In his latest for The Daily Beast, Anthony Fisher argues the talk show sensation Dave Rubin doesn’t really believe in free speech. In his extensive profile of the man behind “The Rubin Report,” Fisher begins with Rubin’s history — from his humble start on a tricked-up set airing episodes on The Young Turks network, to his “polished and professionally produced” program airing on “an independently-funded channel,” and “boasting 150 million views.” But then he quickly turns to maligning Rubin’s work.
Fisher’s complaints run the gamut — from Rubin’s refusal to condemn President Donald Trump to his decision to interview conspiracy-theorist and InfoWars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson. But Fisher seems most annoyed by Rubin’s “positioning of himself as a critic of the left from the left,” while ignoring the Right’s (purportedly) “analogous authoritarian and censorious transgressions.”
These criticisms fall flat though, initially, because Fisher vacillates between the tone of a serious columnist and a former BFF. I can almost picture the LA Press Club award-winner seething, “I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dave,” as he banged-out this passive-aggressive passage:
… when this civil libertarian journalist made multiple requests for a recorded in-person phone or Skype interview, Rubin declined, asking for emailed questions and then refusing to answer them. Had Rubin obliged an actual interview, I would have liked to know if he had come to any new realizations about the awesome reach of new media, and how platforming and agreeing with certain people and their ideas can be reasonably construed as an endorsement. I wonder if he has come to understand that not merely talking to people with legitimately maligned ideas, but endorsing them as reasonable or centrists has consequences — both for the host and his audience.
But in this passage, and the next half-dozen, Fisher unwittingly proves Rubin’s point — that from academia to the business world to the media, free speech is under attack from the Left. Ironically, after condemning Rubin for providing a forum for “maligned ideas,” Fisher agrees “that a disquieting portion of the left in many academic, journalistic and media institutions engage in a destructive and incoherent call-out culture while pre-emptively declaring an ever-growing number of ideas beyond the pale of discussion.” However, the only forum Fisher views as appropriate for incorrect views is one where the host pushes back or subjects a guest to “skeptical cross examination.” (No wonder Rubin passed on an interview with Fisher.)
“If ideas are paramount,” Fisher intones, “Rubin has a responsibility to his audience to seek the truth and explore difficult discussions which might make his own audience uncomfortable.”
Rubin sees things differently, though, as Fisher himself recognizes. The show “aspired to be the hub of an ‘idea revolution,’ marked by long free-wheeling discussions that eschew ‘gotcha questions,’” Fisher wrote, adding: “The Spectator praised the show’s lack of ‘booby traps and barely disguised agendas’” and “The Knife descried it as a venue of ‘critical thinking and honorable discourse … where opposing arguments can coexist and thrive.” A Larry King of sorts, Fisher acknowledges.
If so, Fisher asks, then why not invite Trump critics on the show and throw them softballs as well? Rubin, though, already answered this charge — as Fisher also acknowledges — telling “reddit AMA last year that he was disinterested in attacking Trump because ‘literally hundreds of outlets’ already were, and that he believed ‘post modernism and the Left are a much bigger danger to the future of western civilization.”
Well then, Fisher counters, why not condemn Republican attempts to silence college professors or schools and teachers? The same reasons hold. First, the attempt to silence educators and students, and public figures and private citizens alike, find coverage and condemnation in the main stream media when the attack originates from Right. “The Rubin Report” and other “Dark Web” intellectuals focus instead on the void.
Second, notwithstanding Fisher’s portrayal of right-wingers as engaged in “analogous authoritarian and censorious transgressions,” there is no comparison. When the Left attacks, it employs a scorched-earth policy, seeking to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with conventional liberalism. The targets are diverse, ranging from intellectuals and academics like Christina Hoff Sommers and fired Marquette University tenured professor John McAdams, to the pushed-out Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich and Google’s outed conservative average-joe James Damore.
The evidence goes much beyond the anecdotal. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, better known as FIRE, compiles statistics of “disinvitation efforts at public and private American Institutions.” Since 2000, FIRE documented 236 attacks as coming from “the Left,” compared with 109 challenges from “the Right,” giving support to what should be obvious to all — that the thought-police skews hard Left.
Given this reality, is it any wonder Rubin sees his show as an opportunity for voices silenced in academia and the media to be heard — and judged on the merits?