This week, John McWhorter and I are joined by the literary scholar Tyler Austin Harper and the historian Daniel Bessner. I’ve had Tyler and Daniel on in the past, and while our politics may not align all the time, I find them to be extremely intelligent, challenging interlocutors. Talking only to people on “your side”—even brilliant people—can lead to intellectual stagnation. All of us, whether on the left or the right, require principled, good-faith debate partners in order to sharpen our positions or adjust them if we find they don’t hold up under scrutiny. At a time when cynical brand management and self-righteous moralism are usurping reasoned argument, it’s vital that those of us who are interested in searching out truth talk to one another, whatever our politics.
But how much do we really disagree? Daniel and Tyler are both sharply critical of capitalism, and they’re both believers in the necessity of radical action on climate change. With apologies to Daniel and Tyler, I think we’re better off with capitalism than without it. I think a sudden, dramatic shift away from fossil fuels would be a catastrophe. But there are issues where we can find common ground. Certain quarters of the left are becoming more vocally critical of the absurdities and contradictions of DEI and identity politics, which the campus conflicts between pro-Palestinian and Zionist protesters are laying bare. On that, I think I can say, the four of us are more or less agreed.
We’re not going to solve Israel-Palestine on a podcast. But if we can take even a step toward forging a trans-ideological coalition dedicated to undoing the damage DEI and identity politics have wrought over the last few years, we’ll be better off than we were yesterday.
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0:00 The state of campus speech after 10/7
5:48 Daniel: Why are critics of cancel culture silent when it comes to Israel?
15:43 “Explaining” Hamas vs. “excusing” Hamas
26:17 Tyler: American Jewish students worried about their safety have been primed by modern identity politics
29:31 The tension between DEI and antisemitism response teams
40:29 The linguistic ambiguity of “From the river to the sea”
45:53 The irreconcilable conflict between campus social justice and donor funding
50:01 If not liberalism, then what?
56:02 Tyler: Postwar political conservatism is coming apart
Recorded November 18, 2023