The "Fight" against CRT
with Nikita Petrov
Earlier this year, I sat down with writer, artist, and TGS Creative Director Nikita Petrov to talk about two burning questions he had on his mind: “What the hell is going on?” and “What is to be done?” Spoiler: We didn’t come up with any definite answers. But we did hit on a lot of interesting material along the way.
In the following excerpt, Nikita encourages me to think about my relationship to the CRT debate. I often think of the fight against CRT as exactly that: A fight. But is framing the issue as a “fight” a productive way to change minds? After all, I want to win an argument. That doesn’t necessarily mean vanquishing all enemies. It means winning people over to my side. It means convincing people that woke excesses are leading us down a dangerous path. It means inviting people into the truth (at least as I see it).
Should we think of efforts to stop woke indoctrination as a “fight”? I’m still wrestling with the question. I’d love to know what you think—let me know in the comments!
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NIKITA PETROV: So you see something in a society, let's say this CRT movement and the social structures that are emerging around it. And you see it's problematic. If it is, if one of the issues is these are people that are stuck in this teenage kind of relationship with society at large, with themselves, with each other, with other groups, et cetera.
If you want to find a way for them to transcend that, to grow up, to get more seriously engaged with the issues that they find problematic, should that be fighting the ideology, the movement? Should “the fight” be the metaphor for how you engage with them? This is a metaphor, but if you compare it to, you know, a troubled teenager who says, “Fuck you, fuck this society, I'm in a punk band," and that's working well for a while, but then you want to grow past that. If you just fight the teenager or the music he's making, this attitude, is that a way to help them develop?
GLENN LOURY: Probably not. And if I had a daughter who had fallen into a sect and they believed some strange, weird religious doctrine, would I argue theology with her? “No, the doctrine is incorrect.”
No, no, no. The point would be, you're allowing your life to be consumed by some arbitrary speculations about some things. Come on, don't be a slave to this thing. Think of yourself as a free-acting human being and make your own choices in your life. “Don't be a child. Grow up” would be what I would want to say. I wouldn't want to argue the particulars of the childishness. I wouldn't descend into the world of those ideas in order to refute them. I would ask her to get a grip on her life. I would I would appeal to higher ground than the ground of the particular sectarian obsession. I would appeal to her humanity at a higher level, somehow. Something like that.
I mean, you're making me think that “the fight” ... and I warm to the fight! I now have to ask myself, why do I enjoy the fight? Am I really interested in a solution? Or am I just interested in the fight? Maybe I just like to fight. Maybe it makes me feel good to think of myself as superior to these idiots, which is not helpful. If I was trying to dispel the idiocy, it wouldn't be helpful to get consumed with the good feeling I got of knowing that I was smarter than these idiots [laughs].
So it's a really interesting question. I mean, I think I can give a practical answer to why one should fight CRT. Because if they get control of the schools, they'll ruin an entire generation, and there are real things that are at stake here. Or if they so undermine the basis of political cooperation between people of different racial groups in the United States that the republic itself is weakened and unable to govern itself. That's worth fighting about.
I can take a high-minded position, and I could say, regardless of the efficacy of my engagement with these people, there is something to be said for standing for the truth. This is what I associate with Vaclav Havel's “The Power of the Powerless,” the essay where he tries to give a theory of the dissident and what the role of the dissident is. Who were the dissidents in pre-1989 Eastern Europe? Anyway, there's some value in telling the truth, regardless of what the consequences of telling the truth is. So I could stand on that. I could stand on Socrates or somebody.
Practically, I have The Glenn Show. I have people who come on and we talk. John, and I have this thing that we do. We’re the Wokebusters and we’re the anti-antiracism people. So should we be just talking to each other and pointing out how idiotic they are? Or should we mainly be talking to them so that other people can see the contrast between these ways of thinking? And so that perhaps we can get below the surface-level contestation to what might be common ground or what might be more profound disagreements that could be actually constructively engaged. Something like that. I think there could be something to that.