“That’s the laziness, the knee-jerk reaction, the emotional reaction—which is born of fear. The fear of dialogue and the fear of actually having conversations with people that we may disagree with. The best way to ignore the consequences that dialogue can work is to tarnish everyone with the same brush, and is to, in fact, effectively slander everyone. And that way we are justifying to ourselves—and those who are listening to us—why dialogue isn’t a good thing.” Maajid Nawaz in interview with Dave Rubin
Photo and video credit: The Rubin Report and OraTV
The Rubin Report is an internet talk show hosted by comedian and political commentator Dave Rubin. Rubin holds a political science degree from Binghamton University, New York, and has previously served as a host of The Young Turks as well as the podcast The Six Pack on Sirius XM Radio. The “new and improved” Rubin Report kicked off in early September this year with Sam Harris as its first guest, and the show has quickly grown a diverse and energetic following.
Though Rubin’s visitors arrive at the pool-green chair across him via a wide range of backgrounds, politically, professionally and culturally—several motifs have already begun to localize on the show and become persistent through-lines of the exchanges. Political correctness, front and center, trailed closely by libertarianism, religiosity (thus, areligiosity), and what author Maajid Nawaz has helpfully termed the “Regressive Left.”
Rubin and team’s missive is simple: reclaim liberalism from said regressives who have taken it upon themselves—through overventuresome naiveté, stupidity, callousness, or a stew of the three—to exercise positions completely antonymic to their chosen label. The seeds of which have, as Harris puts it, planted our species and planet “in the midst of a political and moral emergency.”
The Rubin Report is a platform dauntless by necessity, in light of this, and because it endeavors to be a space for disagreement as much as acquiescence, recognizing the former for the democratic principle (and progressive necessity) it is. What a wild thought, right? Unfortunately, the concept is somehow thought exotic in 2015, and the fruits of this mentality can be observed everywhere: from rampant policing of language on social media by citizens of citizens, to outlets operating indistinctly, often, from the very campaigns left or right of the centre that they, the media, are supposed to occupy.
In the present political hemisphere, in every public forum availed us, most people are unable to fairly and reasonably acknowledge dissent against their own held views, especially if it grazes a potentially provocative issue—which today’s incendiary political correctness has made every issue, with no mind (or care) for the backfire received not only by the parties thought “protected” by this heraldry, but by everyone, “protectors” included.
I’m not about to pretend I’m completely free of my own immunities, or that immunities are necessarily bad—of course they aren’t, but I am aware that when an immune system becomes overactive it becomes autoimmune, self-destructive by nature. The Rubin Report has already, in fact, had a guest which tested my own (clear to me after the fact) overactive responses, this not helped by his resemblance to Adrian Veidt, perhaps. But while “Sith-like logic” may have indeed been on offer, whether in sum or just in part, we learn more about our positions when exposing ourselves to the positions of others, regardless if compromised or fortified for the effort.
(On Yiannopoulos, I will say that, though I had no first-hand experience of him or his work outside this interview, but had obviously heard a lot of unfavourable things about him, I was given more to reflect on than I had (I’m embarrassed to admit) hoped. I can admit at least one new insight, anyway, and find some of my positions more coloured after hearing his thoughts—for good or ill I’m not yet sure.)
Ultimately, we have to confront confrontation itself—and we do this through an honest effort (emphasis on honest) to understand just what exactly it is that we’re confronting. Our sensitivities keep us alert to wrongs, yes, but when dialed too high accomplish them; we miss the mark when we neglect to be precise with our shots, even when the “mark” is in our crosshairs. This spraying is irresponsible, tactless, and of no help to anyone, including—as already stated—ourselves.
Writer and human rights activist Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar describes, from Rubin’s green guest chair, a Facebook conversation in which a woman expressed her concern that pictures Al-Mutar posted of himself smiling “trivialized the experience of depressed people,” and when he responded with understandable bemusement, blocked him. “Eventually nobody’s going to be allowed to speak,” says Al-Mutar. “Anybody’s going to claim offense.” The Rubin Report was created, in a sense, from this worry: Rubin was opposed to the increasingly dishonest smear tactics Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks—his employers at the time—were targeting at public figures such as Sam Harris. (And now Nawaz, Sarah Haider, and others.)
He rightly shares Al-Mutar’s worry, as do I. Because whether or not our claimed antagonists are our antagonists—whether they’re antagonists at all, we do not become enlightened by throwing shade, or waving torches. We learn this much when we grow up. I wish more of us would.