tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS November 6, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT
out on a him, just where he likes to be. this week on "firing line." >> i grew up wanting to debate, wanting to argue. i had a big irish catholic family. we fought about everything. what was the problem. >> never one to shy away from controversy. >> am i wrong? >> you are. i will say why. >> he became editor of "the new republic" when 28. his career and column spans more than three decades, but he's self-publishing outside the mainstream. his politics still don't fit a single mold. a fiscal conservative and an early advocate for same-sex marriage. >> the real question is why on earth would anyone want to exclude us from it? >> who support the iraq war. then changed his mind. sullivan makes the case against trump and woke culture on the
left. >> with both forces at play in this week's election what does andrew sullivan say now? "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible in part by -- robert graneri, charles r. zaub, the fairwetter foundation, and by the rosslyn p. walter foundation and david button. corporate funding provided by stephens, inc. and pfizer inc. >> andrew sullivan. welcome to "firing line." >> thanks for having me. >> your new book "out on a him" is a collection of select essays spanning from 1989 to 2021 and you have been called a wide range of labels in your caree a flaming liberal, a homophobe, a comi, and a white supremacist. you've been canceled various times by both the left and the
right. do you consider the strong reaction that you have elicited a badge of honor, a sign of the times or both? >> well, i've learned to live with them, both of those things. i think if you just speak your mind inevitably and do it for 32 years, it's very unlikely that anybody is going to agree with you all along the way and i think the point of the book really and the point of the weekly dish that i have, i'm interested in having an argument, interested in having a debate. i want to put the arguments out there and see what you've got to help me understand where i'm wrong or where i'm right. >> all eyes this week were on virginia's governor race. republican glenn youngen defeated democrat terry mcauliffe. what does what happened in virginia, along with the really strong republican turnout in new jersey, what does all of this tell us about the country right now? >> i think it tells us that the
democrat have overread what they thought as their mandate. they have gone full bore on every part of their left agenda as it were, and not given much of an indication of tacking to the center which is what i think a lot of people who voted for biden, like me, wanted. we wanted to get rid of trump, but we did not want to replace him with a massive left wing crusade and that's especially true when it came to something like schools, where people are aware that a whole new agenda has been introduced through the educational establishment around critical race theory and some of us have been trying to warn the democrats about this for quite a while that they've been over playing their hand dramatically on these cultural issues, and they need to get in touch with reality. the great thing about democracy is the voters just put the democrats back in touch with
some kind of reality. >> education and parental choice were one of the flash points in the campaign as you mentioned. that flashpoint had to do with a law in virginia when terry mcauliffe was governor previously, that would have allowed parents to remove books they considered sexually explicit, including tony morrison's "beloved." governor mcauliffe vetoed that bill. take a look at this key moment between glenn youngkin and terry mcauliffe. >> you believe school systems should tell people what to do i believe parents should be in charge of their kids education. >> mr. mcauliffe 30 seconds. >> i'm not going to let parents come into school and takes book out and make their own decision. >> you vetoed it. >> i'm sure that moment was no surprise to you. but explain why it became this flashpoint in the race? >> well, i think there was some frustration with the teachers unions over the covid question.
then there was simply the fact that as parents observed their kids being taught on zoom and through online media, they began to hear stuff that really troubled them and that is, that america itself is not an experiment in individual liberty, but isn't always what's intended to be a way to oppress black and brown people. they were told by "the new york times" that, in fact,s the united states was not founded in 1775. it was founded in 1619 because the true meaning of america is it's a slave ocr a cy not democracy. white supremacy being used to describe the essential nature of our democratic system in 2021 far too extreme for most people. most people actually really do believe and i believe very strongly that we should teach history with all of its awfulness.
we should not minimize in any way slavery, segregation, the terrible tragedy of reconstruction. we need to expose this, but we do not want children to be taught that the entire country is designed and will always be a means to oppress black and brown people. >> you have been outspoken about critical race theory which is something the governor elect of virginia had promised to ban. what is the best way for this to be handledn schools? should critical race theory be banned or should it be debated? >> i think it should be debated. i've publicly opposed crude bans on anybody teaching anything unless it's really egregious, and i do think that theory should be taught. i mean not in kindergarten, but at some point in education, yes, we should have it discussed.
but we should also have other views discussed as rivals to that particular position. and what's happened is that it's been presented as the truth, the real truth, and it is happening. when the democrats simply say in response, it's not happening, you're wrong. they're going to miss a huge amount that's going on out there and they're losing these elections for a very good reason. they're not listening to people. they're listening to their own activists in a way that is destroying their potential to rescue this country from an emboldened anti-democratic far right. >> should parents be able to decide which books are okay and not okay? should they be able to ban tony morrison? >> no. i don't thin individuals should be banning any books. i think we should be adding books, not subtracting them. the question is, how has this been enforced? are the school boards actually
open to parents' concerns? is there rl input from parents in these school boards? other school boards themselves now are packed with activists, that the parents can't trust them. in my view, the debate should happen there at the locality. what is in the curriculum and what isn't. if there are issues in the curriculum the parents don't want they should be listened to respectfully and sometimes their view should be taken into account. they can't have a veto, but neither should they be shut out as if they don't have a right to determine what their kids are being taught. people can't stop feeling if they send their kids to public schools they're going to be indoctrinated in left wing ideology. >> you write about the, quote, cult of social justice on the left. first, define a problem for the
audience. >> well the problem is, you're seeing the world entirely as a function of different racial groups oppressing other racial groups. so i think it's really deep down, it's a fundamental attack on liberal society and liberal democracy. it believes that the importance of fighting this war on race supersedes the right to free speech, the right to say things they don't approve of, and if you do violate these doctrines you are hounded out of your job. this is a way for a country to go to civil war. it's not a way for us to have a civil debate. >> andrew, what is a good concrete example of the cult of social justice on the left? i think to be honest, there is something almost religious about it, that whiteness is being reinventd as an original
sin, that people have to seek forgiveness and often are not granted forgiveness for their sins. people are scared of speaking out in classrooms. they're afraid in the workplace because these critical race theory concepts have now fused with human resources so that they can fire pele. this is creating a climate of fear and the fear is really the fear that every one feels when there's an orthodoxed imposed religion. i'm kind of amazed, for example, outside of the -- of netflix as a campaign to attack dave chapelle becau he made some certainly highly contentious comments on his special, and one of them was screaming "repent, repent, repent." i remember when the religious right used to do that. i just fear that the left has
lost sight of freedom of speech, of toleration of other people's opinions and of live and let live. and that's a cult. >> andrew, can you define who is at the forefront of the liberal movement? is it everyone on the left o a smaller cohort that has highjacked the left? >> oh, very much the latter. very much the latter. there are lots of people who are democrat who don't really agree with this kind of fanaticism, this demonization of people who disagree with you, but they're so frightened of being called out by the small minority as being racists or sexists or homophobes or transphobes or all the other weapons that are used against them, that they have simply not stood up for their own values. >> is there anything in the current social justice movement you think is good or redeemable in your view? >> yes. i do think it has done a good
job in exposing some real questions of police brutality. i think it's done a very good job at helng us better appreciate the sheer horrors of this country in the past. i think, for example, restoring the memory of the tulsa massacre as one simple example, but we really should face up to. i think the more we are attune to that awful history, the better. but to overplay that entirely is also dangerous for our society as a whole. so yes, there's always a kernel of truth. the question is how far are you taking it? how extreme are you getting? and how much else are you missing about the complexity of our society when you reduce it to these racial binary. >> you know, this program is a renewed version of "firing line." you never appeared on the original "firing line" with william f. buckley but your
former editor michael kinsley was a frequent guest and a moderator on buckley's original program. take a look at this clip here of him introducing a 1993 debate on the resolution political correctness is a menace and a bore. >> let it be said that the university of pennsylvania was eager to host tonight's debate and any university that allows william f. buckley on its campus can't be all that politically correct. in terms of tonight's debate mr. buckley is always a man of but never a bore. >> do you really believe that, in fact, when you say sothing you are not in any way ethically or morally responsible for anticipating what someone else, how someone else might react to what you say? it's quite true some people have a hidden sensitivity about a particular subject, you bring it up anthey are terribly offended. on the other hand what is required there is a cosmopolitanization of society,
rather than any such efforts that a protection that doesn't work. >> it's amazing, isn't it? these debates go round and round, they're forever the same in the way, except it does seem to me we're in a slightly coercive and oppressive moment than we were back then. look, a really robust debate will perhaps accidentally, hopefully not intentionally, but could upset people, could really harm them in some ways. but we decided as a society not that we can't harm people with speech, but that protecting the right to say anything reasonable and without -- within the usual first amendment parameters, is better overall, than having some entity being able to censor or control what people say. there's more of a risk with protecting people from harm from speech than with attempting to shut speech down. that's the crucial liberal belief, isn't it?
that the free speech will lead to better speech, it will flush out bad arguments. as opposed to we've got to protect people from the terrible things people are saying. look, i've heard a lot of homophobic things in my life, a lot of hiv phobic things in my life, and it wounds, of course it wounds, but it is vital that minorities, members of minorities, begin to build up our own reserves of intolerance and indifference to hatred and in america, you always win the debates, i think, when you're wanting to open them as opposed to wanting to shut them. i definitely think the spirit of "firing line" was always let's go for it and let's see who has the best argument. there was a kind of zest about it. i mean, i'll be honest with you i just love arguing. i love debate. because you learn stuff. and you never learn stuff if you're always being polite within the same parameters, saying the same things to
impress the same people. >> are liberal institutions today more liberal now than when buckley was debating in 1993? is woke culture and the woke movement just another version of the same thing we've seen cyclically? >> no. it's an upping of the ante, it seems to me. this is a much more systemic effort. it's built on a much more systemic ideology that's rooted in a kind of cultural marxism and it has reached critical mass in the universities. when you talk with someone else on a university you have to be aware now in a way you didn't before, you have to take into account this person's race, sex, gender. you have to fixate constantly on your differences. and all the research shows this makes people more racist and obsessed with these differences and much less interested in what we have in common, and i think that's just a way backwards. >> you just said it's making
people more racist. how so? >> we are humans. we are tribal people. that's how we grew up as a species. it's very easy for us to fall into i a white person, i belong to this tribe. i'm a black person. i belong to that tribe. i'm a gay i belong to this tribe. that comes much more naturally than saying, but what can we agree about. that's a very different dynamic. america is an open-minded not bigoted country. in the end, it does the right thing, but only if we stick to the principle of defending each other's right to say what we believe to be true in our hearts. so let's actually have a really open debate where we can look at the differences as opposed to suppressing it in favor of this racial justice or sexual justice. i say that as a member of minority myself. >> explain who is it that is
teaching people that race is the first thing you have to identify about somebody? how prolific is this? who is enforcing it? how many people are we really talking about? >> well in termsf education, all the teachers unions now subscribe to it. most education departments have signed on to it. you know what, i think people out there do feel it. they see it. they see is in the fact that they read the newspaper and whole new words being introduced that they don't understand. they didn't realize they were part of the patriarchy. all these new terms that have been introduced that confuse people and worry people are designed to coer people to accept a world view they may not otherwise believe in. >> has it gone gotten so bad that there could be an opportunity for course correction? i want to take the reason example of netflix and the comedienne dave chapelle you referenced earlier. netflix stood by its decision to
run that stand-up comedy special amidst severe pressure to cancel the program that chapelle made about men and women. there was a walkout by netflix employees you called a big tantrum but ultimately, netflix stuck with the decision to keep the program. isn't that a good sign, an organization can stand up to a cancer culture movement and live to tell about it? >> yes. it is a good sign. i was quite proud of netflix for doing that. on the other hand it's an easy one to do. you're making a fortune off of dave chapelle. he's one of your stars. if you don't defend him who are you going to defend? so yes, i think tuesday's results were a turning point. i think people are beginning to realize this is not really what they believe in. it's overkill. i think you sees the election of eric adams in new york, you see the failure of the defund the
police movement and how it's been succeeded by massive increases in the murder rate. yeah, we are way past the correction and my concern is simply, that the democrat don't let themselves be defined b this, that biden does not let himself be defined as indistinguishable from aoc and some elements of the left, and so we have a competitive future. as long as trump stays out of it, i think we can come to a reasonably good compromise on all of this after a while. we have to keep the principle of freedom of speech front and center. >> in your edited "out on a him" you look back on your career as a writer from publishing and writing about the bell curve to "what's so bad about hate" to defending dave chapelle you've caused a lot of controversy and
you rarely back down. but you did change your mind about the iraq war. you write, quote, my greatest failure of judgment, my shamefully excessive defense of the iraq war was in retrospect a moment when i abandoned that conservatism under the torrent of emotion andrauma in the wake of 9/11. what did you learn from that experience about yourself, andrew? >> that it's when you're most certain that you should be the least certain. that we are all clouded by our own biases and we need to check them. and also that the most important thing to do when making a mistake, especially if you're in the public arena or if you're a writer, is not just to acknowledge your mistakes openly and freely, but to grapple with why you made the mistake. what would the conceptual premises that were wrong? in that case it was the whole
notion we could transform another country so far away into a functioning democracy, that sectarianism and tribalism no longer were in iraq, that there were wmdness iraq. many were faulty premises. you could have supported the war in good faith as i did and still be ashamed of it because the misjudgments were so deep and profound. and yeah, i was haunted by it. i was haunted by the deaths, the hundreds of thousands of deaths that i might have unwittingly contributed to, and i was above all haunted by the fact that this war i had supported had led the united states government to violate the geneva conventions and torture and some cases innocent people in the most horrifying fashion. it's a very humbling thing. i think intellectuals need to be humbled more than we are and a lot of outrage in america was because wes the elites were not
listening. we were too certain. we didn't place doubt and humility at the center of our politics. we put the demonization of our opponents. i was sorry i did that and wrong to do it. >> despite your conservatism as you call it, you supported barack obama, hillary clinton and joe biden. when joe biden defeated president trump in 2020 rejoice he's done, but anowledged that trumpism did far better than anyone expected. i mean, you have witnessed the modern american conservative movement, descend from a movement of ideas to one centered around one man and personality. where do you think it is headed and if trump runs again, what does that mean for american democracy? >> i would say there are two things. there are issues that trump
brought to the floor which others had not. the danger of mass immigration, the effect of free trade, the ter terrible consequences of near conservative foreign policy. irrespective of him as a person were important. he showed the elites were out of touch, and they weren't listening to people. there is an amazing opening for the republicans right now if they could only ween themselves off this crazy cult figure and i hope that last tuesday's results will encourage people to see that a republican party framed around the issues trump framed, but without his incredibly divisive and dangerous authoritarianism could do well, could do a lot better than it is. i would have happily voted for youngkin in virginia so there is
a potential. i believe it. the trouble is, the cultish capacity of trump to really hold people under his spell, is so extraordinary and i don't think that danger is over. in fact, i think, given the way the democrats are misreading the country, it could be beginning again. i think a lot of people in the middle are ready to come back to the gop if the gop tells them it's not insane anymore. i think that's what last week's elections showed. whether the republican party can do that is another question. probably not. but that is potentially capable of doing that, absolutely. >> andrew sullivan, thank you for joining me on "firing line." best of luck with your anthology and continued wright. >> thank you so much. it's always a pleasure to talk with you. "firing line with margaret