My interview for the San Francisco Review of Books

As always, I can’t bear to listen to—or, in this case, read—interviews I’ve given.

This one was given a while back to the editors of the San Francisco Review of Books, and as I talked to them on Skype, it slowly dawned on me that they seemed pretty conservative, and were asking me questions about how well I aligned with conservatism. (It’s easy for a critic of liberal excesses to be seen as a conservative!). I’m not sure this is the case, and I won’t read the interview to find out what happened, but here’s the link (click on screenshot) if you’re interested.


  1. Posted December 12, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    That was a great interview. Splintering is right on the money. The Right needs certainty, a fixed foundation. That has a tendency to make them stubborn, typically skeptical of science, but much more unified. One power of being Liberal is questioning or doubting, sometimes unhealthily, everything and that tends to lead to more splintering.

    I do think anonymity is really an important point to bring to the table more often. Less anonymity online could improve solidarity among liberals. They will be more honest and think more carefully and critically about the their own arguments.

  2. Posted December 12, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I have to travel to Birmingham tomorrow; now I have something to read = )

  3. Posted December 12, 2018 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    That was a very interesting interview.

    I like the Cotto and Gottfried interviews. If they are conservatives, they are intelligent conservatives, a rare breed in the age of Trump. Their interview on humanism with David Niose is very good.

    I don’t think insisting on “real names” for internet posting would help. People can always make up a John Doe name and no one can verify their identities if they don’t want you to. Banning non-civil commentators, as you do, seems to me to be the best strategy. Anyhow, I like goofy pseudonyms. I still miss “Haggisforbrains”.

    • Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      You can have both a real name and an interesting avatar, catch phrase, etc.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    That was a good interview. Pretty well covered much of the same that have been discussed on the web site. I think the low volume on his side of the conversation may have been due to being too far from the microphone not sure. But you could follow along with the written transcript as well. Good discussion.

  5. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting interview, and many thanks to PCC(E) for taking part and posting the results. I think it was really important that he highlighted the difference between people who are genuinely oppressed or discriminated against, and those who wrongly claim they are in order to draw attention to themselves. Some interviewees would have taken the easy way out and elided the two.

  6. Historian
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    FYI: I tried to go to the site but my McAfee anti-virus software popped up a screen telling me the site is very risky. So, I didn’t go there.

  7. Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps “eponymity” is the word you were looking for:

    “Eponymity is the state of being identified and recognised by name (eponym) and other distinctive individual features. Being eponymous implies having a set of known, distinctive characteristics, such as name, title and affiliation, used for identification, and to some degree for authentication.”

  8. Jim batterson
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Nice discussion. Jerry said that some time ago, he had tried to get commenters to this site to use real names rather than a screen name. Point being to stand behind comments. I missed that discussion and had never thought of it that way, but just used a sometimes nick name as my weit screen name. So per jerry’s point, with this post i have returned to my real name for comments on this site.

  9. Posted December 12, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Jerry’s comment about the interviewer piqued my interest, so I googled him, and found this. He’s at least an eccentric, if not a loon– he lists himself as a Baron of the Kingdom of Rwanda!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 12, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      King Kigeli V was booted out of Rwanda in 1961 when the monarchy was abolished. He was taken in by the US & lived there on welfare in social housing – he sold fictitious** titles to westerners for up to $8,000 a pop & ran a charity with only one benefactor [I suspect].

      ** Burke’s Peerage recognises the titles, but they’re a ‘vanity directory’ same as Who’s Who, Best Lawyers etc

  10. Posted December 12, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    My theory, which is mine, is that increasing importance of reputation on the internet is a huge factor that made “regressives” emerge, contrary to the thesis of Comrade Coyne (😛) that anonymity is helping them.

    I’d go as far and consider the so-called (actual) “social justice warrior” the social media equivalent of the troll. The troll is a shape shifter that needs anonymity. The social justice warrior needs people with reputations on the line that can be used to make them dance to their abusive tune.

    An actual social justice warrior is an abusive person that only ostensibly cares about social justice, but “calls out” others in abusive manner to appear social-justicier-than-thou, which also makes them less vulnerable to similar “call outs” by peers (who in turn need to find somone to “call out” and so on).

    • rickflick
      Posted December 12, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Reputation on the internet is not in conflict with anonymity. The reputation of his or her avatar is sufficient.

      • Posted December 13, 2018 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        That’s why I regard it as reputation vs anonymity, implied: people who carry a name of any origin, that aquires meaning and reputation (which can be smeared and destroyed), versus throw-away ids that are meaningless and in the spirit of anonymity without social investment.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink


  11. Wayne Y Hoskisson
    Posted December 12, 2018 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    PCC handled the interview well. It seemed to me that Cotto in particular attempted to to trap him or push him into saying something damaging about the left.

    “COTTO: I think that the left of your youth when it was out of power from what I can tell, it matched up with the qualities you’ve mentioned. But now, even with the left out of power it’s not at all like what you’ve mentioned. So, there definitely has been a shift in what constitutes I suppose mainstream behavior among people on the American left. Jerry, what do you think caused this more than anything else? It doesn’t seem to me like it was one thing at one time. Maybe more like a certain process that took place and metastasized into what we see today.”

    I do not recall seeing a cohesive or mainstream left in the US. The left has always had different parts or movements such as civil rights, environmentalism, anti-war or peace, feminism and others. Sometimes it has been a little or a lot daft. In the 60s the some hippies made the claim “hippies are the new n*****s.” I remember those times well. There were places where having long hair could get a man beat up. A sense of fear did permeate situations at times. On the other hand I had a few black friends and I new this was a false equivalency. I could cut my hair and return to some other life whenever I chose. There were instances where being white and middle class kept me out of some potentially serious problems.

    Some people have taken advantage of “leading” the left. I am not sure what this “mainstream behavior” of the left actually is. Is it Democrats? The Dixiecrats were not left. How about unions and labor? Some of them some of the time. The Communist Party of the US? Probably. In the 1920s and 1930s they were the proponents of civil rights and racial equality while both Democrats and Republicans tried to avoid civil rights.

    On the other hand who are mainstream conservatives? William F. Buckley or Newt Gingrich? Or perhaps Donald Trump? Does the right ever get authoritarian (for example Hitler, Mussolini, or Franco)?

    I think Cotto and Gottfried are attempting to simplify the history of politics in a way that that distorts history.

  12. Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    Look, what *is* a “Conservative” these days? If you listen to the Democrats, it’s anybody one inch to the right of Hillary. Slap somebody with the same label long enough, and they begin to believe it. In fact, most Americans are only center-right, or at most Libertarian.

    • Martin X
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      Almost no one is actually a libertarian.

      You really can’t pin someone on the political spectrum by asking them, because the label they choose is based on their social identity, not their knowledge of policy issues and whether those policies are liberal or conservative.

      Most people who consider themselves “conservative” are actually in favor of of many of the big government programs that they claim to abhor. They just don’t want black people to get them.

  13. Hunt
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    I would just add that there is a slight distinction between authoritarian (ctrl) leftism and regressive leftism (RL). RL includes a pathological mixture of cultural moral relativism, identity politics and postmodernism that allows regressives (literally: those who “go backward”) to claim that pernicious aspects of other cultures or identities should be immune to criticism.

    An extreme form of this is the type of moral relativism that says genital mutation practiced in other cultures should not be criticized because doing so is some kind of expression of colonialist oppression. That, of course, is an extreme example of only the worst of reg leftists, but tamer versions are of the same type: e.g. criticisms of Islam are Islamophobic, etc.

  14. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    It was longer than I expected so I skimmed.
    It seemed pretty reasonable.

  15. Posted December 14, 2018 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    I do wish Gottfried would stop trying to sell himself, pointing out how many books he has written on this or that subject. Aside from that, his ideas seem pretty sound once you get to them.

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