Douglas Murray is a British writer and commentator, primarily for The Spectator, and his latest book is The War on the West. It’s a powerful narrative of the past couple of decades, in which a small minority waged ideological war on the underpinnings of Western civilization: reason, toleration, free speech, color-blind racial politics.
You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app,” which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. For two clips of our conversation — on the seductive power of ressentiment and the case for gratitude, and on many Americans’ ignorance of history outside the US — head over to our YouTube page.
My convo with Murray complements the one I had with Roosevelt Montás, the great defender of the humanities at Columbia University and beyond — his episode is now available as a full transcript.
As far as last week’s episode with Bari Weiss, an addendum: she used our conversation for her own podcast, “Honestly,” and her version includes at least a half hour of conversation you won’t find in the Dishcast version — namely on the early marriage movement and my role in it. Here’s a snippet from that section:
This listener liked the episode:
You and Bari addressed the (increasingly popular) argument that if the illiberal left has taken the gloves off, then its opponents should do the same. I thought your response was commendable, and it reminded me of something Hitch said during a debate on free speech many years ago. He referred to the scene from A Man for All Seasons in which Sir Thomas More argues with Roper over whether a man should be arrested for breaking God’s law. It’s a marvellous exchange that I have often reflected upon in recent years:
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.
Someone at Reason — Peter Suderman, I think — observed last year that politics is becoming outcomes-based rather than process-based, which expresses much the same point, I think. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I’m glad you and Bari are willing to stand up for liberalism when so many of your peers have come to view it with disdain.
I love that section from A Man For All Seasons. It’s why I chose Thomas More as my confirmation saint. But it’s difficult to know the best way to stand up for liberalism when it comes to gender ideology in schools, as Bari and I discuss in this clip:
Another fan of the Bari episode gets more personal:
I am the mother of a trans-identifying child — now 23 years old. (I can’t give my name for fear of alienating her.) You captured the rollercoaster of emotions many parents going through this feel — the fear that she has adopted this ideology as a coping mechanism to deal with underlying mental health issues and that she will do irreparable harm to her body. And that we are politically homeless. I can’t vote for anyone who would support Trump. But Biden and his team have it wrong when they quote the lie of “better a trans son than dead daughter.”
I agree with DeSantis on many aspects of the so-called “don’t say gay” bill. I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss sexual orientation and gender ideology with young children. I also don’t think it’s appropriate to review the periodic table with them. That doesn’t mean I'm anti-chemistry.