Discover"Upstream" with Erik TorenbergE61: Noah Smith on Wokeness, Right Wing Muckrakers, and Class vs Identity
E61: Noah Smith on Wokeness, Right Wing Muckrakers, and Class vs Identity

E61: Noah Smith on Wokeness, Right Wing Muckrakers, and Class vs Identity

Update: 2024-05-31
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This episode of Upstream delves into the recent Twitter controversy surrounding David Austin Walsh, a history postdoc at Yale, who claimed that being a white man makes him unemployable in academia. The host, Eric, argues that Walsh's situation is a prime example of elite overproduction, where there are too many highly qualified individuals competing for too few jobs, particularly in fields like history that have experienced a decline in job opportunities. He further explores the complexities of addressing racial disparities in hiring practices, highlighting the tension between the desire for individual fairness and the need for group egalitarianism. The episode also examines the rise of right-wing muckrakers like Mike Salana, Chris Rufo, and Aaron Sibarium, who are exposing perceived excesses in progressive institutions, particularly in areas like DEI and education. Eric argues that these muckrakers are filling a void left by the institutionalization of progressivism, which has made it difficult to address systemic problems. He also discusses the role of the nonprofit sector in attracting talented individuals who are motivated by a desire to make a difference but are often exploited by low wages. The episode concludes with a call for conservatives to reclaim their intellectual heritage and develop a new vocabulary that can attract smart people to the movement.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the topic of the episode, which is a conversation with economist and writer Noah Smith about hiring practices in academia and broader social and economic trends of the elite in the United States.

00:01:05
David Austin Walsh Controversy

This Chapter discusses the recent Twitter controversy surrounding David Austin Walsh, a history postdoc at Yale, who claimed that being a white man makes him unemployable in academia. The host, Eric, argues that Walsh's situation is a prime example of elite overproduction, where there are too many highly qualified individuals competing for too few jobs, particularly in fields like history that have experienced a decline in job opportunities.

00:04:43
Right-Wing Muckrakers

This Chapter examines the rise of right-wing muckrakers like Mike Salana, Chris Rufo, and Aaron Sibarium, who are exposing perceived excesses in progressive institutions, particularly in areas like DEI and education. Eric argues that these muckrakers are filling a void left by the institutionalization of progressivism, which has made it difficult to address systemic problems.

00:50:58
Class and Education

This Chapter discusses the challenges of addressing class-based problems in America, particularly in the context of education. Eric argues that the socialist left is not effectively addressing these issues, while the woke left is too focused on identity politics and has become institutionalized in a way that makes it difficult to challenge the status quo.

00:56:26
Who's Standing Up for the Working Class?

This Chapter explores the question of who is truly representing the working class in America. Eric argues that while conservatives are increasingly talking about supporting the working class, their policies have yet to demonstrate a genuine commitment to this goal. He suggests that President Biden, through his economic policies, is the most effective advocate for the working class, despite criticism from the socialist left.

00:56:53
The Future of the Right

This Chapter discusses the need for a new term to describe the emerging conservative movement, particularly those who are socially liberal and economically forward-thinking. Eric argues that the term "conservative" no longer accurately reflects the views of these individuals, who are more focused on technological progress and the future than on preserving traditional values.

Keywords

David Austin Walsh
David Austin Walsh is a history postdoc at Yale who gained notoriety for his Twitter posts claiming that being a white man makes him unemployable in academia. His situation sparked a debate about elite overproduction, racial disparities in hiring, and the challenges of addressing systemic problems in academia.

Elite Overproduction
Elite overproduction refers to a situation where there are too many highly qualified individuals competing for too few jobs, particularly in fields like academia. This can lead to increased competition, frustration, and a sense of injustice among those who are unable to secure employment.

DEI
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It is a framework used by organizations to promote diversity and inclusion in their workforce and to address systemic inequalities. DEI initiatives have become increasingly common in academia, but they have also been criticized for creating unintended consequences, such as reverse discrimination.

Right-Wing Muckrakers
Right-wing muckrakers are individuals who expose perceived excesses and corruption in progressive institutions, particularly in areas like DEI and education. They often use investigative journalism, social media, and other platforms to highlight what they see as problems with progressive policies and practices.

Mike Salana
Mike Salana is a right-wing muckraker who has gained prominence for his criticism of progressive policies and practices, particularly in the tech industry. He is known for his sharp wit, his willingness to challenge the status quo, and his focus on promoting technological progress.

Chris Rufo
Chris Rufo is a right-wing muckraker who has gained notoriety for his work exposing what he sees as excesses in DEI initiatives and critical race theory in education. He is known for his use of social media to disseminate his findings and for his advocacy for traditional values.

Aaron Sibarium
Aaron Sibarium is a right-wing muckraker who has gained attention for his investigative journalism on topics related to DEI, education, and the nonprofit sector. He is known for his meticulous research and his willingness to challenge conventional narratives.

Nonprofit Sector
The nonprofit sector is a broad category of organizations that are dedicated to public benefit and are typically exempt from paying taxes. Nonprofits play a significant role in addressing social problems, but they have also been criticized for their inefficiency, their susceptibility to corruption, and their tendency to exploit their workers.

Technocratic Class
The technocratic class refers to a group of individuals who hold positions of power and influence in government, academia, and the private sector, and who are often seen as being more focused on technical expertise and efficiency than on democratic values and social justice.

Education Polarization
Education polarization refers to the growing divide between those who have a college degree and those who do not. This divide has contributed to political polarization, as those with higher levels of education are more likely to hold liberal views, while those with lower levels of education are more likely to hold conservative views.

Q&A

  • What is the main point of the episode?

    The episode explores the recent Twitter controversy surrounding David Austin Walsh, a history postdoc at Yale, and uses his situation to discuss the overproduction of elites in academia, the challenges of addressing racial disparities in hiring practices, and the rise of right-wing muckrakers who are exposing perceived excesses in progressive institutions.

  • What is elite overproduction?

    Elite overproduction refers to a situation where there are too many highly qualified individuals competing for too few jobs, particularly in fields like academia. This can lead to increased competition, frustration, and a sense of injustice among those who are unable to secure employment.

  • What are the challenges of addressing racial disparities in hiring practices?

    There is a tension between the desire for individual fairness and the need for group egalitarianism. While many people support affirmative action in principle, they often oppose explicit quotas or other forms of discrimination based on race or gender.

  • Who are the right-wing muckrakers discussed in the episode?

    The episode discusses Mike Salana, Chris Rufo, and Aaron Sibarium, who are exposing perceived excesses in progressive institutions, particularly in areas like DEI and education.

  • What is the role of the nonprofit sector in attracting talented individuals?

    The nonprofit sector attracts individuals who are motivated by a desire to make a difference but are often exploited by low wages. This can lead to frustration and resentment among those who feel they are not being adequately compensated for their work.

  • What is the technocratic class?

    The technocratic class refers to a group of individuals who hold positions of power and influence in government, academia, and the private sector, and who are often seen as being more focused on technical expertise and efficiency than on democratic values and social justice.

  • What is education polarization?

    Education polarization refers to the growing divide between those who have a college degree and those who do not. This divide has contributed to political polarization, as those with higher levels of education are more likely to hold liberal views, while those with lower levels of education are more likely to hold conservative views.

  • Who is the most effective advocate for the working class, according to Eric?

    Eric argues that President Biden, through his economic policies, is the most effective advocate for the working class, despite criticism from the socialist left.

  • Why is there a need for a new term to describe the emerging conservative movement?

    The term "conservative" no longer accurately reflects the views of those who are socially liberal and economically forward-thinking. These individuals are more focused on technological progress and the future than on preserving traditional values.

  • What is the significance of the term "progressive"?

    The term "progressive" was originally a euphemism for "liberal" because the term "liberal" had become associated with negative connotations. However, the term "progressive" has now become synonymous with left-wing ideology, while the term "liberal" is often used to describe more moderate views.

Show Notes

Todays episode features a conversation between Noah Smith and Erik Torenberg discussing the recent angry posts on X from David Austin Walsh, a history postdoc at Yale, and what this controversy says about elite overproduction in the US. They also cover the the rise of right-wing muckrakers, discuss what the conservative movement needs now, and who they consider the smartest thinkers today are — on the left and the right.


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TIMESTAMPS

(00:00 ) Intro

(01:05 ) Twitter Controversy: David Austin Walsh

(04:30 ) Elite Overproduction and Academia

(08:29 ) Affirmative Action and Racial Disparities

(14:32 ) Sponsor: Beehiiv | Squad

(17:07 ) Elite overproduction’s implications for politics and academia

(22:29 ) Right-Wing muckrakers and progressive institutions

(32:12 ) Misconceptions about Barack Obama

(32:50 ) Mike Solana, Christopher Rufo, and other voices on the Right

(35:33 ) Evolution of progressive and conservative labels

(40:20 ) American Roots of Wokeness

(56:53 ) The Future of Conservatism

(1:01:41 ) Wrap



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E61: Noah Smith on Wokeness, Right Wing Muckrakers, and Class vs Identity

E61: Noah Smith on Wokeness, Right Wing Muckrakers, and Class vs Identity

Erik Torenberg