More than likely you've now heard the clip of Sam Harris, from his interview on the Triggernometry Podcast. I will include the full link below. Many people have commentated on it, but I wanted to digest the entire thing before spouting off about what Sam Harris said. I think some people missed exactly what he was saying, and while I still vehemently disagree with him, I believe some cleaning up is in order.
To keep your reading to a minimum, I will provide quotes and do my absolute best to use them in context. I will provide my text of the relevant interview section at the bottom of this blog post, and I will include the full Youtube interview. The relevant clip begins at around 35:30 in the full interview.
Please note: my quotes are cleaned up for clarity, understanding and context. I did my absolute best to re-write them with Harris' intended meaning in mind.
The Quiet Part Out Loud
On August 17th, a Podcast that has been seen as fairly balanced on social issues and cultural events hosted Sam Harris. The Triggernometry Podcast is hosted by two comedians, Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster, who, “create honest conversations with fascinating people.”
They've hosted others, such as Matt Walsh, Peter Zeihan, Jaron Lanier, and Project Veritas.
The Harris interview was a typical Sam Harris segment, complete with wheels turning deeply as he puts together complex threads of thought. The man is extremely smart, soft-spoken yet direct, and weighs out the things he says carefully. Not too long ago, he did a debate series tour with Jordan Peterson, and both seemed to carry a respect for the other's intellectual heavyweight title.
However, people blew their lids when this particular interview aired on August 17th, and the reason was simple: people felt Harris had finally said the progressive quiet part out loud. Until now, most progressives had slapped away any indication that there was a concerted movement to shut down Trump. As the Trump base and wider conservative circles claimed censorship, conspiracy and agenda on the part of the institutions, progressives continued to retort that the conservatives were full of crap and were just salty about the nation's dislike for such an evil man.
A thread of “speech regulation” worked its way through the discourse, and built on the notion that speech could be violence. Therefore, to save our democracy, we must limit the truly evil and catastrophic voices...such as Trump.
What caught people about Harris was his comparison of dangerous actions taken by the two camps.
“Hunter Biden literally could have had had the corpses of children in his basement,” Harris began, “I would not have cared. It's like, there's nothing. First of all, it's Hunter Biden. It's not Joe Biden. But even if, whatever scope of Joe Biden's corruption is like; if we could just go down that rabbit hole endlessly and understand that he's getting kickbacks from Hunter Biden's deals in Ukraine, or whatever else, or China, it is infinitesimal compared to the corruption we know Trump is involved in. It's like a firefly to the sun. I mean, it doesn't even stack up against Trump university. Trump university as a story, is worse than anything that could be in Hunter Biden's laptop, in my view.”
Take a moment, let your jaw return to normal, and let's continue.
Forgetting the fact that there are accusations of heavy drug use, pedophilia, kickbacks and federal offenses covered up by a government led by his father in Biden's laptop, let's look at Trump's world-ending controversy.
What was Trump University all about? National Review reports in 2016, “Trump University was never a university. When the “school” was established in 2005, the New York State Education Department warned that it was in violation of state law for operating without a NYSED license. Trump ignored the warnings. (The institution is now called, ahem, “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.”) Cue lawsuits.”
When the article was written, National Review reported that Trump University was in the middle of three lawsuits. Two were class action lawsuits filed In California, and one was filed in New York by the then attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
Schneiderman claimed, “We started looking at Trump University and discovered that it was a classic bait-and-switch scheme. It was a scam starting with the fact it was not a university.”
Former “students” claimed they were scammed out of numbers including $20,000 to $60,000 dollars. The language from the New York suit states, “The free seminars were the first step in a bait and switch to induce prospective students to enroll in increasingly expensive seminars starting with the three-day $1495 seminar and ultimately one of respondents’ advanced seminars such as the “Gold Elite” program costing $35,000. At the “free” 90-minute introductory seminars to which Trump University advertisements and solicitations invited prospective students, Trump University instructors engaged in a methodical, systematic series of misrepresentations designed to convince students to sign up for the Trump University three-day seminar at a cost of $1495.”
Instructors were encouraged to tout Trump's personal involvement in picking mentors and trainers. They were instructed in a confidential playbook to get attendees of the free seminar to purchase Trump University course packages.
Now, the reporting from the National Review leaves out several questions. Did the people receive the educational material? Was the material presented by high level real-estate moguls?
A year later, Trump settled for $25 million dollars to 6,000 Trump U students. NPR's reporting uses student claims that the instructors were unqualified, information was the type you could find in a general internet search, and that some of the information was illegal in some states.
So that's what Harris considered to be the most destructive action? The sun vs the firefly? Considering Harris even included in his argument the Joe Biden controversy of Ukraine (where Joe Biden said on camera, “I remember going over, others convincing us that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev, and and I was supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatskov that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn't. So, they were walking out to press, I said, 'I'm not going, or we're not going to give you the billion dollars.' They said, 'You have no authority, you're not the president.' I said, 'Call him.' I said, 'I'm telling you're, not getting a billion dollars.' I said, 'You're not getting a billion. I'm gonna be leaving here,' I think it was about six hours, I looked, 'If the prosecutors not fired, you're not getting the money.' Oh son of a b****, he got fired and they put in place someone who was solid.”)
He considered the Hunter Biden laptop, alleged to include emails of kickbacks of international dealings to Joe Biden, presumably because of Biden's international political influence in countries such as China, to be insignificant compared to Trump's university.
I've gone in depth for a reason on these issues, because it makes it fairly apparent that Harris is not looking through the sober-minded, clear-eyed objective observations that he thinks he is. He compared a scam university that misrepresented itself, to the Biden's global business and political influencing (considering Harris doesn't even contradict that the withholding of 1 billion was a retaliation to investigations into Burisma, which Hunter happened to have been promoted to the board.)
While the statement about corpses of children in Hunter Biden's house is extremely shocking, it was extreme on purpose. Harris is letting the truth out in more ways than I think he wished to. He's admitting that he sees Trump as more dangerous than anything else on the face of this earth.
He continues, “That doesn't answer the people who say, 'It's still completely unfair to not have looked at the laptop in a timely way, and to have shut down The New York post's twitter account. That's just a conspiracy left-wing conspiracy to deny the presidency to Donald Trump.'” He responds to the imaginary complaint by continuing, “Absolutely it was, absolutely. But I think it was warranted, and again it's a coin toss as to whether or not—”
At this point, he's interrupted by one of the interviewers, who states, “Sam, I'm sorry, that particular piece...I'm really sorry, I was the one that said we should move on, but you've just said something i really struggled with that which is...I'm interested in democracy. You're saying you are content with the left-wing conspiracy to prevent somebody being democratically re-elected as president?”
This is the moment that Harris knows he has to navigate a minefield he just laid for himself. He struggles to find his argument's consistent path, and lays out as follows, “It was a conspiracy out in the open. It doesn't matter if it was, it doesn't matter what parts conspiracy, what part's out in the open. I think it's like, if people get together and talk and talk about, 'What should we do about this phenomenon?' You know, it's like if there was an asteroid hurtling toward earth and we got in a room together with all of our friends and had a conversation about what we could do to deflect its course; is that a conspiracy? Some of that conversation would be in public, some of it would be in private. We have a massive problem, we have an existential threat, politically speaking. I consider Trump an existential threat to our democracy right now. He's not going to destroy the world, very likely he destroyed democracy in the process of protecting democracy. But that doesn't destroy...no...”
In fairness, he added, “At no point was I suggesting we should stuff ballots or actually break the machinery of democracy, but all political opinion is already being just completely inundated with misinformation bias, half truths, and outright lies, and or just the amplification of bad or misleading information based on you know the algorithm.”
But the damage was done, and Harris caught himself in a nasty trap.
The Truth Rings Clear
Harris presented himself as the objective arbiter who is only interested in “saving democracy,” and feels as though he recognizes that drastic measures must be taken. He conflates the idea of conspiracy with a hidden conspiracy. The movement with which various government branches, and the major pillars of social media were able to move in concert and cooperation speaks to a “conspiracy” against Donald Trump.
Sam Harris does not have to endorse ballot stuffing in order to subvert the machinery. In his mind, the machinery is of utmost importance, and he defends these institutions. I think I could take the liberty to say that he feels it is vital and necessary to protect these institutions, and considers them invaluable to the health of the nation. He pivots and attacks the vague boogyman of “misinformation and half-truths” as though these are agreed upon by everybody.
The institutions themselves have a vested interest in restricting and limiting anything that might chip away at their establishment. If anybody should be distrusting of the current system, it should be the progressive...but I digress.
I don't know if Mr. Harris would consider himself a progressive, considering his intolerance of the woke movement. However, if we're to say the establishment institutions have used their power for evil in the past, should we not consider them to have the same evil intent today? So why put the judgment of “misinformation” in their hands? It's a conflict of interest.
But Harris aligns himself with the institutions and establishment, and determines that a moral position is to limit a person's influence in suppression and restriction. After all, Trump is literally Hitler, and would you not do everything in your power to stop him? Even if it meant less than “moralistic” means?
Why It Matters Concerning Harris
I think a conversation can be had about what means a person might take to stop an evil, wicked force. We have to assume that those on the left tend to see Trump as truly evil and malevolent, not just a conservative leader.
But I want to re-state something Harris said. “Hunter Biden literally could have had had the corpses of children in his basement, I would not have cared. It's like, there's nothing. First of all, it's Hunter Biden.”
Such a comment is chilling, and obviously for dramatic effect, but I believe more truth sat at the center of the comment than he cared to admit. In saying it, he was admitting that there are more important things to stop than even a child murderer. Not that he would not want a psychopathic Biden stopped, but it would still be tiny in his concern. His attempt to disconnect Hunter from Joe Biden was the second glaring admission: separate personal connections when they aren't convenient.
We all do it, and we all attempt to draw the lines at what matters and what does not. But Harris seems pretty clear that no matter what dirt comes to light about the Biden's, it can't be as bad as Trump. His awful comparison between the Biden's and Trump University makes it obvious. Further on, he names Hilary Clinton as a better option, and does not consider any of her dirt and conflicts of interest.
This is indicative of a deeper issue that I've noticed creeping up through Harris' rhetoric. In past debates with Peterson, he passionately concluded that the framework and foundation of Judeo-Christian's influence on values are of no use to us anymore, and should be wiped from the cultural slate. He feels we have organized and engineered our values and morals on an evolutionary plane, and therefore now have no need for the role religion played in the hearts and minds of the uncultured, unscientific swine of past ages.
His statements during this Podcast show the “evolution” of morality for Harris. He quickly jettisons things such as liberty, free speech and righteous conduct in favor of a righteous end. The ends justify the means. What if the only recourse to stop Literally-Hitler was to ballot stuff? Would Harris agree to this compromise?
My concern with the atheist mindset is that it sits on the branch, and then takes a saw to the branch. As they attempt to remove the underpinnings of Christianity and Judaism, they must then rely on a morality developed by their own soul. There becomes no standard to weigh every situation against. Every situation becomes it's own defining moment, and when pressed: the atheist has the opportunity to change their morality to fit the desired outcome. Hence, the ends justify the means.
The consuming fire of a fear and hatred for Trump has twisted many people into moral knots, and some have escaped the confines of morality completely. While Harris seems to attempt to retain some semblance of a morality in terms of not outright destroying the “democractic” process, he has made it very apparent that a more forceful social pressure is necessary to keep evil from winning. This sells two very fundamental rights: free speech and liberty. His callousness towards comparing evil situations, ie –Trump U vs dead children seems to show a lack of objective comparisons between two wrongs.
Harris fell a major step in his own philosophy by making such statements. I think people need to realize, he just endorsed moral-relativism, and despite his claims that morality is evolutionary: he provided us ample evidence that just because a thing evolves, does not mean it is evolving to perfection.