Auren Hoffman (01:05.48)
Hello, fellow data nerds. My guest today is Greg Lukianoff. Greg is the president and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression or FIRE. Greg's also the bestselling author of several books, including Coddling of American Mind and most recently, The Cancelling of American Mind, which I've both read and I both highly endorse.
Greg, welcome to World of DaaS.
Greg Lukianoff (01:36.35)
Thanks so much for having me.
Auren Hoffman (01:37.872)
I'm really excited to dive in now. Um, one of the things I've asked a lot of people on this podcast is like, are we, uh, about, you know, we talked about cancel culture. It's kind of a, uh, one of the main topics people like to talk about nowadays. And there's some sort of consensus that we might be at like peak cancel culture, but I'm guessing you might not agree with that. How would you rate the strength of cancer culture now? And do you think we're like peaking or do you think we're still like, I got a ways to go.
Greg Lukianoff (01:56.66)
Greg Lukianoff (02:03.858)
Yeah, definitely. I mean, according to data, the worst years for cancel culture on campus, and that's where we have the best data, particularly when it comes to professors losing their job. And by the way, this is overwhelmingly concentrated in the top 10 schools in the country and also the top about 80 schools in the top 200. So it's very much like much more an elite college problem. The worst years we've seen for professors being fired or suspended were 2020 and 2021.
Greg Lukianoff (02:33.754)
um you know like it had to go down you eventually run out of uh
Auren Hoffman (02:37.504)
people to fire or something. Yeah. Or people moderate their speech so they don't get fired.
Greg Lukianoff (02:40.441)
Yeah, which is to burn. And also-
Greg Lukianoff (02:47.406)
Well, moderates putting it lightly. They self-censor like crazy. But also this past year, we saw the highest level of shout downs and violence in response to speech. And this is not counting October 7th, by the way. We're still catching up with the October 7th data that already was record shout downs in the past year. And of course, we're seeing a lot of oh, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (02:48.676)
Okay, yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (03:01.544)
Yep. This is pre that.
Auren Hoffman (03:13.056)
Yeah, we saw that like Stanford Law School thing and yeah. Okay. So yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (03:16.434)
Oh, but also at Yale. And people don't get, it's like, no, it wasn't normal for shout downs to happen at Yale Law School. When you look at shout downs, typically in the past, when they're at elite schools, there's a handful of them, but they're usually undergrad. The thing that's happened, and Stanford's my alma mater, so I was particularly like, oh man, this is embarrassing for us.
Auren Hoffman (03:31.485)
Auren Hoffman (03:36.936)
Yeah, it's also, I mean, it's very interesting when you shout down, like, uh, an appellate court justice. These are the types of people, like usually the law students really want to get clerkships with. And so if you're kind of known to shout them down, like, I don't know that. The other, even the judges who you might like are going to be so excited to give you a clerkship. So it also seems like odd, like from a career standpoint to do, right?
Greg Lukianoff (03:46.879)
Greg Lukianoff (03:59.642)
Yeah, I mean, shouting down a fit, and I always have to emphasize that Kyle Duncan, the guy who got shouted down at Stanford, was a Fifth Circuit judge, because people, I'm like, to be clear, one step below the Supreme Court, like, and generally...
Auren Hoffman (04:09.66)
Right, right. I mean, and the exact person you probably want to get or the exact type of person you eat, whether it may be not him, but his colleagues, you probably want to get a clerkship with if you're, if you're at the school, right.
Greg Lukianoff (04:20.007)
Yeah, and of course that was a case where you got to see yet another example of, in many cases, administrators working alongside students to engage in shout downs and cancel culture and all this kind of stuff, which is one of the reasons why we're always pointing out that the mass bureaucratization of higher ed is one of the reasons why it's so free speech unfriendly these days.
Auren Hoffman (04:41.008)
And we had another guest on recently, Jill Onsdale, who had mentioned just like the rise in the number of administrators in these universities is just off the charts. And even when I was in school in the nineties, it had gone up, you know, in the 15 years prior to I go to school, it had gone up about 10X, it had gone up about a thousand percent. But it was still relatively small as a percentage of students. Now it may have gone up another just massive.
order of magnitude since then. And, and the number of ministers in some schools, like, you know, it could equal the number of students or something, you know, or something like that. Certainly it's more than the number of professors in quite a few schools. Is that part of the problem or?
Greg Lukianoff (05:26.218)
It's a big part of the problem. I mean, when it comes to the free speech problem on campus, a lot of it is the lack of viewpoint diversity that's been progressing. Like the fact that the more, the fewer and fewer dissenters you have and the more politically immodest you have, the more politically polarized you tend to get. Political polarization kind of spins away. And that's particularly true in the humanities as we show some really kind of eye-popping graphs in the book of how unbalanced it is in those fields.
But then when you also add to it this large administrative class that actually thinks a fair amount of its job is literally to police speech. And what I mean by literally are things like bias-related incident programs, which in many schools replaced clearly unconstitutional speech codes with something where they try to make it just barely constitutional. But literally, it's like my co-author, Ricky Schlott, absolutely brilliant 23-year-old, 20 when I started working with her.
When she started at NYU, she had on the back of her student ID, you know, here's the fire department, here's the police, and here's the bias-related incident program where you can, I think anonymously, because a lot of them are anonymous, report your fellow students or your professors for offensive speech. Now, there were some of the students who were not
Auren Hoffman (06:40.96)
Sure. What is it? What? I've never heard of this before. Maybe I'm a bit too old. So what, so what is it? It's like, uh, I, I feel like there's some sort of bias in, uh, you know, we're not talking about like, uh, like someone did a, uh, a chemistry study and the study was biased. We're talking about, um, like, you know, someone said something in history where we felt it was like one side was overrepresented or something or.
Greg Lukianoff (06:43.478)
Oh yeah, they've been around for a while.
Greg Lukianoff (07:07.978)
Yeah, so bias, the reason why they use the word bias is it's sort of a prejudice is really kind of like what they mean. But since the theory on prejudice, since we weren't seeing as much prejudice in polling, the term came got replaced more with bias, the idea that there's sort of like unconscious prejudice, more or less. So it's more or less like reporting prejudice is kind of the idea. And there was a study out of North Dakota State University of what students mean by.
you know, if they're offended by professors, is it like somewhat them saying something really uncouth, is that them saying, you know, using rude words, what is it? And it was overwhelmingly, well, they had a they expressed, you know, kind of more conservative ideas. That's, that's why they should get in trouble. It's like, okay, so like, this is very bald faced, like, if my, and we talk about a lot of examples of this in, in canceling the American
Auren Hoffman (08:03.712)
Getting rid of like quantum bias is not a bad thing. Like, I mean, we all have biases. We all have, you know, um, you know, we all have lived experiences that, that might cloud our views and stuff like that. So, um, you know, trying to get to truth, if we're really trying to get to Veritas, you, we'd want to get rid of some of our biases. So in theory, that doesn't sound like necessarily such a, such a bad idea.
Greg Lukianoff (08:20.372)
Greg Lukianoff (08:28.078)
Yeah, but when you look at how it works in practice and also kind of like, and how I believe it's intended to work, it is very, you know, chilling of even some pretty basic discussion. I mean, we gave an example of a fascinating class taught at St. John's. We have the whole PowerPoint available that's talking about how the discovery, how China moving to the silver standard.
Auren Hoffman (08:35.007)
Greg Lukianoff (08:57.59)
in the 15th century led to the first sort of trans-Pacific trade in the 15th century after the Spanish discovered South America. And it was a fascinating discussion. I didn't actually understand how deep the ties already were between the New World, Europe, and China in this respect and how much that change actually affected so much of world history. And it was in a class all about
known as the Columbian Exchange, essentially when Europeans discovered the new world, how much it changed the whole global economy in the course of history. And in the course, and it's fascinating, you know, PowerPoint to look at, like I'm a history guy and I learned stuff from it. And in 2020, because one of the results of the transatlantic trade included the transatlantic slave trade,
Auren Hoffman (09:38.08)
Yeah. Yeah, sounds super cool.
Greg Lukianoff (09:50.198)
when at the end of the classic, they talked about like, on balance was the Columbian exchange, was it worth it? Was it worth all the horrors that it brought? Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (09:58.888)
Right, probably a lot of war, a lot of destruction, a lot of people killing, obviously slavery bad, there's a lot of bad stuff that happens.
Greg Lukianoff (10:05.138)
Yeah, and it was, and that's literally the way it was framed, you know, like, let's be good historians to make it up. Now, there were about, I think there was something like a dozen people in this class, and then suddenly hundreds of students were signing petitions to get this guy fired under this argument. To say anything other than it wasn't worth it would be, would require you defending slavery, and therefore this was a professor demanding that students defend slavery, which is just BS. Like, that's not what happened.
But he was forced out of his job, partially in the supercharged atmosphere of 2020. Any of these allegations could get you fired. And of course, disproportionately, the ones who tend to get in trouble are either professors who are leanable and more to the right, or in a lot of cases, a huge number of professors are ones that I would describe as liberals, like me, running afoul of progressives.
Auren Hoffman (10:37.525)
Auren Hoffman (10:58.6)
Yeah, I find that the people who are most canceled are, I think generally you're more likely to be canceled by your like adjacent tribe than by the tribe who's like three, you know, deviations of from politics from you. So if you're in the red, you know, generally the red tribe, the more most likely the people on the red are more likely to cancel you. If you're in the blue tribe, you know, let's say you're the
Greg Lukianoff (11:14.881)
Auren Hoffman (11:26.344)
you know, the, the editor of the New York times or something, it's most likely people in the blue tribe who are going to cancel you. Um, at least that's my theory about it. Cause it's like, it's much easier to cancel someone who's just like one degree over from you than three or four degrees over from you.
Greg Lukianoff (11:41.142)
Well, it's interesting what comes out in the data. And the book takes on both right and left. We don't try to pretend cancel culture is just as common from the right as it is on the left on campus, for example, because it's not. It's more it. Yeah, exactly.
Auren Hoffman (11:53.436)
Yeah, well, there's not as many people on the right, you know, in power to do canceling, right?
Greg Lukianoff (11:58.882)
But when it came to professors getting in trouble, about one third of the punishments actually initially started on the right. And that means Fox News, that means people like Todd Starn or Turning Point USA, putting out, in some cases, things that left-leaning professors might have said that were obnoxious to Joe Average. But of course, the person actually doing the firing usually is on the left because administrators are supermajority left-leaning.
But still, and we're very clear, like if people, because there are people who, there are people who only care about free speech when it affects people they are sympathetic to, or when it comes from, when the censorship comes from the right. And I try to kind of refocus them, like, listen, if you only care about censorship from the right, then there's a lot to be concerned about when it comes to cancel culture on campus. And like, if we just had your support, even just on these cases, which I don't think is very principled, but we'll take it in order to do the right thing.
Auren Hoffman (12:51.221)
Auren Hoffman (12:56.664)
Yeah. Interesting. Um, now, you know, we, we've seen a lot of you, you mentioned October 7th, we've seen a lot of traditional narratives and battle lines kind of be changed or somewhat rewritten, like how has that surprised you or how has this free speech debate since October 7th surprised you?
Greg Lukianoff (13:15.274)
It's gone in several stages. Stage one was, well, first of all, students immediately, while the attacks, the horrifying attacks are still going on, Harvard students deciding to blame it entirely on Israel, it's like, OK, I think that's showing how ideological some of the students were. But then when they're were.
Auren Hoffman (13:40.768)
But you would say it's their right to do that. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. It's like you're, I assume you're in the camp that like, if the Nazis want to march in, uh, they're allowed to march like the Cougars and the most hated group is allowed to march through campus or something like that, you're kind of on the extreme, like free speech side, right?
Greg Lukianoff (13:42.542)
Oh absolutely! No no no, well absolutely, but I was still kinda like...
Greg Lukianoff (13:49.796)
Greg Lukianoff (13:56.806)
Oh, yeah, yeah. I'm on, you know, there's no right not to be offended. Still, I was kind of like, OK, maybe you could have waited 24 hours. You know? But the, so we saw that case come up. And then, of course, it came out right around when the book came out. And people were kind of like, well, that's not cancel culture when people get their jobs.
Auren Hoffman (14:06.353)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (14:20.81)
job offers rescinded for being pro-Palestinian. And of course, you know, I was on a lot of these shows going, well, it is by our definition. And the clearest cut case, by the way, was one where a professor retweeted, he was a professor, but he worked for a private science journal. So it wasn't an academic freedom issue because it was private. But he retweeted something from The Onion that was kind of pro-Palestinian satire. And he lost his job.
for that. And I'm like, I'm sorry, that's cancel culture. Like, there's no, there's, it's about the clearest example we've seen. But I was a little bit like taken aback by reading several articles that informed me that there was this new phenomena of people getting in trouble for their opinions on campus. And I'm kind of like, really? New? And read this one that's kind of like, oh, you have to go back to 9-11 or McCarthyism to see anything like this. And I'm like,
Auren Hoffman (15:08.882)
Auren Hoffman (15:15.098)
Greg Lukianoff (15:16.102)
Or maybe 2021, you know, like, yeah, exactly, maybe three weeks ago. Like, and so it was good to have the book come out right then to sort of be, to give more of a historical balance. But then there was another stage of the October 7th things, which were the anti-Semitism hearings. And that's a huge mess, partially because...
Auren Hoffman (15:17.992)
Yeah, or yeah, maybe the week before. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (15:42.834)
you had MIT, which I won't talk too much about, because I think I actually did it comparatively well. And I actually think that the president of MIT is trying to be better on free speech and academic freedom in general, but also at the same time, to clamp down on things that actually cross the line into threats, intimidation, harassment, all things that they shouldn't tolerate. But Penn and Harvard had a little bit of a problem here, because Penn and Harvard are not great on freedom of speech.
Auren Hoffman (16:10.536)
Yeah, it's funny how like, it's like, well, she just became freedom of speech on October 8th. It was like kind of convenient. Like we've changed our mind. We completely agree with Greg and fire October 8th, but October 6th, like we didn't agree with him at all or something.
Greg Lukianoff (16:25.15)
Yeah, well, Harvard has a better leg to stand on at least because Claudine Gay, when she started, she started much more recently. And she said in her opening speech, she talked a good game on free speech, partially in response to the fact that Harvard finished dead last in our campus free speech rankings, which is dead last out of 248.
Auren Hoffman (16:41.78)
Sorry, it's last? Out of how many? So it's 248 out of 248. Whoa, that's terrible. They can't have anyone else be worse than them? Like, I mean, I guess they wanna be first in something. They can be first in illiberalness, essentially.
Greg Lukianoff (16:48.659)
Greg Lukianoff (16:52.926)
Yeah, and meanwhile, the-
Greg Lukianoff (17:02.266)
Initially, it was kind of funny because initially there was a little bit of sort of poo-pooing our stats on that and our ranking, which immediately gave me the opportunity to defend what our ranking is based on. It's based on the largest study of student opinion on whether or not you can speak on this campus and also alternatively whether or not violence is acceptable in response to freedom of speech.
Auren Hoffman (17:19.189)
Greg Lukianoff (17:24.434)
It's the largest database of professor cancellations, student cancellations, speech codes, and de-platforming. And we put it all together with pluses and minuses, depending on how you handle it. And Harvard 100% earned its position as dead last. They actually got our first ever negative score. They got a negative 10.69, which we rounded up to zero. And it was immediately the second to last?
So you have these two schools that are not good on freedom of speech. Yeah, the bottom four were, interestingly, it was Harvard, dead last, Penn, second to last, University of South Carolina, third to last. Yeah. Well, they were legally obliged to me. So that's one of the fun things about data, though, is you're like, oh, that's interesting. I was kind of pleasantly surprised that UVA made it into the top 10 this year, which was on the positive side, on the positive side.
Auren Hoffman (17:55.316)
Oh, I never realized pen was that bad as well. Okay, got it.
Auren Hoffman (18:04.428)
I'm surprised because usually public schools are a little bit better on these things.
Auren Hoffman (18:19.156)
Top 10 on the positive side, not on the, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (18:22.354)
And number four was actually Georgetown. And these are all school. Not surprising at all, though. Just from observing things, I actually thought Georgetown would be dead this past year. But Harvard overachieved yet again. So Claudia Nguyen had been talking a good game on Freedom of Speech since she started. And I've seen some positive signs that she's taking it a little bit more seriously. So.
Auren Hoffman (18:25.477)
That's less surprising.
Auren Hoffman (18:38.22)
Greg Lukianoff (18:49.474)
her stepping down in the face of the anti-Semitism hearing, I think would have sent an unambiguous message that really what you need to be doing is clamping down on speech, period. Actually, no, not an unambiguous message, because really a lot of what people were saying was go after threats, intimidation, the stuff that shouldn't be protected. But I think the message might have been very much taken, just clamped down on free speech more in general. When it comes to Penn, though,
Auren Hoffman (19:08.392)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (19:17.854)
She, McGill had been around longer. She had lots of opportunities to do better things for free speech, like stand up for, you know, conservative professor Amy Waxon say, she's a tenure professor and she might say some controversial stuff, but she's still protected. And then did none of that. They, like I said, the Penn environment is not great for free speech, second to last. And then after she gave her testimony and
Auren Hoffman (19:44.204)
By the way, Penn always like, they're always trying to be better than Harvard, but they're always just like, just miss out. They just miss out. Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Greg Lukianoff (19:51.278)
We can't even be the worst. So after the testimony, which I couldn't believe that Wilmer Hale was actually like the one that prepared both Claudine Gay, a very reputable law firm. But it just... Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (20:04.724)
Yeah, yeah, with a lot of conservatives, actually. They're kind of well known for a lot of conservative lawyers there.
Greg Lukianoff (20:10.402)
But which somehow forgot to like, either didn't get through or they didn't actually train them to be kind of like, hey, step one, how about you say, antisemitism is a problem on campus and there's been horrible things happening. And by the way, all of these things that you're mentioning can be harassment and incitement, but instead they just mechanically repeated context. It was not well done. So, but McGill, after that embarrassing testimony,
Auren Hoffman (20:20.616)
Yeah, yeah, totally.
Auren Hoffman (20:29.876)
Yeah, they look like robots or something. It was so weird.
Greg Lukianoff (20:37.998)
like the next day said, you know, I might have been wrong. I might have been wrong. I think we're gonna now de-link our policies from constitutional standards. And it's like, so what you're saying is, you're going to give administrators more power to police free speech without standards. And guess what's been happening at Penn for the last 10 years? Your administrators have been policing free speech without standards. So you're just gonna make it even more ambiguous, open up more opportunity sensor.
Auren Hoffman (20:55.628)
Greg Lukianoff (21:06.698)
And then of course, there was a professor, Professor Finkelstein, who was like the head of the Open Discourse and Academic Freedom Committee, wrote something in Washington Post saying like, yes, we have to police free speech more on campus. Like there's this free speech, you know, we have this fetish for free speech.
Auren Hoffman (21:22.205)
It's like the Human Rights Committee at the UN or something. It's like run by Iran and North Korea or something.
Greg Lukianoff (21:28.026)
Yeah, exactly. So when she stepped down, there's no way we could say that was bad for FreeZee, particularly for this big reason, and all your listeners should know about this. The same donors and alumni who wanted McGill gone had already been talking about reforms, and they were all about getting people talking, protecting speech, making sure that there isn't double standards, making sure there isn't viewpoint discrimination. And they came out with a vision statement.
on ways to reform higher ed that was very much focused on having a less ideological environment where people talk across lines of difference, actually having strong productions or free speech, having ways to actually, you know, all of these reforms, to have less bureaucratization of the university, all these reforms that are phenomenal. So on the Penn situation, actually, I ended up in a situation of that actually giving me some amount of hope for the future. I still think, though,
Auren Hoffman (22:21.002)
Greg Lukianoff (22:24.794)
the solution to a lot of what's going on in higher ed are smart people like you and people you know coming up with cheaper, smarter, more rigorous ways to show who the best, brightest, and hardest working really are. Because now that campuses are claiming that it costs 170,000, I think was the latest number, to educate a single student for a single year, they've basically always been making the argument that tuition only covers half of the cost of educating people.
Auren Hoffman (22:48.187)
Auren Hoffman (22:52.674)
Oh my gosh.
Greg Lukianoff (22:52.79)
But some of the more elite colleges now say it covers less than half. And it's like, no, I'm sorry. If you're saying that it's impossible to educate a single student for a year for less than $140,000, that's a confession that something's gone terribly wrong.
Auren Hoffman (22:57.135)
Oh my gosh.
Auren Hoffman (23:10.896)
Why does it even all this stuff even matter? I mean, it's like, you know, like, I mean, like, I mean, the only a third of Americans even go to college and very few go to these elite schools and even fewer work at these elite schools. And, um, like, should we even honestly like even care? Like it's their own, it's like, they're always doing weird stuff. Like Harvard's always in this weird bubble somewhere and it's something like, why, why should we care about this?
Greg Lukianoff (23:40.03)
Yeah, and I would love to not, for the elite schools to be a lot less important than they currently are. But I definitely learned this, because I was poor when I was a kid, and I got to go to a place like Stanford. And it was kind of a culture shock about how differently certain classes of people would suddenly treat you. It was like I'd suddenly become a legitimate human being because I went...
Auren Hoffman (24:04.236)
Cause you have Stanford on your, on your LinkedIn profile. And now all of a sudden people are like, Oh, hey, Greg, you can come to my party. Come to like, here's some wine and yeah. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (24:07.326)
Yeah. Hey, suddenly I find you handsome. And I got to tell you, like, it kind of irked me a little bit. It was kind of like, I'm no smarter than I was, you know, before school, but okay. And to be clear, like I talk about Stanford being my first experience with what I refer to as decent hard work and rich folk. But, and they weren't.
Auren Hoffman (24:30.848)
I'm gonna go.
Greg Lukianoff (24:33.398)
they were smart kids and they were hardworking. I have a lot of respect for my classmates who went there. But at the same time, I think about like my friend Anthony Rodriguez, who was at the time, I think, working as a mechanic and is now actually a professor himself. They think the jump is like orders of magnitude of greater talent when it's kind of like, well, some of you guys lucked out. Some of you guys are, yeah. Or I don't know, but also like fifth generation legacy.
Auren Hoffman (24:56.848)
Yeah, good parents or whatever.
Auren Hoffman (25:01.992)
Yeah, totally. Yeah. Or you're like good at fencing or something random. It's like, oh, good at fencing. That qualifies you to go to an elite school. OK, interesting. Had no idea that was one of the most important things in our society is that someone's really good at fencing. Yeah, totally. You have to you have to defend yourself if you happen to have a what's it called? A rapier? I don't even know. Like some French name for a knife. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (25:03.102)
Like all of these things, you know, make it feel, uh, Oh, yeah, exactly.
Greg Lukianoff (25:14.02)
Exactly. Yeah, I don't know.
Greg Lukianoff (25:18.926)
In case there's time travel, you know, we need our elites to be able to, you know... In case you have to battle the three musketeers, rapier. Or a scimitar going even farther back. That would be cool fencing. Oh man, I would like that.
Auren Hoffman (25:31.574)
Oh yeah, exactly. That would be a little bit cooler actually. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, if you're like fighting with ninjutsu, I kind of like respect you a lot more than one of those like little tiny swords.
Greg Lukianoff (25:45.102)
So, but unfortunately, like if you look at like our politics, if you look at a lot of our corporations, like how disproportionately people favor graduates of elite colleges in the United States, I say again, I think it's actually to a degree that I actually find unhealthy. I am pleased to see though that a lot of smart corporations, particularly in Silicon Valley, but also, you know, FIRE does this now, we don't require a BA anymore.
You have to figure out some other way to figure out how smart, hardworking someone is. But I think that smart companies are going to be moving more towards figuring out these other ways that people can... Because I think about really, when I do an interview at FIRE, what am I looking for? I'm basically looking for a free speech nerd. And there's something... Jane McGonigal had this really interesting presentation on this idea of edgy blocks. That essentially something where you'd have a ledger that could just kind of keep track
books that you've somehow verified that you've actually read and understood. And that's honestly, in interviews, what we're getting at. It's kind of like, how much, is this something you would do if no one was paying you? Is more or less what you're looking for FIRE, you're a free speech nerd like us.
Auren Hoffman (26:46.377)
Auren Hoffman (26:53.512)
I feel like in fire, like if I was interviewing there, it's like, okay, well, there was this like interesting blog about it and they tweet about it and they, you know, and that, that could get you the interview or something like that. Um, it might, you know, I guess it might be true in almost anything. Like if you're an engineer, it's like, well, you just created something like that would get you an interview. Like if you created this cool thing, if you're a marketer, you probably created something cool that you could show. So I guess it's true for probably most.
Greg Lukianoff (27:12.108)
Auren Hoffman (27:19.616)
things, you could probably get an interview by just creating something on the side.
Greg Lukianoff (27:24.138)
Well, that's actually, it's wild. As far as something that will get you an interview at FIRE, if you've written something clear and published it, the making good points on Freedom of Speech, that counts so much more than graduating from a fancy. Because the thing I've definitely realized about a lot of the people who graduate from these schools is, first of all, basically, you're getting some very bright kids, in many cases. Not always.
who are And then you just have to not ruin them, you know is I think part of the scam So in some cases of elite higher ed and when I've had employees from there and again some of them are fantastic But you never know if they know how to do really even some basic things you don't know if they know how to write you don't know if they have any like breadth of knowledge and increasingly Graduates elite schools and this has been told to me by corporate leaders all over the country
there's a chance you're gonna end up with someone who is a counselor, someone who's gonna show up and be kind of like, you know that brilliant ASPE IT guy you have? Well, he sounds a little Trumpy, so he's gotta go. And by the way, this company needs to be pro-Palestinian. It needs to publicly take all these positions. And I've been told, it's one of the reasons why in Castling of the American Mind, we have this whole chapter on how to keep your corporation out of the culture war. So I think that actually there are real downsides to elite school graduates now.
Auren Hoffman (28:43.208)
Yep. I would say there does seem to be like, there was some sort of peak that happened in the corporations where it seems, or just say maybe people are still being canceled in corporations, but there's much, it seems anecdotally much less politics in corporations today than there were just a few years ago, let's say in peak COVID times.
Greg Lukianoff (29:12.858)
It does seem to be the case there, and one of the things that I have found out when we were doing Canceling the American Mind is some of the people who were in the cancel mobs at various companies are no longer with those companies. So there was a case against... I always screw up his name. He got a job at Apple, and he'd written a book... Yes, yes, I was turning him into the... Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (29:35.554)
Antonio Garcia Martinez. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, also a guest on World of the Ass in the past. Yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (29:42.002)
I was turning him into another author. But he wrote a book. I didn't realize it was a best seller. He wrote a fiction book. And he got a job at Apple. Oh, it's not fiction. And it was a popular book. And he got hired by Apple. And there were all these employees who didn't like his book. So they pushed for him to be terminated. And he was.
Auren Hoffman (29:47.999)
Auren Hoffman (29:51.743)
Non-fiction, it's a non-fiction book. Yeah, yeah, it's a good book. Chaos Monkeys, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (30:09.674)
Greg Lukianoff (30:09.926)
And, but apparently according to, according to him, the, those employees are no longer with Apple, which yes.
Auren Hoffman (30:15.864)
Oh, the people who led that kind of like, hey, you should fire a GM. Those people are no longer at Apple. Oh, I didn't realize that. Okay, interesting.
Greg Lukianoff (30:23.506)
Yeah, so I do think some of these corporations are figuring out ways to sort of heal from this, but here's the thing that frustrated me though, because this happened after the corporate leaders who were saying that we're getting this dysfunctional crop of students from elite colleges, they would tell me in height in private, and then they would say things like, we don't hire from Ivy Leagues anymore, and I'm like, do me a favor, tell everybody that.
Auren Hoffman (30:46.912)
Greg Lukianoff (30:51.062)
because that's the kind of stuff that will actually get some of the.
Auren Hoffman (30:52.34)
Right, that will definitely get people up, people are career oriented still at most of these schools, right? So, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (30:59.326)
Yeah. And if, and if, and if some of these campuses are kind of like, oh man, we're actually producing people that fewer people want to hire than used to, that could be something that could prompt some positive reform.
Auren Hoffman (31:10.948)
Interesting. Now you kind of pinpointed and you talk about John, I hate talking about this as well. Like there's this, the start of the wave was kind of like, say 2014 ish, like why did it happen then? Why didn't, why didn't that, that really not start earlier? Why didn't start later? Like, what is that? I know you have guys like there's something around nine 11 with the safety ism there's something like, but why 2014?
Greg Lukianoff (31:21.388)
Greg Lukianoff (31:36.478)
Yeah, I mean, we don't cover it as much in Canceling of the American Mind. Why specifically 2014? Because we cover it like so much of Coddling of the American Mind. It's a social science detective novel, detective book, about, oh, thank you, about what was so different about students hitting campuses right around 2014. And we actually talk about, and we now talk about seven causal threads about why. But the main thing that.
Auren Hoffman (31:44.489)
Auren Hoffman (31:48.52)
Yeah, I love that book by the way. Yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (31:59.496)
Yeah, yeah, social media, I assume is one of them and right.
Greg Lukianoff (32:03.69)
That was the main thing that accelerated it, because political polarization was already happening. Runaway homophily is a term I use a lot, which is basically just people self-sorting and becoming more politically polarized. But also, I think that actually some of the runaway homophily is one of the reasons why you saw the increase in depression. The depressed people finding other depressed people talk to only depressed people, get more depressed.
Auren Hoffman (32:07.85)
Auren Hoffman (32:14.572)
Auren Hoffman (32:23.872)
Totally. Yeah. You are the average of your five friends. So if you want to be depressed, simple, just like how to hang out with some other people who are depressed.
Greg Lukianoff (32:33.286)
And don't join the Depeche Mode fan group. As much as I love them, don't get me wrong.
Auren Hoffman (32:36.236)
Auren Hoffman (32:39.801)
I love the best of them. They're a great band. Oh, okay. Well, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (32:42.226)
My first tape and my first CD was some great reward But um anyway, so but the thing that accelerated stuff was social media And I know that this at this point people are so tired of hearing this theory That that people kind of like oh, was it really that big of a change? And I'm like and I spend some time of canceling the American mind, you know talking about my My big history project in law school, which was looking into print licensing in Tudor, England
as boring as it may sound. Was it? I was, it was my own invention. Like I was super psyched. I remember actually telling one of my friends that this is a project I'm working on. And he actually said, who made you do that? And I'm like, it's my pageant project. And it's about.
Auren Hoffman (33:12.224)
That sounds quite boring actually.
Auren Hoffman (33:27.136)
I always put every, that's one of the things I love about people is people are passionate about like the wildest stuff. And I'm like, Oh, okay, cool. All right, great. Like I love these like little insects, you know.
Greg Lukianoff (33:37.926)
It's so humanizing. It's one of those things where it's kind of like, no, if you're excited about that, I like that about you. So for me, I wanted to figure out the origins of prior restraint doctrine in the United States, which basically means it's considered an extra big sin in the First Amendment to say, nobody can publish a book that makes the following argument. That's called a prior restraint. It exists before you even publish. And this comes from Henrich and
Auren Hoffman (33:42.196)
Yeah, go for it.
Greg Lukianoff (34:04.694)
and Elizabethan Tudor England, where Henry VIII started clamping down on the printing press, starting with policing books in 1521 and then passing.
Auren Hoffman (34:16.336)
Was it like anti-Catholicism stuff or?
Greg Lukianoff (34:19.05)
Well, the funny thing was in 1521, he was still a Catholic. That's when he became defender of the faith. So initially he was going after Tyndale Bibles, which were English translations that were apparently more Protestant-y. But then by 1538, he's the king, you know, he's got this new lady.
Auren Hoffman (34:22.261)
Oh, yeah, sorry, good point. Okay, he hasn't switched yet. Okay.
Auren Hoffman (34:36.5)
He switched. He just, yeah, okay, I got it. He was just a full on censor. He just, you know, he didn't really care what he wanted to censor. He just liked to censor things, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (34:43.693)
Greg Lukianoff (34:47.63)
And so in 1538, he had this print licensing program, which was basically like, nothing can be printed in the entire country unless your printing press is licensed by the crown, which was a smart and low cost way to kind of control what actually got printed in the first place. But what this was a response to ultimately was the printing press, the original disruptive technology. And people have to remember the printing press.
Auren Hoffman (35:01.692)
Greg Lukianoff (35:11.494)
led to an increase in the witch trials, massive increase in witch trials. Like the book The Malafo Quorum, like that was the one of the best sellers, unfortunately, of the early days of the printing press. It led to massive civil and religious strife, 200 years of war, arguably, because of the printing press. But that's what happens when you even get just a few more million eyes on any problem or a few more million voices talking to each other. Social media is a few billion or
Auren Hoffman (35:14.494)
Auren Hoffman (35:25.736)
Yeah, yeah, yep, yep.
Greg Lukianoff (35:40.754)
So there's no way it's not going to be extremely disruptive because people forget how unnatural it is that people can kind of automatically, instantly talk to the planet anytime they want is of course going to be a highly.
Auren Hoffman (35:54.932)
No, but I mean, the printing press like led to also massive scientific revolution and just, you know, new types of thought of political type of thought, which ended up like generally pretty good for the world and lots of other kind of like really interesting innovations. Like, so it's like, it's also like, but everything, you know, all features also have bugs, right? They all have, you can't make it perfect. So like.
Greg Lukianoff (36:00.58)
Greg Lukianoff (36:15.135)
Auren Hoffman (36:18.592)
Would you like wiped away social media or like, I mean, or you just take it even with all the bad stuff.
Greg Lukianoff (36:25.078)
Oh yeah, I mean, this is why I'm still, and this is a long way of saying, this is the reason why I'm still somewhat of a techno-optimist at some level, because the printing press had all of these terrible effects, ultimately, boon for the human race. Scientific revolution, the democratic revolution, like all the progress that we...
Auren Hoffman (36:40.456)
Yep. I would say printing press is on net quite good. Like, yeah, yeah. I'm very happy we had it.
Greg Lukianoff (36:45.478)
Oh yeah, no, totally, totally in that positive. But in the short term, it seemed like an infertile device. It was just not worth it, at least to people like Henry VIII. And I feel like that's kind of where we are with social media right now is we have a billion eyes on additional problems and that can tear down any person, any idea or any institution. It can't build yet. I don't think we have to assume it's going to.
Auren Hoffman (36:51.868)
Yep. Yep, that's fair. Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (37:08.024)
So it's good at taking things down, not necessarily good at building things up. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (37:11.938)
But it doesn't have to stay that way. We're working with a company called Integrally about trying to build a social media platform that's towards truth. That basically kind of like, you know, it'd have to be more rule bound. But something where the goal is not just cancel culture and cat videos, it's actually, not that I love cat videos, to be clear. But something that actually can.
Auren Hoffman (37:32.7)
I love them. I like dog videos personally, but yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (37:41.378)
use those additional billionaires for something productive, the same way that the printing press eventually became this massive engine of disconfirmation, which helps you weed out bad ideas from good ideas, get rid of the fallacious ones. Social media still has the possibility, particularly if structured somewhat differently, to do that. But in the short term, it's havoc.
Auren Hoffman (38:03.368)
Yeah. Okay. Now my alma mater, UC Berkeley definitely did not rank very well on your University of free speech. You know, Berkeley in some ways was somewhat of the birthplace of the free speech movement in 1964, which you know, crazy enough is 60 years ago. Like if, if you, if we were able to like interview Mario Savio today, like what would he be saying?
Greg Lukianoff (38:19.798)
Greg Lukianoff (38:27.122)
I think I still consider myself a liberal and I'm not embarrassed to say that, even though more progressive on the left will dismiss me as right wing. But it's also because I know the polling. When I look at what the center left actually looks like, I'm solidly in that. We've ended up with institutions that are so skewed and so super majority.
Auren Hoffman (38:50.623)
Greg Lukianoff (38:55.446)
progressive that it's kind of skews their entire perspective on the whole. Everybody's right wing as far as you know as far as they're concerned and also that gets used as a as a tactic to dismiss people just immediately. I mean I just read an article claiming that the um that not people who believe cancel culture is real are neo-confederates and fascists and uh their dupes include the ACLU.
and the New York Times, which is like, wow, okay, you're really good, you're really going for it here. But there's been a long tension between the sort of hippie libertarian left, which is more my tradition, and people like Nadine Strawson, and the people who, oh, former, oh, sorry, former head of the ACLU. And she's...
Auren Hoffman (39:33.973)
Auren Hoffman (39:38.496)
Who's Nadine Stryhine? I don't know who that is.
Okay, was that like the kind of skokie type of person? Okay, got it, okay.
Greg Lukianoff (39:48.846)
Yep. Yeah, Ira Glasser, who's the former executive director of the ACLU, is actually on our advisory council. And Nadine, who was the president of the board of the ACLU for all those years, is now actually a senior fellow at FIRE. So I get to write with her. But then there were the people who actually still liked the idea of an authoritarian utopian paradise. The kind of people.
Auren Hoffman (39:51.037)
Auren Hoffman (40:02.097)
Okay, amazing, okay.
Auren Hoffman (40:13.592)
Cause like Stalin was never a free speech person or something. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (40:17.638)
You know, he really wasn't. And now hearing people being like, oh, well, Lenin was. Is the battle look okay? Insane. And these are people like, you know, we talk about in the book, people like Herbert Marcuse, someone who was trying to, whose idea of fixing Marxism was to, well, the proletariat doesn't seem to really like intellectuals, so how about Marxism with intellectuals at the top, but then, you know, allied with the marginalized? Actually, the term that Marcuse uses for the marginalized is
ghetto populations, which would definitely get them canceled on the modern campus. But it was this kind of old fashioned idea of the philosopher king, like the smart people will save us and the thing that's holding the smart people back are those damn freedoms that we all have. And so there's been this very serious tension between kind of like, and certainly when I was in school in the 90s, between what I would call kind of like the old.
Auren Hoffman (40:55.177)
Greg Lukianoff (41:11.766)
like the left and liberals. And I honestly felt like liberals were the ones who were winning at the time. But unfortunately, we do seem to be going a little bit more towards like the revival of sort of utopian authoritarianism being kind of like the sign of someone who's smart and good of heart, which is terrifying.
Auren Hoffman (41:34.208)
Now in the coddling American mind, you talk a lot about this idea of safetyism that's happening. And there's like this broader issue of like, which I don't know if it's social media per se of like coddling our children that's happening all the time. Like, what are the roots of that? Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (41:52.278)
of safetyism? I wrote a short book in 2014 called Freedom From Speech, which is still probably my favorite title of anything I've written. And it basically made the argument that because I don't, also to name drop again, Steve Pinker is on our advisory council. And I was trying to explain why I don't disagree with him that awful lot of things in human society are way better than they've ever been, but also that there's a category of things that
necessarily get worse because of increased comfort and increased progress. So I call it in freedom from speech problems of comfort, we call it problems of progress in coddling the American mind. And yeah, by almost any definition of progress, being able to be around people who share your values, to be able to not have to be under as much physical strain, to be able to have a more pleasant life, you know.
Auren Hoffman (42:27.221)
Greg Lukianoff (42:51.358)
All of these things are things that would be considered progress. But because democratic deliberation, freedom of speech, you know, search for truth, those all require conflict and those all require pain, that if you're having a society that's better insulated from these difficulties, you can expect appreciation for freedom of speech to go down. So, I think that wealthier societies turning somewhat away from freedom of speech is kind of predictable.
I think it's the same thing for parenting, that essentially as society gets safer, as parents have more, they're investing in fewer kids, and they have more time to worry about their kids, that they're going to be increasingly obsessed with safety. I also think that partially the political bifurcation in the United States, and also the gender bifurcation, by the way, which is fascinating, where...
Auren Hoffman (43:32.393)
Greg Lukianoff (43:47.13)
young men are becoming increasingly conservative and young women are becoming increasingly more left leaning. It leads to a situation where it's crazy. I've got to wonder what it's gonna mean for the American family when they also pull them, they don't want to marry each other. But I tend to think that obsession over safety is kind of predictable, particularly when you don't have that kind of balancing each other out. Like the person who's more...
Auren Hoffman (43:52.56)
Yeah, yeah. The gender gap is about as big as it's ever been in the US.
Auren Hoffman (44:00.56)
Greg Lukianoff (44:15.154)
safety first and above all is a sacred value, which is what we define as safetyism. And someone who might be more representative of older thinking about it, that it's kind of like, challenges are good for you. All of this kind of stuff that ends up sounding cliche, but also is filled with wisdom. So I think that safetyism is one of those things that is a predictable problem of progress that can only be rebalanced by a conscious effort to...
Auren Hoffman (44:25.64)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Free range kids type of stuff, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (44:41.354)
to understand the limitations of obsessing over safety. And even though Calming the American Mind has reached so many people, like the book continues to sell like it's a new book and I'm extremely proud of it. I feel like people are missing some of the fundamental messages of it. That essentially like we have to get away from a culture of safetyism. We have to have more time for kids to experience life on their own. It's one of the reasons why at the end of the book, for example,
Auren Hoffman (44:57.341)
Greg Lukianoff (45:09.81)
really advocate for students taking at least a year off between high school and college to actually get a sense of self-efficacy.
Auren Hoffman (45:18.208)
Now, when I was a kid, the crazy parents, really the only crazy parents, were the immigrant parents. And now that I'm a parent, it seems like all of us parents are insane and crazy. We're all insanely involved in our kids' lives. We all know like every little, like my parents had no idea even my teacher's names. Like, how did that happen? Like, it just seems like we're, I mean, I don't, like, we're just investing so much more time.
Greg Lukianoff (45:34.52)
Auren Hoffman (45:47.644)
now in just understanding things about our kids. We're investing so much of our own worth as parents into like the kids outcome. Is it because like college is more important than it was or is it because, I don't know, we have nothing left to brag about. So the only thing we can brag about is our kids. Like, why is that going on?
Greg Lukianoff (46:07.71)
I think this is, at least in part, a symptom of the sort of winner takes all. And if you get into a fancy, you feel like you're set for life. But they're now very, very difficult to get into. And so we had six causal theories in coddling the American mind. We added a seventh after coddling came out, which was class stratification. We didn't want to say income inequality, because income inequality can just mean a few billionaires.
Auren Hoffman (46:15.229)
Auren Hoffman (46:33.515)
Greg Lukianoff (46:36.138)
What we mean is there being kind of like an entire sort of economic class that people that make substantially more than the rest of the population, but it's easy to fall out of. And that's the I forget who it was.
Greg Lukianoff (47:00.298)
Understandably, like all things being equal, like that's what you want for your kids. You want them, you want your kids to have as much of a sure thing as you can actually provide for them. Now, the problem is this, this leads to Francis Fukuyama's concern about one of the great forces that devastate societies, period. And unfortunately, he made the term way too long. Repa That essentially when societies revert.
to kind of the more ancient model where, you know, it's who you know, who your family and friends are becomes that much more important. So I think that the obsession with working all the time and having all the extracurriculars and all this kind of stuff so you can get into one of the fancies and then be relatively set makes sense in the current sort of incentivized environment we have. And we have to figure out ways to change those incentives. I mean, the idea
Auren Hoffman (47:31.465)
Auren Hoffman (47:53.596)
Does it honestly really make like when you really die, like if you think about, remember the Varsity Blues scandal from a few years ago, it's like, you have these people, they were like the average person who is like got in trouble there, I think was worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It's not like they couldn't like help set up their kid and buy their kid a house. And then these kids were all like pretty smart. You know, they were basically like doing all these crazy, illegal things to get them from,
Greg Lukianoff (47:59.051)
Auren Hoffman (48:22.344)
Like the number 50 ranked school to the number 25 ranked school or something. Right. I mean, that's what they were doing. And so it's like, were they really going to be that much better off if they, instead of like one kid was like, got into Arizona, but instead of going to Arizona, they were trying to get them into USC, like they're both fine schools. Like what, what really was that kid going to like change their life? Cause they got like, they were already worth a hundred million dollars. And like, just cause they went to USC, like, I don't get it. Like what, what's going on there?
Greg Lukianoff (48:27.135)
Greg Lukianoff (48:38.29)
Greg Lukianoff (48:47.87)
Yeah. Yeah, no, when it comes to that, I think they're probably mentally exaggerating the difference in anyone's perception between Arizona and USC. I mean, like, you know.
Auren Hoffman (48:58.076)
Right, right, right. It's just like a, it's like a, but there's something in it where, like people care so much about like the, the prestige of the name of this university. Yeah. Yeah, bragging, yeah. To your friends, yeah. At the club, you're at the club and you gotta brag to your friends about it, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (49:10.326)
So doubtless, some of it's bragging value, 100%. But I do think, yeah. But I do think the idea of staying in the upper classes or getting to them is one of those things that people are understandably feeling some amount of tension about. Now, the funny thing, here's my take on the Varsity Blue scandal. Varsity Blue scandal was embarrassing. It was strange. And California surrendered.
to them and let the parents win. And this is what I mean by that. Somehow, right around the time of the Varsity Blues scandal, California schools decided to start dropping the Optitude tests, the SAT, et cetera. And it's kind of like, okay, so the one thing that would keep some of these kids out of a USC, you're just dropping it now. So now in the future, the parents with $100 million can get their kid into USC without having...
Auren Hoffman (49:58.836)
We're totally, totally.
Yeah, it's no problem. That is easy. That becomes a lot easier if you don't have an SAT for them to fake, right? Be focused like, right. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Cause they were in many cases in the varsity blues, they were sending a fake person to take the SAT for them and stuff like that, right? Like an actor to go take the SAT. Like, you know, I mean that, that seems really hard to do if you don't have to do that one step, like it's a lot easier to get your kid into these schools. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (50:07.154)
Exactly, without having to pretend there's some kind of world-class scimitar fighter.
Greg Lukianoff (50:27.722)
Yeah, no, it's a lot easier to use. You can be, and yeah, there are.
Auren Hoffman (50:31.252)
to bribe the sailing. A lot of it was the sailing instructor, right? That they were bribing essentially.
Greg Lukianoff (50:38.166)
And that's one of the reasons why I think a lot of the dropping of exams are going to work to the benefit of sort of upper class and upper middle class parents. They don't play the game, but also kind of like, okay, so like this person would normally wouldn't get into my school because they have terrible SATs, but their parents have a couple hundred million dollars. Sound like they could be a pretty good alum, so maybe I'll let them in. Exactly. Well, welcome aboard. We have a Sunday bar.
Auren Hoffman (50:45.32)
Of course, they know how to play the game, right? Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (50:55.977)
Yeah. And also you don't know that they have terrible SADs now, so you don't have a good excuse not to let them in. It's like, yeah, of course. Yeah. I mean, look, if someone had the hundreds of million dollars, want to come to my school, I'd probably be like, all right, you know, if they seem reasonable, like those parents, you know, this is like, maybe I'll get a nice bonus as a college administrator from it or something like that. Like the incentives are all weird, right?
Greg Lukianoff (51:13.324)
Greg Lukianoff (51:22.718)
Yeah, well, and so it's one of the things that I obsess about more than I probably should just figure out different ways to Reform k-12 reform higher ed We spent about a third of the book canceling talking about potential Potential ways to reform fire fire. My organization just came out with a list of 10 things that schools can do to be a better Be to better serve the search for truth and to better protect free speech academic freedom, but also discourse
You know, there's lots of ideas out there, but my fear is that I feel like since October 7th, there's, people aren't really sure what to make of it, but a lot of Americans got the sense like, wow, there's something really weird. There's something really, there's something really amiss on campus at the moment. But I feel like, unless we take that as an opportunity to actually go for, you know, more meaningful reform, we're going to kind of miss, miss an opportunity to, to
going in a weird direction for a long time.
Auren Hoffman (52:21.064)
No, you and I have been friends for a long time. Um, and you know, outside of free speech, one of the other areas that I feel like you have just an immense amount of knowledge about is mental health. Um, and you know, is, sorry, what were you saying?
Greg Lukianoff (52:29.774)
Oh, I thought you were going to say comic books. I thought you were going to say comic books.
Auren Hoffman (52:35.416)
Oh, comic books. Okay. Well, we can talk about that later because I'm really into comic books. We'll nerd out that I actually didn't really know that about you. So, you know, so like, let's say you and I were decided to co-author a book and the title is going to be How to Be Unhappy. And maybe we create a manual to if we want to guarantee someone's going to be unhappy, like what would you put in the book? Like, what's the manual? What's the steps of like, hey, we can ensure you will be unhappy if you just follow these steps.
Greg Lukianoff (52:42.439)
Oh yeah, love him.
Greg Lukianoff (52:51.501)
Greg Lukianoff (53:05.034)
Well, it's kind of funny. There was just a little story about how we ended up with the great untruths in codling the American mind. We have this device where a guru gives us the worst possible advice you could give to somebody. And that actually comes partially from my, well, actually, it was funny. Because we reached a point when Kite and I were working on the book where we're going so down into the ideology that I said to him, John, we're starting to write a book I don't want to read.
Auren Hoffman (53:13.01)
Auren Hoffman (53:17.585)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (53:31.366)
Greg Lukianoff (53:34.678)
And so we came up with a device of the great untruths as a way of saying, okay, this is what you shouldn't do. And the three great untruths that we have in there are what doesn't kill you makes you weaker. It's just terrible advice to think of yourself as fragile and easily permanently damaged. Always follow your feelings, which it sounds nice for two seconds and then you're like, oh, wait, actually, that's a terrible idea.
Life is a battle between good people and evil people, which is just a very simplified kind of tribal politics. And in Cancelley, we add a fourth great untruth, which is no bad person has any good opinion. Yeah, and if you follow these four easy steps, you will be miserable. And in part two, like in great untruth number two, the always follow your feelings.
Auren Hoffman (54:13.294)
Totally. That's a good way to be unhappy, to think that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (54:27.294)
We talk about cognitive behavioral therapy, and something that saved my life, no exaggeration, which is all about getting in the habit. And I always stress the habit, because knowing this intellectually will do you no good. You actually have to take the time. And when you have a thought that's exaggerated, like, yeah. When you're catastrophizing, yeah, exactly. You need to take it down and then say, is this catastrophizing? Is this mind reading? Is this binary thinking?
Auren Hoffman (54:42.524)
catastrophize, right? I'm the worst person in the world. Yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (54:54.495)
Greg Lukianoff (54:55.762)
And then of course, you know, it might be all of these things. And then by the time you're done, like just using some rational analysis, you find yourself a little, a little less upset. And over time, a lot of these depressive voices in your head or in my head, they just don't sound as convincing anymore. So I, so my premise from 2014 up is that it's like we're telling students currently do catastrophize, do mind read, do engage in binary thinking.
Auren Hoffman (55:19.802)
Greg Lukianoff (55:23.54)
because that's what good people do. And by the way, we are all screwed and you are fragile. And, you know.
Auren Hoffman (55:28.212)
Yeah, it seems like it seems like it's somewhat if you really want to make people seriously unhappy, it seems like a very good manual for some of these things. It's like, I don't, I don't, you know, I mean, I, some of, some of these ideas even have merit, but like they are sure to make people very, very sad.
Greg Lukianoff (55:33.43)
Greg Lukianoff (55:45.866)
Yeah. Well, and meanwhile, the thing that I didn't emphasize as much in coddling that I've been emphasizing a little bit more since is that a lot of this comes from the idea that if I teach students that global warming is something that's definitely going to kill you unless you take political action, that there is horrible injustice in the world and people are against you and that means you take action, that a lot of these cognitive
rationalized that teaching students to think in these kind of apocalyptic terms will somehow
Auren Hoffman (56:20.576)
Right, I mean, certainly if the world is gonna end, unless I do something, then well, it seems reasonable I should go do that thing, right?
Greg Lukianoff (56:27.966)
Yeah, it's to promote them to positive action. But there's a couple things that are really messed up about this. One, you are saying to yourself, in order for there to be positive political action, I need to make you miserable, paranoid. But also, it's bad psychology, because miserable, anxious, and depressed people are not effective at changing the world in any positive way. They tend to have really bad ideas, really extreme ideas on how to fix it, or just get hopeless.
Auren Hoffman (56:30.89)
Auren Hoffman (56:50.188)
Auren Hoffman (56:57.044)
What about this idea of victimhood? Because to me it's like, I feel like even if you are a victim, you kind of don't want to think of yourself that way. Like there are plenty of people who truly are victims, but you kind of want to be like, you kind of want to have like the chip on your shoulder a bit. Like I'll show you type of thing, right? Like imagine if you're like you're completely discriminated against all the time. You want to be like, I'm going to show you who's better. Like I'm going to, I'm going to rise up and I'm going to like.
Greg Lukianoff (57:06.893)
Auren Hoffman (57:24.832)
To me, that seems like a much better way of dealing with it. If you really truly see yourself as a victim, you're almost certainly gonna be unhappy, right?
Greg Lukianoff (57:33.758)
Yeah, well, yeah, no, I think that, you know, obviously, like the victimhood mentality, you know, it comes from the idea that we want to help the oppressed, we want to help the disadvantaged, and, you know, of course, comes from kind of a noble place, but it's become something that has taken on disproportionate sort of significance, and it actually also, something we talk a lot about in Canceling of the American Mind.
is a dysfunctional way of arguing. That essentially, it's a way of winning arguments without winning arguments is to basically talk about oppression. And unfortunately, if you incentivize it as a way that will actually help you win arguments, it does lead to people thinking of themselves as victims. And there was something that was kind of
Auren Hoffman (58:08.317)
Auren Hoffman (58:22.836)
Yeah, if you say it, even if you don't, if you keep saying it enough times, you will think it, right? Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (58:27.166)
You will think it. There was something that I was asked to do a show, and I think people thought it was kind of funny, but it was someone trying to get out of a DUI ticket by talking about being non-binary and being Native American and trying to use all the sort of oppression terms to get out of a DUI. And they asked me what I thought about it, and my response was, I think I was supposed to think it was funny. I'm like, I think it was incredibly sad, because I think this woman really believes and has been taught and has been encouraged to think of herself.
Auren Hoffman (58:43.178)
Auren Hoffman (58:55.848)
Oh, this isn't fiction. This was actually like happening in real life. Okay.
Greg Lukianoff (58:57.694)
Oh, this was this was for real. Yeah, this was this was a for real situation. I also felt very bad for the police officer, like who kept on saying, I'm sorry, ma'am. It's like, I'm not a man. I'm not a minor. And he didn't like he was just having a very hard time figuring out like how to talk to her in a way that she had to prove of. But but at the same time, I felt profoundly sorry for her because like these are ways to imagine yourself as disempowered to destroy your idea of a of an internal locus of control.
Auren Hoffman (59:12.567)
Greg Lukianoff (59:26.26)
And without a set like if you want to make people depressed teach them that they have no power over their own
Auren Hoffman (59:32.04)
Yep. Yeah. That's one of the quickest ways to make some enterprise. All right. A couple ports or personal course before you leave. I had heard some more that you read the entire Bible recently. Like, what did you learn? Yeah, I did that a few years ago. I thought it was awesome. Like it was I couldn't believe I had never read the whole Bible before. I'm like, this is kind of an important book. Like, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (59:42.418)
Yes, I did. I thought it was fascinating. I basically... Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (59:53.21)
And by the way, I made myself even read the whole, like, and not stop, not skip the parts where they're kind of like, well, the hem of the dress needs to be, the hem of the garment needs to be this long. And the, it's so.
Auren Hoffman (01:00:02.256)
Uh, Leviticus is like so long. Like Leviticus is like literally the worst written book I've ever read. It's so long.
Greg Lukianoff (01:00:09.511)
And it's just like, you know, excruciating detail about everything the temple needs. I'm like, this is a little OCD person wrote this for sure. I definitely thought the different books, you know, it was such a difference between different books. I, you know, I'm going to piss some people off by saying this. Like, I found the book of Daniels surprisingly irritating. The, partially because like the.
Auren Hoffman (01:00:13.18)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (01:00:18.188)
Greg Lukianoff (01:00:33.474)
There's this, like, he's the advisor to kings of, who are hundreds of years apart from each other. But the Book of Isaiah is trippy. It's a book of Job. I mean, it's clearly three different books too, though. I mean, like, there's this starting part. There's just kind of like, it's a normal kind of Bible tale. And then it's like, this guy wants to go to court to argue against God, and he's winning. Like, it becomes this.
Auren Hoffman (01:00:44.912)
Oh, but Job is an amazing, amazing book. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (01:01:01.926)
incredible intellectual adventure. And then at the end, suddenly it's saying God pops up and convinces God that he's real and loving, but God's argument seems to be that he's really busy, occupied with Leviathan and animals giving birth out in the savanna, and then suddenly Good Job gets everything back and he's rich and happy again. And it's like, okay, that was no way that was the original ending of the story.
Auren Hoffman (01:01:02.973)
Greg Lukianoff (01:01:31.15)
I feel like there's no way. I'm a big fan of the book of Judges, which I think of as like the original comic book because it's all about heroes, some of whom have superpowers. But there's a moment in Judges where it reads like a, like there's a serious person writing it and then like a 11-year-old kid like jumps into it with this really gross out story about killing this fat guy. And it's really graphic about the whole process of like,
murdering this dude. I'm like, okay, that was kind of weird. But anyway, I really...
Auren Hoffman (01:02:03.904)
And you got and you went all the way through the New Testament. Yeah.
Greg Lukianoff (01:02:06.638)
All the way. I gotta tell you, I thought that the new, like I, since I was raised Catholic, and I was baptized Russian Orthodox, I actually remember the New Testament as being really boring. It was much more action packed than I remembered. I was kinda like, okay, yeah, there's some cool stuff in there.
Auren Hoffman (01:02:19.464)
No, it's good. I had never read the New Testament until a few years ago and was like, I mean, it's definitely, however religious anybody is listening to this podcast, I highly recommend it. And if you're super religious, read it again. If you've never read it before, it's incredibly interesting.
Greg Lukianoff (01:02:40.226)
Yeah, well, and of course, I could read the Book of Genesis all day. Like, like, like the... and it's cool because it's got stuff kind of like, it's clearly like hearkening back to moments when, you know, families were smaller. Like, it feels like it's a little bit of a window on the, like, oral tradition going back into, you know, time infinite has been passed down to some degree.
Auren Hoffman (01:02:44.168)
Yeah, yeah, of course, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (01:03:01.34)
Our last two questions we ask everybody, what is a conspiracy theory that you believe?
Greg Lukianoff (01:03:06.646)
Conspiracy theory that I believe that's an excellent question. I should have come Come ready for it. I for a while there kind of thought that uh, that maybe Putin killed Anthony Bourdain Because Anthony Bourdain. Oh, that's my own Anthony Bourdain did an episode of No reservations or the one the one that he did for CNN and the guy that he did it with in Russia Was killed by Putin
Auren Hoffman (01:03:19.816)
Whoa, okay, I never heard this theory. Okay, okay.
Auren Hoffman (01:03:29.599)
Greg Lukianoff (01:03:34.258)
Like he was he was a critic of the regime and he got I mean he got was killed by Putin he got shot In Moscow and nobody ever found out who the killer was and he was a he was a major critic of Putin But there's moments in it when Anthony Bourdain will look right at the camera and like talk about Putin being the like this short Little like he really like lays into Putin and I'm kind of like, okay if the other guy got killed maybe
Auren Hoffman (01:03:41.852)
Auren Hoffman (01:03:53.501)
Oh wow, okay.
Greg Lukianoff (01:04:00.174)
I've now, I'm now like, okay, rather just a very tragic suicide, but definitely what initially happened, I'm like, oh my God, that would be the second person in that show who, you know, who died under mysterious causes. So that's my craziest one, which I no longer fully believe in. Well, actually, by the way, actually even when I kind of believed in it, I would peg my belief in it at a height of about 36%.
Auren Hoffman (01:04:13.061)
Auren Hoffman (01:04:20.028)
Okay, I got it. It was a 1 over E or whatever. Okay, last question we ask all of our guests. What conventional wisdom or advice do you think is generally bad advice?
Greg Lukianoff (01:04:22.551)
Greg Lukianoff (01:04:30.938)
Oh, well, I mean, that's the whole that that's the that's the three great untruths, you know, like always trust your feelings is completely terrible advice. You know, the people pick on Darwin, for example, of making a pro con list about getting a wife. And I'm like, no, I probably everybody should do that. Like that slowing your brain down.
Auren Hoffman (01:04:35.712)
Auren Hoffman (01:04:52.148)
Oh, you think that, so you should just go do a pro-con list of should I marry this person or something like that or whatever?
Greg Lukianoff (01:04:59.202)
Yeah, taking some rationality breaks to check yourself is generally a good practice.
Auren Hoffman (01:05:02.591)
Auren Hoffman (01:05:06.076)
Okay. Did you do that before you got married or? Okay. Well, thank you, uh, Greg Yanov for joining us on world of DAS. I follow you at G Luke Yanov on Twitter. I definitely encourage our listeners to engage with you there. This has been a ton of fun. I really appreciate it. Thanks. All right. That's what's amazing. You are obviously a
Greg Lukianoff (01:05:09.422)
I did not.
Greg Lukianoff (01:05:22.188)
Greg Lukianoff (01:05:27.266)
Thank you, Oren.
Greg Lukianoff (01:05:31.214)
I don't know, that was...
Greg Lukianoff is the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). He’s also a bestselling author of several books, including The Coddling of the American Mind and most recently The Canceling of the American Mind.
On this episode of World of DaaS, Auren and Greg delve into the current state of cancel culture. Greg reveals surprising stats on which schools are the best and worst for free speech in 2024 and breaks down the escalating levels of shoutdowns and violence observed on campuses in 2020 and 2021.
Beyond campus dynamics, the discussion expands to the broader significance of the situation in academia and what the value of a degree should be in the workforce. Greg advocates for a shift in focus from degrees as a metric of value, and talks about what smart companies are looking towards for alternative hiring criteria. Auren and Greg also explore of the origins of cancel culture in 2014, tying in historical lessons on censorship and highlighting the interplay between free speech and the contemporary culture of safetyism.
Joe Lonsdale is a co-founder of a number of amazing companies, including Palantir, Addepar and OpenGov, and he’s a cofounder of the University of Austin. He’s also the founder and managing partner of the venture firm 8VC, and he’s invested in some incredible companies, including Oculus, Anduril, Wish and Flexport.
In this episode of World of DaaS, Auren and Joe engage in a thought-provoking discussion on optimism and pessimism, technological progress, and reforming society at the most basic levels. Joe shares his vision for revolutionizing American healthcare, emphasizing the need to fix a broken system without sacrificing innovation. Auren and Joe also explore the challenges within higher education, unpacking surprising statistics about administrator-to-student ratios and contemplating the evolving nature of meritocracy.
As a cofounder of Palantir, Joe has unique insight into the defense industrial complex, and he and Auren delve into the intersection of defense, geopolitics, and technology. Joe makes predictions about the future of defense innovation, and speculates on the emergence of new unicorns in the sector. The episode concludes with a challenging, contrarian take on entrepreneurship, where Lonsdale redefines the qualities required to be a founder and questions some of the conventional wisdom about starting companies.
Peter Thiel was the co-founder and CEO of PayPal, the first investor in Facebook, and co-founder of Palantir Technologies. He’s the founder and managing partner of the venture capital firm Founders Fund, and the author of Zero to One, one of the best business books of all time.
In this episode, Auren and Peter dive deep on venture capital, scientific stagnation, AI, tech start-ups, and more. Peter shares his compelling theory for why scientific progress has slowed down dramatically in the last decades, and explains how that’s affected start-ups and investing.
Auren and Peter also survey the global economic landscape and discuss why the US and China have outperformed the rest of the world's economies by such a wide margin. Peter breaks down the conclusions from his book The Diversity Myth and explains why “competition is for losers.”