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So to Speak Podcast Transcript - An anarchist's perspective, with Michael Malice

An anarchist's perspective, with Michael Malice

Note: This is an unedited rush transcript. Please check any quotations against the audio recording.

Michael Malice: I think the term free speech, people always attack me like “Oh, you say you’re for free speech but you’re blah, blah, blah.” I never say I’m for free speech. I hate that term. I think it is used interchangeably for several different concepts some of which I am 100% for, some of which I am completely against. If you and I were going to have a conversation about Apple and you were talking about something that grows on trees and I’m talking about laptops, we’re using the same word but we’re going to be talking past each other.

Nico Perrino: Hello and welcome back to So to Speak the free speech podcast where every other week we take an uncensored look at the world of free expression. I am as always your host Nico Perrino. Today’s episode looks at free speech from the perspective of one anarchist. I say one anarchist because our guest today Michael Malice, who describes himself as an anarchist without adjectives freely admits that many anarchists would disagree with some or much of what he has to say about free speech.

Michael is the author of several books including Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong-Il, The New Right: a Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, The Anarchist Handbook, and most recently The White Pill, A Tale of Good and Evil. Michael also hosts the podcast YOUR WELCOME and was the subject of the 2006 graphic novel Ego & Hubris. Now before we begin today I wanted to share a few short reflections on this episode. This was one of those conversations that after it was done I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

This is probably the first time I’ve had a self-described anarchist on the show. Much of our dialogue on the show and in society at large is about how free speech works in relationship to the state. What are or should be the bounds of the First Amendment for example? But in an anarchist society, the state doesn’t exist, and free speech doesn’t really exist. Free association is the core right and people are free to place their private associations including their members of speech as they wish. It’s elegant in its simplicity but begs the question of whether there are any normative judgments people should make of these associations.

Michael and I get into these questions a little bit but since I rarely confront anarchist arguments against free speech I was admittedly more unprepared to confront his arguments than I would have liked. This episode is a good representation of John Stuart Mill’s truism that both teachers and learners go to sleep at their posts as soon as there is no enemy in the field.

I also generally wasn’t on top of my game as evidenced by the fact that when I was recording the placeholder introduction for this episode, I mindlessly read the title of Michael’s first book as the Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong The Second rather than Kim Jong-Il. To which Michael appropriately ribbed me. The first time I came across Michael’s work in fact was when he wrote Dear Reader, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong The Second.

Michael Malice: Kim Jong-Il.

Nico Perrino: Kim Jong-Il.

Michael Malice: Are you serious?

Nico Perrino: This was extra embarrassing given that I was first introduced to Michael’s work at a 2014 event at Cato about the very book that I mispronounced. Now Michael defines anarchism as the phrase “You do not speak for me, with everything else simply being application.” Perhaps my biggest regret from this conversation was that I didn’t do more to press Michael on the application of his principles to specific individual cases.

For example, I wish I had more concrete case studies at hand to dig deeper into the application of his views to things like cancel culture, the rights of people that join extremist groups such as the Klan, or to his contrarian take that nobody had their free speech rights violated during the McCarthy era. I probably should have had more concrete examples at the ready because I’m actually reading Robert Caro’s series on Lyndon Baines Johnson right now.

And just finished the chapters about Leland Olds who was a man who was driven out of government by Johnson after two decades of widely credited successful service because Olds’ earlier pre-government work involved pro-labor writings which were used by politicians including Lyndon Johnson to cast him as a communist. Caro alleges that the real reason Johnson went after Olds was because Johnson’s political backers saw Olds as an impediment to their charging higher prices for energy. Now it’s of course important to acknowledge that political appointees serve at the whims of the president and Congress.

And no free speech rights were violated in Olds’ case, but I would have loved to have dug deeper into whether there was any principle at stake when the government publicly smears people without adequate due process and makes them functionally unemployable thereafter as was the case with Olds. I actually wish I had included FIRE President Greg Lukianoff in this conversation. Like Michael, he views the red scare periods with a nuance that is often not found in most popular discussions of those times.

Greg readily acknowledges that there were actual Soviet spies in government for example, but I don’t think he would dismiss the free speech concerns altogether. Also, unlike Michael, Greg believes cancel culture is real. That it poses a threat to free speech. He sees it as representing a unique period in American history, and he’s obviously very critical of it. Greg’s new book The Canceling of the American Mind which we’ve discussed on this show before is devoted to making all of those very arguments. In short, it would have been fun to hear Greg and Michael unpack these two subjects.

They also both have family histories dealing with Soviet oppression. Perhaps we can get them both on the show at a future date if Michael is willing to come back. Now despite these misgivings about my contributions, my personal contributions to this conversation, I did really enjoy talking to Michael. He has a commanding knowledge of history, he is smart, he is funny, and importantly he lends a perspective to these issues that aren’t often shared in free-speech conversations.

And for that, his voice on these issues is even more important and makes all of us smarter. Now, I’ll get myself out of the way and get on to the conversation. Here is Michael Malice. You describe yourself as an anarchist without adjectives. I think that was a phrase you used on the Ruben Report.

Michael Malice: Correct.

Nico Perrino: What does it mean to be an anarchist without adjectives?

Michael Malice: Well, the black flag of anarchism comes in many colors, and you’ve got the original anarchists who were communists, you have contemporary anarcho-capitalists who the an-coms don’t regard as anarchists at all. And I don’t swear fealty to any one of these schools. I think they all bring something very useful to the table and I’m not going to say one group are the real anarchists and the other group are not. And they both also have their flaws as well.

Nico Perrino: What would you say kind of is the cliff notes version of the definition of anarchism as you see it?

Michael Malice: The definition of anarchism as I see it is simply the phrase “You do not speak for me and everything else is simply application.”

Nico Perrino: Who are the most prominent anarchists today would you say? If you were talking to just someone who has a kind of passing interest in politics, who might they think of or know of?

Michael Malice: So, the list is Noam Chomsky is number one, Russell Brand is number two, and I’m number three. That’s the list. It’s not a very big or impressive list.

Nico Perrino: So, the purpose of today’s conversation is to talk about free speech kind of in a world where you don’t have a government in an anarchist system. It’s not something that we’ve ever considered on this podcast before. How do you view free speech in an anarchist system? Does it exist if you don’t have a state to reference?

Michael Malice: Yeah, I’m going to take a little bit of a detour because I’m a big fan of what FIRE does. And I’m going to show how free speech is corralled. So, Noam Chomsky who I just mentioned a second ago has this superb quote and I want to get it exactly right. Here it is. And he says, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” I had a comedian podcaster Jimmy Dore on my show, and he talks about if you’re watching a panel on CNN – and I can curse, right?

Nico Perrino: Yeah.

Michael Malice: The range of opinion will go from “Should we bomb the shit out of Seria to should we bomb the living shit out of Seria?” The view which is the Karen mother ship does this superbly well. You’ve got four old Stalinists and then you have a Republican who thinks Trump is the devil and that is your range of political opinion on the view. As my buddy Kurt Metzger said, “There’s a reason it’s called The View and not The Views.” So, what happens is when you do a show where there’s a panel, right away you’ve got a preconceived topic and that topic itself is not up for discussion.

So, if you go onto a panel and you don’t agree with the premise of the topic, it’s going to be a trainwreck because you’re negotiating something that isn’t up for debate. Not broadly speaking but in the context of that segment. But then also you’re just not going to be asked back. So, I bring that up here because I don’t agree with this premise at all. And we’re going to have in a friendly way a breakdown of how that is used to manipulate discourse in even a free market or largely a free market. I think the term free speech, people always attack me like “Oh you say you’re for free speech but you’re blah, blah, blah.”

I never say I’m for free speech. I hate that term. I think it is used interchangeably for several different concepts some of which I am 100% for, some of which I am completely against. If you and I were going to have a conversation about Apple and you’re talking about something that grows on trees and I’m talking about laptops, we’re using the same word but we’re going to be talking past each other, right? So, free speech is used to mean the illegality and immorality of governments to restrict discourse and communication between the citizens. And that is something that is indisputably true from my perspective.

It’s also used to mean that it’s a good thing broadly speaking for as many people to have their voices heard and to run their mouths as possible. Something which I’m completely against and which makes absolutely no sense. And it’s also used to mean you as someone who is vaguely or even strongly for free speech have a duty or should have a preference to hear other people out which is also something that’s completely crazy. So, you’ll hear this on social media when you block someone or mute them. “Oh, I thought you’re for free speech. I thought you’re for free speech.” One is leaning to the other.

So, people take these terms, they completely remove them from context, and they throw them around like some kind of flag or shield would be more accurate to kind defend themselves. So, I don’t like that term. I don’t believe in that term. I think it’s an incoherent term. And I think there’s a lot of people who I think it would be beneficial if they were completely marginalized and silenced.

And that is how free markets work which is when someone is a completely reprehensible person and I’ll leave it to the people watching this to define it in their own personal way, you’re under no obligation to hear them out or to provide them a microphone or to countenance their ideas. And it doesn’t have to be something political. I’m not interested in hearing Randi Weingarten’s view on why school choice is a bad idea. The head of teacher’s unions. I don’t believe a word coming out of her mouth. I think she is an evil person who is destroying the lives of many children and I’m not interested in what she has to say.

Now she legally has the right to do whatever she wants but in terms of this free speech milia that let’s all put our ideas in the marketplace and come to some kind of consensus of truth and this kind of enlightenment model, I think that’s something I’m not at all interested in doing.

Nico Perrino: What do you think about kind of a culture of free expression? Sort of this idea – and this is kind of what John Stuart Mill talks about in his 1859 treatise on liberty. He wasn’t really speaking about government censorship, but he was more speaking about a conformist culture in Victorian England that didn’t have a broader kind of Overton window of acceptable opinion that people were just too sensitive.

And that’s I think what you get a little bit of today from folks who are kind of like the people you were talking about before. I think what they’re actually saying all be it inarticulately and maybe I’m saying it inarticulately right now as well is that there are things that a lot of people believe but they just don’t feel like they can speak up about it.

Michael Malice: Sure.

Nico Perrino: Whether it’s COVID, whether it’s trans rights, you name it. But they have this sense – and we always look at the past through rose-colored glasses – that in the past society was more open to dissenters. Was more open to playing devil’s advocate. Again, we look at the past through rose-colored glasses.

Michael Malice: It’s a lie. That’s a complete lie. It was a felony to teach women how to use birth control to prevent pregnancy from happening. And they went undercover to visit doctors as cops. I’m not talking about abortion; I’m talking about condoms and prophylactics. It was a felony to explain this to people. It was a felony to mail them information about using this to people. In the Adam’s administration, the second president, it was a felony to criticize the government. The Sedition Act, the very first thing that was censored under our beloved constitution was political speech to criticize the government.

This claim that the most important thing that the First Amendment protects is political speech might be true culturally, it is completely false historically because that is the first thing that they targeted, and understandably so. There were books, Ulysses is an example, where it was illegal to mail them. And this isn’t antebellum confederacy times. This is the 20th century. And also, another thing conservatives don’t like – I’m not saying you’re a conservative – is that the free speech league in these early organizations that were organized to promote this kind of discourse were commies.

And not like lefties like I mean today. I mean literal communists. Teddy Roosevelt wanted people deported and he succeeded in doing so for having views that he regarded as anathema. That fire in a movie theater, crowded theater quote, was about people saying that the draft was unconstitutional. And the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that it’s okay to censor that. So, this boomer kind of claim that we used to have this perspective on free discourse is a complete lie and is as a-historic as The 1619 Project. America and pretty much every culture has always and has to have some kind of censorious aspect to it.

Now there is certain pockets where free discourse is much more accepted than in others. And that’s broadly speaking a great thing. But this claim that we’re ever going to be at a place where all the ideas are on the table is not only crazy, but I think undesirable because I don’t want to have destigmatized for people to be discussing sexuality with children.

So, there’s certain things that everyone listening to this will have their own line where like “You know what? It’s good that some things aren’t even talked about at all.” Because once you start talking about them some people start doing them. Violence is another one. Once that becomes normalized in speech, it’s not that long until people are pulling out their guns. Now in some cases that’s a good thing but it’s still not a fun thing.

Nico Perrino: I think you’re right. And if you look at a far enough back time horizon you are going to find extraordinary examples of censorship. And in some cases, you don’t even have to look that far back. But a lot of the stories that we tell ourselves in America about the McCarthy era and we’re on World War I and the Shank case is what you referenced which is where the fire in a crowded theater analogy –

Michael Malice: Who had their free speech harmed by the McCarthy era?

Nico Perrino: I mean you can look at Oppenheimer. They touch on that. They talk about how Oppenheimer lost his clearances because of his alleged communist affiliations.

Michael Malice: Yeah, but his speech was in no way infringed. He could say whatever the hell. If I go up here I’m a Klansman and you don’t want to have me on your podcast in what way is my First Amendment of free speech restricted?

Nico Perrino: No, and I’m not saying it is. But what you found during the McCarthy era were government hearings where they essentially browbeat a bunch of people for being communists. And some of them were.

Michael Malice: Right, for being members of a secret organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the government in service of a foreign dictator who had engaged not that long before that in the genocide of millions of his own citizens. So, to portray this as somehow “Oh I voted for the Green Party, and I got kicked out of my job” is completely disingenuous. I’m not saying you’re doing that, but that’s how it’s portrayed.

Nico Perrino: No, sure. Sure. And I do agree that there is not enough nuance that’s brought to the McCarthy era. But even if you take that as a justifiable reason to censor someone.

Michael Malice: How were they being censored?

Nico Perrino: Well, you can look at the college professors who lost their jobs, right? And if we’re talking about at least state power you’re talking about in many cases state universities?

Michael Malice: But how were they censored? You don’t have to say whatever you want. If I’m a chef at a restaurant I can’t go out into where the people are sitting and start delivering talks about healthcare. You can’t say whatever you want at someone else’s job. That doesn’t make any sense.

Nico Perrino: Sure, sure. And I don’t disagree with that. And that last example I’m talking about professors at public colleges and universities with tenure, in many cases losing their tenure-ship with a lack of due process. We’re talking about state universities. And again, you’re an anarchist so you might not believe that within the context of a college or university environment that they state shouldn’t be able to punish a professor for their viewpoints or for their political beliefs or allegiances. But the case law as it’s developed over the years has found that to the extent you are a tenured faculty member at a college or university campus that they can’t fire you alone for your political beliefs.

Michael Malice: But they were being fired for being members of a terrorist group. They were not being for their political beliefs by and large.

Nico Perrino: You can believe anything. The question is were you conspiring to overthrow the government?

Michael Malice: Right. No, were you a member of a secret organization? A card-carrying member. It’s not “Do you like Marx?” It was “Were you taking orders from Stalin?” That’s not the same.

Nico Perrino: No, it’s definitely not the same but you’d have to look at any individual example to see.

Michael Malice: That’s correct. That’s absolutely correct.

Nico Perrino: To see if they were actually conspiring. I’m glad you bring it up Michael because this is part of the discussion around free speech on college campuses right now surrounding Students for Justice in Palestine. You have a number of chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine on college campuses right now who are chanting “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” or “Intifada.”

And some of the arguments that in this case, the state of Florida is making is that these groups are conspiring with Hamas, or they are providing material support for terrorism because they are supporting the actions that Hamas took in Israel on October 7th. And the argument that FIRE has made is that you need to show a lot more than a member of an organization is supportive of some actions that a terrorist organization has made. Is there communication between Students for Justice and Palestine about how they’re going to support this organization? Are they providing financial support?

So, there needs to be a little bit more than just “Well they support the actions of this group.” And that’s where due process comes in. That’s where you kind of find out the facts of any individual circumstance. But just kind of creating a blanket exception to the First Amendment in this case for anyone who supports Hamas or is a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine I think is painting with a broad brush and creating a sort of guilt by association that we’ve largely stood against in the United States. I mean do you disagree?

Michael Malice: I don’t think that’s what guilt by association means. If I’m a member of a group – let’s take it out of the Hamas situation. If the Klan is a terrorist group, the purpose of the KKK was to terrorize innocent people in order to extralegal-y impose an order and to keep them in a state of submission and fear. So, if I’m a member of a group that’s called Students for the Klan, if I’m not coordinating with the Kaln and I’m not making any exchange with David Duke or something like that and the administration says – this isn’t something secret.

You’re calling yourselves Students for the Klan. “This kind of rhetoric is not acceptable on my campus.” I don’t think there’s a question here of – I don’t know what due process would look like because that’s not a crime. You certainly legally have every right to support and promote the Klan. Point being it is perfectly appropriate in that case – and I want to take it away from Hamas because that’s much more ambiguous than the Klan for most people – I think it’s perfectly acceptable in that case for administrators to be like “Yeah this is a line we’re not willing to cross.”

Nico Perrino: And how do you see the Hamas situation as more ambiguous?

Michael Malice: Because I don’t know what exactly what these students in Florida are saying.

Nico Perrino: Got you.

Michael Malice: If they’re simply saying “We are for Palestine. We don’t believe in Israel, blah, blah, blah.” That’s perfectly acceptable. If they’re saying that “We want to help Hamas” which is a terrorist organization even if you believe the terrorism is justified, that is a very different situation.

Nico Perrino: So, if you look at the kind of toolkit I guess is what has been the topic of that conversation it more or less says that they are in kind of common cause with Hamas, but the common cause is kind of rhetorical support. It is PR support. It is marches, it is rallies, it is candlelight vigils. Do you see that as the sort of material support that is essentially becoming a part of a terrorist organization?

Michael Malice: I would have to think about it and have to look at the specific case. But I am much more in favor of freedom of association than I am in terms of freedom of speech. I think everyone has morally the right to say whatever the hell they want and everyone else morally has the right to engage with them or not as they see fit. It is the government that abrogates this freedom of association which is far more important. Because if I don’t have to ever deal with you, you can say whatever the hell you want. You can go F off to your place. Talk your talk. Have your show. And we can live next to each other peaceably. But it’s governments that force people to interact who otherwise would never have to.

Nico Perrino: Normatively what do you think about freedom of speech and kind of the associated values, right? Let’s say devil’s advocacy talking across lines of difference, thought experimentation, are these things that you think should be advocated for within most social contexts? Do you think they produce goods within various associations?

I understand that in an anarchist society where everything is based around free association that people can do whatever the hell they want. And they can police their association however the hell they want. But then there’s a question within that association what is the normative good? What is the small T toleration that should be encouraged? Or does it depend on the association?

Michael Malice: Of course, exactly. So, we could take this out of the realm of politics. If you and I have a hamster breeding community and we’re breeding rare breeds of hamsters and long-haired and albino and someone is coming in with their politics, even the politics are perfectly banal and generic and the kind of stuff you could see on a T-shirt in the mall, it’s perfectly appropriate for us to be like “Don’t come back to these meetings because that’s not what we’re about.”

Or if it’s Karen who is running the hamster group and Karen thinks it’s unambiguous that literally everything has to be about how evil Trump is, then Karen will say “All right, well what are you Trump supporter? You don’t want to talk about Trump while we’re trying to talk about hamsters?” So, there’s no I think “should”. I think anarchism as applied in my view is the understanding that in incumbent on all of us to set and define our own boundaries.

And if we don’t then other people will cross those boundaries and it’s going to have negative consequences on the self. And this is something I think I universal and applies to everyone regardless of their political persuasions. And I think one of the big problems, in general, is people feel powerless or are powerless to enforce their own personal boundaries. And it creates friction where some was not necessary.

Nico Perrino: Do you believe – I mean I’m assuming not but – something significant is lost when you don’t have public places where there isn’t that sort of boundary policing? Where people can say whatever the hell they want. Where you can have a speaker’s corner in London for example. Or not really? That’s the one thing that I think you lose in an anarchist society in the free speech sense which is just there is always someplace you can go to speak freely I guess besides in an anarchist society it can be your house or it could be your property.

Michael Malice: Or it could be social media. These are not government agencies. I mean again for quite some time until Elon bought over Twitter there was a complete corporate consensus as to COVID discussions. And everyone’s all black-pilled. “Oh, we’re screwed, we’re screwed, we’re screwed.” The point I was making is you don’t need majority. That’s the democratic model. You only need an alternative. And as long as you have one alternative then this whole monopoly edifice collapses. And the misunderstanding in my view that most people have is the belief that markets tend toward monopoly.

That eventually it’s just going to be one place where everyone has to talk. But if you look at any field, if you and I were talking 10 years ago and I said that on every supermarket there wouldn’t just be Diet Coke but Coke Zero, there would be two types of sugarless soda, I’d look like a crazy person. It’s like a punchline from a bad comic. Yet that’s the case and no one even bats an eye. So, we have in every aspect that’s not under state control, we have more choices, more outlets. Before I was born there were three networks to get the news, NBC, ABC, and CBS, three shades of progressivism, and maybe Bill Buckley makes an appearance once and a while to be the right-of-center guy.

Then you had CNN, then you had FOX News, so then there were like five headline news, whatever, MSCNBS, six. Now you have YouTube. It's infinite. And they can never get that genie out of the bottle. Before you and I were born, if you and I wanted to censor an author, all we got to do is kill him, round up all the copies of his book, burn them, and it’s done.

Now I can take any book, press one button, duplicate it infinitely, send it anywhere on earth at the speed of light, and create a magic spell so that only people who know the counter spell can even read it. It sounds like science fiction but that’s the status quo. Censorship was not stopped as a result of people believing in free speech or governments, it stopped as a result of technology and that cannot be undone.

Nico Perrino: Well, the government certainly tries unsuccessfully. I mean when we saw the Twitter files come out we saw all the examples of the government trying to jawbone Twitter.

Michael Malice: Alex Jones just had to pay I think – or he’s on the hook for the GDP of France because he said, “Nobody died at Sandy Hook.” What Alex got that idea from was there was a book with that title that he read. That book is impossible to find because the author was sued correctly. The copies were all destroyed. You can't find it except if you go to it’s there for anyone to download for free. So, even something as nefarious as that which is completely inaccurate and kind of malevolent in terms of the parents still cannot be stopped from people being able to access it somewhat freely and for free.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, and they tried I believe it was in the 20th century to censor that book, Hitman. Do you remember this story?

Michael Malice: No.

Nico Perrino: This was a book that was written under a pseudonym. The person who wrote it kind of started it as I believe a murder mystery novel approach. But it ended up becoming a how-to manual to kill someone. And it turns out someone did. Someone used the book, and they were able to connect it to a killing that happened. I actually think it was a couple of killings.

Michael Malice: Good lord.

Nico Perrino: And the people who were killed, their families sued the publisher of this book. And the publisher ended up settling. And actually, the publisher wanted to fight the case but the insurance company – and this isn’t something people know – often when lawsuits happen, you as the person being sued don’t have a choice as to how you can fight. If you’re going to use your insurance to help pay for the lawsuit, the insurance companies are just going to force you to settle in many cases.

Even in this case if you feel like you have a strong First Amendment claim that your book didn’t aid and abet in this killing. The insurance company in this case made the publisher settle. And they went through this kind of whole process to try and destroy any copy of the book that existed. But I think Reason Magazine as I saw online says there are still something like 20,000 copies out there. And you can find it on the internet if you want. It turns out that the book was actually written by, I think a divorced mother of two. Not the person you would sort of expect to write a book about how to conduct a hit.

Michael Malice: Yeah, I got into it on Twitter with somebody, and then not long after that they shot up like a tattoo parlor and a lot of other places and they had written a book where they had used the names as characters of people that they actually later did murder. And I’m like talking about literally dodging a bullet. Roman Clasky I think was his name. It’s kind of creepy when stuff like that happens of course.

Nico Perrino: I mean this is a story throughout time. When the Columbine shooting happened in the ‘90s they tried to pin that on Marilyn Manson because the shooters listened to Marilyn Manson, right?

Michael Malice: Right.

Nico Perrino: But in this case, in the Hitman book case it was a lot closer. They kind of followed the script.

Michael Malice: What’s the – you go to their house and shoot them. I'm sorry, am I missing something?

Nico Perrino: Well, it talks about how to identify your mark and to follow them around, to learn their patterns. And I guess they had access to this book and that’s what they were reading ahead of time. I mean I’d have to look more closely.

Michael Malice: Okay. I don't think it’s that hard. Okay, but maybe what do I know? I’ve never gotten in a fight or killed anyone.

Nico Perrino: Well, I mean I’m sure that’s the argument that the publisher of the book would make were they allowed to continue making those arguments and the insurer didn’t force them to settle. But you also see this argument kind of speaking of anarchy in the Anarchist’s Cookbook which makes its rounds on the internet, and I think is banned in some countries.

Michael Malice: Not in the US of course.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, not in the US. Of course, although some have tried, right?

Michael Malice: Yes.

Nico Perrino: Some have tried. So, I mean what is the core right under an anarchist system? And what serves as the basis for that right? Look at the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” The natural rights theory.

Michael Malice: Sure. I think that’s the base of anarchism. I think that’s fair to say. I mean there’s different rationalizations or justifications for anarchism but the idea no one is in a position to infringe on your freedom.

Nico Perrino: And so, I would imagine then that you don’t believe in social contract theory that would –

Michael Malice: No one does. So, social contract theory is completely incoherent and insane because it is a contract of which the terms are never made clear which you implicitly consent to, and you cannot ever leave. And it’s a claim to be the basis for how governments form even though no one even pretends that any government has been formed as a result of it. It’s a complete fairy tale that makes no sense whatsoever. And it’s rape culture.

Nico Perrino: This idea that you can bind those who are not even born to a sort of system that you didn’t consent to participate in.

Michael Malice: This idea that you can take someone’s consent when they’ve never said anything or implied it. And when they’re screaming at you in the face “I do not consent.” And then you tell them “Well, yeah you really did because you’re in the geographic location.” It’s complete rape culture. “You shouldn’t have come back to my house. You consented.” Right?

Nico Perrino: Yeah, and I agree with you on this. I don’t disagree. Social contract theory I think it’s something that a lot of us have to pretend to believe in because it’s the basis.

Michael Malice: No, it’s the rationalizations. It’s not the basis. It’s the rationalization.

Nico Perrino: Rationalization, sure. I mean the whole kind of –

Michael Malice: It’s a complete fairy tale. No one believes it. They just like where it leads you to.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, which is necessarily going to have to be a government. I mean can you have a government realistically and practically without a belief or a rationalization or a pretend belief in a social contract theory?

Michael Malice: You can. Some people. There’s other excuses for it. But it’s really kind of this last gasp where you’re trying to pretend that you’re not imposing your will through force on other people and doing the next right thing.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, so I want to return a little bit to you were talking a little bit about Elon Musk and what he did with Twitter. I presume as a normative matter you think this is a positive thing for society?

Michael Malice: Enormously positive. Community notes is the greatest thing that’s happened. I’m dead serious. It’s the greatest thing that’s happened in probably the last 10 years culturally.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. It also can be really funny.

Michael Malice: Yes, that’s correct.

Nico Perrino: In the way that it corrects people so to speak.

Michael Malice: Yes. Wait is this show named after Hoppe?

Nico Perrino: No.

Michael Malice: Okay, because that’s his catchphrase?

Nico Perrino: Oh really?

Michael Malice: Yeah.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, I mean no. I mean we just thought it was kind of a catchy way. We discuss speech issues so to speak.

Michael Malice: Oh okay, got it. Because that’s his little catchphrase.

Nico Perrino: Oh really?

Michael Malice: Yes, it’s a meme.

Nico Perrino: No, we just thought it was kind of a catchy way to subtly reference the topic on the podcast.

Michael Malice: Got it. Got it, okay.

Nico Perrino: And then we put after the colon the free speech podcast because that helps with SEO.

Michael Malice: Yeah, smart.

Nico Perrino: And again, I’m trying to just kind of get a better sense of what you think about free speech in the last 10 years. And I apologize if I’m not articulating it very clearly because I don’t talk to anarchists a lot. And so, a lot of times we’re talking about free speech in relationship to the government. But a lot of the basis for free speech and a lot of the philosophical trees whether you’re going back to John Milton’s Areopagitica or you’re going to John Stuart Mills on liberty or you’re talking about Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors, I mean these aren’t arguments for how the government should treat speech. They’re arguments for how society should behave.

Michael Malice: Look, we’ve run the experiment. We have enough data. Human beings are not interested in truth, they’re interested in narratives. They’re interested in stories. I would recommend people read Jonathan Haidt and do some evolutionary psychology. This enlightenment idea that if you have 100 people and you put the facts of the matter in front of them like a buffet that after a little bit of going back and forth “Oh maybe I like navy blue, maybe I like purple, blah, blah, blah” that they’re all going to come to some kind of consensus that is roughly analogous to the truth is completely false.

And I’ll give you a very obvious example of this that for anyone on the political spectrum can see. For a long time during COVID, we were told to stay six feet apart from each other. Then when the COVID wave came back, whatever the second wave was, Delta, I don’t remember what it was – they didn’t bring back social distancing. So, if it worked before why aren’t we doing it again? And if it didn’t work before why did we do it in the first place? So, this shows that people aren’t interested in truth, they’re interested in being told what to do.

And it is human beings especially, not particularly intelligent people, and very intelligent educated people, are interested in consensus and in tribalism as opposed to being the person who says – remember in the fairy tale the emperor has new clothes, it was a kid who pointed it out because all the adults were too invested and fearful of the power to say what they were seeing. So, there was a huge cost in every culture despite this claim of America is the bastion of free speech, of being a truth-teller. Because many people who were in power don’t like you pointing out that they’re bad. And they were going to do things to you and your family if you do something about it.

Nico Perrino: No, I agree with that. And I agree with it, especially in the short term. For lack of a better phrase, you’re in this sort of anarchist period and often those who are trying to create a pull of orthodoxy or enforce sort of conformist thought will win in the short term particularly when people are scared. But I think in the long run – and I’d be interested to hear your perspective – truth does tend to win.

Michael Malice: Yes. But that’s not the democratic thing.

Nico Perrino: In what sense? But it is a sort of marketplace of ideas thing. It can only win if the ideas are allowed to be put forth, right?

Michael Malice: Let’s suppose you are the government, you have a toll bridge, and I’m a private organization. I have a toll bridge as well. And your bridge is going to be not only more expensive, it’s going to have potholes and it’s going to open less. As the consumer, I don’t need to know the intricacies of the free market versus the state or economics, things like that. All I see is cheaper, more efficient, more expensive, and more of a pain. So, people will come to the right conclusion. They’re not going to understand or need to understand what’s going on in the background. It’s usually above their pay grade and in any case not of interest to them.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. The book you reference, or think are referencing from Jonathan Haidt is The Righteous Mind.

Michael Malice: Correct.

Nico Perrino: And his kind of elephant rider theory of how people get to their political beliefs. But I do think the marketplace of ideas theory of freedom of expression I think has always been oversold.

Michael Malice: Yes.

Nico Perrino: But I do think – and one of the things that our president Greg Lukianoff often talks about as being a more compelling argument for free speech is what he calls the looking glass theory, but it also elsewhere referred to the informational theory which is it’s just always important to know the world as it is.

Michael Malice: Important to whom?

Nico Perrino: To us.

Michael Malice: What’s us? Who is us?

Nico Perrino: Me, right?

Michael Malice: Okay, speak for yourself.

Nico Perrino: But yeah, I mean for anyone, right?

Michael Malice: No, not for anyone.

Nico Perrino: Your outputs are only as good as the data that is input.

Michael Malice: Do you have lawyers?

Nico Perrino: A lawyer, yeah.

Michael Malice: Yes, so when it comes to the law what I think is completely irrelevant I’m going to shut my mouth and do what my lawyer tells me. And I might ask them questions but in any case, I don’t have to be a legal scholar or a lawyer, I will defer to them. And it’s appropriate in many cases for me as the layman not to know what the hell is going on and to be deferential. Now this is something that is weaponized in terms of “Trust the experts. Trust the science.” But it’s not at all the case that it’s useful for everyone to have an understanding of everything.

Nico Perrino: Perhaps not in every case but I think the best way to understand the world is to learn as much about the world as possible. And not just learn what people believe or that might end up being true, but what people believe that is false. You can’t fix a problem unless you know that problem exists. So, the analogy we’ve used before is you can censor but then you don’t know what those people believe.

So, you either don’t know the truth that they might have spoken, or you don’t know the falsehood that they might have spoken that also is a signal that also tells you something that’s important to know. Perhaps that there’s a problem to fix or a mind that needs to be changed. So, censorship in that sense is like breaking the thermometer. You don’t know what the temperature is anymore but it’s still 45 degrees out.

Michael Malice: That’s all true but the point is not only do most people not want to understand the world, they don’t want to even understand themselves. The number of people who are even interested in empathy let alone practice it, by which I mean the ability to see issues through other people’s perspectives is astonishingly low. And the number of people on social media – and people by the way on social media are going to be smarter than average because of the written medium.

So, right away it’s going to take a little bit of intelligence to even step your foot in the door – they just want to divide everything into in-group and out-group. And you see this all the time. “Oh, you sound like a liberal. Oh, you sound like a Trump voter.” And once you’re slotted into that box, in their minds there’s nothing further for them to hear from you. So, they’re not interested in understanding things at all. They’re interested in perceiving things whether it’s in-group or out-group and that’s enough for them.

Nico Perrino: I want to talk about some stories now. Stories that you’ve told in some of your writings because we’ve been talking a little bit about theory here. But Emma Goldman who –

Michael Malice: She’s right there.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, I can’t see who those people are on it.

Michael Malice: She’s all the way on the left. That’s where she belongs.

Nico Perrino: Michael’s pointing to a big it looks like a poster-sized picture of his book The White Pill if you’re listening in the podcast version. But Emma Goldman was persecuted here in the United States.

Michael Malice: Oh yes.

Nico Perrino: Was exiled, right? I mean she has a free speech story to tell not just here in the United States but also she took the free speech argument to Lenin too.

Michael Malice: Directly. Personally, yep.

Nico Perrino: Personally. And called him out for what she thought was an abandonment of the ideals of the revolution. To which Lenin said, “Well, there can’t be any free speech in the revolutionary period.”

Michael Malice: Yeah, it’s a bourgeois extravagance.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, do you want to talk a little bit about her story?

Michael Malice: Well, sure. I mean again conservatives really have a very bad idea of history and they think we’ll we’ve always fought for free speech. Again, the first free speech groups were organized to fight for the rights of radicals by which I mean communists – this is before 1917 – to promote their ideas which were heavily censored either through the market which I don’t really regard as censorship and obviously through governments.

And at a certain point after Leon Czolgosz who said he was inspired by Emma Goldman killed President McKinley and Teddy Rosevelt became president, they basically made it a law that if you were a leper or syphilis or an anarchist, we don’t want you here. And Teddy Rosevelt here “Anarchism is worse than slavery.” And at the time there were actual slaves still alive in the United States. Point being they went, and they retroactively removed the citizenship of the man she had married so he wasn’t a citizen and therefore she was no longer a citizen.

And then it’s like all right. And there was something called the Red Ark which a very young J. Edgar Hoover was in charge of. And they rounded up a bunch of radicals, put them on this ship, and they said “All right, you guys like free speech? You guys like socialism? You all can fuck off back to Russia.” And they deported them and shipped them away. And the reason she’s on the cover of The White Pill and the reason I talk about her and her partner in literal crime Alexander Berkman as much as possible, they were hard-core lefties.

As hard as it gets. Emma Goldman gave a speech in Union Square in the early 20th century, and she said, “Go to the capitalists”, I don’t remember what word she used “And ask for work. And if they don’t give you work, ask for bread. And if they don’t give you bread, take bread.” Her point being you don’t have a duty to starve and it’s perfectly appropriate to take what you want to feed your family in the era where so few have so much and so many have so little. So, her leftie credentials could not be beat. They tried to kill Frick who was Andrew Carnegie’s right-hand man. Shot him. Didn’t succeed in murdering him. Berkman did a long time in jail as a consequence for this.

So, these were in many ways the godparents of Antifa. And Antifa love Emma Goldman. They go to the Soviet Union, they see what’s going on there, horrified. And Goldman explicitly says “Look I’m for violence. I’m for revolution. I’m for slitting throats. But you slit throats for the sake of the workers. You do it to bring about this era where you have freedom of association, freedom of speech, where everyone is working tougher for the sake of a society.” And when she fled Russia with Berkman he wrote a book called Bolshevik Myth. She wrote a book called My Disillusionment in Russia which later it split in half called My Further Disillusionment with Russia.

And she goes to England and all the lefties are there “Red Emma, yay.” They’re applauding because she’s so out there and she’s such a radical. And she goes “This isn’t what we’re for. This is worse than the Czar.” And when she started her speech it was a standing ovation and when she was finished you could hear a pin drop because they didn’t want to hear it. Because all they wanted to hear “This is the society of the future. We’re the smart ones. We’re the good ones.” And people who had never stepped foot outside the United States felt comfortable lecturing to her that she didn’t understand what was going on in the newfound Soviet Union or what became the Soviet Union.

Nico Perrino: Did you ever see that movie, it’s the epic I think by Warren Beatty.

Michael Malice: Reds?

Nico Perrino: Yeah.

Michael Malice: No, I haven’t. I saw the clip with her in it.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. Well, yeah she’s in it. And some of her disillusionment with the Soviet Union is featured in that film. But one of the interesting things about that film just kind of as an aside is Roger Baldwin who was one of the founders of the ACLU is in that. And it kind of shows just how close the kind of anarchist socialist communist community was.

Michael Malice: And Margaret Sanger too was in there. Yeah.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. And the reason I watched it is because Ira Glasser who used to run the ACLU is on our advisory council. He said, “If you kind of want to understand that community at that time, Reds got it just perfectly right.”

Michael Malice: There was a woman named Mabel Dodge Luhan who had an apartment. And the building is torn down and now it’s the building that I believe the apartment building in Mad About You. Point being she had a salon. Not a hair salon, like a salon in the old sense where people got together to meet once a week. I think it was Thursdays. And John Reed who I think Warren Beatty plays in Reds described her as a complete simpleton dumb girl because she went there, and she never talked. Mabel Dodge Luhan. And the point is she was one of these – there’s contemporary people nowadays, I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head – but these rich ladies.

A real housewife who thinks they’re just so badass because they’re friends with these radicals. And there’s no one at home but they think it’s cool that Ibram Kendi is at their house or something like that. “Oh my god, I’m so out there.” So, she had these salons, and Bill Haywood the big union guy, Sanger is there, Emma Goldman, Jack Reed who Mabel Dodge Luhan had a long affair with, they’re all in there together cross-pollinating. So, this New York City village era of that period really was this kind of punching-above-its-weight scene and where modernism really was born.

And Mabel Dodge Luhan who I just mentioned to you, she also was helpful in bringing in what was called The Armory Show which was a show in the Armory in New York City where it was the first time that European modern art was displayed in the States including very famously Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase which is not representational. So, all the newspaper cartoonists had a fun time making fun of it, but she was really this very important although personally highly unimpressive figure. And it was a lot of cross-pollination.

And I’ve got to tell you that’s one of the reasons I’m very excited that I currently live in Austin because maybe it’s not the same exact thing but there’s a lot of cross-pollination here between the crypto people, the podcasters, the comedians, the biohackers, the white people stuff like Whole Foods and cold plunges. Everyone is here and they’re interacting and it’s really punching above its weight.

Nico Perrino: I think it’s overstated often but people talked about the rise of Silicon Valley being somewhat like the rise of Florence during the Renaissance. There’s value I guess of people who are creative and innovative just being in the same place.

Michael Malice: Right.

Nico Perrino: And it does seem like people are moving to Austin and it’s getting some of the same network effects that you get from everyone being in the same place. You see a little bit of it with Miami as well. And Silicon Valley is still the place in tech. Hasn’t been eclipsed yet I don’t think. But I was going to ask you about kind of your thoughts on Austin. So, I’m glad I got them. But I wanted to ask you just kind of for your concluding thoughts on Emma Goldman because we started the podcast talking about the Red Scare. Do you think America’s decisions to –

Michael Malice: That was the second Red Scare. The first red scare is what rounded up Emma Goldman.

Nico Perrino: Sure, sure, sure. And you kind of took issue with how I described the Red Scare. Do you think what happened to Emma Goldman in the first Red Scare was appropriate in the sense of her connections to communism and revolutionary politics or whatever?

Michael Malice: I don't know what you mean appropriate. She was not a member of any organization taking orders from a foreign power. I don’t know if that’s called treason or sedition, whatever it is. So, that is one major difference. The other big difference is again the government under McCarthy sent no one to jail. These people got fired. So, they’re advocating genocide, and their cost is you might not be able to be a screenwriter anymore. I have very little sympathy for that. And the fact of the matter is they just changed their names and they became heroic in terms of Hollywood. And they were lying.

Alger Hiss was this big example of this where he was very high up under FDR and he was exposed for being a member of a Stalinist party, giving US government secrets to a country that had just recently starved millions of Ukrainians to death for no reason. So, this Hollywood version of the McCarthy era that these people were just innocent victims who just had a different point of view is just a complete lie.

Now it is possible, and I would actually lean toward this, that the government has no place investigating something like this. And that there’s certainly an argument to be had for that. But to act like these people were all innocent lambs who just had their lives ruined because they flicked the wrong lever at the voting booth is completely untrue. And I’m not saying that you said that but I’m just saying that’s the popular perspective. And I’m just going to say one more thing.

Nico Perrino: Sure.

Michael Malice: It just speaks to how dishonest it is because the McCarthy era which is the one time in America where lefties were canceled, is regarded as the second worst thing to ever happen except for slavery. And if you think about it in those terms it’s just like that’s the worst thing that a bunch of screenwriters lost their jobs?

Nico Perrino: Yeah. And I wanted to ask you in that sense you mentioned canceled. What do you make of this whole cancel culture debate currently?

Michael Malice: I don’t like that term because everyone listening to this, there are people that they wouldn’t hire because of their views. The thing with cancel culture is that a lot of times giant media outlets are demonizing for a tweet that they made in high school which is completely disingenuous is the problem. But if it turns out that someone is secretly a rapist or a murderer and you find out and then you don’t want to have them on your network anymore, I think that’s perfectly appropriate. It’s being framed I think as a false alternative.

Either anyone can say and do anything they want or “Oh my god this is horrible.” There are times when it’s appropriate to cancel someone but the times that are presented as appropriate by the corporate press are almost always inaccurate. And I’ll just say one more thing just to pull back the curtain for people listening to this – and this is kind of a dirty little secret that conservatives, not saying you’re a conservative, don’t like to talk about – a lot of these people who were canceled weren’t canceled for the ostensible reason. They were canceled because they’re dicks and just assholes behind the scenes.

And when the shit hit the fan no one had their back. Alex Jones is really nice guy. I’m pals with him. And then the reason he got uncanceled is because he’s a nice person. There’s other people who were canceled and remain canceled. It’s not because of what they said or did, it’s because no one wants to take a bullet for them or run interference for them because they’re nasty.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. Well, I mean you need to look at any individual case of course.

Michael Malice: But you’re not going to know publicly which is which. So, I’m saying a lot of people who are canceled unfairly, yes the ostensible reason is unfair but that’s not the real reason. The real reason is everyone is glad to be divested of them.

Nico Perrino: Let’s say that the real reason is more or less the truth. I mean how do you look at again getting back to the normative the can versus should? Of course, all these private enterprises, these private institutions can and have the free association right to fire whoever they want. But should they? And how should we think about whether they should or should not?

Michael Malice: I’m going to interrupt you because I don’t believe in democracy so I don’t believe the idea that every one of us is in a position to tell someone I’ve never met how they should run their company. That is crazy to me. So, if you’re telling me you shouldn’t fire this athlete because they said something offensive, you don’t have access to my budget sheet. You don’t have access to my investors. You don’t know what I’m seeing in the back end because maybe my big funder is telling me “If you don’t fire this guy I’m pulling the plug on the whole organization.”

If I have that gun to my head maybe I don’t think what he did or said was that bad, but I don't have a choice. We saw this during Black Lives Matter where the head of what’s that gay exercise organization? Cross Fit. When the head of Cross Fit was like “We’re a gay exercise organization. We have nothing to do with this.” And he lost his job as a result of this. Point being because he was sticking out among everyone else like a sore thumb. So, some of these companies may not even be a fan of whatever is going on but as soon as you stick your head up you become a target.

Now that’s not something that’s positive but the point being it’s really for us sitting here on our asses to be like “Well, you shouldn’t have put up that BLM square.” But it’s like if I hadn’t I’d be fired. And it’s really easy to say to someone “Well, fine you should be fired.” Maybe I’ve got a wife and kids to take care of. So, this is the moral calculus that I think everyone has to engage with on their own. And it’s really unfair in my view for us to sit here and judge someone else when they don’t have all the facts.

Nico Perrino: Did you judge the old regime of Twitter? Did you have a perspective on that when it was deplatforming people or twisting itself into pretzels to justify for example deplatforming Donald Trump and as we saw on the Twitter files?

Michael Malice: I was judging what they ostensibly said was the reason. Because if their argument was “This guy is dangerous and what he’s saying can foment violence.” Twitter is not a monopoly. So, that reasoning I had an issue with because it’s false. Because if you have a president in their view who is fomenting violence, it is extremely important for all of us to hear what he has to say. Because if this is done secretly that’s a bigger problem than knowing he’s saying publicly so we can prepare for it.

Nico Perrino: Yeah. And I agree with you on that. And I think when we’re trying to judge whether public or private institutions are living up to ostensibly what they claim to. For example, Twitter claims to be the public square. Well, if you’re eliminating a portion of the public because they engage in wrong think, as you judge it, well you’re not living up to what you claim to be.

Michael Malice: Correct.

Nico Perrino: The local community group that doesn’t want the person who kind of shit posts on the neighborhood community group every day and shares information that is irrelevant to most of the community members, that’s different than Twitter. And posting for anyone who might want to come to your feed or for whom your post comes up in the algorithm. So, it sounds like I have a better understanding now of kind of how you look at that issue. It just depends on the association, it depends on what they hold themselves out to be, it depends on what they promise or contractually promise in their terms of service for example. But even Elon Musk doesn’t always enforce his policies.

Michael Malice: That’s right.

Nico Perrino: Consistently.

Michael Malice: That’s right.

Nico Perrino: Particularly in the early days when there were the journalists getting deplatformed. It seemed to start to work itself out a little bit. But I want to ask kind of as a way to close up about the Soviet Union.

Michael Malice: Sure.

Nico Perrino: You’ve written a lot about it. And tie it back to the conversation we were having about Emma Goldman in a way. Emma Goldman delivered that speech that you referenced in 1924 in London where she describes the nature of the new Soviet workers’ paradise. Falls on deaf ears but Solzhenitsyn 1973 publishes The Gulag Archipelago, and it makes waves. What happened? What changed? Were people just ready to hear that argument? Hear those stories now?

Michael Malice: This is a very long answer and I talk about it at length in The White Pill. One of the big things that changed is that Stalin died. And then I think it was 1956 Khrushchev, who was Stalin’s successor, delivered what he called the secret speech. Well, first of all even before that Stalin made a pact with Hitler. And Hitler back then was Hitler. So, I’m a lefty, and all my left I’ve been like “All right maybe I have issues with the Soviet Union but they're basically the direction I want us to go. Blah, blah, blah. That’s a much better model than the United States.”

You’re shaking hands with Hitler? Okay, for a lot of people, it’s a wrap. I was completely wrong. I’m out. So, that was a very big moment for lots of hardcore lefties and even moderate lefties were like “This is so beyond anything I’m comfortable with that I’m not hearing anything else you have to say.” So, it was a whittling-away process. But again in ’56 – I think it was ’56 – Khrushchev gave a secret speech. It’s called secret speech because there was no foreigners allowed and it was just the party cadres and I think it was three hours, six hours. It was some very long period, and it was in the middle of the night.

And he’s like “All this stuff they were saying about Stalin is true. All these people that were forced to confess in these trials were innocent. And they were tortured. And the orders came directly from Stalin. This personality cult is completely incompatible with Marxism, Leninism.” And he just went down. And they’re sitting there, and they can’t say “Oh this is Western capitalist propaganda.” He’s sitting in Stalin’s seat literally. So, that was also a big moment where they’re like “Oh shit we can’t just handwave this away as the bourgeoisie or the capitalists try to make us look bad.” They’re like “Okay, this actually was true.” And that was a very big reckoning point.

And the thing is when Stalin died they closed down the gulags to an enormous extent. So, a lot of these former prisoners, I think they were sworn to secrecy largely. Well, good luck with that. Now were reintegrated into Soviet society and they had families, they had friends. And you had thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who saw it firsthand, who lived in it who came back a complete wreck from when they had been vanished for absolutely no reason. And they had their testimony. You’re not going to say these are all foreign saboteurs. So, that was also a big moment internally.

And also, in 1953 when Hungary tried to have a rebellion and the Soviet Union sent in the tanks. 1968 the Prague Spring and the Russians and several other countries invaded Czechoslovakia. These were moments where you can’t handwave it away and be like “Okay it’s just crazy Emma Goldman.” Or “Okay this is dictatorship but it’s just temporary. It will be over soon.” This was 50, 60 years after the Russian revolutions and the Bolsheviks.

Nico Perrino: I’ve got a poster here in my office. It says, “They coined the term politically correct 50 years before the West caught on.” And it’s from the museum of communism.

Michael Malice: That’s in Prague. I have magnets from that place on my fridge. They said you couldn’t get detergent at the store, but you could get brainwashed.

Nico Perrino: I mean that’s something you’re an expert on is just the suppression of thought and belief and speech in authoritarian countries, in the Soviet Union, in North Korea. Can you just kind of walk our listeners through what it’s like to be a person living in those societies? I think it’s hard for us Americans to really understand. I mean you’ve visited North Korea.

Michael Malice: I mean it’s like having an affair versus being married.

Nico Perrino: Sure.

Michael Malice: It’s not analogous.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, of course. But I guess what I’m trying to say you have Yeonmi Park who’s come out of North Korea. I mean she would know it better than you, but most people don’t get into North Korea. They don’t see what it’s like.

Michael Malice: I didn’t see what it’s like really because again I’m a tourist. So, the reason I wrote The White Pill or one of the reasons, the back cover is an Ayn Rand quote where she says when she was testifying around the house on the American Activities Committee in the 40s before McCarthy was in the Senate, she goes “It’s almost impossible to convey to a free people what it’s like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship.” Now I’m sure lots of people if not everyone listening to this is sick of woke stuff, and woke this, and woke that. And you turn on Netflix. I was just watching Master of the Universe, which is a cartoon I grew up with, with He-Man.

The character is named He-Man and now instead of it being about He-Man and Skeletor it’s about Teela, her black girlfriend and Evil-Lyn are the protagonists. So, even a show called He-Man has now become about a strong female who don’t need no man. The point being you and I can sit and laugh about this, or we can write articles complaining about it. I’m sure, I haven’t looked at the message board, the He-Man fandom, there are a lot of people who are like “This is bullshit, blah, blah, blah.” A lot of people are like “Despite this it’s good.” A lot of people are like whatever. We can have a discussion.

We cannot wrap our heads around what it’s like if literally everything was in the vein of politics and a certain specific vein of politics. We cannot wrap our heads around the idea that if we’re sitting at home talking to our friends, the odds are quiet head one of the people in the group are going to be a spy for the government and they’re going to turn us in. We have no idea what this is like. When people in the states are complaining like “Oh it’s just like Soviet Russia.” Sure, there are aspects. We cannot imagine what it’s like for it to be that thing 24/7 365.

Every song, every TV show, every magazine, every newspaper, every public conversation has to be through this very specific vein. We cannot imagine what that’s possibly like. And writing the book made me so much more grateful for my family taking me out of Soviet Union Ukraine when I was so young because I still cannot wrap my head around what it was like for them having to live through this for decades.

Nico Perrino: I had a friend growing up and his grandfather we’d visit his farm. It’s not the same thing but it makes me think of he fought in World War II, and he said, “You just can’t know the horrors of war unless you’ve lived it.” I mean movies can give you perhaps a sense but it’s not the same.

Michael Malice: Of course not, the smells alone.

Nico Perrino: Sure, yeah. I was listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to that podcast.

Michael Malice: No, I know what it is though.

Nico Perrino: Yeah, and he did one on the Ghosts of the Ostfront which is the eastern front. And he talks about the smells in there. And then just walking in fields where you just see dead bodies under ice as far as the eye can see. And it’s gripping in audio format and horrifying. But to just actually live it and see it. I don’t know. I just don’t know. You hope no one ever has that experience. At the same time, one of the ways to ensure they never have that experience is for them to understand the experience through the eyes of people that have been there I guess. But it’s not the same. Do you think that North Korea is as close to Orwell’s 1984 as any society in human history?

Michael Malice: Not at all because they don’t have electricity. So, the thing with 1984 is everything is under surveillance. There’s cameras everywhere. You have a radio in your house that you can’t turn off. All this other stuff. They don’t have electricity in North Korea so it’s not Orwellian in that. I mean this is where Rand comes in because Rand’s big point about there’s the joke about what do the socialists use before they used candles? Lightbulbs. In North Korea during the ‘90s when Kim Jong the Second took over from his father the great leader Kim Il-Sung.

Kim the Second Son, excuse me. They had polio come back. So, you can’t advance if everything is under the thumb of the state. So, it’s not Orwellian in that sense at all. Although it’s much more medieval in terms of just the brutality and the kind of serfdom of the populace as opposed to this kind of – because in 1984 they’re living in cities and things are pretty clean.

Nico Perrino: Sure. How does the surveillance happen in North Korea?

Michael Malice: So, everyone in North Korea is slotted into some group. So, it could be your apartment building, your class, your factory. And once a week they have something called sessions for something life. I forget what it’s called. Point being I have to get up once a week in front of my colleagues or neighbors and I have to say what I did wrong, and I have to say what someone else did wrong too. So, I have to say “I saw Nico was chewing on a pen and he ruined the pen. And that pen was something that we could all use.” And then you will all be rated and then everyone has to have something to say every week.

So, not only does everyone have to self-confess, they have to have something to snitch on their colleagues or friends, or neighbors in front of everybody else. So, that’s why there’s no possibility of kind of getting together and trying to plot to overthrow the government because this is taken even more seriously. It’s not like in America where the rules don’t apply to the elites. This is taken even more seriously at the top. So, they’re even more ruthless in watching each other and having something on each other to try to undermine one another.

Nico Perrino: I guess I have to ask because we’ve talked about the Soviet Union and Ukraine. What do you make of the whole current situation?

Michael Malice: I think we have very little useful information. And the only thing I am sure of – and that’s by design – everyone has access to the same newspapers, so you don’t want your opponents to know what your lines are and where you stand. I don’t have any particular insight into this region. I said this at the time and now I think it’s become – not that it’s such a great insight but I think now it’s become kind of understood that it seemed very clear that there was a gun pointed at the back of Zelenskyy’s head telling him not to take any kind of deal.

And now it’s coming around where they’re like “All right we’re going to have to take some kind of deal.” And I understand because you don’t want to validate foreign invasion and aggression. This was the lesson of the Falklands that Thatcher had to fight. But point being I’m scared in some ways it’s going to be analogous to the Korean War where basically you have this big loss of life and everything for what?

Nico Perrino: Yeah. And then you just get this line drawn and an armistice that lasts what? In the case of the Korean War over half a century.

Michael Malice: And I was talking to Konstantin Kisin who runs the Triggernometry podcast, and he was much more pro-Ukraine and escalating things. And I’m like “Maybe I’m being naïve but is it your view that if Putin literally conquers all of Ukraine that he’s going to have some kind of genocide and start just slaughtering millions?” And he’s like “No.” I’m like “Okay, if that’s not the case this completely takes it out of the realm of Sadam and Kuwait where Sadam killed so many of his own Iraqi citizens or a Hitler situation or a Pol Pot situation.”

If we’re talking about resources and what language they speak and who whatever so on and so forth, that to me although it’s not nice is really night and day compared to maybe the Balkans or something like that, we’re going to start exterminating people by the thousands or hundreds of thousands for literally no reason. But I’m not here to speak on behalf of anarchism because I think many anarchists would disagree with much of what I’ve said. I just want to be clear about that.

Nico Perrino: Oh really?

Michael Malice: Yes. I think anarchists as a rule are much bigger fans of democracy not in the political sense but in the sense of everyone having their two cents and contributing together. I’m much more elitist in many ways than the typical anarchists. And they would regard that as antithetical to anarchism.

Nico Perrino: So, these are the people who build collectives and anarcho-communists?

Michael Malice: Yeah, but also just think a lot of an-caps I think I would kind of split company with them on some things as well. So, I just want that to be clear that this is my perspective and not “the” or “a” anarchist perspective per se.

Nico Perrino: Got you.

Michael Malice: It’s just an anarchist’s perspective.

Nico Perrino: Sure. An anarchist’s perspective. Well, Michael Malice I appreciate an anarchist’s perspective. That was Michael Malice. He is the host of the podcast YOUR WELCOME and is the author of several books including most recently The White Pill: a Tale of Good and Evil. Before we sign off I want to thank everyone for filling out the recent So to Speak listener survey. Producer Sam Niederholzer and I are reviewing the feedback. And we hope that you’ll start seeing some of your guest and topic recommendations appear on the show here in short order.

If you have any additional feedback beyond the survey we’re always available via email at our email address So to Speak at Also, I wanted to flag an exciting new development. On the day that we recorded this episode, which was January 19th we broke the top 50 on Apple Podcasts overall podcast charts. Peaking I believe at number 43 right behind This American Life. We even reached number seven in the news category just behind Megan Kelly and Pod Save America. Pretty cool stuff. I want to thank you all for making this podcast what it is and for keeping me going for seven years now.

It's amazing to think that we’ve been going for that long. Almost eight years actually now that I think about it. We started the podcast in April of 2016 so yeah we’re almost at eight years. Holy cow. This podcast is hosted by me Nico Perrino and it was produced by Sam Niederholzer and myself. It was edited by my colleague Chris Maltby. To learn more about So To Speak you can subscribe to your YouTube channel which is linked in the show notes.

Most of our episodes including this one feature video of the conversation. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. And if you enjoyed this episode please consider leaving us a review on Apple Podcasts or Google Play. Reviews help us attract new listeners to the show. And until next time I thank you all again for listening.