53 min

The Active Voice: Glenn Loury doesn’t want to be told what to think The Active Voice

    • Arts

Among many notable things, Glenn Loury has been the first African American economics professor to get tenure at Harvard, an author and essayist, a firebrand on race issues from both the left and the right, and, in one dark chapter of his life, a cocaine addict who led a secret life on the streets.
Now in his 70s and a professor at Brown University, Loury leads a semi-retired life, publishing video conversations with fellow academics and intellectuals for an audience of tens of thousands on his Substack, an endeavor that includes a long-running dialogue with the Columbia University linguistics professor and New York Times columnist John McWhorter. 
In covering some fraught territory—such as “The Unified Field Theory of Non-Whiteness,” “Living by the Race Card,” and “Turning the Tide on Affirmative Action”—Loury sometimes attracts intense criticism. When University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax came on his show and made controversial remarks about Asian immigrants, he copped an earful. When he challenged recent anti-Trump comments made by Sam Harris, he upset a bunch of Harris stans (“I didn’t quite get right what he had said,” Loury says in our conversation. “My apologies, Sam, if you hear this, because I do like you”).
But Loury has a long history of being an outsider and is unafraid to take principled positions that get him in trouble with his peers. He has an almost constitutional resistance to conformity. One thing he prides himself on, though, is having tough discussions on big topics, even with those who disagree with him. “I’m proud to be able to say that I can have cordial and productive conversations with them,” he says, “and I intend to do more of that.”
We have video!
Quotes from the conversation
On productive disagreement
I’ve tried to have people on the [Glenn Loury show] who challenge me... Had Cornel West on the show and we had a wonderful conversation. I’ve had Briahna Joy Gray on the show. I’ve had Richard Wolff, the Marxist economist, on the show. These are people that come at the issues that I’m concerned about rather differently than I do, but I’m proud to be able to say that I can have cordial and productive conversations with them and I intend to do more of that.
On being hard to pin down
During the 2020 election season, I had a formula, which was I’m going to vote for Biden, but you shouldn't believe me because, if I were going to vote for Trump, I would never tell you. So if you ask me who I’m going to vote for, there’s no information in my response. 
On discussing Trump
One of my points that I’ve been making over and over again in conversation with John McWhorter, who very forthrightly as a good New Yorker denounces Trump at every opportunity – he’s a moron, he’s an idiot, whatever – is that, hey, man, 45% of the population thinks the guy should be President. I mean, maybe we ought to think about why they think that. 
On watching what he says
I’m managing my brand, I must confess, by carefully selecting how it is that I react to the Trump phenomenon so as to be able to maintain plausible deniability.
On independent thinking
I could report to you that I hate to be bullied. Don’t tell me what to think and don’t tell me what to say. You want to call me a name? Call me a name. But if you want to change my mind, you had better make an argument and it had better be a good one.
On Sam Harris
Sam Harris made a comment about suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story and then I made a comment about Sam Harris. John McWhorter and I kicked that around. I took exception to what I understood Sam to say, but I didn’t quite get right what he had said. My apologies, Sam, if you hear this because I do like you.
On how the internet is affecting culture
Maybe I’m going to say pessimistic because we are so polarized. I mean, to the point where large numbers of people question the outcome of elections. And that goes in both directions, by

Among many notable things, Glenn Loury has been the first African American economics professor to get tenure at Harvard, an author and essayist, a firebrand on race issues from both the left and the right, and, in one dark chapter of his life, a cocaine addict who led a secret life on the streets.
Now in his 70s and a professor at Brown University, Loury leads a semi-retired life, publishing video conversations with fellow academics and intellectuals for an audience of tens of thousands on his Substack, an endeavor that includes a long-running dialogue with the Columbia University linguistics professor and New York Times columnist John McWhorter. 
In covering some fraught territory—such as “The Unified Field Theory of Non-Whiteness,” “Living by the Race Card,” and “Turning the Tide on Affirmative Action”—Loury sometimes attracts intense criticism. When University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax came on his show and made controversial remarks about Asian immigrants, he copped an earful. When he challenged recent anti-Trump comments made by Sam Harris, he upset a bunch of Harris stans (“I didn’t quite get right what he had said,” Loury says in our conversation. “My apologies, Sam, if you hear this, because I do like you”).
But Loury has a long history of being an outsider and is unafraid to take principled positions that get him in trouble with his peers. He has an almost constitutional resistance to conformity. One thing he prides himself on, though, is having tough discussions on big topics, even with those who disagree with him. “I’m proud to be able to say that I can have cordial and productive conversations with them,” he says, “and I intend to do more of that.”
We have video!
Quotes from the conversation
On productive disagreement
I’ve tried to have people on the [Glenn Loury show] who challenge me... Had Cornel West on the show and we had a wonderful conversation. I’ve had Briahna Joy Gray on the show. I’ve had Richard Wolff, the Marxist economist, on the show. These are people that come at the issues that I’m concerned about rather differently than I do, but I’m proud to be able to say that I can have cordial and productive conversations with them and I intend to do more of that.
On being hard to pin down
During the 2020 election season, I had a formula, which was I’m going to vote for Biden, but you shouldn't believe me because, if I were going to vote for Trump, I would never tell you. So if you ask me who I’m going to vote for, there’s no information in my response. 
On discussing Trump
One of my points that I’ve been making over and over again in conversation with John McWhorter, who very forthrightly as a good New Yorker denounces Trump at every opportunity – he’s a moron, he’s an idiot, whatever – is that, hey, man, 45% of the population thinks the guy should be President. I mean, maybe we ought to think about why they think that. 
On watching what he says
I’m managing my brand, I must confess, by carefully selecting how it is that I react to the Trump phenomenon so as to be able to maintain plausible deniability.
On independent thinking
I could report to you that I hate to be bullied. Don’t tell me what to think and don’t tell me what to say. You want to call me a name? Call me a name. But if you want to change my mind, you had better make an argument and it had better be a good one.
On Sam Harris
Sam Harris made a comment about suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story and then I made a comment about Sam Harris. John McWhorter and I kicked that around. I took exception to what I understood Sam to say, but I didn’t quite get right what he had said. My apologies, Sam, if you hear this because I do like you.
On how the internet is affecting culture
Maybe I’m going to say pessimistic because we are so polarized. I mean, to the point where large numbers of people question the outcome of elections. And that goes in both directions, by

53 min

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