My comments on the Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) and Thomas Smith “interview”
When I first found this video, I had to use Youtube’s Paid Content feature, which I didn’t even know existed before this, and paid $2.99 (plus fees or taxes, I don’t remember which) to watch it. However, they’ve since raised money on GoFundme for the money they lost due to protests and media backlash, and now you can watch it for free here.
As much as I hated that I had to pay for it, I will say it was worth it. For $3, I was entertained for literally hours.
Then of course there is Thomas Smith, who I admittedly never heard of before today, but reminds me of pretty much every brogrammer I’ve worked with in San Francisco.
For this piece, I really want to jump right into the “debate” that Carl Benjamin and Thomas Smith had.
The format of this article will be as follows. I will provide excerpts from their debate, and then my thoughts and comments on those excerpts immediately after. If anyone finds this format confusing, fun, some other adjective, or just wants to engage a little, please leave me comments here or find me on Twitter at @jpmcglone
This first excerpt, I think, does a great job setting the tone for the rest of the debate.
Thomas: “You’re not a liberal. The liberal stance is that systemic discrimination is a problem. That’s one big part of it.”
Carl: “That’s not the liberal stance, that’s the Marxist stance.”
Right off the bat, it’s clear that Thomas and Carl have incredibly different views on what “liberal” means, and for now, I’m absolutely open to Thomas’ viewpoint, even though I am a fan of Carl’s and agree with his.
Thomas: “Deplatforming isn’t censorship!”
Carl: “Yes it is.”
I actually had a great conversation about this recently.. in summary, deplatforming is censorship, but sometimes it is reasonable. For example, if your institution isn’t hosting a certain idea or topic, and Carl wants to come to that institution and speak about it, I see no reason that refusing his talk is unreasonable.
What I find to be unreasonable is when an institution is hosting a talk about a topic or idea, but seemingly only allows individuals with one view point speak on it. I’ve seen people criticize YouTuber Roaming Millenial for interviewing Richard Spencer (White Nationalist and founder of www.altright.com) because she chose to give him a platform to speak on, but I think it’s only fair she interviewed him since she has expressed opinions about the Alt Right and had also interviewed people with their own views on the Alt Right.
I think it’s ‘deplorable’ to suggest that someone should be able to talk about a person and their views but also refuse them a voice in that conversation.
Is it censorship? Absolutely. Is it their right to censor? Absolutely. But this idea that deplatforming isn’t censorship is, although I see where Thomas is coming from, just wrong, especially since the term is almost always used to describe the cancelling of an event of program in which the speaker is considered ‘offensive’ to some of the audience.
Thomas: “Intersectionality is literally the thing that makes [feminism] more individualistic.”
Carl: “That is absolutely absurd, and I can’t believe you just said that.”
Thomas: “Do you want to let me tell you why that argument is true? Intersectionality makes us more individual. Instead of being ‘men vs. women’, instead of being ‘black vs. white’, intersectionality allows us to say ‘men have different experiences than women. Black people have different experiences than white people. Black women have different experiences than white women. Poor white women have different experiences than black women. That’s intersectionality. Intersectionality let’s you break down identities in more dynamic ways.”
Carl: “Are you even listening to yourself? You are collectivizing all of these people, and you’re saying that’s individualism? It’s not. It’s the antithesis of individualism.”
Thomas: “It’s literally the opposite of what you just said. It’s allowing people’s identity to be multifaceted. It’s allowing socioeconomic status to be part of it, it’s allowing race to be a part of it, it’s allowing gender to be part of it.”
Carl: “Again, you’re categorizing them into classes, Thomas.”
Carl: “That’s collectivism. That’s not individualism.”
Thomas: “What I’m saying is that intersectionality is what gets us that more intricate level of identity.”
Carl: “Of control, yes! But individualism is that people should be free. Do you not get how all of this is completely antithetical to the concept of liberty? Let’s get down to the principle, you are not for freedom. You are for equality of outcome rather than liberty. That is the fundamental issue of our time, and you should probably know that.”
Thomas seems to think that because he groups people into an infinite number of categories, that he is granting them individuality, not realizing that it is the act of categorizing people into the permutation of group that he sees as meaningful that is stripping them of their individuality.
Thomas: “If we’re going to talk about how to make society better, we — “
Carl: “We’re not. We’re going to talk about how to make society free!”
Ok, so I think the best way to respond to this is with a quote from Milton Friedman, and I couldn’t agree with it more:
I think it’s absolutely clear that Carl is not upset with Thomas for trying to make society better, but that he draws a very firm line in the sand when that comes at the cost of individual liberty. Thomas, if you want to make the world better, I am all for it. We appreciate that, but to the extent that you have to tell us who to be, how to act, and what to sacrifice in order for you to make the world better, you are being an authoritarian, and are inadvertently making the world worse.
I think this excerpt perfectly summarizes the big divide we’re seeing in Western Culture right now, and that’s a shame because “freedom” and “making the world better” are not innately at odds with each other! I’d argue that the latter is a side effect of the prior, and if others can think of more creative ways to make the world better (while not stealing any of my freedoms), I’d support them fully!
Thomas: “So you think affirmative action is discrimination against a group of people?”
Carl: “How can it not be?”
Affirmative action is a zero sum game. You can not advantage people of one group without disadvantaging people of all of the other groups. This is common sense. It’s one thing if Thomas acknowledged this and then tried to justify it, but he seems to think that affirmative action disadvantages nobody.
Thomas: “I’m not a Marxist.”
Carl: “Yes you are, and you don’t know it.”
Ok, Carl, this was not the greatest way to respond, even though you’re right.. Thomas is pushing ideas that are right out of the Communist Manifesto. Here’s the 8th plank:
Equal Liability of All to Labor. Establishment of Industrial Armies, Especially for Agriculture.
Perhaps Thomas would say he’s a socialist, but not a Marxist — and if so, I’d love to hear his view on that.
But instead, Thomas doesn’t really defend his position well, and goes on to instead demonstrate that he doesn’t know much about Marxism…
Carl: “I don’t want to look at the past, I want to look at the future; your future is oppressive.”
Well put, Carl.
Thomas somehow believes that Carl is in favor of oppression, perhaps through neglect (if not actively oppressing others), but it’s clear to me that the one in favor of social engineering is in favor of oppression. This whole interview is ripe with irony.
I’m having a hard time understanding why this is a complicated topic for so many.
Carl: “Racial discrimination is bad no matter who it is happening to. It’s not a defensible position.”
Thomas: “The status quo discriminates. I’m in favor of making things more equal.”
Carl: “Ok, I’m not. I’m in favor of making things more free.”
Thomas: “Freedom entails discrimination. Freedom allows White Men to control everything.”
Carl: “Oh my god.”
It seems that Thomas disapproves of freedom because “it allows White Men to control everything.”
Can a liberal friend of mine who understands Thomas please do a better job defending this position? Please? It sounds insane to me. The best I got is that Thomas is being facetious with the term ‘freedom’ here, and thinks what Carl is calling ‘freedom’ is actually not freedom. But, his WORD choice says otherwise.
Carl: “Why aren’t you combatting women’s under representation in the NBA? In sewer cleaning?”
Thomas: “Feminism helps that by trying to combat gender roles. So if gender roles are responsible for men feeling like they have to do certain jobs, because they have to be manly — “
Carl: “You think they base that manliness on whether they… clean sewers?”
Thomas: “ — then I would be in favor of making it that men don’t feel compelled to do some of these things if they don’t want to.”
Ok, I have two issues with.
One: “in favor of making it” — making it? Sigh. That’s literally the point here. Why does Thomas and his friends feel the need to “make it” so that men feel or don’t feel something? What does “making it” entail? Force?
Two: somebody has to do it. Somebody has to clean the sewers.
The idea that a) women want to be in dirty sewers cleaning them and/or b) that men of society won’t generally volunteer to do it in women’s place, to spare them from filth and risk of disease and death — that’s insane.
If you understand anything about human biology or psychology, it’s not hard to understand why the bigger human with greater strength and endurance (typically men) who basically spends his life trying to maintain the deserving of the company of the smaller human who bonds well with the offspring (typically women) would want to be in dirty sewers cleaning them so that women don’t need to.
Before anyone tells me “I’m a woman. I’d do it.” — Go do it then! I won’t stop you, but if you were my sister, my mother, my wife, or anybody who I cared about, I’d probably volunteer to do it instead.
But feminism is not encouraging women to clean sewers, at all. And that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, because this is clearly *not* about equality nor equity everywhere. In a way, if it was, I bet many more women would resist feminism today.
Thomas: “I’m not saying everyone has to make the same choices, but the evidence is that certain groups get discriminated against when you do [blind] resume studies.”
Carl: “And when you have Affirmative Action.”
Carl: “There may be a multitude of reasons for [the results of the blind resume studies], but you know what I don’t think will solve it? Gender discrimination.”
The point is, you do not solve alleged implicit discrimination against people by explicitly discriminating against other people. Why are feminists not interested in helping to find solutions that maintain this principle? Does any feminist really think that discrimination against men isn’t going to piss men off, or do they just not care? Does (perceived) victimhood make it easy for feminists to not care?
Carl: “I don’t have a solution [to the inequality you see]. I’m a response to the system of oppression you are trying to impose on people.”
Carl also said “discrimination against characteristics like race and gender is wrong” and Thomas responded “I agree, but discrimination is happening,” to which Carl replied “then maybe we shouldn’t increase the amount of discrimination that is happening” —but Thomas just doesn’t understand this point. How? Why?
Carl admits he doesn’t have a solution to the discrimination that you see, Thomas, he just knows that more discrimination is not the solution.
I don’t understand how any person of principle can advocate for fighting discrimination of one gender by justifying the discrimination against the other gender.
This whole debate is making me feel crazy, because to me it seems so obvious, but I know that a large percentage of my friends (I lived in SF for many years…) agree with Thomas. I really want to understand why.
Carl: “I don’t think the answer to racial discrimination is racial discrimination.”
Thomas: “So what is the answer?”
Carl: “I don’t know.”
Thomas: “So the answer is the status quo! Because you’re a Status Quo Warrior.”
Carl: “[but] the status quo is diversity quotas! I am against those.”
Oh great, is SQW (Status Quo Warrior) a term now, too?
Ok, so this next one really stung, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. Read the words carefully. Thomas said this when it was perfectly clear that he’s had enough of this discussion:
Thomas: “When is this over? Because you don’t give a shit about people, so who cares.”
I’ve heard this recently, too, and it hurt. It upset me a lot because I actually do care about people, as I’m sure both Carl and Thomas do.
The misconceptions around this topic are incredibly confusing to me, and I was told something very similar to what Thomas said to Carl above, by someone I loved very much.
It seems my entire friendsphere is being affected by whatever this is… and it’s a shame. I know many people with views like mine or Carl’s that have lost many relationships, and that’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime.
What is happening in our society? The people calling for freedom of choice are being told they’re terrible by the people who are trying to socially engineer a world that artificially grants privileges to those they categorized into not having any.
I really want to get to the bottom of this.
Carl: (sarcastically) “Why are you here? You’re a white man.”
Thomas: (not sarcastically) “I agree. I shouldn’t be here. I would advocate that the organizers invite someone else.”
Carl: (sarcastically) “But why did you even turn up? You knew you were occupying a space a black woman [could have had].”
Thomas: (not sarcastically) “I was invited, but I think they should have more people of color.”
Sargon: (in summary) “[So] the organizers shouldn’t invite him (Thomas)[because he’s white] and they should invite more black women.”
Thomas: (not sarcastically) “Yea”
Carl: (actually not sarcastically) “Well done. You just de-platformed yourself.”
Thomas’ view seems so unprincipled. He think that he should not be on the stage because he’s a white man. What is this?
Anyway, if you made it this far, thanks for reading all of this! I encourage you to watch the video for yourself, the Carl and Thomas talk starts at 1:31:37, and I hope you’ll engage with me here or on Twitter at @jpmcglone