AS237: James Lindsay and Eli Bosnick on Social Justice

This is it! Something I’ve been trying to have happen for a long time! I’ve been critical of people on both sides of these issues only dealing with their respective echo chambers and never engaging, and I’ve wanted to be a better example for you guys for quite some time now. It has been very difficult to find the right people to have this debate. It can’t be one sided, it needs to be two people who are capable of defending their views. We’ve finally got that here, and all the credit goes to Eli and James for being willing to make this recording.

This is part 1 of a VERY lengthy 3 part debate. Each episode will be longer than a normal episode of my show. This could have easily been almost 5 parts long, but I really don’t want to alienate listeners who perhaps aren’t a huge fan of these issues, so I’ve condensed it as much as possible. If you are a patron, go to and listen to the entire interview right now all in one file. As for what is covered, in part one the debate mainly focuses around safe spaces, but of course there’s so much to it so why try to summarize it here. Check it out!

Here are about a billion links referenced by James:

Social Work Trigger Point Crisis:

Inside Higher Ed criticism of new culture:

Magna Charta Universitarium, Preamble (1988):

Purpose of Higher Ed (and problems fulfilling it, mostly how universities have painted themselves into a corner with commercial models):

American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology on Trigger Warnings:

Why Critics of Microagressions are Skeptical:

Shulevitz’s In College and Hiding from Scary Ideas:

The New Intolerance of Student Activism:

Campuses Cannot Become One Big Safe Space:

Freedom of Individual Rights in Education summary of Yale Halloween controversy:

Yale’s Statement of Freedom of Expression:

On The Right Not to Be Triggered:

Chronicle of Higher Ed, Treatment Not Trigger Warnings:

National Institute of Medicine, Treatment of PTSD: An Assessment of the Evidence:

Is There a Research Basis for Trigger Warnings?:

American Association of University Professors statement on trigger warnings:

How Grown-Ups Deal with Microaggressions:

Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (unequivocally a must-read):

Sam Harris’s Waking Up Podcast with Jon Haidt:

Jon Haidt on viewpoint diversity in colleges:

Here are two links referenced by Eli (later on in the debate:

Amaerican College of Pediatricians


Amaerican Acadamy of Pediatricians

15 thoughts on “AS237: James Lindsay and Eli Bosnick on Social Justice”

  1. This episode is one that’s getting me to comment for the first time. Again, very fruitful, I’m glad James was willing to have the discussion.

    Personally, I don’t care much for arguments over what a term is. To me, the important part is we have a concept of a “safe space” that is useful, and a different concept that is harmful, and what we can do about both concepts despite them both being lumped together under the same label. As a safe space supporter, it’s probably important to emphasize what I mean by them. But if James is going to say the onus is on US to criticize people who abuse the label, it should be on HIS side to emphasize that the useful concept of a safe space is helpful (he seemed to be supportive of safe spaces as Eli uses them). If they are useful things, then people against “safe spaces” shouldn’t drag down a useful thing just because it’s conflated with something harmful.

    For the “ice” one, looking at the actual study it doesn’t seem to be looking at the gender of ice, so much as geopolitical feminist studies of cultures that live and depend on glacier-based environments. Any human characteristics such as gender of ice appear to be artistic anthropomorphizations in a book the paper cites. I’m not a sociologist, so I could be a little off-base, and I have no clue if this is par for the course for these types of studies, but it’s not nearly as absurd as news sites have reported it. I can’t hammer James too much for this. This is a problem with science reporting in general (even for hard sciences), where media sources will take a sentence or two completely out of context from the “conclusions” section of a paper. Perhaps “ice is just ice” is too flowery and poetic for an actual science study, but that seems like a minor complaint.

  2. Took a minute out of my day to see if everyone agrees that the crows are racist in Dumbo. Didn’t take long:

    Leonard Maltin also agreed that critics may be overreacting to the crows:
    There has been considerable controversy over the Black Crow sequence in recent years, most of it unjustified. The crows are undeniably black, but they are black characters, not black stereotypes. There is no denigrating dialogue, or Uncle Tomism in the scene, and if offence is to be taken in hearing blacks call each other “brother,” then the viewer is merely being sensitive to accuracy.

  3. A comment on the net good of trigger warnings, and scorning them.

    Eli made a point about triggering someone who might not use their being triggered as a step towards getting the therapy they need, and in that instance not having a trigger warning would be a bad thing, given that it would emotionally harm that person, but it’s possible that 3 other people in that same class would decide to get therapy after being triggered, so you can’t say because it’s bad in the one example he uses that trigger warnings are a net good.

    Also while we can’t necessarily harshly scorn the idea of trigger warnings because we don’t know enough, we do know enough to say we don’t know if they’re a good thing, and current research seems to indicate they aren’t, so while I wouldn’t say scorn the idea, we do need to push back against people like Eli, who continuously insisted trigger warnings are a net good without evidence supporting that position.

  4. I couldn’t help but think throughout this conversation is that a major cause of the separation of groups over the last 8 years is the lack of nuance in 144 characters. Twitter is a big problem.

    Again and again it was repeated you shouldn’t make “said” tweet because although you meant “this” or was referring to “that” a certain segment will interpret it as “other” and then their feeling will be hurt.

    If you are going to use twitter be away interpretations will occur and feeling will be hurt.

  5. Eli’s unwillingness to concede the crows point was telling. Dude explained the background of the characters and how a prominent black artist chose to work on the film, but eli played identity politics and asserted that black artists in the 40s simply didn’t have the freedom from economic pressures necessary to not participate in a given role. He fails to acknowledge that the context provided by his opponent makes arguing for the racist nature of the characters relatively fruitless.

    This same type of thinking is what would keep him, his fiancé, and his foster brother from looking into someone’s work because of a tweet, when in fact they are totally unaware of the context of that tweet and the other quotes/works that it is referring to.

    if Eli operates his safe spaces in the way he describes its all good (although in the dogma debate episode there was some really ridiculous ‘progressive stack’ stuff about how white prookie don’t need to be heard), but I don’t get why it’s hard for him to understand that today’s college students clearly do not agree with him… Instead they think that Melissa click was a defender of the first amendment who was unjustly vilified for defending what should be their safe space.

    The Dawkins ‘meme’ analogy was spot on… Eli is defending a concept that has been hijacked from him and other well-intentioned people.

  6. Something of a poor performance by Eli
    The crows, as others have highlighted was especially bad. Someone presents an argument based on the history of the section and the people who were in it, “Nuh uh, everyone agrees, besides it’s obvious” (paraphrasing obviously, though not by much) is not a valid response, not is insisting that the poor black folk who were chosen didn’t have any other options because some people back then did the black and white minstrels shows.
    He could have argued that the lead crow was portrayed by a white man, and that is problematic, or say he would check it out some more.

    1. The crow argument did come out of no where. Eli didn’t exactly get a chance to research it the way James had so he had to defend it from the seat of his pants. He shouldn’t concede just because James had a behind the scenes take. There are lots of media that are well meaning that come off pretty bad. Saying that a black man said it was OK is the essentially the “my black friends friend said I could use the new word” defense.

  7. An extremely fruitless compliment which says more about Eli than James was to say that James is really smart and has important things to say but because Eli and many others often interpreted his tweets incorrectly that James is misunderstood and should tweet better. But only because Eli and others are not always aware what James is referring to so in order for people to stop misinterpreting and getting their feelings hurt by accidentally assuming James meant something he didn’t that James needs to tweet better.

    James isn’t responsible for your lack of nuance.

    What in the F??

    You can’t be serious.

  8. I don’t consider myself a feminist. I’m an egalitarian. I wish more people would use this term instead of feminism.

    When people identify as feminist, it paints a sub-text that the poor women are still so abused in society today that we need to crush the patriarchy and … what?? I never really get past this. Put females in power?

    By identifying as an egalitarian, you acknowledge that there are problems on both sides. I know that feminists put lip service to men’s issues, but I have yet to see any actionable awareness campaigns to address them. And MRA’s are full of hateful men that blame all their problems on feminism.

    Personally, I don’t know of a single law that is gendered against women. However, I know of several laws that are gendered against men. Why aren’t women fighting against these laws?

    Also, women are getting so many free handouts at the expense of men. For every college STEM class where an undeserving woman was placed because of quotas, a deserving man was left behind.

    To me, feminism has become less about equality and more about giving women an unfair advantage. Men have to fight it out in every aspect of their lives. If I, as a man, want to get into a STEM field, I have to study my ass off and compete against all the other men. It seems that we don’t want women to compete against the other men because that would be unfair. Except that it’s completely fair.

    Now, to be fair, there are still areas where the cultural attitudes need to change. A woman that does qualify for a STEM degree on her own merits is still treated like an idiot and has to work much harder than a man to gain the same amount of respect.

  9. Can resilience be taught? It would make me very nervous to be as fragile as the people who need and use these safe spaces apparently are. Even if everyone involved was fully aware of and accepting of my fragility and dedicated to the preservation of my physical and emotion well being, I would be afraid that someone would inadvertently step forward when they meant to step back or inadvertently exhale when they meant to inhale and squish me without ever having meant me any arm at all.

    Is there a way to armor these folks against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune rather than hiding them from it? It might work better and be more sustainable over time.

  10. The lack of self awareness of Eli in this discussion is astounding.

    Eli: “James, how can you say these things, it make people feel unwelcome in the Atheist community.”

    James: “OK, you’re right. If they’d have some follow up conversation with me about this, I can demonstrate what I mean, and demonstrate what my intent is. Now let’s talk about Feminists, here are some things that very loud vocal minorities are doing, publicly, which is damaging your movement.”

    Eli: “No, we’re just going to ignore those people, they don’t represent anything. Let’s instead talk about how you personally are responsible for representing Atheism instead.”

    Second thing that frustrated me. “Feminism has no code of law.” Great, Eli, you’ve lost then. By all rights, the “radicals” are the TRUE Feminists, and you can’t say otherwise, because they aren’t breaking any law that makes them a member of your “identity”. That’s the problem with “identity” based movements.

    My advice for Social Justice advocates, would be to codify a set of rules for your activism, so that people have a rational basis to compare the Poes to the actual earnest people.

  11. Has anyone else checked the whole gender dysphoria desistance myth? I only went as far as the links provided and wasn’t convinced. First of all the article links to another article that seems biased and shows no evidence of otherwise. I looked up the study and the claim that the researcher conflated children that showed gender non conforming behavior and children that asserted to be of the opposite gender was not accurate. All children in the study were diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Anyways, I tried to look it up and couldn’t find much information. Anyone else have any info on it? Because if Eli is basing his point on a Huff Post article by a transgender advocate that starts straight up calling people trolls, that’s a weak argument.

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