Within the past couple of weeks I have watched Mike Cernovich on The Rubin Report, enjoyed 105 minutes of Milo Yiannopoulos in conversation with Jordan Peterson, and dubiously sat through an interview between Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Chen. Each of these people; Mike, Milo, and Stefan; have been known to me as the *genuinely dangerous* voices. The sentiment has generally been “sure, it’s ridiculous to call Ben Shapiro far-right, but Stefan Molyneux… that’s a different story”.
Therefore there was a certain level of surprise and unease felt in my listening to each of these people speak at length and apparently make a lot of sense. The chat between Mike Cernovich and Dave Rubin revolved somewhat around Mike’s recognition that he had made mistakes and had learned from them. While Jordan Peterson probed Milo on the topic of his “pedophile tweets” it was clear that Milo had come to realise the lines he had crossed and considerations he had entirely missed when trying to discuss that issue without the sensitivity it deserved. Stefan’s case was different in that he focused very much on what I understand to be “his thing” - immigration.
So what’s the problem? I had an opportunity to listen to three people express their opinions and beliefs, some of which I hadn’t previously considered, and I came away with just as much love and compassion for humanity as before. I’m not saying there is a problem, but at the very least I heard some things that motivated me to write this article.
To start, I am genuinely pleased to hear that Mike Cernovich has seen the “error of his ways” in as much as he can point to how his provocative nature has resulted in harm in past. But he’s still Mike Cernovich. He’s still the guy who expresses a contempt for power and fame which in his mind justifies his [attack on James Gunn](https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/01/james-gunn-alt-right-marvel-film-director-tweets) or his promotion of the Info Wars story about [Pizzagate](http://nymag.com/tags/pizzagate/). He still considers himself a troll, and there is a pleasure that he stills draws from stirring the pot.
Then there’s Milo Yiannopoulos, a man I hadn’t even bothered to look into because there was so much dirt on his name I simply felt apathetic when facing the idea of scraping it off. What he had to say to Jordan about his homosexual experience at the age of 14 with a man within the church likely double his age really stopped me in my tracks. More effecting was hearing the decisive change in his perspective on this incident since having a 16 year old step son. He was actually uncomfortable even positing a similar scenario with said step-son. Once again though, he’s still Milo. His arrogance throughout much of the hour and 45 minutes was grating, and his hard edges occasionally played against a productive exploration of his career up until this point.
Worst of all though was Stefan who began with something I was happy to hear; the joy he would take in a truly diverse society functioning smoothly and resulting in the sharing of the best of each of our culture. He sounded very reasonable as he pointed out the ways in which immigrants may hold ideologies antithetical to liberal values, something about which I have perviously expressed concerns when it comes to Islam. However, it was the ways in which he kept referring to immigrants as “non-whites” that didn’t sit right with me, as though the colour of the skin was entirely pertinent to a conversation about populations and their maladaptive beliefs. The larger stumbling block for me occurred as he quickly bullet-pointed a few difficult facts which can’t discussed. The list included cultural differences, difficulties with integration, our motivations in promoting immigration, but it started with *IQ differences*. I won’t go into why it is that I feel this signals something malignant about his understanding of other lineages, and I’m not saying that I buy into the unfair painting of Charles Murray and others studying these things as racist. I’m willing to concede that this may well be my own cowardice around the topic, but it’s also my overwhelming disinterest in the topic and a suspicion of anybody who does want it pursued as a line of research over and above something like socio-economic disparities and effectiveness of certain interventions.
My compulsion to write this was one borne of the current moment and the discourse surrounding a reactionary attitude towards regressive left ideology. The recent critiques of the Intellectual Dark Web too looms large in my mind, and I have found much of it frustrating. In watching these three “controversial characters” I saw in myself something which I hadn’t previously identified, a naivety. A willingness to see the best in people and ignore the criticism or concerns. A desire to hear these people out and overlook some odd talking points. These aren’t necessarily bad instincts, but an incredibly important thing to remember is to hold a considered mindfulness. Sometimes you don’t have to follow the YouTube algorithm down into the hole of white supremacy to find yourself in the digital company of some problematic ideas. Being exposed to the ideas isn’t the issue, the danger arises from not being cognisant of their implications.