As I watched the new Dave Chappelle standup ‘The Closer’ on Netflix, there were multiple times where I thought, “I can’t wait to see all of the articles come out that do exactly what Dave predicts.” If you haven’t watched the standup yet, not only do you need to, but that’s part of the problem that we’re going to be addressing today. I’m sure that many of the journalists and people creating content have watched the standup, but the concern is how many people won’t watch it.
Many people won’t watch the standup out of some strange principle. They believe the righteous thing to do is to not enable Dave’s views and to simply get their opinions from someone else. This is just another example of the strange hypocrisy of human nature. How many of us would want someone to form their opinion about us or our nuanced views without ever hearing from us?
Aside from confirmation bias, we also have to worry about the bias of journalists and media outlets. Just yesterday, I released my episode with Batya Ungar-Sargon who came on the podcast to chat about her upcoming book Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy. In the book, she addresses how the media plays into the culture wars for profit. And when it comes to opinions you’re reading about Dave Chappelle, it’s difficult to know if the writer truly believes what they’re writing or if they’re pandering to a specific demographic for clicks and profits.
We’re terrible at judging the intentions and character of others, but the closest we’re going to get is to hear them out for ourselves. Not only is this why you should watch Dave’s new standup, but it’s also why you need to read more books; especially by people we disagree with.
On a regular basis, I read books from people I 1000% disagree with, and this is for a couple reasons. The first reason is to make sure I’m not missing something. It’s easy to get trapped in a bubble of biases and groupthink, and when that happens, we never even consider flaws of someone’s arguments or possible misinformation. The second reason I read books by people I disagree with is because I may be judging them unfairly. It’s difficult to get an idea of what someone truly thinks from their content or social media posts, but it’s impossible to get an idea if we’re only listening to the opinions of others.
My motto is that if a person can’t sell me on their ideas or perspectives in the length of a book, I can know that I gave them a fair shot. Two primary examples are when I read books like Don’t Burn This Book by Dave Rubin or The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein. After spending the hours it takes to consume a book, I walked away with the opinions that Dave Rubin is either a grifter or not intelligent and that Alex Epstein is smart but has a terrible moral compass.
Let’s be Honest About Dave Chappelle’s Standup
To call Dave Chappelle transphobic is completely disingenuous. That standup isn’t nearly the length of a book, but I feel when you listen to Dave in good faith, it’s impossible to believe he’s transphobic.
This morning, when I checked to read the articles about the standup, I saw two common themes. The first one was that people were relating Dave talking about his trans friend as the equivalent of a person saying, “I have a Black friend, so I can’t be racist.” The second theme was that they glossed over why Dave’s trans friend potentially committed suicide, which completely avoids the point that Dave makes throughout his standup.
It’s clear to anyone watching the standup that Dave is making the point that some (not all) of the people in the LGBTQ rights movement believe they’re morally justified to harass and threaten people or even be racist. I can get into the entire philosophical discussion about how ridiculous this is, but I’ll save that for a later time. But if you’re curious, I had moral philosopher Kurt Gray on the podcast to discuss this topic as it relates to cancel culture.
But the question is, “Is Dave Chappelle transphobic?” I truly believe that if someone was able to sit down with Dave in a one-on-one conversation they’d have a hard time saying he’s transphobic. Whether you’re writing and article about Dave or tweeting about him, you’re putting on a show for your tribe. This makes it difficult to know anyone’s true opinion because there’s always the lurking fear of your tribe turning on you for going against them. And there’s no better example of this than Dave’s friend who committed suicide not long after sticking up for him on Twitter.
So, although it’s not a book by Dave about his complete thoughts and opinions, it’s the same idea. If you sat down with Dave, do you think he’d be against trans rights? Do you think he’d have a lack of nuanced conversation around the bathroom debate? Do you think he’d advocate for violence against trans people? While you may disagree with some of his opinions, I doubt anyone would honestly walk away from that conversation thinking he’s an enemy of trans people or any LGBTQ rights.
As someone who grew up with an extremely traumatic childhood and an overall shitty life until I was 27, comedy has always been my refuge. Comedy can take topics that contribute to our everyday suffering and give us a chance to laugh about them and remove some of their power. Although I’m not trans, a recent example that’s personal to me is the recent standup from cancelled comedian Shane Gillis on YouTube. In the standup, he has quite a few jokes about drug addicts, and as someone who lost everything from my addiction and almost died, I should be outraged as an advocate. Instead, I laughed my ass off because life is way too short to not be able to take a break from the misery for a good laugh.
Read Some Books
Hopefully, by now, I’ve sold you on the idea that you should form your own opinion by watching Dave’s standup, but I’m going to need you to read some more books as well. There’s a lot of people who use bad science to say social media and the internet have shortened our attention spans, but despite the lack of valid evidence, it is definitely true that we’re lazy. We’d rather get our opinions from someone else than to do our own research.
Right now, there are more articles than you can count about recent books from Steven Pinker and Paige Harden. I received early copies of Rationality by Pinker and The Genetic Lottery by Harden, and I’ve been blown away by the criticisms. In Harden’s case, people were writing articles about the book before they even read it, and with Pinker’s book, I’m skeptical because the criticisms came out on launch day about how awful it was. Pinker writes some thick-ass books, and even as someone who sometimes consumes a book in a day, I’m skeptical that some of these critics made it past the first couple chapters before critiquing it.
I read quite a few of the most popular critical reviews of the books, and as someone who has actually read the books, there are so many mischaracterizations of both books that I’m surprised editors let them get published.
Still, on a daily basis, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and a chance for them to enlighten me with their complete views and opinions. A great example is the controversial John McWhorter. I’ve read some of his articles on race and have watched many conversations he has with Glenn Loury. I thought, “Is this guy just pandering for attention and money?” So, when I found out he had a new book coming out called Woke Racism I reached out for a review copy.
By the time I finished reading the book, my final thought was, “Holy shit. I couldn’t have been more wrong about McWhorter.” Yesterday, I had the chance to interview John about the book for an upcoming episode of the podcast, and gained even more insight into his views and opinions on race. Had I just limited my opinions to what I saw from his articles and podcasts or the opinions of others, I’d never know what he truly thought.
To conclude this piece, I’m going to end with a story in Dave Chappelle fashion to get a larger point across.
Recently, I had a good friend start a new job. After their first day, I asked how it went. They told me about the place and how their day went, and they also told me about the person who trained them. The person who trained them spent half the time telling my friend how awful one of their coworkers was. They called this coworker lazy and someone who is always stirring up trouble. My friend then told me, “I’m kind of concerned about this coworker now, but they were off today, so I’m just going to be cautious when I meet them.”
The following day, my friend met this coworker, and they were extremely nice and helpful. My friend stayed on their guard, but as the days went on, they saw that this coworker was actually a great person. But what my friend did realize was that person who trained them on the first day kind of sucks, and within a month, that person was putting in their two weeks as well.
If my friend formed their opinion about this coworker without doing their own research, they may have ruined a potentially good relationship in the workplace. Fortunately, my friend is someone who is an independent thinker who likes to form their own opinions. These are the types of people that I like to keep around in my life because they remind me to do the same.
So, before forming your opinions about Dave Chappelle’s new standup or about authors or anyone else, do your own research and listen in good faith. If you do this on your own without the influence of others, you may realize that people aren’t as awful as some would like you to believe.
I’ve been working on organizing all the books I’ve read, and I have multiple lists of books on becoming a better thinker. There are lists for education, social issues, critical thinking, self-deception, and biases. For the rest of the categories, click here.
I’m always open for a conversation and to be shown what I might be missing or where I may be wrong, so feel free to email me at TheRewiredSoul@gmail.com