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Ben Shapiro: Politics, Kanye, Trump, Biden, Hitler, Extremism, and War | Lex Fridman Podcast #336

Check out the Episode Page for Lex’s conversation with Ben Shapiro  

Key Takeaways

  • Racism is attributing some characteristic to an entire population based on the notion that some members of that population are doing bad things 
  • “The great lie that we tell ourselves is that people who are evil are not like us, they’re a class apart. People who do evil things, people who support evil people, they’re not like us.”Ben Shapiro  
  • The polarization of politics increases the likelihood of normal people supporting an evil person in order to stop someone they believe to be more evil 
  • “Politics is Veep, it is not House of Cards.”Ben Shapiro
    • Everyone in politics is an idiot until proven otherwise; virtually everything is done out of stupidity rather than malice
  • If we remove agency from individuals, and if we blame broad-scale political rhetoric for every act of violence, then the people who pay the actual price will be the general population because free speech will go away
  • Elon Musk taking over Twitter threatens the state’s control over what can be said on the platform
  • The town square is online; banning people from the town square is un-personing them, and in American society, a person should not be unpersoned unless they have violated a criminal statute
  • Joe Biden allows the prevailing winds of his party to carry him to incredibly radical places, and then he doubles down on the radicalism in disingenuous ways
  • The coordinated, collusive media blackout to cut off the lifecycle of the Hunter Biden laptop story before relevant questions could be answered is a bigger story than the laptop story itself 
  • The West took the worst possible view on the Russian-Ukraine issue before the conflict ever broke out: it encouraged Ukraine to join NATO and the EU without actually letting it join, while simultaneously provoking Russia in the process 
  • There is a bizarre focus on throwing hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies at the same three “renewable energy” technologies that aren’t viable solutions to climate change 
  • “Nuclear energy is great. Nuclear energy is a proven source of energy and we should be radically extending the use of nuclear energy.” – Ben Shapiro   
  • The meaning of life is to fulfill what God made you do across a series of roles
  • Most good people die, are mourned by their family and friends, and are forgotten in two generations; they are the people who incrementally move the ball forward in the world, oftentimes more so than the people that are considered great

Intro 

  • Ben Shapiro (@Benshapiro) is a conservative political commentator, host of The Ben Shapiro Show, co-founder of The Daily Wire, and author of four NYT bestsellers, most recently The Authoritarian Moment  
  • In this conversation, Ben Shapiro and Lex Fridman discuss Kanye West, antisemitism, Hitler and the nature of evil, political attacks on the left and the right, Elon Musk buying Twitter, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden, Hunter Biden’s laptop, Candace Owens, War in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, rhetoric versus truth, a day in the life, abortion, climate change, God, tribalism, advice for young people, self-doubt, and love 
  • Check out these Podcast Notes from Ben’s appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience 
  • Host – Lex Fridman (@lexfridman

Kanye West and Antisemitism 

  • Having experience with bipolar family members, Ben believes that Kanye has a bipolar personality and that this manic episode is contributing to his antisemitic remarks 
  • “Even if he is an antisemite – and I have no reason to suspect he’s not given all of his comments – if he had an ounce of common sense, he would stop at a certain point. Bipolarism tends to drive you well past the point where common sense applies.” – Ben Shapiro 
  • Kanye is making a mistake that a lot of antisemites, racists, and bigots do: somebody hurt me, and that person is a Jew, therefore all Jews are bad
    • Making the jump from “somebody hurt me” to “all Jews are bad” is textbook racism
  • The best way to alleviate Kanye’s antisemitic remarks is to debunk them
  • Kanye may be normalizing antisemitism for a certain group of people, but he likely isn’t convincing people to become antisemites, according to Ben Shapiro
    • For example, the people holdings signs above the LA freeway saying “Ye is Right” have been holdings antisemitic signs up there for years
  • Statistical truths are statistical truths, but they don’t speak to the individual nature of the people involved 
    • A higher than statistically represented in the population percentage of Hollywood agents, lawyers, and accountants are Jewish
    • The same applies to engineering and Asians
  • There are a myriad of reasons why some groups of people are more representative in one area compared to another, from cultural reasons to sometimes genetic
    • There are certain parts of the world where people are better long-distance runners because of the genetic adaptations that formed in that area of the world 
  • Racism is attributing some characteristic to an entire population based on the notion that some members of that population are doing bad things  
  • Antisemitism is different from other forms of racism in the sense that it tends to be a conspiracy theory about the levers of power being controlled by a shadowy cadre of people who are getting behind closed doors to control things

Hitler and The Nature of Evil

  • The power in the German government had been centralized before Hitler took it; it was only a matter of time before someone bad grabbed the power
  • The struggle between the Communists and Nazis in pre-Nazi Germany led to an up-spiraling of radical sentiment that allowed Hitler in through the front door, not through the back door 
  • Ben believes the communists taking power would have led to a similar type of atrocity that the Nazis committed
  • Ben Shapiro studies the pre-Nazi Germany time period because he wants to know how a liberal democracy breaks down into complete fascism and then into genocide 
  • “The great lie that we tell ourselves is that people who are evil are not like us, they’re a class apart. People who do evil things, people who support evil people, they’re not like us.”Ben Shapiro 
  • Princeton philosopher Robert George is known for doing a thought experiment in his classes where he asks his students to raise their hands if they would have been an abolitionist in Alabama in 1861
    • Everybody raises their hand, but of course, that’s not true
  • The best protection against evil is recognizing that it lies in every human heart and that it has the possibility of taking you over
  • The polarization of politics increases the likelihood of normal people supporting an evil person in order to stop someone they believe to be more evil 
  • This type of polarizing language is now present all over the Western world, such as:
    • “My political enemy is an enemy of democracy.”
    • “My political enemy is going to end the Republic.”
    • “My political enemy is going to destroy the country we live in.”  
  • Saying that a person or group must be stopped by any means necessary is where things get dangerous
  • The Communists had to be stopped by any means necessary in 1930s Germany, which led to the rise of the Nazis 
  • Evil rarely presents its face so clearly
  • Given new information that reveals himself to be on the wrong side of history, Ben Shapiro likes to think that we would be strong enough to switch sides 
  • Ben Shapiro has a list of all the dumb things he’s ever said on his website

Political Attacks from the Left & Right    

  • When Ben refers to “the left”, most of the time he is referring to people in the United States that believe alternative points of view ought to be silenced because they are damaging and harmful, simply based on the disagreement itself 
  • “Left vs Right” refers to competing philosophies; you can disagree with a person’s philosophy 
  • “Politics is Veep, it is not House of Cards.” – Ben Shapiro
  • We take politics seriously because it has serious ramifications, but it is more Veep than House of Cards
    • Everyone in politics is an idiot until proven otherwise
    • Virtually everything is done out of stupidity rather than malice
  • Ben tries to joke about the people in politics more than jokes about the ideas in politics

Quebec Mosque Shooting

  • Lex asks Ben what he would tell individuals who have hate in their hearts, consume a lot of political content online, and then commit atrocities fueled by that hate
  • “You’re getting it wrong. If anything that I or anyone else in mainstream politics says, drives you to violence, you’re getting it wrong.” – Ben Shapiro
  • Shapiro never blames people’s politics for other people committing acts of violence, unless they’re actively advocating violence
  • If we remove agency from individuals, and if we blame broad-scale political rhetoric for every act of violence, then the people who pay the actual price will be the general population because free speech will go away  
  • Young men need to find meaning and purpose in forming connections that actually matter in a belief system that promotes general prosperity 
  • Ben’s common advice for young men: grow up, mature, get a job, get married, have a family, take care of the people around you, and become a useful part of your community
  • Twitter was an all-consuming ego machine for Ben four years ago
  • He took Twitter off of his phone to force himself to consciously interact with it 
  • Surround yourself with a group of people that you trust enough to critique you when you’re wrong, but also have your best interest at heart  

Elon Musk Buying Twitter 

  • “I’m very hopeful about Elon buying Twitter.” – Ben Shapiro 
  • Elon will be more transparent and he’ll broaden the Overton Window on what can be discussed on the platform
  • Before Elon took over, Twitter was an oligarchy where certain perspectives were allowed, and others were not allowed, and this is why the legacy media is freaking out about him taking it over 
  • The media for most of the United State’s existence (up until 1990) consisted of three major television networks, a couple of major newspapers, and the wire services
  • The internet’s rise in the 1990s broke up this monopoly on the dissemination of information
  • Everyone was fine with the decentralization of media up until 2017 when Donald Trump was elected  
  • Following Donald Trump’s election victory in 2017, the establishment started to crack down on the social media companies that enabled the misinformation and disinformation they believed to have gotten him elected 
  • Elon taking over Twitter threatens the state’s control over what can be said on the platform
  • The town square is online; banning people from the town square is un-personing them
  • In American society, you should not be un-personed unless you have violated a criminal statute 
  • Adidas has the right to terminate its contract with Kanye, but Twitter is not Adidas, and it should not be able to un-person Kanye 
  • Fight bad speech with better speech 
  • One of the costs of freedom is people doing things that you don’t like
  • “I would prefer the freedom with the stuff I don’t like than not the freedom.” – Ben Shapiro 

Donald Trump and Joe Biden 

  • Lex asks Ben to say one positive thing and one negative thing about Donald Trump and Joe Biden 
  • Positive thing about Trump: he is willing to go out of the box and try new things because he doesn’t have any preconceived, establishment views
  • Negative thing about Trump: he has no filter between his brain and his mouth
  • Positive thing about Joe Biden: he seems to be a very good father and an old-school-handshake-type of a politician 
  • Negative thing about Joe Biden: he allows the prevailing winds of his party to carry him to incredibly radical places, and then he doubles down on the radicalism in disingenuous ways
  • Ben Shapiro says that Joe Biden was elected to be two things: be sane, i.e. not an activist, and be a unifier  
  • Biden’s approval rating has crashed from 60% when he took office to 30% today because he has not pursued the unifying measures that he ran on
  • The American people like to be isolationist until it becomes time to be defeated and humiliated (in reference to the US pulling out of Afghanistan)    

Hunter Biden Laptop Story 

  • The case for the Hunter Biden laptop story being a big deal: it is relevant if the president’s son is collecting bags of cash from foreign countries because his last name is Biden while his dad is the Vice President of the United States
    • The banning of the story, in and of itself, is a major story 
    • A coordinated, collusive media blackout on a relevant news story is a serious and major problem
  • The case for the Hunter Biden laptop story not being a big deal: Hunter was out acting of own volition, and even if he was hired because his last name was Biden, that doesn’t imply some malicious connection between his father and foreign governments 
  • Cutting off the lifecycle of the story before relevant questions could be answered is a bigger story than the laptop story itself 
  • Cutting off the lifecycle of a story allows people to speculate in whatever direction they like, and it’s impossible to root any of the speculations in facts
  • The human brain is built to find patterns, and conspiracy theories form because people observe all of these inexplicable events happening in politics and attempt to identify patterns 
  • But since politics is Veep and not House of Cards, oftentimes the inexplicable events can be explained by the high amounts of stupidity in politics  
  • In most instances, the “conspiracy theory” is just politicians being dumb instead of it being some elaborate plan 
  • According to Ben Shapiro, it seems that the stories that get preemptively killed universally affect one side of the political aisle 

Candace Owens 

  • Ben’s favorite and least favorite thing about Candace Owens is that she says things that no one else is willing to say 
  • She says some things that need to be said, but there are also times when what she says is morally wrong 

War in Ukraine

  • Over the years, Ben Shapiro has become much more of a Henry-Kissinger-realist when it comes to foreign policy 
  • The West took the worst possible view on the Russian-Ukraine issue before the conflict ever broke out 
  • The West encouraged Ukraine to keep trying to join NATO and the EU, but then never let them into NATO or the EU
    • The only thing this encouragement did was anger Russia
    • If you’re going to offer an alliance to someone, offer an alliance to them
  • Once the war began, the West did a good job of getting Ukraine what it needed 
  • Best case scenario is Ukraine forces Russia entirely out of Ukraine, including Crimea
    • No one thinks this is accomplishable
  • The problem is that the best-case scenario may also be the worst-case scenario, depending on how Putin or his people react  
    • Nobody knows what happens after a tactical nuke is launched in battle
    • The person that takes over after Putin could be worse than Putin 
  • Russia needs to be given an off-ramp that allows Putin to save face with his people

Rhetoric vs Truth 

  • Most of the Ben Shapiro clips that have gone viral are him making an argument and the other person not making an amazing counterargument 
  • “Debate” is mostly drilling down on the definition of terms to see how people think differently about those terms
  • Ben Shapiro encourages his audience to listen to podcasts on the other side of the aisle
  • On Ben’s infamous BBC interview: “I wish I had known who he was. I wish I had done my research. I wish that I had treated it as though it was going to be more adversarial than it was.” 

A Day in the Life of Ben Shapiro 

  • Ben wakes up around 6:15 AM
  • How happiness levels evolve throughout life:
    • When you’re single, your happiness is bounded between 0 and 10 
    • When you get married, your happiness is bounded between -20 and 20
    • Then you have kids and all boundaries are removed
  • Most of the preparation for Ben’s show is done the night before because the news cycle doesn’t change all that much during the night 
  • He’s done recording his show around 11:15 AM and will get lunch with his wife if she’s available 
  • He works out after lunch, aiming for five times a week with a trainer
    • Mostly weights, plyometrics, and crossfit-type stuff
  • Then he spends time reading and writing since he’s typically working on a book at any given time
    • He listens to Brahams, Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart while he reads and writes
  • Because he keeps Sabbath, Ben does not use Kindle and only has physical books in a recently built home library
  • Ben pays a person to record the quotes he likes from books and to keep the quotes handy 
  • He reads between three and five books per week 
  • He picks up his kids from school around 3:30 PM and spends time with them until they go to bed around 7:30 PM
  • Then he prepares for the next day’s show
    • He writes all of his own stuff, nobody writes for him 
  • He writes “extraordinarily fast” and doesn’t spend much time editing
  • The daily grind of the news oftentimes refers back to core principles that are far deeper; being well-read across a variety of perspectives allows you to efficiently evaluate breaking news through your core principles
    • Relate current events to big ideas, explicate those big ideas, and then talk at length about them 
    • Example: analyze Elon taking over Twitter from the broader theme of the history of media in the United States
  • Most of what Ben reads are books, not news; he interprets news through what he has learned from books
  • Ben’s job is to take complex issues and distill the information in a way that the common man can understand
  • If you want to learn about a topic, go to knowledgeable people in that space and ask for book recommendations
    • Ben wanted to learn about Bitcoin, so he got recommendations from reputable Bitcoiners and read nine books about it so he could know enough to be dangerous

Abortion

  • The way to steelman the pro-choice case and be ideologically consistent is to suggest that there is no interest in the life of the unborn that counterweighs freedom of choice
    • The Democratic Party platform position is that for any reason whatsoever, a woman’s right to choose ought to extend up and until the point of birth
    • Body autonomy is the only factor from the pro-choice side
  • The strongest case for pro-life: from conception, a human life with potential has been created, and that human life has its own independent interest in its own existence
    • Conception: when sperm fertilizes an egg 
  • “You can make the argument that just because something horrific and horrible happened to a woman does not rob the human life of its interest in life.” – Ben Shapiro    
  • It is difficult to draw lines around when life has self-interest without those lines becoming rather arbitrary
    • Independent heartbeat: people have pacemakers
    • Brain function: people have varying levels of brain function as adults 
    • Viability: babies are not viable even after they are born
  • Ben does not believe that consciousness is the sole criterion for which we should judge human life
  • People tend to argue from the fringes during abortion debates
    • Pro-choice people tend to argue from the scenario of rape and incest when those apply to 0.2% of abortions
    • Pro-life people tend to argue from partial-birth abortion to all of abortion
  • It’s more productive to argue about the mainstream case and then decide whether it is acceptable or not 
  • When life begins is a question of science; when that life becomes valuable enough for people to want to protect it is a question beyond science
    • Science doesn’t have the moral judgments to make about the value of human life   

Climate Change and Nuclear Energy 

  • Human beings have an extraordinary ability to adapt
    • As water levels in certain areas rise, real estate prices in those areas tend to fall 
  • The notion that humans are not contributing to climate change is doubtful, the more important question is to what extent humans are contributing to it
  • All of the measures that are currently being proposed to combat climate change are unworkable, and will not happen
    • Examples: Paris Climate Accord, the Green New Deal, Net Zero by 2050 
  • Human beings are bad at mitigation and excellent at adaptation 
  • There is a bizarre focus on throwing hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies at the same three “renewable energy” technologies that aren’t viable solutions to climate change 
  • There has not been much progress in the reliability of wind and solar energy over the last 30 years, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies that they have received 
  • “Nuclear energy is great. Nuclear energy is a proven source of energy and we should be radically extending the use of nuclear energy.” Ben Shapiro 
  • How a person thinks about nuclear energy is a litmus test of if they take climate change seriously
  • If you take climate change seriously on the right or the left, you should take nuclear energy seriously  
  • If a person is anti-nuclear but claims to want to solve climate change, then they probably have other priorities
  • “The last two years have done more to undermine institutional trust than any time in American history.”Ben Shapiro      

God and Faith 

  • If there is a cause underlying the reason of the universe, then that is the thing that we call God
    • If there is logic to the universe, then God is the force underlying the logic to it and the creator of it
  • The meaning of life, according to Ben Shapiro: fulfill what God made you do in a series of roles
  • Role Theory: the way that humans interact with the world is through a series of roles, and those roles are also what we find most important and implementable
  • The things that people put on their tombstones are typically the roles they played in their life that they found to be most meaningful 
  • Freedom exists within each role
    • For example, there are many people fulfilling the role of being a parent, but they significantly differ in how they act in that role 
  • The idea of struggling with God is endemic to the human condition
  • Why God allows human suffering:
    • God does not intervene to prevent people from exercising their free will because to do so would deprive human beings of the choice that makes them human
    • There would be no need for faith if God showed up each time something bad happened      
  • An atheist can be a good person, and a religious person can be a crappy person
  • From the religious person’s perspective: it is plausible for someone to live in accordance with a set of rules that don’t damage other people without believing in God, they just might not understand the reason for behaving in such a way
    • However, it’s unlikely that a society could be built on this
  • Ben does not believe in “the natural goodness of mankind”; he believes that man is created with the capacity for sin and the capacity for good
  • Without social institutions to shape humans, things are likely to go poorly
  • The natural goodness of humans has its limits because humans are quite tribal
    • Throughout history, people tend to be good with immediate family and their neighbors but did not hesitate to kill outside tribes that they felt threatened by 

Tribalism

  • “I don’t think it will ever be possible to fully outgrow tribalism.” Ben Shapiro 
  • It is a natural human condition to want to be with people who think like you or have a common set of beliefs 
  • Trying to obliterate tribalism in the name of universalism likely leads to utopian results with devastating consequences 
  • It’s reasonable to critique how we define tribes, though
  • Ben Shapiro does not believe that tribes should be defined by innate physical characteristics 

What It Means To Be Good

  • Being good means performing the function well 
  • From Aristotle’s perspective, a good cup is one that holds liquids
  • A good person fulfills the function for which she is made
  • A good father raises a child with durable values that is going to bring them up healthy, capable of protecting themselves, and capable of passing on the traditional wisdom of the ages to future generators while allowing for the capacity of innovation  
  • Being a good man is fulfilling as many of your roles as possible and fulfilling them properly at full function
  • There are a lot of “great” people who are not very good  
  • Most good people die, are mourned by their family and friends, and are forgotten in two generations; they are the people who incrementally move the ball forward in the world, oftentimes more so than the people that are considered great     

Advice for Young People

  • Live out the values that you think are really important and seek out those values in others
  • Don’t go on Twitter until you’re 26 years old when your brain is fully developed
  • If you’re going to be on social media as a young person, you can watch, but you probably shouldn’t post 
  • Engage in your community and interpersonal action 
  • Society tends to focus on trying to create global solutions for millions of people instead of trying to create local solutions for five people 
  • Don’t let “potential” be written on your tombstone  

Andrew Breitbart 

  • Andrew was special because he engaged with everyone 
  • Andrew got caught up in the craziness of Twitter during the last year of his life
  • What Ben learned from Andrew Breitbart:
    • Engage with everybody 
    • Take joy in the mission that you’re given   

Self-Doubt 

  • Ben doesn’t doubt his ability to say what he wants to say; he doubts his ability to handle the emotional blowback of saying it
  • Feedback is necessary if you’re trying to be a decent person 

Love

  • The role of love is important in binding together human beings who ought to be bound together 
  • The role of respect is even more important than love in binding together broader groups of people
  • A big mistake in politics is trying to substitute love for respect and respect for love   

Books That Have Influenced How Ben Shapiro Thinks 

Additional Notes 

  • If the Palestinians put down their guns tomorrow, there would be a state; if the Israelis put down their guns tomorrow, there would be no Israel 
  • Ben was a ghostwriter in a previous life and was known as a turnaround specialist in the publishing industry because he wrote so quickly 
  • A person is not a hero and they are not a villain; people do heroic things, and they do villainous things
  • A person is not a genius; they are a genius at something specific, such as engineering
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