Episode 19, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube


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“(Woke culture) just comes down to...not giving people forgiveness and grace and the benefit of the doubt.”

About Jesse Singal:

Jesse Singal is a journalist, podcaster, and author of The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can't Cure Our Social Ills. He talks about freedom of speech in America, the effect of woke culture on journalism, censorship, and his article in The Atlantic, When Children Say They're Trans, published in 2018.

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Time Stamps:

(00:00) Intro
(01:01) Get to know Jesse Singal
(02:45) How did Jesse get interested in podcasting, writing, and journalism?
(05:12) Jesse talks about Jonathan Haidt’s work and how it helped to shape his outlook on America, and on life in general
(06:45) What about Haidt’s work changed Jesse’s sensibilities about people who disagreed with him? Did it have a formative effect on Jesse?
(09:15) Where are we right now with regards to freedom of speech and woke culture?
(11:16) What is meant by woke culture?
(12:42) What trajectory led us to this point?
(15:08) Jesse’s take on the percentages of the American population that's fomenting woke culture
(17:39) How does Jesse explain the insistence on not using a phrase (like “pregnant women”) for fear of offending? Where does that come from?
(19:12) About alteration of language and Jesse’s article for The Atlantic, When Children Say They're Trans
(21:38) Jesse’s reasons for writing the article When Children Say They're Trans and the response it received
(24:52) Why is it that a percentage of children regret their transition?
(27:52) Jesse cites an example of a child who considered it a mistake to undergo transition therapy
(29:53) Why is there a pushback to a more conservative approach to transition therapies for children?
(32:08) Do we have the statistics to know what percentage of children under the age of 14 who transition later believe it was a mistake?
(35:26) Does Jesse believe that journalism in America is in a state of peril? How does Jesse view his type of journalism?
(38:25) Jesse’s thoughts on whether the people who refuse to use terms like “pregnant women” are really advocating inclusivity, or if there’s something more insidious going on
(40:21)  Jesse’s advice to aspiring journalists who want to have the freedom to explore ideas and write openly
(42:11)  Jesse talks about his plans for the future
(44:10) Jesse’s advice for young people wanting to build a career in journalism
(46:15) How did Jesse manage to get into a position where he had the independence to openly share his thoughts?
(48:25) Was there a point in his career when Jesse thought he could go fully independent?
(50:17) Journalists and news outlets that Jesse recommends


“I think (the opposition to homosexuality)...helped me understand that what's going on here isn't just...'I'm the smart blue-state person, they're the ignorant red-state people.' I think what's going on is more nuanced.”

“(Woke culture) just comes down to...not giving people forgiveness and grace and the benefit of the doubt.”

“I really enjoyed my conversations with clinicians who work with kids on this process of figuring out who they are, who they're going to become and whether hormones and, maybe, surgery down the road are right for them. (There are) differences you sense when you talk to the most careful clinicians who really view this as...a slow, dynamic process of a young person's identity unfolding, versus the more activist clinicians who just think they can sort of tell right away, or very soon, quickly after meeting them, which kids are trans and can give them hormones and surgery in short order. I just think the former approach, given the dangerous paucity of data on this, strikes me as better and more careful because we do not have anything like decent outcome data on this. We really don't.”

“It's been very disheartening to see so many media outlets and so many activists just really lie to parents. I'm not saying they all know they're lying, but they're in effect lying when they say that we have really good outcome data...(a)nd we just desperately need more data. I think everyone agrees on that.”

“The idea that there are vast numbers of kids about to kill themselves unless they can immediately go on puberty blockers and hormones is not evidence-based. And given the way social contagion works, you're probably increasing the likelihood of that happening by repeating that over and over and over by priming kids to think that they will become suicidal unless they get the medicine they've decided they wanted.”

“I try to assume (that) not everyone reading (my articles) already agrees with me or comes from my same socio-economic or cultural background. And I think people are floating away from those values.”

Relevant Links:

Books mentioned:

Jesse's Substack:

People mentioned (quotes from Wikipedia)

  • Jonathan Haidt - “Jonathan David Haidt is an American social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business, and author. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions.”
  • John Chait - “Jonathan Chait is an American liberal pundit and writer for New York magazine. He was previously a senior editor at The New Republic and an assistant editor of The American Prospect. He writes a periodic column in the Los Angeles Times.”
  • Matt Yglesia - "Matthew Yglesias is an American blogger and journalist who writes about economics and politics. Yglesias has written columns and articles for publications such as The American Prospect, The Atlantic, and Slate. In November 2020, he left his position as an editor and columnist for the news website Vox, which he co-founded in 2014, to publish through Substack.
  • Nellie Bowles - “Nellie Bowles is an American journalist noted for covering the technology world of Silicon Valley. She worked as a journalist for the Argentinian English-language daily the Buenos Aires Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, The California Sunday Magazine, the technology journalism website Recode, the British daily The Guardian beginning in 2016, then for Vice News.”
  • Conor Renier Friedersdorf - “Conor Renier Friedersdorf is an American journalist and a staff writer at The Atlantic, known for his civil libertarian perspectives.”

Podcasts mentioned:

Connect with Jesse:

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