Table of Contents

So to Speak podcast transcript: Caitlin Flanagan and Greg Lukianoff

Atlantic magazine staff writer Caitlin Flanagan.

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

Nico Perrino: Let’s get started. 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 through the personal stories and candid conversations. As always, I am your host Nico Perrino, and as is sometimes the case, today I am also joined by my boss Fire president and CEO Greg Lukianoff. Hi Greg.

Greg Lukianoff: Hi.

Nico: How are you? You’re in your new office?

Greg: Yep, I got a window. It’s kind of exciting.

Nico: You had a window before.

Greg: Oh, yeah. But this looks at things.

Caitlin Flanagan: Moving up in the world. Oh, I shouldn’t say anything. I’m sorry.

Nico: Oh, no you can say anything. It was Greg’s idea, Caitlin, to have you on the podcast. He’s always been an admirer.

Greg: I’m a huge fan boy. I love her stuff. And you’re amazingly unafraid of going into all sorts of controversial topics all over the map. I mean I admire your wit, your style, and your bravery as a journalist.

Nico: Yeah, let me give the full bio here.

Caitlin: I was just about to say, because my father very famously – and he taught at Berkley for forever, and he gave this introduction to somebody, and it was just evidently my father was extremely funny, and it was just the greatest introduction. It was like 25 minuets long and nobody cared because it was so great. And then the speaker came up and he said “Thank you so much Tom. I have only two things to add to that. My name is Richard Ellmann, and my subject is James Joyce.”

Nico: It’s actually – our podcasters listeners might know – a recent podcast I had on Bob Corn-Revere, who is a lawyer in the first amendment community, and he’s been on the podcast just so many times I just forgot to say that he was a lawyer with Davis Wright Termaine. I was just like “Oh, Bob-Corn Revere, and he wrote a book.” But hopefully most of our guests recall Bob from the previous podcasts.

But you Caitlin, you are a staff writer with the Atlantic. You are an author of two books, Girl Land, and To Hell with All That, and your writing is wide ranging. I listened to you on Bari Weiss’s podcast talking about abortion, I listened to you on Persuasion talking about free speech and many other things in preparation for this. But we at Fire have been interested in what you’ve been writing for many years now. You wrote about Title IX and due process which was obviously an issue we work on. You also wrote about comedy in higher education?

Caitlin: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Nico: So, a little bit of background here, Greg and I worked on a movie with Ted Balacker called Can We Take a Joke? which is about censorship in comedy.

Caitlin: Oh, right.

Nico: The main thought behind it – and Greg correct me if I’m wrong, because I think it was your idea – was Lenny Bruce would not survive a minute on the modern college campus.

Caitlin: Oh, no. I’ve got to watch this.


Nico: And we came out with that movie in November of 2015, and your article That’s Not Funny came out in September 2015.

Caitlin: Oh, good. Oh, good. I thought that you were going to say it came out the next month and that I had scooped the whole move, and that now I’m pretending that I hadn’t seen the movie. Okay, good.

Nico: No, you scooped us. It was fascinating because you talk about the National Association for Campus Activities and the sort of comedy that comes out of that. So, if you could wax poetic a little bit about that experience. Like how did you even come up with this as a story?

Caitlin: Is that where we’re starting? I was born in 1961 in Berkley, so my whole childhood was the free speech movement. My father was – he was a lefty, but he was born in 1923 so he was like a lefty who had a good jacket or whatever. And he saw the foibles of the movement and he saw the grandiosity of the movement, but he certainly supported it. And I remember coming home from second grade one day and there were all these kinds of quasi-grownups in the living room, and I went to the other side of the house and my mom said, “Oh, the graduate students are striking out, so the seminar is in our house.” Okay.

And so, whenever I get despairing about life on campus, I do remember that in my childhood Berkely literally because of the students’ valorous actions – mostly valorous and in some ways kind of silly. The city, we got invaded twice by troops, there were just riots all the time. The really radical thing went on in the public school system, we were the first school system to integrate without a court order in the country. And that happened in second grade, and we almost got school delayed, and all the national media came because it was like a feel-good story.

And then the Friday before the Monday of the first day of school, the Huey Newton verdict came down and everybody said, “Oh, you can’t go to school, there’s going to be riots.” And there were riots, but they were kind of like exhausted riots and school did go on. So, anyways I’m just always, always, always interested in the young and I fully understand it’s not my world. I am 60, I hand the keys over. It’s their world and they’re making a world for themselves.

Nico: Didn’t you just write a piece about how you’re an old person now?

Caitlin: I did. I’m getting all the milage I can out of this experience. But it seems like I don’t have to rush to get it all in, because it’s not going away. So, now you get to this age and you’re not in the culture, you’re not deeply critiquing the culture, you’re kind of like a traveler from an antique land. And you’re like “Oh, so they’re taking it in this direction, okay.”

But what I learned from Berkely is that the notion of what undergraduates are doing, extreme liberals will always say “Oh these conservatives, they’ll label you a conservative if you question anything going on on campus.” And they’ll say, “Oh you’re so silly and provincial that you think what happens in colleges is important to the future of the country.” And I just think “Excuse me? Excuse me?” Like if there’s any greater validation that they should all just be closed up, unless they’re schools of dentistry as you said before we went on the air.

The notion that we have a country, or at least a significant percentage of the country that thinks what happens on campus has nothing to do with the future and fate of the country, is a terrible inditement of what must be going on on campuses if that’s true, but of course it’s not true. And those kids in Berkely that started the free speech movement and led a lot of other young people around the country, they stopped the war in Vietnam.

They saw kids who weren’t in college being sent to that war, or escaping through my parent’s living room to Canada, and they changed the United States’ constitution because they said, “You can’t send us to war without letting us vote on the people who are going to make those decisions.”

And so, when I see things like that comedy, which is always the province of the young, and is always the province of the people who shock, to see that the young people have these sensibilities was interesting to me, very interesting to me. Now that said, I don’t think the brightest of the young people are choosing the campus entertainment. You don’t see the campus musicians there, you don’t see the guy who’s got his outrageous podcast or something, they’re nice student activities kids.

So that puts a suppressing thumb on the scale of art I think that’s school sponsored. Just the whole thing, just the undergraduates just seem really grizzly to me. So that’s why I thought about that. What’s happening if comedy goes, then what? They came for comedy, and I did not say anything and then they came for little tweed personal essays, and it was too late.

Nico: Before Greg jumps in, a little bit of background on your piece. This National Association for Campus Activities, they host an annual conference where a bunch of comedians come in and try and compete for these very lucrative campus spots. Sometimes can pay up to $2500 per spot, and often you can get three or four schools in a geographic area and do them one after the other so that you’re clocking out at $10,000 for a week’s worth of work.

And you speak to how the comedy is just so sanitized so that it doesn’t offend anyone, and the student activities affairs people really will really almost bend over backwards to figure out ways in which a comic might offend, and then they’ll avoid that comic. And then comics know this, so they kind of cater to this audience. Gone are the days where you have the smokey room at the bottom of the Student Union, open mic night with the transgressive comedy. I believe I recall you talking to Yascha Mounk over at the Persuasion podcast about the days the Berkely basement where they’d screen pornography, for example.

Caitlin: Oh, yeah in the free speech movement when they took over Sproul Hall with Mario Savio, that great movement, one of the things they did in the famous Sproul Hall, was in the basement they played gay pornography. In 1964 the notion – there were people I’m sure, undergraduates who didn’t know what homosexuality was – and the notion that you would see pornography and that the attitude prevailing in the occupied Sproul Hall was, well don’t come in the room if you don’t want it.

You don’t have to see gay pornography. This is a huge administration building, and that we can see, and listen to, and discuss anything, anything that’s a kind of expression, that’s not a physical action, or that’s taking something away from someone else. So, I’m always thinking about that. But it’s funny when you mention these pieces, instead of thinking of the content of them, I’m thinking of war stories of getting them published.

Greg: That’s why you’re like, “This is where we’re starting?”

Caitlin: Yeah well, it’s kind of like the main dialogue in my head is like, “Oh god” and then the others like “Well I got few seasons out.” But there was a notorious editor who honestly caused me problems there, but it gives me the edge I have today.

Nico: Yeah, and there was just a whole bunch of stuff that I was excited to comment on in that. One is the idea that what happens on campus stays on campus, I call that the Vegas campus delusion. And I’m not sure anybody really believed it to be honest, but you do sometimes get this sort of toggling through arguments about why threats to free speech on campus don’t matter for the larger society. And people would always say, “Oh they’re going to change when they hit the real world” and people like me, and Haidt, and Nico, and everybody were like no they’re going to change it, and not necessarily for the better.

Caitlin: Yes. It’s their world and they don’t know better yet because so many professors have abdicated, well I guess probably a core curriculum. But the main thing is – and I’m sure you guys are the heroes of – you are the heroes of this, and God love you – but I think that most people that are undergraduates, maybe unless they’ve taken Con Law class, which I urge every undergraduate to take, that’s the terms of service, take it, and that’s what you get with the program here. You can change it, you can fight it, you can accept it, but just at least know what comes with the onboarding package. They don’t know what free speech is.

Nico: Nope.

Caitlin: They just don’t know what it is. And getting back to Berkely, we’re talking about something that happened 60 years ago, but it was a really important thing. The kids wanted to do something that today’s kids would be outraged if they weren’t allowed to do it. The whole thing stated because Berkely in the 50s was a super, super reactionary city, not just a university. It just rapidly became radical, and it started very quickly in the 60s, and it was just a group of kids all they wanted to do is hand out on campus, leaflets about the young democrats’ club, that’s all. And democrats in California were themselves very square at that time.

And the university said “You may not do that. You don’t have the right to do it.” And the kids said very logically, “We are 18 or older, and this is public land, it’s owned by the State. You have to let us do it.” And suddenly the University, because it wasn’t a case of trying to persuade the university into anything, it was saying a series of related truths that you could not maintain a university and say you didn’t believe those things, because they were so evidently true. And now I hear administrators parroting things that if they really believe them, that’s just shocking that they would believe them, and that if they’re just parroting – which I’m sure they are to save their jobs – that too is shocking, I think.

Nico: Yeah. Well, I wanted to ask you about some of the trouble that you’ve run into at the – I wonder if you can talk about it – at the Atlantic, saying that you sometimes had issues with editors. Because I mean for me, I have to admit I feel like James Bennet right before his end of his tenure at the New Your Times, he did an article that really sounded like an apology for publishing Coddling the American Mind back in 2015. And every time I’ve been quoted in there since, they don’t mention Coddling. And then there was an article about anxiety by Kate Julian, who is a friend.

Caitlin: Yeah, she’s great.

Nico: That was about accommodation of kids. Accommodating children’s anxiety makes it worse. And I was like, “Also known as?” I kind of almost get the impression that the Atlantic – well I doubt the Atlantic would publish something like – I’m not sure that they would publish something like that now.

Caitlin: They would. I will just give you the open and shut on that.

Nico: Oh, great.

Caitlin: On that particular article, the editor who gave me the trouble was James Bennet and I think he’s – well I don’t know, it was a huge deal, and then there was another huge deal between him and me about Wesleyan university, and I felt that what they had done to a female student was extremely, extremely ugly.

Nico: What happened there? Tell us that story.

Caitlin: I was writing a piece about the problems of campus fraternities, and I was explaining freedom of association and why you have it at some places and why you don’t, and why it’s hard to get rid of at these schools, the things in place. But I wanted to – this was before the big Rolling Stone disaster, when they had a cover story that turned out to be an obvious hoax – but I thought I want to cover a rape, but I want it to be a rape that came with a criminal charge. I don’t want there to be any question of “She said this”, and “Well it’s one of those cases.” I wanted a verdict, and I wanted a prison sentence, and I got one.

And I wasn’t looking at Wesleyan, and I was just like let me find the college so then I can show you how the fraternities chopper into these situations, and it was at Wesleyan. And so, I wrote this piece, still it’s called The Dark Power of Fraternities, it’s a very still read piece. The first half was all this other stuff, and then the second half was on this case at Wesleyan, showing what could happen, and with the fraternities and with the college and how they serve one another.

And so, I’m like “This is a damn good piece.” And I send it in and like a month went by and then I got this very formal email from someone at the magazine saying James Bennet’s father had once been the president of Wesleyan university, and he’s saying that you can’t run this piece.

Greg: Wow. That’s incredible.

Nico: And James was your editor on Coddling, right?

Greg: He was the editor in chief at the time, our editor was actually Don Peck.

Caitlin: Oh, he’s very smart, very smart. I just want to say, under Jeff Goldberg that would never ever happen. Anything you see in the Atlantic that sort of holds a line to the things that people interested in free speech or diverse opinion, anything you see that’s in there is because Jeff has fought for that and said it’s going in, and that as long as he’s the editor we’re not doing these things

Greg: And you’re right, overall, I think the Atlantic has really distinguished itself for being – the highest praise I give to organizations or magazines or anything these days is simply to use the word serious. That I think they’re seriously trying to take things from nuance. To make nuance takes on stuff. In your own writing, I mean it was a pleasure to kind of go through a lot of your past stuff, everything from your great piece on Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer.

Caitlin: Oh yeah, and that was just a challenging piece. You can imagine the powers that were allied against me.

Greg: Big Rudolph was trying to shut you down?

Caitlin: Yes, exactly. Big Rudolph was having none of it. And now they have – you guys are young so you might – it’s a horrible thing called Elf on a Shelf which is a little surveillance elf and he’s always watching you and reporting in to the North Pole. And I’m like, did Edward Snowden teach us nothing? Like we’re training our kids from the earliest age that Elf on a Shelf is monitoring their behavior for their presents.

Greg: Well, I didn’t get to finish the range, because I feel like the listeners are going to be like “The hard hitting thing you mentioned was the Rudolph thing?”


Caitlin: Oh sorry, I interrupted. Yes, okay.

Greg: But also, about Lysol abortions in the 50s and 60s, which was incredibly powerful. And calling Human Resources to task, it being involved after the Me-Too movement. Going to conferences of Human Resources, people saying “Well why does this keep happening?” Meanwhile I’ve been a little critical of HR because what’s happened from a very different direction.

Because we have this situation where people graduating from particularly elite colleges have had intermediated experiences from K-12 and then also in higher ed, through a variety of different things, one of the things that Haidt and I are being told is that people from corporations all over the country, is that people are going to HR not for sexual harassment, but for just any kind of everyday abrasion between them and other employees, it could be as simple as a disagreement. And it was very helpful for me to remember that it’s like right, there is a very serious job that they should be doing.

Caitlin: Although they don’t do it that well, that serious job. And the whole scam of HR – you go to these conferences and they’re giving you like, “Oh they are kind of philosophical ideas about people and how to treat on another.” The whole thing is indemnifying the company against lawsuits. That is the entire thing. And so, they dress it up in this idea that for some reason in America’s corporations – like if you actually have such high-minded people, put them up in the C suite for god’s sake. We got to start siloing these people over in HR.

But they’re not – I mean, someone might be – but they are not there really to help anyone and you’re always better off with a union because a union is not going to give you Disney Land passes one day and then eliminate your division the next day. But yes, to the extent that there is anything to do, and to the extent that anyone who is listening to anyone who has a problem or has been sexually harassed. You need to call a lawyer first because they’ll give you the advice and they’ll take your case probably if it’s a good case. Oh, this is a sad state of America, let’s move on.

Greg: Well, I was going to ask on the topic of That’s Not Funny, your take on the Chappelle situation. If you follow that at all?

Nico: Oh, yeah.

Caitlin: Of course, I watched it right away, he’s a genius. It’s interesting because I had very strong opinions one way, and then about a week later – sort of saying that I saw great worth in what he’s saying. And I still do see things that have great worth. But in a park in LA, I was in a volunteer resources thing, and there was a kid under a tree, he was just at the park and my son stayed behind and spoke with this kid. And this kid is a Trans kid, and he’s from the Midwest, and his parents have rejected him, and there’s really nowhere else for him to go.

And then he said to my kid – and then he’s staying, I won’t reveal a kind of a well-known shelter, he’s 18 I think – My son was like well I know this place, and this place, and this place, come to – my son works at a nonprofit – come there we’ll figure this out for you. And then the kid said – and this broke my heart – he said but I have to tell you I’m a Christian, and I know most Christian places won’t take me. And it just so happens that my son, he’s a Christian.

But I just thought this Trans issue, it’s easy to take it in a lot of different ways, but I thought when we are in country where there are these kids and their parents don’t want them anymore, and they don’t know where to go, and they come to, in a way, the worst place you could come to which is Hollywood. So, that was one of those real-world experiences that really softens your heart and says maybe your heart needs to lead here a bit.

But I think Chappelle had profound moments in that that I think would have very much helped a kid like that, and will help a kid like that, because the great line in the show was when his Trans friend is yelling up at him to the audience, and heckling him, and Chappelle says “You know I believe you” and she says “I don’t need you to believe me, I need you to understand I’m having a human experience.” And Chappelle says, “I can do that, because it takes one to know one.” And I just thought “Oh my god this is going to be so profound.”

And I thought later after this experience with this kid, that kid’s parents, if they heard something like that, you don’t have to believe everything about gender ideology, you don’t have to know a whole lexicon of new terms, you don’t have to believe anything, you just have to understand that your child remains a human, and we’re all humans together. And then, I think that the most outrageous, or cruel, or unnecessary joke I assume, would be the one where he’s talking about whose vagina is legitimate and whose isn’t.

But when you look at that line in relation to the ending line about all you have to know is it’s a human experience, it’s almost saying all that other stuff is irrelevant. And I thought, “Oh, this is so powerful” because what I want to say to the people protesting at Netflix, not every Trans person in America lives in Hollywood. Some of them live in really small towns, in really rural places, and really have no support at all, and have parents who are so far away from entering into this conversation, on the level you demand that they enter into it.

And I thought, to have someone of his power, his coolness, his rhetorical ability, he’s just a genius. Being a genius is a real thing, I’ve known some. I can’t say it takes one to know one, because I’m not one, but I’ve known – I don’t know them obviously personally, but I know artists who are clearly geniuses, I’ve known people who are clearly geniuses, kind of a rough road for a lot of them.

But he’s someone of such stature and power that I could see all around the country, I could imagine mothers and fathers and brothers and aunts and uncles going “Oh, that’s all I need to do, is just – I don’t have to believe anything, I just have to acknowledge this as a human experience.” I haven’t lately, but I think that on rotten tomatoes until recently it was still like 90. People were liking it, and everyone said “Oh, this is a sign of Trans hatred.” I’m not sure about that at all.

Greg: Well, we ended up making a mistake when my wife and I watched it. We had to break it into a chunk, and so we decided to watch the next 20 minutes the next day, the final 20 minutes. And I told this to Nico, and he’s like “That’s what makes it all make sense.” We left the first 40 with a little bit of a sour taste in our mouth.

Caitlin: Is it cheap, yeah.

Greg: And then suddenly when you see the last 20 minuets your like,
“Oh, actually this was constructed incredibly well.” And so for people who might have listened to part of it, and I know a lot of friends were like “I couldn’t get through it, I was only 20 minuets in”, you really got to watch it all the way through. And the whole sort of what you’re talking about understanding people’s humanity, this is what Haidt and I talk about in Coddling the American Mind. Common humanity identity politics is great on so many different levels. Remembering that these are people, that these are just like you in a variety of different ways, in most ways really, but you share so many things in common. And one of the things that happens on campus, partially because – and when I’m feeling uncharitable about it, I basically say that some of these departments seem to come into existence with this idea that all life is politics, so therefore they act that way in everyday life. And therefore, everything is an argument, it’s all about coming up with the argument that nobody can really refute. And that leads to a priority on sort of arguments that will always win more rooms in colleges and classrooms in colleges. And those kinds of arguments are common enemy identity politics.

Caitlin: Yes, yes.

Greg: Which can feel good in the short run but ultimately, I think it does so much more harm than good, even for the people you’re trying to help.

Caitlin: Of course, because as Woody Allen – God love him wherever he may be, or not love him. Well God does his job.

Greg: He’s still funny.

Caitlin: He’s so funny, and I’m sure whatever God’s relationship to Woody Allen is, is not going to be changed by my opinion. But friends come and go, enemies accumulate. So, by the time you’ve separated yourself out into so many different finely tuned identities, and oppose yourself to so many other people, you might start – I was talking to a teacher at a school, and they teach Catcher in the Rye, and there’s a very strong movement of some of the teachers to say that the whole teaching should be about his white privilege.

And I thought that would be kind of a boring lesson, because the lesson begins on the first page. He’s at a prep school, his parents are rich, he’s from the upper East side. This is about a certain social class; we can all identify it. But if that argument wins this year in that sequence, you’re telling every white kid in there that they don’t have any humanity.

That even if their brother died, and even if they’re broken hearted, and even if they’re reaching out for help and having to transfer from school to school to keep bottoming out, and even if their teacher makes a really ugly pass at them when they thought that they had safe harbor in his apartment, none of that matters. You’re not a human being, you’re this and you’re only that. And there’s a lot of teachers with vengeance on their mind in K-12. A lot of teachers with vengeance on their minds. So, it’s sorrowful to me, but it was sorrowful to me when they ran that whole campaign about Beloved.

Greg: Amazing book.

Caitlin: At 12th grade, and he was in AP. So, I could definitely grant, as I said on a weirdly funny way on MAR, not all kids are ready for the AP, because it’s not 12th grade English honors, it’s truly speaking a college course, and you’re going to encounter texts you read in college. And yeah, Beloved, it’s about someone saying she would rather kill her children than take them back into slavery. But than this woman going, “And then my son had a nightmare.” It’s like lady your kid is 18, like cut the cord. My family was under for a year, we were under the complete – oh let me turn that off. There’s one of my kids trying to get in. Go away kid.

Greg: Sit outside.

Caitlin: This is my me time. But we lived under the reign of something called Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase. I still haven’t watched it because it’s like the ultimate evil to be found in Scooby. Because my son who is five is just terrified by it. So, yes when your kid is five, you can come to your mom and you say, “I’m having nightmares from this art that I experienced.” When you’re 18, like there’s kids in Iraq that are 18. They don’t go to their mom. So, the whole thing was very strange. And I’ve talked to 10th graders, I’ve taught The Bluest Eye, which is a Morrison book which has very hard scenes in it, and to 8th graders I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which is Maya Angelou.

Kids can handle a lot and kids feel a lot of respect when you say “I know that we are all too mature to have a problem with what’s going to be in this book. To make fun of it, or to laugh about it, or to think it’s something to joke about. But I want to tell you now what it is. Because I know you’re in the 8th grade now and you can handle it.” Kids eat that up. And then they get exposed to these great books. But that’s why it’s says, “Get rid of me, cancel me out, get rid of me.” I keep trying because by the same token, because what I want to say is, no one should ever set the English department curriculum, except the English teachers.

But then they seem to be a ship of fools themselves, so many of them. I can not tell you in this huge curriculum of overnight changes in the independent school world, 9th and 10th graders being given young adult novels. These kids can read Baldwin. They are 9th and 10th graders at independent schools, their reading comprehension is uniformly high. They’re interested in this material. They can read The Fire Next, they can read a lot of really great things, and instead teachers’ committees are like, “Well here’s a book.” It’s like a chapter book, and they’re putting it in. So, I have no faith in anything at all. I don’t know. So, anyways that’s very bleak I guess, but.

Greg: The public K-12, like that’s one of the things that we wrote like a 5000-word piece trying to sort of explain around through all these CRT laws, and they’re always unconstitutional as applied to higher education. They’re probably not unconstitutional in a lot of cases as applied to K-12 if it’s public, but that’s partially because the State has some role. It doesn’t mean it’s wise though, or well-constructed. You know you are saying the right thing when you get dragged by both right and left.

Caitlin: Yes, exactly. That’s when you’re winning, yes. Who was I telling someone the other day? Oh, I was telling my nephew, about someone put a really horrible comment about me on Twitter. I’m usually pretty stainless steel to Twitter, but for some reason I just didn’t even have a membrane between me and this ridiculous comment. And I said to him, “You know Spence, if I want to feel like shit, I have professionals on call 24/7. I don’t need amateur hour on the Twitter.”

Greg: Nice.

Nico: The controversy with Chappelle obviously caused a lot of rancor internally at Netflix. And in that sense, it’s kind of parallel at least to what I’ve been hearing happening at newsrooms about the publication of pieces. We know James Bennet, bringing it back with him and the Tom Cotton op-ed, Bari Weiss left, Andrew Sullivan left New York Magazine, I was talking to another writer at an unnamed publication last week who is looking to leave because he just can’t handle it anymore. Are you hearing from these writers as well? Do you feel like – and I know you work in commentary and probably not in the newsroom, but the internal politics of some of these prominent outlets.

Caitlin: Here’s the thing about free speech that’s in the region of not our grand rights, or our natural rights, or anything but again in the human heart. The minute there’s something that you can’t hear about, you just remember when you were a little kid and the grownups were talking and you just walked in for a snack and everybody just falls silent, and they’re kind of looking like we’re not going to say it. You’re like “What the hell are they talking about?” You are going to make it you mission to find out. Maybe it’s just some crime they don’t want kids to know about.

But the minute someone says you can’t know this, you can’t hear this, then you create a secret knowledge, and then people want to know what the secret knowledge is. And what I always say about Chris Rufo with the Critical Race Theory is the Times hate him, but the Times created him. The Times created him because these things were popping up all over the country in schools, in workplaces, in municipal governments.

People were sending in to various, I can tell you, news organizations, let’s just say without even politicizing it, extremely newsworthy policy changes. And they were convalescing at enough places around enough issues that they were absolutely newsworthy, and the Times was going to just – ignored it and ignored it. And they thought that they could just crush the truth because this was just one man, I mean I think he got some post at the Manhattan Institute, but he’s not in the newsroom anywhere. And they thought “We’ll crush him by ignoring him.” But people want the truth, people crave it. People are like “Oh I do sense, because I heard something weird is going on at my library in town, but I wonder what’s going on there.”

And so now, the New York Times, I will really lay a lot of the blame there, Chris whom I admire extremely, I admire him because – and I think I send him $10 a month and I hope it’s being spent wisely, because I want all the news that’s been to print. I want the news. I subscribed to the stupid New York Times – they have a great cooking section, whatever. Melissa Clark with sheet pan recipes keeping me alive – but I want to know the truth. And I just want to go on his website, and I want to see the documents.

And because the left tried to ignore it, Chris Rufo has set the terms of the debate, that’s how stupid the left is. The left, “Oh we can just cancel it out by saying it's not Critical Race Theory.” They have allowed it to become the number one talking point, and it’s an unwinnable argument, it’s a capacious theory. You’re never going to be able to say it is or it isn’t anything. But if the Times had simply – I guarantee you they’ve been flooded with these kinds of documents for a year and a half or two years – if they had written reported stories, Chris Rufo would be making travel documentaries, and damn good travel documentaries.

Greg: Nico, I really have to say something here that’s not going to surprise you. So, I came from specializing first amendment law so much so that Fire actually found me, and I became the first legal director of Fire. I was an intern at the ACLU, this is why I went to law school. But like a lot of people, it was being a student journalist that got me really radicalized about freedom of speech, because you realize how fragile it is under those circumstances, particularly when you are an editor. And I’m left leaning still, more so back then, and when I started there was so many stereotypes, like the stereotypes about how bad the culture war was, was about as bad as the culture war actually is now. And I was usually like no, no, no this is exactly.

Caitlin: That’ll never happen, yeah.

Greg: Yeah, and generally my experiences with a lot of the media was actually pretty positive. My experience with even the conservative media was pretty positive, with some exceptions. But the only one that acted exactly like everybody warned me it would was actually the New York Times. And I was a Huffington Post writer for 10 years, this is why I was a Huffington Post writer for 10 years.

In 2005 the national accrediting body of education schools, it became public, due to fire largely, that they had a commitment to social justice requirement as part of their evaluative criteria. I think this was passed initially in 2002 or 2003, which basically meant almost all of the most influential education schools would actually literally have to do a political litmus test, they were required to before someone could graduate from Ed. school.

And I wrote what I thought was a really thoughtful piece about this, and I sent it to the New York Times, and I was always in the arguments with the conservatives, and then I got it in and I was like, “In your face” because Fire actually has people who vote for different people working in the same office. And I got it accepted in 2006 and it turned out the chief editor was away, and when the chief editor came back, suddenly they’re like “Oh we probably can’t do this for, I don’t know, a long time.” And I asked – “I don’t know, maybe nine months.”

Caitlin: The hellish job I think of all hellish jobs. Well Dennis Miller is famous for saying the second worst job in America is crack whore and the worst job is assistant crack whore. But I am going to say that the worst job in America is when you’re in the middle of a flunky editor who has to find the lie to tell the writer of why it’s not actually going to run. And so, they’re like “Well, there won’t be any room for nine months.” The mid-term elections will really be filling up the page, we don’t have pages online dumbass. It’s like that is one of maybe the worst jobs.

Greg: And then she couldn’t even promise me in nine months. The editor who had to say no to me, who originally said yes, was so disgusted by that that when he moved on to this new publication called the Huffington Post, he immediately gave me a spot there. But we were trying – we still tried to this day, we would send every press release at Fire oftentimes involving liberals getting in trouble too, but also conservatives, also the midrange of just apolitical stuff, and nothing. We would get almost no coverage for this, and you’re absolutely right. It’s something that – he’s a scholar who wrote, The Once and Future Liberal.

Nico: Mark Lilla.

Greg: Mark Lilla. And one of the things he always says at the end is MSNBC, if you paid attention to this you could solve it. This is a real thorn, even from just a political calculus, it’s bad to have this as an issue that can be brought up. So yeah, that’s how the New York Times turned me into a Huffington Post writer.

Nico: Yeah, I mean the coverage of our issues in particular seems to be driven by the politics of the speech we’re defending. For example, the comical higher education – they were running so many stories about the Nikole Hannah-Jones controversy at UNC that I went and counted how many they had written. They had published – and I get their newsletter every morning – I think they had published something like 30 stories in their newsletter, some of them repeats but they put them back in their newsletter in like a 30-day period, something absurd like that, and they’re doing the same thing with the Florida situation as well. Both cases that Fire has taken on that are abhorrent restrictions on academic freedom.

Greg: But I’d say in the grad scale of badness that we’ve seen, maybe like a six or seven. It’s amazing because you like the politics of this, but what about the other thousand cases.

Caitlin: That’s where we all have to think as white people. I do hear this very loud comment that you white professional class Americans, you’ve had your hand on the throat of real free speech in the terms of dissemination, because everybody at the Times was white mostly for a long time. For a long time, it was almost all men. Even in my own lifetime I was going back and looking at how they covered things, and so to have someone like Hannah Nikole Jones who’s so deeply admired, to have her not get – because at first I said “But why would any first year professor get tenure?” But I think there’s something about that particular position.

Nico: Yeah. It’s like professors of practice or whatever, they would get tenure. The previous two I think had also not had an academic background and got tenure, so it’s a sort of disparate treatment situation here.

Caitlin: And I know novelists who even have tenure in creative writing, I think they do. They really should be fired if they don’t. So, I can see a sense of speech is how we change the country, and you guys had all the speech for a long time and now we’re going to get the speech. People of not white cis gendered male, we’re going to use this. And so, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Nico: Oh, but Caitlin one thing I do really want to be clear about this is we have cases involving minority professors.

Caitlin: Oh, I know, I don’t mean you at all. I’m always so happy when I see them. I’m like “Oh, Fire should only do these cases” in a sense because I totally know.

Nico: Press releases so often, and particularly when it’s the case that not sexy in the sense that it doesn’t – and this is the funny thing Caitlin, we cover all across and people all across the spectrum get in trouble. When we have a perfectly sort of political correctness run amok case, that gets picked up usually by Fox News and weirdly when the New York Times started picking up our cases a little bit better around 2013, 2014 because they were getting more intense, that will sometimes get a little bit of coverage in the New York Times too. If it’s about left wingers getting in trouble, that sometimes maybe, maybe, maybe, gets picked up.

We were lucky to get Babson university when Asheen Phansey was fired for allegedly advising the Ayatollah to attack the Kardashian residence in an obviously kidding – I mean he actually mentions the Kardashian residence and they claimed that oh my god, it was like attacking cultural sites in Iran. Trump had been saying we’re going to attack cultural sites in Iran and this professor cracked a joke saying “Well attack our cultural sites. I don’t know what they are, I maybe like the Kardashian residence.” Obviously, a joke and this got picked up by conservative media as if this guy was seriously advising Iran on who to attack.

Those might get picked up a little bit. The Babson one did get picked up by the Times and we appreciate that, but there’s this big middle of cases that, and oftentimes involving minority students, and oftentimes – and here’s one of the biggest divides – often involving poorer students, in cases that don’t have that kind of culture war resonance. Often times young, poorer, minority students and they get diddley squat for coverage.

Caitlin: Oh, I completely – I didn’t mean at all to in any way separate you guys as the only ones at all that are holding any kind of a line here.

Nico: Oh, no. I didn’t take it that way. I just wanted to be very clear that particularly so many of our biggest cases, like the Haskell case that we have – Oh, the other thing is they have preference for if it happens at Harvard and Yale, it’s really important. If it happens at a community college, not so much.

Caitlin: Yeah, that is true.

Nico: Caitlin I don’t think it’s also just about giving people who historically haven’t had their voices represented a voice, those voices also need to be paired with the right political opinion. For example, we have this case at Emerson outside of Boston right now, a TP USA group, a very polarizing group what have you, they still have free speech rights, right? They were handing out stickers, it said “China’s kind of sus” on it. Which is teenager slang for suspicious. They were brought up on national origin discrimination charges at Emerson, because they were criticizing the Chinese government.

Now of course Emerson initially claimed that this was critical of Chinese people, but eventually in its finding report acknowledged this whole campaign was criticism of China. But they said despite that, we’re still finding you guilty of national origin discrimination and harassment because of anti-Asian hate being on the rise in the country, driven in large part by the Covid pandemic so any criticism of China can drive an increase in hate crimes whatnot, and therefore you’re still guilty of this. The coup d'état of this of course is the fact that one of the leaders of the TP USA group is…

Caitlin: Chinese.

Nico: Yes.

Caitlin: Chinese American.

Nico: No, Singaporean. But their basis is all like anti-Asian so it’s not that they’re trying to give these students a voice, it’s that it needs to be paired with the right political opinion of course.

Caitlin: Yes. And God forbid that they should wrestle on that at administrative level with maybe it is suspicious to have slave labor. Maybe it is suspicious to have people in concentration camps.

Greg: Uyghurs. I mean you always think about what’s the thing that we’re going to look back on and be super ashamed about in the future, and for a log time, and I think there’s been some work towards this, I always thought sexual assault in prison, prison rape was one of those things we would look back and be like, why didn’t we take this more seriously? But the thing that our grandkids are going to be pointing at us saying is Hong Kong, Uyghurs, like why didn’t you say anything?

Nico: Well even right now in China there’s a famous star, Peng Shuai, I’m going to butcher her last name, who posted on Twitter about being sexually assaulted by the former Vice Premier who’s good friends with Xi Jinping. She’s been missing since November I think 2nd. Nobody knows where she is. There’s been some sort of email that was sent out by China, claiming to be her saying she’s safe and sound and I’m taking time for myself, but you can see the type cursor on it. Like if you’re receiving this email you’re not going to have – so she disappeared.

Then there is Liu Xiaobo who won the Nobel Prize in I think 2009 who just wanted to put out a document appealing to democratic principles, and he was locked up in prison and died in prison. His wife was, and I think still is on house arrest. I mean part of when I think about the free speech problems in America, I’m like you could be in China. But even in America, China is having influence over what we can and can’t say on our campuses. Just Emerson is case in point.

Caitlin: Right, they are proving the point of the sus. It is sus now at Emerson. But I kind of went down as an American I was like, “What the hell is going on, why are we trading with China?” I understand that we can’t invade China, I guess. I mean foreign policy being what it is. Although if there was ever a cause, liberating concentration camps would be at the top of the list.

Nico: Oh, now I think there will be a cause in 30 years. I think in much the same way people ignored what was happening with the Jews in Germany. I think it’ll come to be one of those things like the great subject.


Caitlin: Of course, and now ignoring what’s happening now in America. I just want to say I was talking to somebody about that whole thing, the concentration camps in China, and I said – it’s always a mistake to talk to a really smart person who also knows things because it’s so disillusioning.

Greg: Oh, I hate that.

Caitlin: It’s just the worst, an actually horrible thing to happen. And I said “What can we do? What can I as a citizen do to let China know this is not okay?” And he said “Oh, call your state government and say no more solar heating panels from China. They are all made by slave labor.” Oh, now I’m going to pit myself against the environmentalists of California? I’ve got so much life to live. It’s just everything is so connected, and so what we need is a code and we have a code. But people are trying to rip up the code is what I think is happening.

Nico: When you say code, what do you mean?

Greg: What code do you mean?

Caitlin: I mean a code of – well foreign policy is something different – but we have a code where we’re allowed to talk about anything, and we could say “I’m an Emmerson student, and I don’t like these kids who put those stickers out. I know those kids and they’re a bunch of jerks. But I think it’s extremely wrong that China transparently has slave labor right now.” I don’t think that says anything about most actual Chinese people in China or any Chinese Americans, or Asian Americans. But it is extremely wrong, and we should all be gathered around to say if you can boycott Israel from making the sparkling water. The only thing I think they make is this sparkling water that isn’t even at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can’t find it.

Greg: Soda Stream, big fan.

Caitlin: Soda Stream, yes. So, don’t buy that and that way you’ll protect the Palestinians, which of course is a worthy cause. But China, we can’t say they’re sus.

Greg: There is actually, and I read this in Vivek Ramaswamy’s Woke Inc. which honestly given his bomb thrower status, I was kind of expecting it to be not a very thoughtful book. And even though he does throw bombs here and there, it actually is a surprisingly thoughtful book about corporatism and about how – and it basically is saying how most of the posturing toward wokeness, which is what he calls it, in corporate America is disingenuous.

Caitlin: Oh, of course.

Greg: And that it is just to make a buck. One of the many things I learned is there’s is actually a word in Chinese to make fun of us for wokeness, and I wouldn’t be able to say it correctly.

Caitlin: Right, and better not because if USC has taught us anything mispronouncing a Chinese word or correctly pronouncing it could be a job killer.

Greg: Yeah. In USD, there was a professor who said something about Chinese cod swaddlers or something like that, he said cock swaddle unfortunately, which is not really a word, but he was trying to say cod. And we’ve seen cases all over the country where someone will say something about, they’ll make a reference jokingly about the Wuhan virus or something like that and it immediately get’s taken up as if that’s an intentional racist attack on Chinese people. And sometimes the Chinese government, they’re kind of cultivating that because it looks like “Yeah, looks like you guys are completely insane on this one issue, and it protects us so go at it.”

Caitlin: But that’s where I think it must be so disheartening to be – when you were just talking about Fox news, sometimes they’ll see a really great thinker and I’ll say, “What the hell is she doing being interviewed there?” and I know oh no one on the left will even have her on and she wants to talk about her experience. And then Dave Chappelle, I’m like the hell he is going through is not with Netflix, it’s that people like Laura Ingraham are sticking up for him. Like that is a world of hell that I don’t think Dave Chappelle ever in a million – like how can he disavow her and then avow other people.

Because we have these like – no I don’t even know what the politically correct term is for people that aren’t – let’s just say they aren’t deep thinkers, and they have a few ideas. They’re wrestling with a bone in their mouth and if they can just say it over loudly enough, they’ll get to do all these things and write their best sellers. But they’re horrible representatives for what we’re talking about. Like there should be cool kids – I don’t know. It’s going to be very hard for them.

Greg: You know Fox, I can be critical of it sometimes but there was a point at which – actually this is pretty funny Caitlin – when I first started doing TV, I was on MSNBC as much as I was on Fox, which was great. Like there was a sense on the left that kind of like these are embarrassments to us so we should try to address them hands on. And I was just talking to Charlie Sykes this morning, I did a podcast with him.

Caitlin: You’re a podcasting fool. Star guesting all day long.

Greg: My joke is I get paid to pretend like I’m an extrovert. I’m going to have to take a nap after this.

Caitlin: Me too.

Greg: But he was writing about this stuff, he was writing about political correctness and that kind of stuff in the late 80s and early 90s, and there was a whole bunch of people who were writing about this. Now if you look at the people who are most critical of what’s going on in higher ed, we’re mostly either left or moderates, with Ben Shapiro as an exception. But a lot of the more serious critics are actually left leaning people like Alice Dreger and me for that matter or considered more moderate like David French.

And what’s amazing about it is people will try to dismiss us as being conservative, and it’s like no, no, the conservatives actually made this point in the 80s and 90s, and you dismissed them entirely. Almost like they don’t exist. So, it’s part of this really childish way of arguing, that if I could figure what your politics are, I don’t have to listen to you anymore. It’s a really frustrating heuristic.

Caitlin: Right. Someone I was talking to, a graduate student in a humanities program, a once great humanities program, he said “It’s like they’re trying to persuade me of something instead of just telling me, here’s some facts, here’s some books, read them, come back, let’s discuss. It’s like they’re saying things that are somewhat implausible to me, and then when I say oh why is that so? They just double down on the persuading of this thing.”

But these college professors, they have got to get their heads in the game because I’m convinced that this decline in college enrollment, it’s not just financial, it’s not just malaise or despair from the pandemic, I think there are a lot of young people in America who are saying, there’s nothing really there for me, and they’re not wrong about that. And I think that we don’t want necessarily, and again I support Chris Rufo 100%, with my $10 a month I literally support him, but it is a dangerous involatile situation. For one person to be holding that entire story, and to have all the power in it, and have it translate it into transparent political power, that’s what the press is for.

The New York Times with all of their reporters, and their bureaus, and their editing, they have a function. And those things are to be so that there isn’t one young person carrying all of this material and probably radicalizing people unintentionally in bad ways along the way. So, anyways with college all these people who depend on their stupid administrative jobs, you’ll probably be the first low hanging fruit to go.

Nico: Yeah, I remember Greg on the stage with Malcolm Gladwell and Jonathan Haidt talking about his book Coddling the American Mind and saying all the stuff that is happening – this is kind of circling full circle here to the point you made at the beginning Caitlin, which is all the problems we’re seeing on campus right now, they’re coming to an HR department near you. So, invest in HR companies if you can. I actually looked into it, there are not many HR companies to invest in. The publicly traded ones.

Caitlin: Oh right. It’s mostly in house.

Greg: I should have taken my own advice; the stocks have gone up a lot.

Nico: But I think you’re speaking to Chris Rufo who’s seen this in education and in corporations. Just anecdotally I talked to my father in-law, he’s in the medical profession, he says, “I’m getting this forced down my throat in the medical profession as well.” And I just had recently texted with him about a guidance document that the American Medical Association put out about how to talk about inequities in the health care system, and it has this chart of what the conventional language is, and what the revisions will be.

Caitlin: Oh, these are always good. Okay.

Nico: Yeah, and their conventional language for example, “Native Americans have the highest mortality rates in the United States”, the revision is “Dispossessed by the government of their native land and culture, Native Americans have the highest mortality rates in the United States.” Conventional, “Low-income people have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States. That’s the conventional language.

They’re proposed revised language is “People underpaid and forced into poverty as a result of banking policies, real estate developers, gentrified neighborhoods, and corporations weakening the power of labor movements, among others, have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States.” I shit you not, this is an actual document from the American Medical Association.

Caitlin: Oh, I believe it. I know.

Nico: It’s everywhere.

Caitlin: As someone who has stage four cancer, I don’t want these people spending a minute on their stupid speech code. Back in the lab, find more cures for cancer. Do not write your little private language that is just ridiculous. It’s come to a point where the physician doesn’t know which one is a man and which one is a woman, like I just don’t know what’s going to happen to American medicine, if we really are going to falter to these ridiculous, ridiculous codes.

And what does it really do, I had this piece I wrote, what does it do when you have kids in a private school and you have to have those acknowledgements, that the land was whatever, owned by certain tribes. And that’s very interesting to me of course, but if you’re going to put it in a kid’s syllabi, then you say and therefore we are paying rent to the tribe or therefore we do this, or have this arrangement, we are repairing our historical wrong. But to just lay it out there that you are sitting on land that was stolen as part of the California genocide and you can’t do anything about it, I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know where it all ends though.

Nico: It seems like just a genuflection for the sake of it.

Greg: Since I did want to bring this up at some point, we just got going on talking about so many other different things, you’ve been very open about your health. Being open about my mental health stuff is the thing that led to Coddling the American Mind. But with you – I learned a lot about from reading – one, we both have two boys and the fact that it absolutely broke my heart when you wrote about when your kids were graduating from kindergarten or something like that and you thought that that might be the last graduation that you would get to go to.

Caitlin: Preschool.

Greg: Can you tell us; do you think that facing your own mortality is one of the reasons why you are so brave as a writer? What have you learned from this scary experience?

Caitlin: People always say that I’m brave, but I don’t think that there’s a lot of – I mean I’m just an essayist. It’s not as though if I do eventually get cancelled – I guess I wouldn’t have a big career if I wrote the kind of things I’m supposed to write, because I wouldn’t be any good at it.

Nico: Just for the listeners, you’ve been living with cancer for 20 years. Just context for listeners, that’s right.

Caitlin: So, I always claimed that I would not be doing any learning or growing through having cancer. Whenever someone says it, because I know a lot of people with cancer obviously, like they often die soon after, and I’m not being superstitious. It’s just when you get to this much equanimity with the disease, there can be a sense you’re not fighting it any more medically, but things don’t live forever. Things are born, and they grow, and they age, and they die, and that’s okay. That’s how I feel about it.

Nico: One of the more powerful books I ever read was Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, I don’t know if you’ve ever read that.

Cailtin: Of course, yeah.

Nico: He did not live very long after his cancer diagnosis, and the book doing Christopher Hitchens, we know what he did. He decided he was going to write a book about his experience, and it was very sad because at the end of the book it just cuts off, and all you get are the rest of his notes because he didn’t live to finish the book. I’m a, as my listeners know, a big Christopher Hitchens fan. I recommend that book and what’s the other book? It’ll come to me. It’s about being kind of a public intellectual.

Greg: Letter to a Young Conservative?

Nico: Letter to a Young Contrarian. Thank you, Greg.

Caitlin: Oh right, oh right, oh right, right, right. Yes. Yeah, they’re not making public intellectuals like they used to.

Greg: I got to meet him before he died, and he was really excited about Fire and it was just one of those things where you kind of assumed, “Oh yeah, I should follow up” and you know.

Nico: In this era of cancel culture or whatever, I think he would be a very interesting voice to hear from.

Caitlin: Oh, essential, essential. Yes, I mean he would be taking names.

Nico: Yeah, and one of the things I wanted to ask you about Caitlin, is if you had read Anne Applebaum’s piece in the same publication that you write for about cancel culture and what’s your thought of that? She calls the cancelers the new puritans. Greg’s always calling them the new Victorians.

Caitlin: Yes, yes. Taking it back to our own. Yes, I think that was exactly right. I just thought every word of it was wonderful. I mean I know her.

Nico: She got some flack for it, I remember, on Twitter which isn’t the real world, or maybe it is.

Caitlin: It’s not the real – I mean my kids are always trying to get me on.

Nico: Greg’s an apologist for it. I’ve read your article about how you need to quit it and you’re somewhat addicted to it.

Greg: I’m hardly an apologist for it. I mean my work with Jonathan Haidt is extremely critical of it, I just think that I’ve been able to carve out what I call a relatively nice neighborhood and that you can talk to really interesting smart people on it, but do I think it’s been highly destructive? Absolutely.

Caitlin: Yeah, yeah. And that’s why this one thing that somebody said was just, I had to remind myself that this was Twitter. The minute you just put your phone down and you just walk out the door and you take a breath outside, and you’re like that’s not real. Nothing that’s happening in my little computer in my pocket phone, that’s not real, and those people aren’t real, and they wouldn’t behave that way or say such a thing, and what that person just said about me isn’t true, so. Because of my cancer, I only have about two more questions and answers left in me, because I get tired. I hope this isn’t a super long podcast, is it?

Nico: No, no, no. We’re pretty much ending now. I have one more thing I wanted to ask.

Greg: Oh yeah. We can conclude. We had all sorts of fun going all over the place, but Nico, I’ve talked too much.

Nico: Oh no, the only thing, this isn’t a free speech question, I just know you’re a big Californian. You write a lot about California, and I just wanted to get your thoughts about California now. I just left Florida where I was for a week and they had all these signs up all over Florida, it says “New Yorkers vote Republican or go home.” And I was just in Texas too, you saw a similar thing, but for California. So, you hear about all this California flight to these other states, and I wanted to get your cents on whether it’s overblown.

Caitlin: Oh, I would never leave California. No, it’s not overblown that’s why I told you I moved, I left LA. I was in that city for 35 years. That city currently closed for renovation, ditto San Francisco. Just absolutely terrible things are happening, but there’s still great swaths of protected land in California. Anybody can go to Carmel and go to Point Lobos and there’s great environmental protections in Northern California, go to Stinson beach. It’s a very exceptional place, it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

And you go to other places and you’re like, “Yeah this is beautiful, let me tell you what’s in California that’s like this but more beautiful.” But no, California, it’s not doing it’s best. I’m actually writing a piece about California now, that’s why I’m kind of stumbling about it, and that’s part of why I had that recent trip. No, it’s sad but it’s still the best. And these Texans, everybody was like “Yeah, we’re going to Texas!” and then they immediately almost froze to death in their houses and now they can’t get an abortion. So maybe our creaky old infrastructure at least, I don’t know, at least things are still somewhat working. Because I guess Texas is just another land entirely.

Nico: Yeah well, I think we can leave it there Caitlin, I know you got to run.

Caitlin: No, I’ve got to go nap. Literally.

Nico: Greg does too, so we’ll let him go as well. He’s extroverted himself out or introverted himself out. But anything you want to plug that you’re working on right now? I think on Twitter your handle is what? Caitlinpacific right?

Caitlin: Oh yes, it’s @Caitlinpacific. Oh, because my Twitter handle used to be Caitlinatlantic, which I thought was a pretty nice Twitter handle and I was pretty proud of it. And then I tweeted something about a sex worker that was actually supportive of her, but it was expressed in sort of crude terms.

Greg: Blue language.

Caitlin: Blue, it was blue. So. What happened was I get a very long email from a very senior person saying that James Bennet has said, I can either take down that tweet or I must change my handle from Caitlinatlantic, and that really burned me up. It burned me up to be a woman, and then to say, “Well they pay me, so they have the ability to do that.” But no, he’s not a friend of free speech, he’s a friend of James Bennet.

Greg: Wow, Caitlin, I didn’t actually realize the origin story there. I didn’t think it needed one

Caitlin: I’ve never told it before. I don’t know you opened a rich vein.

Nico: We’re breaking news here, holy cow. We’re breaking news here, but it’s silly that they would have you take down that tweet and you’re a professional opinion haver. So, you would think.

Greg: Haveist.

Nico: Haveist yeah. Whatever all right grammarian over there.

Greg: I’m totally kidding. A lot the awkwarder, the better. Anyways Caitlin thank you so much for coming on. I’m a huge fanboy

Caitlin: All right. Okay, and fangirling over here.

Greg: Oh, and Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey is even worse in terms of depressing-ness than Rudolf in my opinion.

Caitlin: Oh, oh I know.

Greg: Like that story devastated us as kids.

Caitlin: Yes, it’s very bad.

Greg: We’re like “Nestor!”

Caitlin: Who are those people and why are the making Christmas specials of hell? Yes,ch I know.

Nico: Thanks Caitlin and thanks Greg. This podcast is hosted, produced, and recorded by me, Nico Perrino and edited by Aaron Reese. You can learn more about So to Speak by following us on Twitter at or liking us on Facebook at We take email feedback at and if you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review. Thanks again, and I look forward to talking to you all next time.