In Defence of The Rubin Report: Long Live the Circle Jerk!

The Rubin Report’s first episode on Larry Kings Ora TV network, featured author and controversial public figure: Sam Harris. The shows namesake Dave Rubin, sat down with Harris for over an hour to hash out his views, and talk about the unfair attacks on him by what is now referred to as the Regressive Left. Rubin had previously worked on The Young Turks network, which was co-founded by Cenk Uygur. Uygur also hosts the show: The Young Turks, a show which has provided a platform for Harris’ attackers and is now actively involved in the campaign against him. Rubin admits that the unfair treatment of Harris by Uygur and other Regressives, played a role in his decision to leave, which led him to embark on his mission of opening up discussions around difficult issues. The Rubin Show has certainly delivered. Harris’ fans – like myself – were extremely pleased with Rubin’s approach to the interview and the topics being discussed, and there was a real sense of change coming, a momentum we all wanted to keep going through retweets, blogs posts; any support that would help spread word of this brilliant new show that was doing what it preaches, namely combating Regressives, promoting free speech and actually listening to the views of others.

Indeed, Rubin reported that the response to Harris’ interview was largely positive. However, the Regressives wasted little time dismissing the interview and the show. The Rubin Report went on in subsequent episodes to feature other atheists and advocates such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Gad Saad, Douglas Murray, Sarah Haider and Ali A. Rizvi. It was thusly labelled a new atheist circle jerk, where neo-con atheists got together to bash Muslims. Fine. This was expected. But less expected was the change in tone of the shows supporters, after a number of guests featured on the show, did not align with their views. Never mind how soft Rubin was on Harris – someone we agree with – but did you see how he let Larry Elder and Tommy Robinson rattle off their bigoted views unchallenged? What is this a right-wing circle jerk? Sounds to me like an orgy of epic proportions if nothing else. I understand the criticism to a certain extent. I’ve previously argued that it’s possible that Rubin hesitates to push back, because in many cases it’s the first time he’s really hearing the other side’s arguments, and he’s unsure of his own views. If this is the case it is also a good thing, because he will learn to sharpen his ideas on the whetstone of the opposition, and it also means he’s open to changing his mind, a rare quality in this world of identity politics. However, I think more likely; Rubin is bringing us a show like we’ve never seen before. We’re used to shows like Real Time, The Young Turks, Bill O’Reilly etc. The hosts and the panel challenge each other, sometimes belligerently, and poke fun at one another, which is all well and good. Their followers cheer their hero’s and boo the opposition from the side-lines, and the net result is, no one has really heard anyone. To me this is not what The Rubin Report is about.

The Rubin Report isn’t about scoring points for the left, or the democrats, or for atheists, or any other group. It’s about fleshing out people’s views – especially unpopular and marginalized views – on important topics. Rubin does a brilliant job at this and as far as I’m concerned he should expose himself and his audience to as many different views as possible. He should ask probing questions to flesh out the ideas of those people, so they can be assessed fairly and on their own merits. Its then up to us, as the audience, to grapple with those views. We can agree, be neutral, or disagree, in whole or in part, or we can challenge those views in whatever forum we wish, as I have done with my blog piece on Rubin’s exchange with conservative Larry Elder. But the whimpering disappointment being voiced from some viewers suggests to me that they were never serious about the premise in the first place. It sounds like they’re scared for others to hear controversial views they don’t like. “Tommy Robinson is an actual bigot, and Rubin just let him espouse his bigotry unchallenged”. Well I hate to break it to my fellow viewers, but Regressives draw little distinction between the views of Harris and Robinson, and they bemoaned the fact that “Rubin gave the bigot Sam Harris a free ride on his new show”. That’s something you should keep in mind.

And for all the objections that The Rubin Report is providing a platform to these right-wing crazies – Harris or Robinson depending on your perspective – he also provides a platform for liberals, intellectuals, scientists, dissenters, and most recently an Iraqi female atheist named Lubna whose identity has to be hidden for her safety and for the safety of her family. Lubna is not a celebrity or public figure, she is being given a platform purely so people can be aware of the plight of secular people’s in the Middle East, a worthy cause I’m sure you’d agree. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lubna briefly on twitter a few weeks ago. A truly courageous person, facing some impossible decisions going forward. I assume not many will be whining about the fact that Rubin let her speak with impunity about her situation or her views. Of course, some Islamists would do this and much more, because her views are deeply offensive to them. And with that I hope you take my point.

In Defence of The Rubin Report: Long Live the Circle Jerk!