Just ahead of the election, Freddie Sayers speaks to Bret Weinstein — a leading member of what used to be called the Intellectual Dark Web, evolutionary biologist, writer and host of the Dark Horse podcast.
Over the course of 45 minutes they cover the danger of censorship by the big tech platforms, the possibility of a new political coalition and whether we’re more likely to be heading into a new Renaissance era or towards disaster.
On Facebook deleting his account:
The only information I got was a reply saying that it had been an error, that I had triggered a system for detecting inauthentic accounts. Which is preposterous in light of how long standing my account was. And I was back. Then this morning, I started getting messages from friends of mine saying that I was again gone. When I went to log in, I still seemed to be there. So I don’t know if this is just a glitch, or if something else has happened. But I will say it is ominous. I am seeing reports of many other people who are being purged, including friends of mine. And I do have the sense that something is up behind the scenes at Facebook, probably some kind of internal conflict between those who apparently don’t like heterodox thinking, and those who wish to see us remain.
On tech censorship:
I have a model in which many of the things that feel conspiratorial are actually a combination of phenomena: one part is emergent and one part is conscious, and the two of them work together to create something quite Soviet and bureaucratic. There’s also another possibility, which is that if one wants to do arbitrary things, if one wants to silence certain kinds of speech, and amplify other kinds of speech because they are advancing a political agenda, then they can build a system in which your antagonists are in a position to trigger algorithms.
…Until we have at least a process where we all understand what the rules are and when we are told that we have violated them after seeing what the evidence is — as well as the right to challenge it — we are in danger of being ruled by the whims of the people who run these platforms.
On Big Tech’s handling of the pandemic:
To have tech platforms with no scientific guidance deciding what is the conventional wisdom in a certain quadrant of the academy — it’s mind blowing. The fact that we know many of the things that we were told were so right — that you couldn’t challenge them — turned out to be wrong, tells you everything that you need to know about this system.
…Pretending that tech platforms are in a position to render scientific judgement about really important questions like ‘How exactly did this virus end up spreading through the world?’ They shut down perfectly reasonable lines of inquiry because they found them inconvenient. It has done everything to amplify the sense that they are teams playing with the details of other people’s lives, as if it were sport.
I think Trump is going to perform way better than people expect. There’s no question that there is an Orwellian force that causes people to think twice before they confess even any nuance about Trump. I mean, I saw Noam Chomsky in the New Yorker a couple days ago said that Donald Trump was the worst criminal in human history, which is a preposterous statement coming from a place you would really expect a great deal more nuance than that.
And yet, here we are: that passes for intellectual evaluation at this moment, so undoubtedly, there are a large number of people who are frightened by the democrats willingness to pretend that this authoritarian mindset is reasonable… But I will say that I feel confident Trump will outperform expectations, I think he actually might well win. He is going to surprise people one way or the other.
Portland is mostly intact, but the energy in the system has built up a tremendous amount of pressure which has taken a form that is quite ominous. We have regular violence breaking out on the streets. It’s always localised to a few blocks because it’s a small number of people who are engaged in it, but the police are simply not putting a stop to it. And the protesters who every night become rioters are learning what they can get away with. They are going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and terrorising business owners and people in their homes. And perhaps most ominous of all is that the mayor, who is also our police commissioner, is allowing this to happen is and is now facing a challenge for office. Which might ordinarily be a good thing, except that he’s being challenged by somebody who has signalled quite strongly that she embraces the wrongly labelled anti-fascist perspective in this case.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. I believe strongly that we will have to make progress if we are to survive as a species. That means I regard myself as a radical, but what I’m watching is people who are nominally on the same side of the political spectrum, who do not appear to understand that systems have basic requirements in order to function and that these systems are necessary to our continued existence. We are jeopardising them. Because in a state where one party effectively has complete control, there is no force to cause a reality check. In effect, people’s fantasies have run away with them. They do not seem to understand that they are playing with the substance of our real lives as if it were a video game.
The population is drenched in a kind of bullshit that is with them almost from the instant that they get up in the morning. As soon as you’ve engaged your phone, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve encountered something inauthentic — some kind of advertising at least. And it’s with us all day, until we go to bed. That’s not normal, right? Our ancestors didn’t face that. There have always been con artists, but in general, that’s not what you were dealing with moment to moment. What this has created is a kind of hunger, that people don’t realise they’re experiencing, for authenticity. And that paradoxically, has created an opening for very unlikely phenomena.
On a new political coalition:
The possibility of that vast, exhausted middle realising that our division is, consciously or not, serving someone else’s interests and not ours, does open the possibility for the kind of leader that you were mentioning. In fact, what my guess is you don’t hear in Britain, looking at our election, is that there are a tremendous number of voters who simply don’t show up. Not because they are apathetic, but because they are disaffected. And the experience of going to vote and seeing no one who represents your interests on the ballot is frustrating. And they’ve walked away. Were they to come back because there was something to come back for — they’d be the most potent political force in the country.
On the toppling the system:
I’ve been at this some time, and I’ve realised that I believe the possibility to save the system and actually, to make it much, much better is right here in front of us. We could live in a vibrant Renaissance-like era if we were to embrace the challenge. But I also would bet against us. Which I hate saying, I just think the chances that we will not spot the opportunity and allow petty disagreements to prevent us from availing ourselves of it is more likely than not.