 Hmm.

DM: 55:22 And the problem is both the clogging and the unplugging becomes purpose. And my own view is that some of the unclogging that you and I both have tried to do in our different ways, and various people we know try to do, is in order to get somewhere else.

EW: 55:41 Correct, like, it’s not intrinsically interesting just to point out contradictions.

DM: 55:46 Right. I’m, I’m not interested merely in showing why hucksters like the 1619 Project people and Robyn D’Angelo, Kennedy, and all these people—I’m not interested in just like defusing bits—

EW: 56:05 The indulgence merchants.

DM: 56:07 They’ve—yeah, I’m not interested in just diffusing the bombs that they’ve put into our society. Although I do think that needs to be done. I’ve done a certain amount of it, you’ve done a lot of it. I think that I think is very worthwhile. But I think all the time, we have to all have our eyes on the—

EW: 56:24 Meaning, purpose, a journey—

DM: 56:25 —on a further goal—

EW: 56:26 I agree with this.

DM: 56:27 And I’m just, again, I come back to this point, you know, I was so worried this year that the virus would become something we all did.

EW: 56:38 Hmm.

DM: 56:39 You know, that we would all become interested in, you know, getting to Christmas.

And that’s 2020 done. And then 2021, what can we arrange? What can be arranged for us? And, before we know it, we’re all going to be on our deathbeds.

EW: 56:57 Right. What did we do?

DM: 56:58 Having, you know, I mean, it’s it comes back to what I said—we’ve had for years where some of our friends have spent four years reacting to the US president. It’s not time well spent. It’s not nothing, but it’s not far off. If this keeps happening, the opportunity costs for our societies, and for us as individuals, is just too great. And we, we both have to, we all have to find a way to do the declogging. But not only to do that—

EW: 57:32 Well, you know, I have a certain love for wildlife videos, as much as I find them disturbing. Very often, whenever you have a swarm, and it could be army ants, it could be hyenas, it could be lions, whatever it is. You have this phase, where for example, if you look at lions taking down an elephant—

DM: 57:55 Hmm.

EW: 57:58 Very often the lions nip at the elephant too distracted, too exhaust it—wolves will do these sorts of things. And you always have the narrator say, you know, “What the animal doesn’t realize is that it’s using its energy, and it will quickly become exhausted.” And you’re thinking like, well, what happens if you don’t respond to those nips?

DM: 58:18 Hmm.

EW: 58:19 It’s not clear to me that there’s a strategy. Like, even if I noticed that I’m wasting my time doing this. These people are at it every day on the other side. This is their point, this is their mission, their mission is to make sure that you can’t have rational thoughts in public unless they have a particular kind of redistributional outcome. And I do think that one of the key issues that we’re dealing with, is that we have many observations that are not in broad circulation, one of which is that the supposedly pro-empathy movement, you would imagine would be a broadening of empathy movement. How do we make sure that people who previously did not have empathy extended to them, like the homeless, or the obese, or whoever it is, that they’re included? Right? It has nothing to do with most of it.

DM: 59:11 Yeah.

EW: 59:11 Most of it has to do with the idea that it’s a redistribution of empathy, that the people who we have empathized with previously in this understanding, yeah, now need to be drained.

DM: 59:23 There’s a limited limited amount of it in the bank, we’d have to spend it differently.

EW: 59:27 Well, I wouldn’t say it that way. I would say that it is—there’s a division about oppression, should oppression be eliminated, or should it be reversed?

DM: 59:38 Well, you obviously, what with the era we’re in, it should be overcorrected.

EW: 59:42 I think that that’s—the overcorrection is a feature, not a bug. If I don’t get to visit some of what you’ve visited upon me, in getting to a new equilibrium, I’m not interested. And so this is this is the move where somebody says, “So it sounds like you’re feeling a little uncomfortable. That’s how the rest of us feel”, right? And if I say, for example, like, here’s an easy one, “You would think that white older white men would be the most privileged group in this Anti-Intersectional Olympics”, right? They have some of the highest suicide rates in the United States, much higher than black men, and much higher than, you know, younger black females versus older white men, night and day difference. And they want to make this move when redistributing empathy, which is, “Well, they’ll be fine.” You’re like, “No, no, these are suicides. They’re not going to be fine. They’re dead.” And you’re like, “Well, now you see how other people—.” Well, no, I’m looking at suicide as an exchange rate. If this group has a higher suicide rate, how are you so sure—

DM: 1:00:57 Yes.

EW: 1:00:58 —that money means what you think it does, that race means what you—that gender—like, how do you know you haven’t gotten the whole thing wrong, because at least we know that when somebody chooses to take his own life, that that is an equalizing decision.

DM: 1:01:13 Yes. Yes. The… it’s a problem in this country that’s obviously looming, by the way, isn’t it? All of this? Everyone I speak to from any political direction now talks about race more than they did four years ago. And they’re all becoming aware of the vengeance.

EW: 1:01:36 Say more.

DM: 1:01:39 Does anyone in any line of work in America now not think obsessively about race in the workplace?

EW: 1:01:45 Well it’s worse than the workplace.

DM: 1:01:46 Oh, no, no, I’m just saying, for starters.

EW: 1:01:47 No, no, I agree with that.

DM: 1:01:48 This wasn’t the case. This wasn’t the case even a few years ago. It was an issue. It’s always an issue long time, people would talk about, you know, the inability of, for instance, a, oh, I don’t know, to fire an underperforming black colleague.

EW: 1:02:04 Yes.

DM: 1:02:05 Was that’s an issue for a long time. And I would add to that, black friends who have talked amusedly about the advantages they get for being black. I spoke recently to a black friend, who says is one of the few, you know, sort of obvious things. If you’re black, you don’t have to wear a mask. Nobody who’s white will tell you off for not wearing a mask. If you’re black,

EW: 1:02:30 I actually don’t necessarily believe that.

DM: 1:02:31 Really?

EW: 1:02:32 My guess is that—I mean, I do think that there is a fair amount of prejudice based on behavioral characteristics. I mean, it’s a very tricky subject, because the place in which race has really changed in my mind is under my roof. Because I’m in an interracial family. And race was not a big part of daily life in my house. And coming to have to see a spouse or a child through the lens of race is an incredibly distasteful thing when race isn’t relevant. It’s not the case—

DM: 1:03:17 Yeah.

EW: 1:03:18 You know, if if we’re talking, for example, about who has to put on suntan lotion, it’s more important that I put on suntan lotion than that my wife does if there’s not much left in the bottle. Right? Okay. There race can matter.

DM: 1:03:32 Mm hmm.

EW: 1:03:34 But this issue about is it po—you can’t get past race, “colorblindness is a fake thing pushed by a white patriarchy”, blah, blah, blah. Horseshit!

DM: 1:03:48 Yeah.

EW: 1:03:49 I mean, I’m not saying that you never notice it, I’m saying that you can go three weeks without ever having a thought that looks like that.

DM: 1:03:55 I just say the workplace is one. But I heard of everwhere else as well now, in this country. This country has been very successfully re-racialized by people of all, from all directions.

EW: 1:04:08 I can’t stand it.

DM: 1:04:09 I can’t either, it’s exceptionally ugly. And it’s obviously gonna get a lot worse. When people know that they have been prejudiced against because of their skin color, it really doesn’t matter what skin color is, they’re going to feel resentful.

EW: 1:04:24 Well, but part of this has to do with the Immigration Act of 1965, because there was a white-black dynamic that was relevant in the country before 1965, and the browning of America without necessarily most of that coming from, let’s say, West African stock that mirrors the the imported slave population that is now the core of black America. I think that in many ways, the question was, well, what would happen to black issues, because it’s a large minority in this country. And I think that then what people tried was, let’s make it black and brown, people of color.

DM: 1:05:04 Yeah.

EW: 1:05:05 And then it turns out that okay, well, Asians are now overperforming, supposedly, in terms of entrance to elite universities. Well, we can’t do that.

DM: 1:05:14 Yeah, in my country, the vivre app for Indians are far ahead of white people.

EW: 1:05:22 Have you heard of the bamboo ceiling?

DM: 1:05:24 Yes. Yeah.

EW: 1:05:25 Right. So we have we have, yes, East Asian engineers inside of tech companies looking at the ascendancy of South Asians to the top jobs in these tech companies, claiming that the problem is brown on brown or whatever you want to call, you know, it’s completely internal—

DM: 1:05:43 Yeah.

EW: 1:05:44 —to so-called people of color.

DM: 1:05:45 Again, all of these—all the programs were running, apart from running against each other, are so unfit for purpose. The one that I can’t bear that’s happened since I was last in this country, the 1619 Project and everything, is this unbelievable imbibing by people who used to be serious in this country, of this gunk about Europeans and America. I mean, as a Dutch historian wrote recently in The Spectator, what exactly were the Europeans meant to do after they found America? Were they meant to go back home and go “shhhhhh”? Were they meant to say, “We’ve discovered this amazing place. I don’t think it has any potential, I wouldn’t bother with it. There’s a large landmass over there, it doesn’t appear to be at all heavily populated. But I don’t think we should be very much interested in it; somebody else will find it.” What exactly were they meant to do? The current thing gives out these incredibly easy-to-dispel ideas, that this country will be understood in a way that is not useful to understand the country.

EW: 1:07:05 But let’s let’s think about a way in which we could understand what the claim is. If you look at things that we talk about incessantly, for example, giving blankets with smallpox as presents to the native population using pestilence against them, that, I think we can all agree, is horrific.

DM: 1:07:30 By the way, in the Australian context, much of this is contested, but…

EW: 1:07:33 Yeah, why I’m not claiming that I know. Yeah, I spent zero time looking at this. I willing to assume that we’ve done some horrible things relative to the local population, just as, let’s say, le Nabi Indians, I believe, massacred—was one of the first school massacres.

DM: 1:07:49 But again, I’m coming back to this thing because it affects everybody now,

EW: 1:07:54 Right. Well,

DM: 1:07:56 But who, who—

EW: 1:07:58 But let’s come back after a bio break. And instead of starting where I thought we were gonna start, let’s start around this question of why it’s so hard to defend the cultures from which so much has sprung.

DM: 1:08:11 Yeah.

EW: 1:08:12 All right. Stay tuned.

I always like to say this: “And, we’re back.”

Douglas. It seems to me that right at the moment, one of the things that we’re having a real difficulty with is that we haven’t formulated rhetorically effective ways of expressing reasonable love and pride in the lineages that have added up to so much that might be loosely thought of as Western Civilization, or Indo-European civilization. And my question is, are we in part going to lose our society because nobody’s figured out the right way of getting words to play together that indicate that one wishes to take responsibility for the excesses and negative aspects of one’s society, but without groveling and pretending that everything one’s ancestors did was horrible, and that there’s nothing to be proud of? Do we have a problem that this really comes down to the fact that it’s a puzzle? The comedians, for example, weren’t able to tell jokes for a period of time because the rules around joke telling a change? And then they figured out that there were new ways of saying these jokes—you know, Joe Rogan, did this joke about “wrestling is gay”, and the audience would have this horrible, you know, realization that they were in the audience for a bigoted comic, and everybody would [gasp], you know, do this, and he said, Wait, what do you think I just said, I didn’t say it was bad, I said it was gay. And then it goes into this description of

DM: 1:09:51 Yeah,

EW: 1:09:51 Oiled bodies—

DM: 1:09:52 Oiled bodies, sweaty men—

EW: 1:09:53 Booty shorts, and all this kind of stuff. And he’s like, if that’s not gay, then what is? And that kind of innovation, like, Chappelle did this where he blames his audience—

DM: 1:10:04 Yeah, that was very interesting.

EW: 1:10:06 This is very similar to what happened in the 90s, where you went from old style advertisements, to one, I think I remember one where, instead of good things happening to people who use the product, bad things happen, to show that they’re in on the joke. So a person takes a swig from a soda can and goes, “Ahhhhh”, and they don’t notice the Mack truck that mows them down. It’s like, “It’s that refreshing!” Like, that would be a 90s style innovation. Are there ways of defending Western Civilization we just haven’t thought of because all the old ways seem not to take responsibility for the negatives?

DM: 1:10:41 It could be. We live—the clear thing is that we live in an era of revenge.

EW: 1:10:48 Hmm.

DM: 1:10:49 We live in an era of vengeance against the West.

EW: 1:10:52 Some say vengeance, you can say justice.

DM: 1:10:55 I say vengeance.

EW: 1:10:57 Yeah. So is vengeance a Russell conjugate of justice?

DM: 1:11:03 Well, could be. I think not, for the following reason, which is that it’s said in the tone of vengeance. Often unadulteratedly. For instance, the Emperor—have you heard the Empire Strikes Back term? The Empire Strikes Back has been for 20 years or so a description of immigration in Europe.

EW: 1:11:28 I see. Interesting.

DM: 1:11:30 Yeah. Yeah, they like it. Oh, you don’t like the immigration? Well, the Empire Strikes Back.

EW: 1:11:37 I see.

DM: 1:11:38 Ah, now, of course, your obvious play to That is to say, okay, and when does the Empire reassert itself and strike back? This is ugly.

EW: 1:11:50 Hmm.

DM: 1:11:50 They want—they want to make us ugly. But it’s vengeance. It’s never clearer to me than in America. It’s spoken in the term of vengeance. Where we just were about this, what to do with the Europeans and America and this whole continent,

EW: 1:12:08 Right.

DM: 1:12:09 It’s spoken as vengeance.

EW: 1:12:12 Yes, we’re very interested in vengeance, but we can’t bring ourselves to say it.

DM: 1:12:16 Yeah, they want people to suffer. The use of the term “whitie”

EW: 1:12:21 “Whitie”?

DM: 1:12:22 Yeah. What is that? What is what’s gammon? What’s gammon?

EW: 1:12:28 What is gammon?

DM: 1:12:29 Gammon is a term used by alleged anti-racists to describe white men of a certain age in particular due to the alleged hue of their skin, particularly when irritated. Do we have anything in the language as common and as acceptable now to describe for instance, an irate black man? No, you won’t want to find one either. But gammon totally, totally reasonable. Totally respect—laughed at, used by white people as well hoping to buy themselves some time.

EW: 1:13:06 Well, throwing each other over—

DM: 1:13:08 Yeah.

EW: 1:13:08 In an attempt to slow the advance.

DM: 1:13:10 Yeah. So I think this is vengeance, that we’re in a period of vengeance against European history in particular, what’s seen as being the West, Western History. And there’s, of course, one particular gigantic logical fallacy waiting to hit these people like the truck in the 1990s advert with the refreshment drink. The giant logical fallacy about to plow them down—

EW: 1:13:36 Yeah.

DM: 1:13:37 —is the misapprehension they have that what we call the western liberal society is the default position of mankind. Hmm, they think Western Society is your vanilla. They think it’s your non-colored base paint. And they’re totally wrong. Because most of your most of human experience is the Congo, Russia, you know? They have no damn idea.

EW: 1:14:15 Well, this is the sort of CHAZ fallacy, which is that if we can just get the police to stop policing, then everything will be utopian.

DM: 1:14:22 Yes. And I, again, I don’t think we have time for these people. And I think that we don’t have time for—you know, because—

EW: 1:14:28 They’re not serious points, and they can’t, they shouldn’t be engaged, because—in that fashion, because, in order to do so, all conversation has to derail until these—

DM: 1:14:39 Until these people learn a lesson.

EW: 1:14:40 Yeah.

DM: 1:14:41 You know, that’s the annoying thing. Because, arguably, what they’re going through is the thing that intermittently is necessary. We’ve discussed this before, I think we discussed it in Sydney, with your theory about the nuclear bombs being let off every now and then, you know,

EW: 1:14:55 You’re just gonna drop that like that? Because I haven’t talked that much on this program.

DM: 1:14:58 Right, which is crazy. Crazy weird—get Weinstein in private and it’s just all nuclear bombs! [laughter]

It’s this thing of, do you have remind people on some intermittent basis of what can happen? And the answer, historically, seems “Yes”. And the great regret of those of us who would like to avoid all of those things is that we actually can know it without having to learn it. And there are always people who hurtle forward who need to learn it again, you know, the people in CHAZ, discover, lo and behold, that, you know, without a police force, a man can rape a woman and just walk away.

EW: 1:15:47 Who knew?

DM: 1:15:47 Who knew, other than all humans in history?

EW: 1:15:47 Right.

DM: 1:15:47 Without a police force, the business doesn’t have any protection when the mob comes and decides to burn the whole damn thing down. Who knew, apart from everyone in history? So this is, as I said, this is the truck that’s coming towards these people. And the question really is, can they learn the lesson privately? Or do they have to do it and pull everyone else into their remedial lesson? And I strongly hope, like everybody else, that it’s the first of those two things. You know, I take a certain sadistic pleasure as we all must in those stories that occasionally emerge, and usually get a very long write up in the New York Times, of some idealistic couple from Seattle who decided to take a tandem cycling holiday through Waziristan. And, you know, they believed that, you know, if only we all tandemed together more, we’d have a future of more justice. And they all get, you know, sort of gang raped and murdered by a group of jihadis, or something, and you just sort of can’t help thinking, “Well, you know, I’m very sorry for their family. I’m sorry for them, they had to learn this lesson that way.” And it’s obviously not the case with everyone. I stress that not everyone in Waziristan is a gang raping murderer. I’m just saying that, you know, anyone who knew the world could have told them it isn’t what it looked like to them when they were growing up in Seattle. You know, it’s just regrettable that the catastrophic nature of human existence is so badly transmitted to these people. And I’m afraid, sorry to sound terribly anti-American at this moment, but this—

EW: 1:17:25 I have noticed this shift.

DM: 1:17:27 Really?

EW: 1:17:27 Yeah.

DM: 1:17:28 Okay. It’s a consequence of the fact that the people—we’re all suffering the spillage of this.

EW: 1:17:34 Right.

DM: 1:17:35 And it’s come from people in America, who think they know everything about the world and have never left these shores. I’m sorry, you have an incredibly ignorant left, you have an incredibly ignorant internationalist class, you have an incredibly parochial internationalist class. Let alone the nationalists! You have people who believe they’ve got the whole thing sussed. And they think that this situation you’ve had in this country is the default situation, and they’re willing to burn this whole damn thing down to learn that it’s not, and then they’re going to take everyone else with them at this rate. You know, I’ve fed up of the spillage of American ignorance on these matters, coming into my own country, coming all across Europe as well, we have our own problems. And this particular one, of, for instance, re-racializing everything, or making relations between the sexes all but impossible, you know, having to move all sexual relations and indeed, courtship to Tinder—

EW: 1:18:31 Or to a lawyers office.

DM: 1:18:33 Or to a lawyers office, is something that’s spilled out from the town we’re sitting in, as it happens. And I, again, I don’t know how we encourage these people who are ignorant about this to learn this, but they’re going to have to learn it fast, and not make us all have to go through the lesson with them.

EW: 1:18:49 So I think it has a lot to do with individual lessons that have interactions. Right? I don’t know if you’ve been following at all this Coinbase shift. Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, who said, effectively, “We’re an idealistic company, we have an idealism and a dream. And we can’t afford drug interactions between different idealisms.” It’s not that your idealism is wrong. But if you bring, you know your idealism, let’s say, you have an idealism about the Israeli state, and you, on the other hand, have an idealism about Black Lives Matter. And now you’ve got a problem because there’s an interference, you’re trying to work with somebody. And their organization says something about, you know, the State of Israel, and you have an organization that is idealistic for the State of Israel. What can a company like Coinbase do because they’re not in charge of all of the medications that people are taking for site society’s ills? And so their point was, at work, we’re going to try to limit the drug interactions between our idealisms so that we can actually get something done.

DM: 1:20:02 Yeah, this would be the optimal thing we did in our societies. Yes.

EW: 1:20:05 Well, this is coming from the US. So you’re welcome.

DM: 1:20:07 Yeah. Thank you. I accept this import with alacrity.

EW: 1:20:11 Yeah.

DM: 1:20:12 Yes, this is it, we have to do this, we have to strip this stuff out. I described it before. This is moral asbestos. It has to be stripped from the building. It’s unfortunate that the era we’re speaking in is the era where the asbestos is still being put in every cavity. I strongly urge people to stop the people they find doing this job.

Well, but you know—

And to do a bit of undoing.

EW: 1:20:42 We had a very interesting situation with an innovation, which I believe, if I’m not mistaken, may originated in Toronto (I could have that wrong) around 2011, which was the advent of the so called “slutwalk”, in which, in order to get rid of a persistent problem, which is the claim that feminine attire could be seen as inviting, the idea would be that women would march in the most provocative clothing possible, in order to demonstrate that there is never a cause for reacting sexually towards a woman, based on your understanding of whatever agreed upon non-explicit signaling was taking place. Now, one can understand wanting to get rid of an argument that can be made and and saying, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t we actually attack the idea that there’s ever an excuse to assume that somebody was inviting amorous behavior?” On the other hand, that actually had a lot to do with having an agreed upon language, which was not explicit, protecting females by saying, look, this thing is sort of a progressive handshake that gets more and more intimate as both sides decide that they’re ready to move to the next level. But then, effectively, what we do is we, in order to get a lacuna, in our vocabulary of moves, we destroyed an entire language of courtship.

DM: 1:22:18 Yes.

EW: 1:22:18 And I was wondering, you know, in some sense, as a keen observer of heterosexuals, but coming from a homosexual perspective, what do you see going on between men and women from the outside that we can benefit from, sort of, a less interested eye?

DM: 1:22:39 Hmm. I was so thrilled, once, when you described me over dinner as the de tocqueville of heterosexuality.

You know, one of the pleasures of writing the madness of crowds was writing the chapter on men and women.

EW: 1:22:54 Yes.

DM: 1:22:54 Because I knew that I was able to say so many things that my straight friends were not able to say. Male and female.

EW: 1:23:01 I’m just gonna nod my head not knowing what’s coming next, actually. I actually don’t know what’s coming next.

DM: 1:23:07 I honestly feel sorry for you guys.

EW: 1:23:10 Hmm.

DM: 1:23:11 It used to be the case that the the straights felt sorry for the gays because the gays had unhappy lives.

EW: 1:23:18 We’ve always looked at you with a bit of envy.

DM: 1:23:21 Sure. Well, yeah, of course. Because there were aspects of—memorably, a straight friend of mine once said to me, “I wish we had straight bars.” And I said, “What are you talking about? Don’t you have them everywhere?” And he said, “No, but I mean, like, straightaway, we really could, like, just go in, and the women knew that they were also there for that purpose, and—

EW: 1:23:38 Oh, really? For me, it’s musical theater that I’ve been eyeing.

DM: 1:23:43 You can have that.

EW: 1:23:44 Yeah!

DM: 1:23:44 You can have you can have mine. I do think it’s been made intolerable. And by the way, again, the era of revenge, so much—the pleasure, which women and some men are taking, in sexually torturing heterosexual men is extraordinary to me. I mean, the recognition that the benefits of recent sexual advances can be made, can be accrued by a tiny number of heterosexual men, and that the rest should be tortured, is one of the things I think is least attractive in the age. Again, the language of revenge. I think that, I mean, several things. One is that—the big underlying one is that women are trying to make men into something that women don’t want.

That’s—on the surface. That would sound like very self-defeating and paradoxical behavior.

Sure, well, they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.

EW: 1:24:48 Is that right?

DM: 1:24:49 Yes. So—

EW: 1:24:52 You sure?

DM: 1:24:52 The attempts to feminize the heterosexual male—

EW: 1:24:55 Right.

DM: 1:24:57 —to make him beseeching, and rather pathetic, I mean, this is also, this is a throughout the advertising culture much more—the pathetic male is the very common theme now. The male is the one who cannot do anything, and the kids and the mother need to do it, or the girlfriend. And this, this spills out onto everything. And it’s, of course, because it’s come about because the male part of the dance is not permitted. And then there’s, that’s just one layer. And then you have the layer, which is most interesting to me, which is, the sexual relations are so interesting, because people think there’s only one thing they want.

EW: 1:25:45 Say more.

DM: 1:25:46 Oh, there’s this perception, you know, I mean, “People know what they want, and they go and get it.” No they don’t! They want lots of different things. This is more the case of men than with women. But men want a reliable partner who is chaste except for for them. And they also want other things. And this is a very big juggle. Women have a little bit of that sometimes; a lot less. But women also want contradictory things, in relation to sex, like everything else. One of the things that fascinates me most is that around the same time as the “Me Too” thing emerged, then we got into this ridiculous overcorrection on sexual relations. We just come to the end of a period where all bookstores were absolutely packed with tables full of the most best selling S&M female porn.

EW: 1:26:47 Hmm.

DM: 1:26:49 What was it that was happening in that era? Nobody seems very interested. I mean, people in my mother’s age group were reading E. L. James’ The 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t think they been imbibing S&M porn before. But it spoke to something, something was going on in all of this.

EW: 1:27:06 Well, you have the concept of a bodice-ripper.

DM: 1:27:09 Right.

EW: 1:27:09 Right? And I do think that—

DM: 1:27:11 Which is genteel compared to this stuff.

EW: 1:27:13 Well, it’s very interesting. I mean, in part, you’re getting into the question of, we use— we’ve used a term “rape fantasy” in the past, that does not appear to reference actual rape. It’s a highly stylized—

DM: 1:27:28 Stylized fantasy.

EW: 1:27:30 That doesn’t—that doesn’t actually match reality in any way. And so, in some sense, the key question is, “What is literary BDSM, and what did we think it was?” It’s not clear—I mean, this is the reason that I’m slightly uncertain about these things. A friend of ours, in a group of women, said the following sentence (she being a heterosexual female), “What is wrong with us women? We seek out alpha males, and then the instant we get them home and they try to alpha us, we cry foul.”

DM: 1:28:13 Sure.

EW: 1:28:14 And I think that that has to do with something that’s actually understandable, which is that the fantasy, going back to, let’s say, The Little Prince, is The Taming Of The Other. And so, finding a successful wild beast and converting it into your own private attack dog, where the teeth only point out—

DM: 1:28:34 Yes, except that they also want the—they do on the alpha male on occasion,

EW: 1:28:39 Do and don’t, do and don’t, do and don’t, and in some—but, of course—

DM: 1:28:42 Of course.

EW: 1:28:43 What if that is, in fact, weirdly normal.

DM: 1:28:46 It’s totally normal.

EW: 1:28:47 Agreed.

DM: 1:28:48 It’s totally normal.

EW: 1:28:49 Right.

DM: 1:28:49 It’s—maybe it’s a strange moment to site Saint Paul, but [laughter] Saint Paul says this in one sentences in Galatians, “That I would not, that I do. That I do, that I would not.”

That’s that’s but that’s that’s—

EW: 1:29:13 But these higher order things, like, for example, in order to try to find a less sexually-gendered version of roles that works across male hetero and homosexuality, the concept of top and bottom was born, which is an uncomfortable fit, if you will

DM: 1:29:34 Or fem and butch.

EW: 1:29:35 Fem and butch, right. But the concept of topping from the bottom

DM: 1:29:40 Mm hmm.

EW: 1:29:41 Right? The idea that the bottom may be ostensibly controlled, but actually empowered—

DM: 1:29:51 —is a version of the of the Sex in the City, I fucked him.

EW: 1:29:57 Yes. So, for example, in Yiddish, “schtup”—

DM: 1:30:00 Yeah.

EW: 1:30:01 —for “Fuck”, if you will, is literally, I think, “push” and it’s only transitive from male to female. And that language, having more or less died out, it’s sort of preserved in amber except for the orthodox who continue to speak it. So, you know, that’s a good example of a situation which is, is weirdly [?]. Now of course Sex in the City is a show about four gay men going through their lives in Manhattan, as acted by four heterosexual women. So it’s a bit confusing.

DM: 1:30:32 Yes, yeah. And there are a lot of people who tried that—that didn’t work for them.

EW: 1:30:36 Well, exactly. And I think that, in part, this issue about I think one of the most insightful thinkers on sexuality for me has been Caitlyn Flanagan. And we’ve talked about her before. And her comment was, “it would appear that, from here on out, heterosexual sexuality is to be dictated and determined by females exclusively. And this idea being that, because of the asymmetry of the danger between male-female relations, with respect to sexual dimorphism, the fact that males are larger and stronger and more aggressive sexually, that, in effect, women would be changing the rules and the refereeing at whim and will.

DM: 1:31:23 Yes, yes. Well, that’s that’s the position we’re in. And it’s why men are having such a hell of a time.

EW: 1:31:28 What is happening on the gay side of the fence that mirrors this?

DM: 1:31:32 There is talk of the fact that younger gays now are adopting the sexual ideas that are happening in the straight world. Let me give one example of that, which is that the gay world was much more, again, I mean, I say this as a non-value judgment, for now, but—

EW: 1:31:55 You’ve been out for how long?

DM: 1:31:57 All my adult life,

EW: 1:31:58 All your adult life.

DM: 1:32:00 22 years. The… so some people, by the way, say that I have an off view of, for instance, those occasions where there’s borderline stuff, when a man and a woman—and the claim—or there’s, some people claim I have an off kilter understanding of this, because of the nature of being gay, in one sees in the gay world, and that’s possible, but I think it’s actually not an unhealthy world, in—what I’m talking about is things like, Oh, I don’t know, you’re in a bar, you need to squeeze through a space and somebody touches you on the ass, as you do. It’s not the end of the world, you know. You didn’t ask for it. But you’re in a highly sexualized place. And, so what? It’s quite flattering, you don’t always want it. If you really didn’t want it, you know, but you’re in that game, you’re in the, in the sort of sex-like world. It’s in the mix. I don’t by any means underestimate the extent to which a lot of women, rightly, the rightful thing of the sexual correction is, there are places we didn’t think of as being sexual places, which were turned into sexual places by men who made that misunderstanding. And I recognize that there’s, that’s an awful and horrible thing for that to happen. I would be like, if I was in a studio, and suddenly somebody, you know, touched me. Why would you do that here? I recognize there are—my point is, is that is that there is a high tolerance in the gay world for, or has been a high tolerance for the fact that, you know, you’re in the sex game. It doesn’t mean you’re having sex all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re, you know—

EW: 1:33:55 People are trying to get together with each other, and that there’s going to be a certain amount of type one and type two error.

DM: 1:34:00 Right. So for instance, in one of the most interesting things in the whole thing was when—when these things started to come to court a few years ago. You know, one of the only gay ones involved in MP in the UK. And actually when it came to court the whole thing fell apart, because the men who were said to have suffered included one who, on the witness stand said, “I’m not a victim.”

EW: 1:34:26 Yeah.

DM: 1:34:26 “I was in a bar with him. We were all very drunk. He shoved his hands down my pants. I said, Oh, come on. And he took his hands out. I don’t consider myself a victim. This should never have come to court.” That was a brave thing to say, and it was important thing to say. And, in my view, there needs to be a little bit more of that. But again, I’m not minimizing the fact that some people are in a position where they really don’t want that and they’ve made it clear, and they do feel violated.

EW: 1:34:49 Yeah.

DM: 1:34:51 But the point is, is that there is a dance that happens among gay couples, which is made easy by the fact that each one knows exactly what the other one is basically after.

EW: 1:35:05 They both have the experience of being male and interested and so there’s no mystery, in some sense, as to—

DM: 1:35:11 That’s not to say there aren’t dances that happen and much more. But the understanding of that space has been clearer. Now I stress, I’m told, I learned quite often that—I hear, I should say, the story that younger gays are picking up the sort of, the heterosexual move on sex. I’m increasingly, you know—I would say I was actually I go as far as to say, sex negative. Gay world was, was exciting and lots of—in lots of ways. It was one was—it was basically sex positive. I mean, it didn’t—there were people who didn’t do that. Famously, there were couples who, even in popular gay culture, were sort of—it was a trope of the sort of slightly prissy gay couple who thought they were better than everyone else. But, broadly speaking, the gay world was sex positive, it was one [?]—if you wanted sex, you could have it.

Well, you’ve removed pregnancy.

You’ve removed pregnancy.

EW: 1:36:26 So that was a huge boon.

DM: 1:36:28 Absolutely, and, and stigma, to a great extent, because I mean, none of this is, of course, all this is always moving. But I mean, this, of course, you know, was given the biggest imaginable knocked back by the AIDS crisis. But I think to a great extent, the debate is still going on the to and fro is still going on about the extent to which sex should or should not be stigmatized, and in what situations, but the viewing it in a sort of positive light, to be quite normal. And I do think I joke about the pity I feel for straight friends. But I do think—I do mean, in a way, because I see all the time things like you enter, it happened to me about a year ago, at a gathering where I just—the whole thing was owned and run by the women, who were holding everybody in the whole space captive. And the men all behaved in the way that I’ve discussed with your brother, known as “cuttlefishing”. I mean, they were, they were having all the men, the straight men were behaving as these diminutive, rather pathetic, beseeching beings. And they were doing and I said to several of them, I know what you’re doing here. I know what you’re doing. You need to stop the rampaging females from taking you out, and they could at any moment in this gathering.

EW: 1:37:54 Okay, so one of the curiosities that I have is that I have a fair number of female friends who are livid at the depopulation of the dating environment of men that they find to be masculine and attractive.

DM: 1:38:09 Of course.

EW: 1:38:09 My question though, is, they don’t stand up and say, “You’re not speaking for us all.” Like, if you speaking of my brother, my brother somehow—he’s not great on organization and executive function historically, but he got, I don’t know what it was, eight or nine leading black public intellectuals on one zoom call to do a show, and it was astounding to watch so many varied and different black men and women—I think there was only one female, Chloe Valdary, talking and disagreeing, but strongly rejecting what has been portrayed as Black America’s voice.

DM: 1:38:56 Yeah.

EW: 1:38:57 Right? And saying, “Look, these are all corrections, you’re part of an int—you’re listening into an internal conversation and you’re getting confused. And here are very different perspectives.” It strikes me that we are not here hearing loud trans voices that are saying knock it off. There’s way too many things under the “trans” umbrella and we’re torturing people because you’re asking them to clap when a person has been male for a very long time suddenly converts to female and dominates an athletic competition. Everybody is going to of course have an issue, or, you know, if—I don’t know if you saw this shooting of two sheriffs in Compton, and immediately after a gentleman, I think in a yellow hoodie, is like, “Oh, it’s going down in Compton.” And then he’s showing the cops having been shot in the car and he’s like a half a block, or a block from it. And there’s a collection of black figures screaming “No justice, no peace” before the police even arrive. In other words, to your point, we’re talking about vengeance. Now it may be that these are dirty cops. I don’t know what the history, I don’t know what the story is. However—

DM: 1:40:08 Yeah.

EW: 1:40:09 —what we’re seeing as an absence of moderating in group voices, where I expect that the leading people pointing out what’s wrong with the excesses of a Marxist cult with anti semitic issues, for example—we don’t have a huge number of black voices saying stop torturing our white brothers and sisters.

DM: 1:40:33 And by the way, in that case, it’s obvious who they would be it would be black people saying that—

EW: 1:40:39 Right.

DM: 1:40:39 The problem with the male-female sex thing is that it’s not—well, it is clear to me, in a way, but it’s not clear to the protagonists, who would be the one who said stop doing that. Because a woman who says, “Look, we’re creating these men that we don’t find attractive. We pretend the enemy is alpha men, but a lot of us want the alpha men, we certainly want them in certain rooms in the house”—I won’t go into which one—”We don’t want these weird gamma figures. We don’t want the sort of people who are being shown on all the mugshots or arrest shots in Portland. We don’t we’re not attracted to these people with like, a bit of pink hair and Rouge on one cheek, and we are piercing through the—. We don’t want them. Women don’t want that stuff. They don’t find it attractive, tiny numbers of them do.

EW: 1:41:28 Yeah—

DM: 1:41:28 —but the rest do not. And the men can’t say it, because the men, even the men who would be, well, first of all, also, there’s the thing that any man who describes themselves as alpha is always just intolerably awful. And, but the alpha traits, as it were, in men have been so vengefully assaulted, that the men have to get away with being these versions of themselves that are pathetic. And they’re hoping to do it to get through this era. And I have this conversation with them all the time. You know, it’s a survival mechanism to get through the era we’re in. I feel so sorry for them. Because this, apart from anything else, it makes it much harder to find a partner, much harder, because nobody’s being really honest about what they’re after. And, and they will tell people, they will make some people be people they’re not, and thus be unattractive.

EW: 1:42:29 This is an issue of rhetoric. So, for example, when—one of the things that I’ve learned is that advertising contradicts politics.

DM: 1:42:43 Hmm.

EW: 1:42:45 So, I agree. So for example, if I take any phrase like “male gaze”.

DM: 1:42:53 Yes.

EW: 1:42:53 The male gaze is a “bad” thing. Then I take the phrase, “Turn heads this summer” is an advertising phrase, “Invite the male gaze”, “Make sure that you get your share of male gaze.” That is used to sell clothing. Then somebody will say, “There’s no such thing as provocatively dressed. Does not exist.”

DM: 1:43:12 Yes.

EW: 1:43:13 Then you look up on Google Shopping, and you say “CFM”, right, which literally is “come schtuck me,” with the middle word changed. And you see a bunch of shoes. Now,

DM: 1:43:29 This is the same as making [?].

EW: 1:43:30 You’re marketing to people who are buying these shoes, and they’re not all drag queens.

DM: 1:43:35 No.

EW: 1:43:36 Right. And so now the idea is, if I take any, like, “Make him drool.”

DM: 1:43:43 Make him drool. Yeah, of course—

EW: 1:43:44 Make him drool.

DM: 1:43:45 It’s a good one.

EW: 1:43:45 We’ll have there’ll be an ad campaign, which is speaking about psychogenic arousal.

DM: 1:43:51 And, you know, if you try and make her drool, all you get is some things about cats, who dribble when they sleep.

But there is no equivalent. Yeah.

EW: 1:44:02 But the point is that the political assertions are contradicted, just the way—we have these divided minds, and the key question that we face is what—what is the rhetoric that allows us to point out the minds are at least divided? So for example, a different version of this on Instagram would be, you might say, “I think that gendered behavior is passe.” And then I look at a young woman who’s got 3.8 million followers, and her captions on her photos say things like, headed to the beach. “What should I wear today?” You know, “The yellow bikini, or the blue one?” Okay, well, why is that captioning worth 3.8 million followers?

DM: 1:44:54 Yeah.

EW: 1:44:54 Obviously, it has to do with the fact that we’re not over these things in the slightest.

DM: 1:44:58 No, we’re not and that’s what’s so irritating about the simplicity of what I think of as being the Neo Puritans. The Neo Puritans who’ve come along in the American counter sexual counter revolution in recent years are—have denuded people the capacity to have sex, the capability to have sex, and find sex. And the moves back are unfortunately mirroring that. So they’re becoming men’s movements that, for instance, obsess about how often they masturbate or believe you shouldn’t, you know, and save themselves and do certain dieting things, and all this sort of stuff, it’s like a men’s move against the thing that some women have forced on them in a different way. And it’s an attempt to reclaim it. And, of course, what it all demonstrates is our inability to deal with with a complex issue, which is nevertheless the issue, which most of us know most about in our lives, because it’s the one we’ve practiced the most often, which is how to get around the issues of sex, and deal with it, and enjoy it and not overstep, and all sorts of other stuff. We’ve all, almost everyone in their lives has danced around this. And we know very often, we know how complex the game is.

EW: 1:46:20 Right.

DM: 1:46:20 The problem about it is that people keep coming along saying a game is simple.

EW: 1:46:25 This is what I would say that the institutions keep echoing those who say that the game is simple. And very often you’ll have two different segments on the same show over three days, let’s say, that go in exactly contradictory directions. So, for example, if you want, you know, if you listen to the disembodied institutional voice, it will say, you know, “Princess Such-and-Such sizzles in a red, off-the-shoulder number.” Does she “sizzle”? In a “red, off-the-shoulder number”? Right?

DM: 1:47:01 A man “sizzling”, by the way, in a suit, is just an unpleasant—

EW: 1:47:05 No, no, no, not necessarily. For example, if he was a rap star—

Oh, yeah, that’s—

Then it would be seen as, you know, he “stunned” in an Armani tuxedo.

DM: 1:47:20 Stunned is, yeah, yes, sure.

EW: 1:47:22 Well there’s “stunned”, there’s “sizzles”, then you can conjugate everything creepy. Like I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these photo video reels where men effect female poses. You know, like, if a woman is in a bikini and is on all fours affecting the lordosis behavior of a large feline, the brain accepts this as if it were normal. If it sees a man doing that it’s—the fourth wall is instantly broken. What the hell is he doing?

DM: 1:47:57 Mm.

EW: 1:47:58 Right? And so in a very weird way, we’re not allowed to observe ourselves because sex is intrinsically duplicitous.

DM: 1:48:06 Yes. I mean, we have to find ways around this. And, broadly speaking, the one I mean, my favorite is just viewing sex more positively. And I thought that was—I would have thought, of any thing one might argue for, this would be a winner. But it’s definitely against the current era. And by the way, there is, of course, an inbuilt problem in it, which is not just the extent to which it’s handed out, or indeed able to be enjoyed and indulged in, and the certain unfairnesses that can exist around that. It is also the case that it isn’t entirely cost free. And this is a—

EW: 1:48:45 Well there’s the cost free aspect. There’s also what I’ve—I don’t know that I’ve spoken about this yet, but there’s the tax return principle that I believe very strongly in, which is, if you want to learn my tax returns, one strategy would be to accuse me of engaging, you know, I’m convinced, Eric that you are taking money from the North Korean government and that this explains your fine jacket.

DM: 1:49:15 Mm hmm.

EW: 1:49:16 Well, my initial instinct is to say, “No, no, no, here’s all my pay stubs. Please take all my private information.” Well, what does someone do when they’re accused of some sexual impropriety? Because in order to defend themselves, they now have to dip into stuff that is nobody’s business?

DM: 1:49:36 Yes.

EW: 1:49:38 And so in—

DM: 1:49:39 By the way in all of which, it always reminds me of—one of the reasons why there’s certain religious practices which I’m—which occasionally somebody will laugh at, and I always say I wouldn’t tease you on that because almost any religious practice to an outsider looks ridiculous. So don’t do it. I just don’t do it. It’s very discourteous. And anyhow, it the example comes to mind because it’s the same with sex. I think that a reasonable, in the genuine sense, “liberal-minded” person should hold in their head the fact that, you know, no—to every man and to [?], certainly to every man, there are few things in life more important than how, where, and when they get sex.

EW: 1:50:28 Yes.

DM: 1:50:29 But to everybody else, that man’s concerns are ridiculous.

EW: 1:50:34 Absolutely.

DM: 1:50:35 Absolutely every other person on the planet, and that you should assume that just though you could do that to other people, you probably shouldn’t, because you’re gonna—it’s going to come back to you too.

EW: 1:50:47 Well this is—this has to do with the fact that the brain, the human mind, has a particular state for the protagonist, which is us, in our story.

DM: 1:50:56 Yes.

EW: 1:50:57 And it has every other state colored differently.

DM: 1:50:59 Yes.

EW: 1:51:00 And so I remember being at the coffee connection in Cambridge, Massachusetts, seated next to two lovebirds and they were cooing at each other. Like, “Who’s my little Wookum Snookums”. Right? Now, there’s nothing ridiculous about it. “Who’s my little Wookum Snookums”—

DM: 1:51:16 Yeah.

EW: 1:51:17 —is a completely reasonable thing to say, if that’s your idiom.

DM: 1:51:21 Yes.

EW: 1:51:22 Well, look, I had this problem here where I had Ashley Matthews in your chair, and the idea was we were going to talk around sex, but we weren’t going to talk about sex in any way that was exciting. Right? And so this, trying to introduce yourself to your own mind and finding out that what you think of as “hot” is obviously ridiculous—

DM: 1:51:46 Yeah.

EW: 1:51:46 —to somebody else.

DM: 1:51:48 Yes. Yeah. Well, everybody else, everybody. That’s

EW: 1:51:52 No, no, no, there’s certain conventions that we’ve agreed to accept.

DM: 1:51:55 Oh, yeah, that’s true. That’s true.

EW: 1:51:57 So like, for example, you know, and I mentioned lordosis behavior.

DM: 1:52:00 Yeah.

EW: 1:52:01 Anything that curves the spine in particular way will generally be seen to be hot, because there are universals. For example, the idea of persistent mammary glands, not during nursing, is peculiar to the human species among 5000 species of mammals. It means that there is a universal fetish of the human breast because it actually has informational content.

DM: 1:52:25 Which is famously particularly much the case in India.

EW: 1:52:28 In what sense?

DM: 1:52:29 In online search. Indian men have a particular likelihood of searching for women who are in lactating phase, it’s quite an interesting—

Oh, lactating—huh.

It’s one of those interesting things that is sort of, you know, once everyone realized that Google search results weren’t as secret as they thought they were, you know, there’s a lot of things you can find out, not least, of course, famously the number of Arab men who want to see photos of women pretending to be IDF soldiers before they strip.

EW: 1:52:57 Yeah. But. Well, you know, that there’s this famous Bollywood song, Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai.

DM: 1:53:05 Oh, yeah.

EW: 1:53:06 Right, which is like “What’s under my sari blouse?” And, you know, “I think it’s my heart my deal” or something? Like,

DM: 1:53:13 It’s not what—

EW: 1:53:13 Yeah, but they play with, with certain idioms.

DM: 1:53:16 But it’s, it’s an endlessly interesting thing, this, because we are very interested in what other people do and are interested in, and always hope that nobody’s interested in what we’re interested—like, want to know what it is that gets us off. And this is one reason why it’s such a dangerous moment. Because as I say, my—I think a reasonable attitude towards sex is “It should be very important to yourself, and you should assume it’s of no significance to other people.

EW: 1:53:48 Right.

DM: 1:53:48 And try to live this out elsewhere. So don’t over enjoy the attempts to demean other people through whatever their sexual proclivities are. But then you have the layer on top of that, which has come in the last three years in particular, which is the men caught out in what are shown as sort of pathetic things and thinking of things that embarrassing one, but I mean, the Louie C.K. affair. It shows him, you know, it shows him, and, by extension, men in a rather pathetic light, is the presumption.

EW: 1:54:24 Because of the existence of a kink.

DM: 1:54:26 Because of the existence of a kink. And I found that, when it was going on, to be, obviously you know that some women said this was unpleasant. Some—one woman in particular did say, “Yeah, no, he asked me about this, and I never—it didn’t affect me.” And I admired her enormously for saying that. I thought, Gosh, if more people did that, if the people who don’t see themselves as victims—but the presentation of—the way we can only talk about it in the language of victimhood also means that even—I don’t want to be judgmental about it, but it’s sort of a vaguely pathetic, as it were, situation, which is being laid out, should be presented as if it is the most domineeringly appalling thing, means that we only can talk in the language of victimhood.

EW: 1:55:14 That’s an interesting point. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the Nicki Minaj video—

DM: 1:55:18 I am, I write about it! Anaconda—

EW: 1:55:20 My Anaconda.

DM: 1:55:21 [?] You should know about this!

EW: 1:55:23 Ah, alright. Well, we may have talked about it—

DM: 1:55:25 Yeah, I did—

EW: 1:55:26 We talked about the final scene.

DM: 1:55:28 Yes, yes. Yeah. I’m obsessed by this. I write about it in Madness of Crowds. It’s a very, very important video. Yeah, this is, yes. The the

EW: 1:55:37 I’ve called it strip club feminism, where the male, after innumerable sexual provocations with no other purpose—

DM: 1:55:45 Yeah. Yes.

EW: 1:55:47 —loses himself and makes the mistake of touching the female slightly in the hips and then she’s disgusted.

DM: 1:55:55 Yeah, this is there is so many versions of it. The pole dancing thing, as an alleged fitness regime workout—

EW: 1:56:09 I have strong feelings about that, so watch yourself.

DM: 1:56:11 Okay. Okay,

EW: 1:56:11 Okay, go ahead.

DM: 1:56:12 But, but all of this is—

EW: 1:56:16 But you’ve seen the Indian sport art form, athletic competition that is effectively male pole dancing.

I shall Google it immediately after this interview.

You’re in for a treat, sir. [laughter]

DM: 1:56:27 I—

EW: 1:56:28 Focus!

DM: 1:56:30 I do think that is—[laughter] Um, I do think that it’s, it’s this thing I write about in Madness, the, you know, the sexy, sexy without being sexualized, or that—all those conjugations. I just think we need, we need to think about this more carefully, more cautiously. Again, nobody wants to be pushed into the terrain of pretending that sexual unpleasantnesses don’t exist.

EW: 1:57:03 But that—

DM: 1:57:04 But, but, equally, we just can’t concede the ground we’ve conceded in recent years.

EW: 1:57:10 See, I think this is, again, the same sort of issue that we were talking about with trans before, which is, how do you give advice to to people who need to hear opposite things. So my friend makes the point that the reckless child needs to be told, “Do not stare at the sun during an eclipse, you will destroy your eyes.” The timorous child needs to be told, “If you glance at the sun, you will not necessarily go blind; don’t overdo it.” And the inability to give a textured and differentiated message—

DM: 1:57:43 This is also what I described in Madness of Crowds as the problem of the disappearance of private and public language, because ordinarily, in any other business, again, it goes back to your point about the mobile phone, and it’s done to us. At any previous point in our species, we would have known what to do with it, you said one thing to the timorous child and another thing to the reckless child. And you could do that.

It’s only today, in this era in our evolution, that we are having to find a way to say the same thing. Not just to everyone on the planet, but a thing to potentially one person and potentially to everyone on the planet. And that’s one on all of this stuff we’re struggling with. We’re struggling with communication, we’re struggling with consistency and morality, because we are trying to juggle with that fundamental communication shift. And it’s, it’s no wonder we’re confused, because I suppose the only way forward, the only way through this is to be honest about something.

EW: 1:58:41 Or to realize that we actually have to innovate new ways of speaking. I believe that Obama was actually in the process of innovating a way, and I particularly commend everyone his speech on affirmative action—

DM: 1:58:54 Oh, yeah.

EW: 1:58:55 —where what he did was he said, “If you are having the feeling that you have been traditionally frozen out of a different world or educational path, you have to realize that we need to do this to remediate past wrongs. And if you are feeling that you are being treated unfairly, this is actually something that needs to be taken very seriously. And this is completely understandable, because, in fact, there is an aspect of unfairness to the whole thing. And what he realized, I think, was that everyone heard his or her own version louder than they heard everyone else’s. So it was possible to give one speech to a group of people, and then count on the blind men to take the elephant and turn it into a bunch of different experiences. I think that we are not—part of the problem is that when we invented our version of the printing press, which was the internet that became the mobile and social internet, we didn’t invent all of the kinds of speech that we needed to go along with this new innovation. And so we imagined that this wasn’t that big of a deal. When John Brockman, I think as far back as something like 2010, asked his annual question to the effect of “How is the internet changing the way you think?” the most common answer that he received back was, “Not at all.” And he said, “You would have thought—” he said to me, in particular, he said, “You would have thought that I asked them how a toaster was changing the way they thought.” That nobody seemed to see this in terms of the impact on their lives, and I really believe that, in part, when you receive a desist order that you’ve violated a capital law in Pakistan, and you’ve never been to Pakistan, you have no dealings with Pakistan, you’re sitting in Montreal, why are you—Why is Twitter passing along a notice that you might be under a death sentence in Pakistan?

DM: 2:00:50 And unfortunately, this is one of the things I think I think for timorous of the age has been caused in large part by this, I noticed it some years ago, by the way, because we should we should try to solve that we should try to point towards

EW: 2:01:04 Well this is gonna be the last question, coming up.

DM: 2:01:07 I mean, we have to find a way through this, we have to find a way to not have timorous people. And or at least not have everyone made timorous. And I noticed some years ago, there’s a there was an event in London where I think five people gave speeches in totally different fields. One was a biologist, one was a novelist. And I just, it wasn’t a particularly interesting evening, except for in one regard, which was, I think, three or four out of the five speeches at some point, if not, at the beginning, involve the speaker saying, and it’s not what you read about me on the internet.

EW: 2:01:42 Yeah.

DM: 2:01:42 And I just thought, that’s interesting.

EW: 2:02:07 Well, this is the age of misportrayal.

DM: 2:01:47 I had only heard of one of the speakers once before. And I actually said to one of them afterwards, you know, we don’t actually spend our time reading about you on internet. We don’t Google you. I mean, now they—the problem was, they weren’t on to nothing, which is that if you did put their name in effect, and then whatever comes up in the fallacious totally appalling and obhorrent cite Wikipedia, would include a load of untrue information about the wish they were trying to like me with they’re trying to correct and there’s no mechanism to correct them. And so version of your life is put out there by this despicable company. This, these people were afraid of one legitimate thing. And they had also all been suffering through the fact that this era, which everyone pretended wasn’t going to change, everything meant they were all everyday imbibing criticism of themselves that before they would only have heard in a Rao from somebody who knew them quite well. And even then, very rarely, right. And, and, and they were all sort of I thought, that you’re all sort of traumatized. And I think to an extent in the same way that our era has has imbibed a form of catastrophism about everything. We’ve imbibed this, we’ve imbibed The, the the feeling that we are all being assaulted in the sales all the time, because we can’t get off our damn phones. And we are seeking out. It’s self harm. It’s self harm. We’re seeking out people who don’t like us, and listening to them. And it’s making us again, I think some of them are bots. Oh, I’m sure, I’m sure. But, you know, some of them are real lyrics. And they, they, they are having an effect. Yeah, I know, so many people, okay, who have been fundamentally affected by this, and they have to be saved. Also, by the way, we have to not celebrate people for suffering. You know, the sort of, I’ve been—this is a particularly female move, it has to be said, but the—I’ve been criticized, even very unpleasantly, even sometimes in really reprehensible terms, racially or sexually. I’ve been criticized like this online, doesn’t mean you’re right. Doesn’t mean you’re right; doesn’t mean you get to win. In the Kathy Newman move. She does a reprehensible interview, she makes a fool of herself. Some of us point it out, then some people online criticize her, and then she’s the victim. There are all sorts of moves like this, but it is meant that the [?]—

EW: 2:04:13 Well, you start your sentence, you know, in ridiculous fashion. Like, “As a Portuguese penguin in America, I feel that—”

DM: 2:04:14 Right.

EW: 2:04:17 It’s like, “Well, why did you tell me you were a Portuguese penguin? You know? That sounds ridiculous to you. How about if I started, “As a Jewish man in America”, “As a black man in America,” “As a gay man in America,” As a gay man from Puerto Rico”? You know, at some level, our new credentialing system has to do with the idea—it’s very much victim takes all because the great pride—

DM: 2:04:47 Yes.

EW: 2:04:47 —great prize, rather, is that only a victim is entitled to everything up to murder in self defense. Yeah, and I think that the key point is is that we’re looking to unlock the gun cabinet, if once you understand the vengeance is what’s on tap.

DM: 2:05:05 Yes.

EW: 2:05:05 Right? The idea being I need access to the gun cabinet, let me tell you that I need to defend myself because I’m under an imminent threat and therefore I’m going to do things that under any circumstance other than this would be absolutely illegal.

DM: 2:05:20 Yeah.

EW: 2:05:20 And this search for the rationale to inflict grievous harm on another, this has to do with why we’re competing, because the victim is the most powerful. It may be that the victim, on his or her own, would be less powerful. But once the victim couples to the state, or to institutional media, that combination, that sort of hybridization of a human being as victim and an incredibly powerful structure as protector, is like Iron Man getting into his mech-suits—Tony Stark becoming Iron Man by getting into a mech-suit. Well, now the victim is no longer a victim. Now the victim is actually super empowered to do what no normal person could do under any circumstances. The question that this brings up, for both of us, is, why are there so few people with ovarian or testicular fortitude in order to stand up for all of the marvelous things that this anomalously lucky situation affords us? What do we do to induce people—now I’m going to reveal something on this program that I’ve waited to reveal—people always asked me, “Well, you named the IDW, who is in the Intellectual Dark Web?” And you were patient zero. [laughter] You didn’t know it. But if there was anyone in the intellectual dark web, I realized after the Charlie Hebdo situation, it was you. And I viewed that as really heroic. And I know, in particular, because we’ve also discussed the time that you’ve taken to spend in refugee camps, the ways in which I think that you’ve really, you know, deeply put yourself in contact with those less fortunate, if I listen to Majid Nawaz’s story of how he met you, I’ve been really very moved by your willingness to wade into an area where you have deep sympathies with many of the people adversely affected and been forced to say very difficult things, with class, in an extremely fraught environment. What is it that we can do—and by the way, everybody should check out this AlJazeera clip—to induce people towards public courage to stand up for what they actually believe in, and to do so in a decent, rather than in a, simply a powerful fashion.

DM: 2:07:52 I think the first thing is just to know what you’re at risk of losing. I think that’s the overwhelming thing. You know, I’m very fortunate because I’ve been a writer all my life, and I’ve come gravitate towards things that interest me. That’s a, it’s a wonderful position to be in, you know, anyone who wants to be a writer, this is a, you know, a call to do that, for that reason, among much else. And I think difficult issues are the most interesting ones, you know, I’ve sort of always written, my first book, in a way, I invite naughty, difficult things. And if you look at naughty and difficult things, you should look them in the face, but it’s meant that along my career, I’ve been lucky enough, fortunate enough to travel to an awful, awfully large array of places, and seen an awfully large, perhaps too large array of ways in which human life can fall out. And I never, I never had taken it all for granted. But you simply can’t see the rest of the world—

EW: 2:09:01 It doesn’t all look like Portobello Road.

DM: 2:09:03 It does not it does not. And I you know, even in the non war zones, you know, even is you know, I mean, travel around India, and try to tell yourself that life in America is beknighted. Travel around much of China, and try to tell yourself that human rights are not respected in the United States of America or the United Kingdom, let alone all the countries I could list, which I’ve seen firsthand the extent to which human life has even less, in fact, much less value in the eyes of people in power than in the places I’ve just mentioned.

EW: 2:09:51 Or place like Thailand that hasn’t been colonized, and yet, if you look at a Thai demonstration, or if you go to a Muay Thai fight, or all sorts of things… things come with the human condition that don’t have anything to do with, you know, the, the impact of colonialism, let’s say.

DM: 2:10:11 Yeah. And I, yes, and I’m—and I think people should try to shrug off this, these boring paradigms that have been put into you know.

EW: 2:10:19 But what’s fun, what’s exciting? Like, in other words, we have a chance, in part. And I’ve listened to you because I generally discourage people from doing this, for the main reason that people start off very eager, and they say, “How do I get involved? How do I speak out?” And then I always say, “Look, make sure you can afford to lose your job. Make sure you can stand up to a mob.” Once those people say, “Yes, I’ve made these decisions,” I’m quite willing to tell them about all the great things that can happen to them when they do stand up, but I don’t want to lure people—


—who are ill-prepared, and then say, “Well, you know, I took your advice, and now I’m out of a job.”

DM: 2:10:57 Absolutely. I remember a friend of mine in Northern Ireland said to me many years ago, “Have you ever urged somebody to step forward and they’ve been killed?” And I said, “It hasn’t happened to me yet.” He said, “It happened to me.” You know, I—it’s a much less dangerous scenario as we’re talking about, but i i don’t i don’t urge people to be Kamikaze. I mean, I wouldn’t mind—

EW: 2:11:21 Short—long heroism, short martyrdom is our slogan.

DM: 2:11:24 Right. And, you know, my view is you wouldn’t need Kamikazes if everyone took one step forward. You know, I’m for everybody being—taking one step forward.

EW: 2:11:38 Except you.

DM: 2:11:40 Well—

EW: 2:11:40 You’re waaaaay forward!

DM: 2:11:44 That’s what my mother fears!

Yeah, I’m, I’m with her!

I, um, look, I don’t feel it. I mean, I, um, I feel… great. Apart from for the state of the world, particularly for the state of America. But, you know, if you, if you get an idea of what it is you want to defend—

EW: 2:12:13 Right.

DM: 2:12:14 —and it’s deeply embedded—

EW: 2:12:15 Right.

DM: 2:12:16 Then you can dance in all the ambiguities, and dance on all the cliff edges. It’s—

EW: 2:12:22 Well, you may die as well. But the thing that I would say is, if you know that all of this is nonsense, hmm. And you just keep your mouth quiet and you mouth things that you have to mouth because you’re on a board, or you don’t want to lose your spot in line for law school, or whatever it is that you’re worried about happening, make no mistake, you will be dying for quite some time.

DM: 2:12:45 Hmm, oh, yeah, this is a long death. I also think that, in a way, and again, maybe this is a personality trait of certain people, but I remember Christopher Hitchens, who you mentioned earlier, who was a great friend, who I think about recently, as I’m just reading Martin Ames’ book about him. Hitch once said that in, in Sarajevo in the 90s, when the city was being shelled by Serb forces, he and various other journalists and others made it in, and you know, and he said that one night he was standing sort of on the walls overlooking the city, and, you know, guns going off and all that sort of thing. He said a fellow journalist sidled up to him, and they’re all sort of smoking, and he said to Christopher, “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful time to be in love?” And he said that about, sort of, half his audiences got what he was saying. But the instinct that human life is best lived in comfort is a perfectly reasonable instinct, that most people want it. But the instinct that human life is also precarious—

EW: 2:14:04 Yes.

DM: 2:14:05 —and that the precariousness isn’t a problem necessarily, certainly not all the time. That an element of risk [?]. How’s that for everything? An element of risk is—it can be a problem in certain circumstances, and in other ways, it’s just energizing beyond anything. And if you’re going to take any risk, then you might as well take the risk of telling the truth. Not just because you might get something out of it, or achieve something out of it, or feel better about yourself, but because we all might get somewhere.

EW: 2:14:37 Well this is—I joke frequently about my anger at homosexuals for monopolizing the concept of a closet—thate there are closets in every area of human endeavor. And you shouldn’t jump out of closets regularly. Like, “I don’t think vaccines are a hundred percent safe!”

DM: 2:14:56 Yeah.

EW: 2:14:57 “Maybe 99.8—”

DM: 2:14:59 Yeah.

EW: 2:14:59 “—but not 100!” When you do it, there’s no turning back. And you have to do it a little better. You’re really not alive.

DM: 2:15:07 Mmm, that’s right.

EW: 2:15:08 But you do it too much or you become addicted to it because—

DM: 2:15:10 Yes, there are people who are addicted to it.

EW: 2:15:12 Exactly. I’m thinking about a situation I was just in with my son, where we were scuba diving in Belize. And we happened to encounter a Caribbean Reef Shark quite unexpectedly. Now, if you’ve never seen one, it’s like a scaled down Great White. It’s got the same classic profile. And the first thought was, “Holy shit, it’s a Great White Shark!” And then it darted away. And, you know, you’re reduced to scuba signals, so you can’t really tell from your guide, “No, no, don’t worry, it wasn’t a Great White, it was—”. But the next thought was, “Oh crap, it’s gone! How do I find it again?” Right? So the idea being that you went from a state of total terror to, “Wow, that’s the most fascinating thing I saw on this dive. How do I get some more?”

DM: 2:15:58 Yes, yes.

EW: 2:15:59 And I do think that, in part, you need to balance the pleasure—

DM: 2:16:03 Yes.

EW: 2:16:04 —of being yourself, and standing up and saying something real, with the terror and self-protective nature of, “I need to retain some healthy fear.” And I worry that we haven’t done a good enough job of pushing out a how-to manual for people who are thinking about taking the first steps to saying, “Hey, you know what, I don’t necessarily know, what does “believe women” mean, when two women are arguing about a point of fact, and they both can’t be correct? Like, I can’t figure out what you mean by “Believe women”, not because I don’t want to believe women, [but] because I don’t think what you’re saying actually makes sense. That would be an example of something where you could get quite hurt for observing what is absolutely obvious. Like, if you said, “Believe Paraguayans”, what if two of them get into an argument? “Believe religious people.” What if they don’t agree on an origin story? None of these—

DM: 2:16:15 [?]

EW: 2:16:58 Yeah! And I wonder if part of the thing is that we haven’t pushed out an attractive concept of an affiliate program for people to get their feet wet and start to learn that they might be, they might have a rhetorical gift for this.

DM: 2:17:13 Yeah, all I can say is that people should try it, they should dip the toe in the water. I can’t judge it enough. And—

EW: 2:17:24 You have you have good dinners, you still have friends,

DM: 2:17:27 Look, I’ve got terrific friends!

EW: 2:17:29 You travel the world.

DM: 2:17:30 I’m lucky enough to travel the world, even in this era.

There’s a very, very strong thing it’s important to stress in this, which is that people, broadly speaking, in our circle, I say, vaugley, friends and others have quite often been portrayed by others, it goes back to what you were saying about, you know, controversial professors in ways that are not really accurate.

EW: 2:17:55 Right.

DM: 2:17:55 So Jordan is portrayed as controversial professor—

EW: 2:17:59 Right.

DM: 2:18:00 —when there’s nothing, almost nothing he says it should in any way be controversial. Certainly not any more than things—

EW: 2:18:06 It’s certainly not as a psychometrician.

DM: 2:18:08 Yes. And, and—

EW: 2:18:10 I may disagree with him about his devotion to IQ as a reliable psychometric—

DM: 2:18:14 Right.

EW: 2:18:14 But it’s not—it’s a scholarly sort of an issue.

DM: 2:18:16 And it’s certainly not the case that anything he says should make him be awarded that label, as opposed to multiple other academics playing in appalling fields who certainly should be described as controversial. So anyway, the point is, we’ve been sort of wrongly designated and all sorts of ways. And I’ve found this, quite often, not just in other people, but for myself, I’m being portrayed as in some way a sort of outright—or outlier. And so I sort of have to stress to people not only that it doesn’t feel like that, but it’s not the case. You know, I’m not, like, hanging on by my fingertips to respectability, such as it is, and such as I would desire it. I write for all of the major newspapers in my country. It’s a wonderful thing. But they all want me in their pages, and it’s a great honor. And—

EW: 2:19:07 Would that be true here?

DM: 2:19:08 Here less so, partly because I’m not here, and I don’t write [?]. Secondly, I think you have a particular problem with your media here. And your media here is particularly degraded. That might—

EW: 2:19:23 It’s been very violent.

DM: 2:19:24 Yeah, it is appalling. I mean, for instance, I mean, the New York Times has, a couple of times, teased me to try to get me in, and then—

EW: 2:19:31 Fomer paper of record.

DM: 2:19:32 Exactly, then it always is what I think it’s going to be, which is that they have no intention of running the most careful version of what I think—

EW: 2:19:42 Right.

DM: 2:19:42 —in their pages. And in that form of paper only ever writes about me when it wants to assault me, but no, I think it would be different here. You’re quite right. But, the point I’m trying to make is, I’m totally mainstream. Okay, my books are all bestsellers, I, again, am enormously grateful. This is not a boast. But, you know, my first books about to be reissued for the first time in 20 years since its first publication. I have wonderful friends from a bewildering array of places. And I will not have people, who are genuinely obscure people, who deserve their obscurity, and genuinely incurious and uncredentialed and unthinking, try to portray me or any of the rest of us as, in some way, the weirdos. It’s not the case.

EW: 2:20:43 Well this is this British expression, “Oh, do fuck off.”

DM: 2:20:46 I invite them to do so, yeah. And so, it really it really has to be stressed, I’m getting fed up of the number of people who sidle up to me and asked me about my, you know, benighted status.

EW: 2:20:59 Yeah.

DM: 2:20:59 It’s not like that. It’s not just it doesn’t feel like that. It isn’t like that.


And it isn’t, I think for most of us. And I think that the era of hiding behind victimhood—

EW: 2:21:12 Yes.

DM: 2:21:13 —as a way to excuse oneself, and permit oneself to see things that are true, really ought to stop. There’s a new phase that’s needed on this, as with so many other things.

EW: 2:21:27 Yeah. My personal take on it is that this culture war ends the moment the world’s least intersectional person has to tell the world’s most intersectional person that he/she/it is wrong. And it’s a matter of fact, it’s not a question of privilege. It’s just, there are times when what you’re advocating for, you know, if you decided that what we should do is we should cut up babies and use them for spare parts. It’s very important that the most unsympathetic person you know, Bartholomew P. Wigglesbottom the 17th be able to say, “That is a stupid idea.” Even if Bartholomew is absolutely not a sympathetic character in any way, shape, or form. So it sounds to me like, you know, in essence, you do have some hope, if not to undo the strange death of Europe, at least to undo the madness of our current moment—

DM: 2:22:21 Absolutely.

EW: 2:22:22 And that what we should be doing is bringing more young people in with the confidence that there’s a place for them at the table and that their careers and dinner parties and good cheer, and that there will be people of all races, colors, and creed waiting to welcome them in?

DM: 2:22:35 Yeah, we are larger in number, and we will be larger in number, and we will be larger in number than the appalling people on the other side, with whom you wouldn’t want to dine anyway.

EW: 2:22:47 Very good. Well, you’ve been dining on the ideas of one, Douglas Murray, here from the UK. Enjoy his books on The Strange Death of Europe and The Madness of Crowds, as well as his first book, which is being reissued under the title—

DM: 2:23:02 It’s called Bosie, it’s a biography of Alfred Douglas, the man who brought down Oscar Wilde. And I’ve written a new autobiographical preface, which explains how I came into this world.

EW: 2:23:12 So run, don’t walk, to your local bookseller, or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold. You’ve been through The Portal with Douglas, but please subscribe to us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, wherever you subscribe and listen to podcasts, then navigate over to the YouTube channel, and please subscribe there and remember to click the bell icon to be notified when the next video drops. And other than that, take care of yourselves and be well everyone.