• Identity Politics: Some Thoughts on Gad Saad, Dave Rubin and Sargon of Akkad

    I’ve been hoping aggrieved Lefties would take a day off from raising my ire. How can I be expected to virtue signal with an even hand when wounded millennials pop up on my Twitter feed every five minutes? The fruit of the Left seemingly caters to midgets, which makes it awfully difficult to pass up. At this point, one wonders whether it’s a strategy to dodge charges of ableism. But I digress.

    Since these gentle folks aren’t taking any vacation days, let’s put them to one side and turn our attention closer to the centre. I’ve previously written about the myopic liberal-conservative alliance borne out of opposition to the far Left, but the behaviour of certain “moderate” figures increasingly strikes me as more than a little troubling. With that in mind, I’m going to offer my thoughts on some of the more prominent people straddling the Left/Right divide.

    Let’s start with Gad Saad. Here we have a college professor who appears to have fallen in love with being a minor e-celebrity. More importantly, Gad seems to be on a personal journey toward the political fringe. Can he legitimately market himself as part of the centre when he enthusiastically supports Donald Trump, tries to shame ex-Muslims into putting themselves in danger, and parrots hypermasculine Alt-Right terms like “cuck” and “castrati” without the merest hint of irony? Gad communicates like a man who needs to tuck his dick into his sock, yet looks like a hypogonadic gnome. If only self-awareness was his biggest problem.

    Gad’s attempts to shame a prominent ex-Muslim for her decision to remain anonymous is what I find most egregious. For those unaware, he has something of a running feud with an ex-Muslim known as Eiynah (@NiceMangos), host of the Polite Conversations podcast. During an unhinged Twitter tirade, he repeatedly suggested that there is something cowardly about her anonymity. We’re living in a world where ex-Muslims are brutally murdered for leaving the faith, yet this crusader for secularism is apparently eager to create more victims. There is nothing brave about putting oneself in harm’s way for no reason. Ex-Muslims who already have their identities exposed are certainly brave, but that’s quite different from purposely inviting risk. Any reasonable person would class that as stupidity, not bravery. Gad is either oblivious to the distinction or loathes Eiynah so much that he has simply abandoned compassion and common sense out of spite.

    My issues with Gad extend beyond his perspective on ex-Muslims and him looking like part of Snow White’s inner circle, but I’ll save further objections for another day. One theme you’ll notice, though, is the subjects of this piece tend to focus almost exclusively on the excesses of the Left. This is a mistake I’ve been eager to avoid, and I find it disingenuous when I see it from others.

    On that point, let’s shift focus to Dave Rubin. Since leaving The Young Turks in 2015, Dave has built up a sizeable audience of anti-regressives with The Rubin Report. I even counted myself among them during his early shows. His content hasn’t evolved over the past couple of years, though. Indeed, the show is almost identical from week to week, and I can only listen to someone drone on about classical liberalism and the regressive left for so long.

    While it’s true Dave interviews people from across the political spectrum, it’s invariably to the same end: lamenting the decline of the Left. I can’t read Dave’s mind, but I get the awful impression he is terrified of losing his audience. Every show and every tweet appear designed to pander to anti-SJWs and avoid alienating far Right allies like Milo Yiannopoulos, Steven Crowder, and Mike Cernovich. Trump embarrasses himself daily, yet the most pointed criticism Rubin can offer is a Star Wars joke or a Golden Girls reference. But when some lunatic on the Left is apoplectic over a stray pronoun, you can bet it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get serious.

    Dave has responded to this criticism by claiming he’s on the Left and is merely trying to clean up his own side. Many seem to have accepted this explanation as though they are suddenly fans of the Chomsky rule. This reasoning is equally flawed when Western feminists ignore Islamic misogyny because they need to first dismantle patriarchy in their own culture. If you are concerned about misogyny, geography shouldn’t prevent you from criticising the worst offenders. Likewise, if your focus is culture and politics, you cannot just ignore the Right because you are more concerned about the failings of your own side.  The very idea of “sides” is a major part of the problem. The Left and Right aren’t opposing sports teams. Interpreting the political spectrum in such terms is just another form of identity politics. To that point, let’s move onto someone who fundamentally misunderstands identity politics and its causes.

    Carl Benjamin, better known as Sargon of Akkad, is a popular British YouTuber who spends the bulk of his time criticising the far Left. He’s most effective when arguing unopposed—not unlike Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks. This gives him the freedom to construct an army of straw men and burn them to the ground over the course of a 30-minute video. When faced with a live opponent, Sargon doesn’t fare quite so well. For example, he somehow managed to lose a debate to third wave feminist Kristi Winters—and it wasn’t particularly close. If car crash content is your thing, you might also want to check out his disastrous debate with The Majority Report’s Michael Brooks, where both men spent about 40 minutes trying, and failing, to define the regressive left.

    When he isn’t losing debates and cheerleading right-wing populism, Sargon can occasionally be found decrying collectivism as one of the world’s great evils. He has argued at length that identity politics is rooted in collectivism. He does this by attacking its most extreme forms and ignoring almost everything else. It’s worth noting here that Sargon supports all sorts of collectivist policies, such as socialised healthcare. He’s either one of the most philosophically confused people I’ve ever encountered, or he doesn’t understand the subject. His initial diatribe on the topic begins with this gem:

    “All ideologies are either individualist or collectivist. These are mutually exclusive perspectives that have no overlap.”

    In that case, I can only assume Sargon views mixed economies as one of life’s great mysteries. He must equally wonder why so many ardent individualists tend to be libertarians and not anarcho-capitalists—which is actually a fair question in the right context. Spoiler alert. It isn’t only possible for individualism and collectivism to overlap, it’s probably the most common position you’re likely to find in the developed world. You’re unlikely to encounter many pure anarcho-capitalists or pure socialists. There are certainly wingnuts like Stefan Molyneux, but these people tend to be the fringiest of the fringe.

    Much like Gad, Sargon presents himself as an intellectual. The problem is much of the content he churns out meets the definition of anti-intellectualism. Consider his championing of Brexit, for example. We’re talking about a movement animated by statements like, “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.” Almost every qualified voice was critical of Brexit. This applies equally to Sargon’s endorsement of Trump. You don’t get to brand yourself as an intellectual while supporting a man who has made a virtue of ignorance. You can offer me all sorts of reasons for supporting right-wing populism, and I might just buy some of them. What you don’t get to do is pretend you occupy the intellectual high ground.

    The Left has earned some sort of backlash, but a sense of perspective is needed. Whatever happened to calling out bad ideas wherever we find them? The prevailing view now seems to favour calling out bad ideas so long as they’re coming from the opposing team. The individuals discussed here are by no means the only ones guilty of a lopsided approach to social and political discourse, but they are helping to create an atmosphere of pure tribalism. It should be obvious that combating identity politics with more identity politics is counter-productive, but then I appear to be hanging off the middle of the horseshoe these days.

    Category: FeaturedgenderSecularismSkepticismSocial JusticeUncategorized


    Article by: James MacDonald

    James MacDonald is a freelance writer and featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. In addition to sports writing, James holds masters degrees in both Psychology and Social Sciences and covers subjects including sex, gender, secularism, media, and gaming, among others.
    • What? You didn’t accuse them of being white nationalist enablers? And didn’t include people who actually criticizes all of them (the alt-right, the regular right -I’m not sure there’s an actual difference- and the regressive left) such as Jerry Coyne and Stephen Knight?

      This way of blogging is so honesty-laden, I’m afraid it won’t attract many readers. What’s wrong with you? 😉

      • Haha I’m used to not getting clicks. Almost everything I write is pretty niche.

    • Why do you go on so much about Saad’s appearance? What has that to do with anything?

      • Gad has a habit of trying to shame other men for not being masculine enough, so I injected a little humour at his expense. Nothing turn’s on that point, though. My argument isn’t based on his appearance. I wanted to get a giggle out of the reader because of the image Gad portrays.

        • whossname

          this may have needed explaining. I thought it was puerile when I first read the article, but now I appreciate what you were trying to do.

      • Tjbuffel

        Saad constantly makes selfies and acts like he’s a celebrity. If he wants to have pure reason, he should not show himself.

    • sezit

      OMG, I just watched the Sargon v. Kristi Winters debate. Thanks(?) for pointing to that exchange. She is reasoned, clear, and backed up by references. Sargon is absolutely sure of himself, and is a hubrisic hot mess,

      You point out that he refers to himself as an intellectual. I have noticed that no woman ever refers to herself as an intellectual, but some men do. I think it is smart to let others refer to one as such, rather than make a claim that sounds pompous, even if it is deserved. In Sargon’s case, it is ludicrous.

      As far as identity politics, I think all politics are identity politics. It’s just that “standard” politics give unspoken precedence to the “standard” white male citizen. Whatever any of us is concerned with politically is usually because it affects us in some way.

    • Trevor Flynn-Alling

      Got a fair bit of the facts wrong. Gad Saad has never enthusiastically endorsed Trump. How do you know which debates Sargon has lost?

    • Jacob

      Completely agree. I discovered and watched Dave Rubin’s trash show for a week, and while I liked the approach at first, it soon dawned on me that it was all bullshit shilling for the alt right under the guise of “we’re really the left, guys, honest!”

      I’d want to see them actually talk to the social justice warriors they hate so much to hear what their side has to say. They put Bill Maher’s show down, but he at least has diverse panels of people who’s opinions can clash, rather than just preach to the same, misinformed choir week after week.