Post-mortem of Our Interview with an Alt-Right Proud Boy

December 10, 2018

 

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for this episode, and I’m frankly confused.


The only criticism came from Twitter, and although they hadn’t heard the episode, they took the time to tell us we should not have done it. As ridiculously prototypically Twitter as that sounds, I agree with them.

All four of us procrastinated and resented both the preparation and recording of this interview.

 

The editing was the most excruciating torture; it was mostly three people, continuously shouting over each other. The fourth was most likely biting their fist to distract from the pain of the cringe.


I can’t listen back to it. It’s a slow-motion car crash of awkwardness, anger, miscommunication, failures to listen, and an inability to reach any consensus.

Worse, it’s an indictment of our entire premise and format of the show.

So far, it’s been intensely fun to swim in different waters from the mainstream. Countering the left vs. right narrative felt like we’d opened up a whole new dimension, intellectually rich with untapped potential.

So why did this episode go so badly?

 

I think I have to take the blame. I was fortuitous to have access to someone with such polemic views, willing to engage in a discussion. I wanted to be controversial, shocking and clickbaity. I knew an extreme view would get people’s attention, I just failed to realize how incongruent it was with what we’re trying to achieve.

I suppose I dreamt of being Louis Theroux, talking to someone on the outside, and finding some shared truths (or at least some mutual respect). Louis explores the humanity beneath the people with extreme ideas, but we’re trying to avoid the ad hominem, and focus on the ideas themselves.

 

I presumed an extreme viewpoint must have an interesting creation story. How did Sam get so radicalized?

But we never got to that.

 

Every episode, we’ve openly shared our research, had long discussions leading up to the recording, compared notes, and co-wrote counterarguments to everyone’s best points.

 

Not this time. I tried to share some counterarguments with Sam, but he seemed to detest it, and the conversation got aggressive. I thought I’d protect Finn, Merijn, and Sam from a drawn-out shooting match, but this strategy backfired, and I ended up being responsible for setting up an ambush.

 

I think this conversation was doomed to inevitably go poorly because there were too many paradoxical objectives.
 

Imagine if Sam had been incredibly intelligent, lucid, charming, calm and persuasive. Then we would’ve given a platform and a microphone to views we’re philosophically against. It would’ve made for an interesting podcast, and it would’ve been massively controversial with our listeners, our friends, and our employers.

But it’s not our style, nor objective to give bad ideas a free pass. It’s hard to imagine a conversation where we wouldn’t challenge the philosophy at the heart of ethnonationalism, and frankly, we wouldn’t have slept well if we failed to confront the idea.


My friend Eero broke it down most succinctly.

 

One can reach across the aisle and discuss differences in interpretations, opinions, and perspectives.

But when there is no overlap between two sets of underlying facts, how can you reach an agreement?

That seems extremely intractable, especially in the confines of a single interaction.

Entrench the disagreement for the record?

Probably important, so facts that aren't facts don't get recorded as such, but it makes for a bad discussion.

 

Accept some facts and investigate their logical implications?

 

Makes for a better and more interesting discussion, allows for points of convergence to be found, but risks accepting things that shouldn't be.


I think the main thing we learned from the episode, is that our format doesn’t work with extreme, uncompromising perspectives.

 

As uncomfortable as it was, I’m glad we exposed ethnonationalism as a hollow and shallow viewpoint, but as a topic, there wasn’t much interesting nuance to be discussed.

 

When you completely reject shared humanity, globalization, multiculturalism, the mainstream media, political parties, and the experiences of most multicultural city dwellers, then your worldview gets very narrow.

Finn, Merijn and I, are eager to question any of the assumptions made by both the supporters and the detractors of most ideas.

 

We call out the left when it’s guilty of the same absurd reductionism.

 

Ignoring or belittling any viewpoint that isn’t modern, metropolitan, millennial and multi-cultural isn’t how a healthy democracy functions, and it’s certainly losing them enough elections and referendums.

 

Yet I found no antidote, hope, nor intellectual rigour in the approach of the alt-right.

 

Some people have lived in a multicultural city or worked for a multinational enterprise, while some have never. I’m glad both types of people exist. Anyone that says multiculturalism is a complete failure has never listened to many of those closest to it. Not to their facts, nor their media sources, nor to their experiences.

 

Cordoba has a multicultural population of over 320,000; Amsterdam over 800,000; London, over 8,000,000.

 

Helsinki has a more ethnically homogeneous population of over 620,000 The demographics of its ethnic minority populations for the last 27 years are shown below:

 Source Wikipedia

 

 

Moving forward, we’ll continue to talk on controversial topics with anyone that’s prepared to listen, learn, explore nuance; give and receive criticism.

We’ll also be sure to stay true to our values, offering the same courtesy, respect, and thoughtful probing of all our guests.

 

For the next few episodes, we're talking to some incredibly open-minded, creative thinkers.

I'd like to ask all our listeners, to keep suggesting interesting guest speakers. Join our struggle to make thinking great again!

 

 

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