Censorship, Discrimination and More – Podcasts for June 12

Each week I present a round-up of the podcasts I listen to. These podcasts are all centered around the theme of looking at current events through the lens of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. The goal is not to provide all the information they talk about, but rather to highlight the things I found interesting in the hope that it will intrigue others to take a listen.

In this week’s edition:

Leonard Peikoff Podcast: Episode 409

In this episode of Dr. Peikoff’s podcast, he presents the first part of his answer to the question of which is harder for him to write, philosophy or fiction. He stated that it really is an impossible question to really answer.

This episode deals mostly with the difficulties in writing philosophy. These largely stem from the very abstract nature of the subject and the difficulty in first understanding it yourself and then presenting it in writing where you are unable to present all the concretes you needed to get to that point. Further, you have to make sure that people won’t mistake it for something else.

One aspect Dr. Peikoff finds easy about writing philosophy is the condensing of material and presenting it logically.

I imagine part 2, which we many not hear until next month, should be about the challenges of writing fiction.

Yaron’s AM560 Rewind: Political Discrimination on American Campuses

In this podcast version of his live Chicago AM560 radio broadcast, Yaron discusses the massive amount of discrimination that exists on college campuses in the United States. It isn’t racial or gender discrimination he is talking about, although those may still exist, but on the basis of one’s politics, ideology, and religion. In short, on one’s ideas.

The starting point for Yaron’s discussion is a pair of articles by Nicholas Kristof that appeared in the New York Times. (here and here) When Kristof posted his ideas on Facebook, he was met with replies such as, “Reality has a liberal slant,” and “How about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots.” The later carries the obvious implication that anyone who doesn’t hold liberal ideology is an idiot, all evidence to the contrary. Kristof quotes a black evangelical sociologist as saying, ““Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black. But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”

The liberals who are in control of America’s universities claim to want diversity of race, gender, and religion but refuse to allow the most important type of diversity a university can have, diversity of ideas. Lest you think that liberals don’t control the universities, Kristof, who is a liberal, mentioned four studies that show that only about one in ten professors in the humanities and social sciences have conservative viewpoints and nearly half of academics in some fields would not hire someone who is religious even in fields where religion isn’t a factor.

The real problem in America, the source of the move to the left and towards statism, is the universities and the ideas they are teaching our kids.

This lack of diversity has bastardized what was once considered important, a good liberal arts education. A real liberal arts education is the opportunity for young people to stretch their minds, learn to think objectively and critically about the world around them, and simply to be exposed to different ideas. On today’s campuses, ideas the least bit opposed to the orthodoxy send students fleeing to their “safe spaces.”

Such homogeneity of ideas has political consequences as well, as the success of Bernie Sanders among young voters shows. Bernie has simply been echoing to these young people what their professors have been teaching, without opposition, for years. And to add insult to injury, the costs for this truly substandard education has been skyrocketing due to government funding.

Yaron’s hope is that as parents begin to understand the disservice universities are doing to their children, they will stop supporting the universities that don’t provide a full spectrum of ideas. One caller pointed out that this seems to be starting, with the example of the 25% drop in freshman enrollment at Mizzou following the protests there this spring.

Yaron took other calls on topics of Oregon schools banning any texts that question catastrophic human-caused global warming and California schools teaching about gender differences in kindergarten.


Radical Capitalist: Episode 50

Yaron started off his weekly podcast with a discussion of remarks Nancy Pelosi made this week to the effect that the government invented the iPhone. These remarks didn’t just come out of the blue, they have become more common in recent years, especially after the publication of The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazzucato.

Yaron goes through the claims made by Pelosi such as government funding of basic research, the creation of the GPS satellite system, providing small business loans and so forth, and then he proceeds to show why they are all exaggerated or simply wrong. The whole discussion is worth listening to as there is too much detail to go into here. The aspect that stood out most for me is that even where government funding played a role, two key factors are ignored. How much

The whole discussion is worth listening to as there is too much detail to go into here. The aspect that stood out most for me is that even where government funding played a role, two key factors are ignored. How much government taxpayer money was wasted on projects that produced no results, e.g. Solyndra, for every success like Apple? While you will sometimes hear about the bigger failures like Solyndra, you will never hear about the millions or billions in small business loans that just evaporate as the businesses they are given to go under. (90% of new businesses fail.)

The second factor is centered on the fact that any money the government has to fund something is taken from the private sector. The private sector has to be careful with where it puts its money because private capital is hard to come by. Government capital on the other hand, because it is taken by force from those who create it, is much cheaper (at least if you ignore what it would have been used for otherwise), so much so that private capital will usually not enter into areas the government is directly funding. Imagine a world where all the money wasted on thousands or millions of failed projects were instead left in the hands of people like Thomas J. Perkins. Perkins, who died recently, was one of the first venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and backed such companies as AOL, Amazon, and Google. Sadly, we don’t have a parallel universe to point to, but it is certain that we would be much better off today if the government had stayed out of the way. (e.g. The government funded the human genome project to the tune of $3 billion while Celera Genomics, a privately funded company, accomplished the task in less time and for 10% of the cost.)

If a push for freedom follows a successful Brexit, then it will be incredibly positive. If xenophobia and nationalism win the day, it will be a disaster.

Yaron then turns to a discussion of Brexit, the British exit from the European Union. He starts with a brief discussion of what the original intention of the European Union was, an area of free movement of goods, capital, and labor. What it became is a growing bureaucracy imposing more and more regulation on member nations, regulations these nations likely would not impose on themselves. In Yaron’s view, the EU has become incredibly corrupt and statist.

Yaron stated that Britain should leave the EU and enact free market policies that would achieve many of the goals espoused by the original concept of the EU but shield them from the worst of its excesses. The danger Yaron sees is that for many supporting the Brexit, the reasons are not a desire for more freedom but rather and expression of xenophobia and nationalism. If a push for freedom follows a successful Brexit, Yaron does think it will succeed, then it will be incredibly positive. If xenophobia and nationalism win the day, it will be a disaster.

Yaron ended, as usual, with his suggestions for positive values. This week he had four movie suggestions:

Don’t Let it Go Unheard – A Culture of Censorship II: Silicon Valley

As always, Amy posts show notes with links to all the items she talks about on her blog.

The major topic in this week’s broadcast is the culture of censorship that is growing in the world today, often abetted by private and quasi-private organizations. These organizations cannot censor, as they are private and censorship is properly speaking something that only a government can do, but they do contribute to the culture of censorship. Google. for example, was recently accused of manipulating searches to favor Hillary’s campaign. Google denied the accusation and said that their algorithms simply don’t show “degrading, insulting, or offensive” options when associated with a name. So if you were typing “Hillary indictment,” which is a popular search term, Google would offer suggestions like “Hillary India” or “Hillary Indiana” when you got to the “ind” of your search rather than “Hillary indictment.”

This attempt on the part of social media outlets to remove supposedly offensive speech, often at the behest of the government, is troubling. Germany’s Chancellor Merkel has been in talks with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg about finding a way to shut down negative commentary about her immigration policy, especially vis a vis Muslim immigration. Facebook isn’t alone of course. Many major tech companies are working with “civil society organizations,” again often with the support of governments, which act to promote positive narratives while marking content they find offensive as needing to be removed. Meaning, the put forward their own narrative and work to restrict any counter-narrative.

For the time being at least, as bad as things are, we are still free to talk about how bad things are.

While these private companies certainly have the right to allow or not allow content on their platforms, this attempt to prevent people from being offended simply feeds into the idea that people have a right to not be offended and once that happens, the freedom of speech is neutered, first amendment or no first amendment. As Bosch Fawstin points out in his call into the show, this creates an atmosphere where people begin to censor themselves, and this is even worse than outright censorship. After all, if you are worried that something you say might offend someone, somewhere, be punished for it, how many people will bother to speak? The solution, Bosch says, is to keep speaking the truth.

For the time being at least, as bad as things are, we are still free to talk about how bad things are.

Lots more in the show, including Twitter’s apparently uneven application of their “don’t offend” policy, CNN apologizing for saying terrorism in relation to the terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv, Gawker filing for bankruptcy, Nancy Pelosi’s “government invented the iPhone” comments, and more.