CO032 Rebecca Lemke on Purity Culture, Part 2

There are show notes from my interview with Rebecca Lemke with Part 1 of this interview.


I don’t like Julian Assange. I don’t know Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, and I probably shouldn’t make a judgment on him as a person based on what I see of him through the media, but my impression is that I wouldn’t like him as a person.

I get the impression that he is too self-important, too convinced of his own centrality to the story; I feel like he would be the sort of person who just talk about himself all the time. I don’t have any evidence for that, I suppose I’m the sort of person a defense lawyer should exclude from a jury for not coming with an open mind.

I shouldn’t have that impression, I shouldn’t have any impression given that you can never know  somebody through their media persona, so I’m probably wrong to feel it, I’m probably wrong to feel anything, however I don’t feel like I like Julian Assange. That’s just it.

But. I really like the idea of Julian Assange. I like the way that he has exposed so many people’s hypocrisy.

If you remember back when he first became prominent, he was publishing anything that seemed like it was relevant to shining a light where democracy needed it. In 2007 – a decade ago, now – Wikileaks published a huge archive of evidence of corruption in Kenya, where the government was stealing billions from the people of that poor African country. The result was major political change there. Sunshine really was disinfectant.

Then Wikileaks published first the collateral murder video, and later the Afghan and Iraqi War logs, Diplomatic cables, Guantanamo Bay files and more, that we now know was passed on by Chelsea, then Bradley Manning. Anti-war people were delighted.

Conservatives, not so much. People who thought they loved freedom of speech suddenly weren’t so concerned with constitutional rights. Time magazine writer Michael Grunwald tweeted “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange

Sarah Palin called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands“, which was of course nothing to do with her illegal use of a Yahoo mail account, the contents of which Assange published when it inevitably got hacked.

Then, in mysterious circumstances, Assange was put under investigation for an alleged rape in Sweden. He wasn’t charged or even formally accused, but Swedish authorities wanted to question him; he was already back in Britain, and despite offering to submit to questioning by the UK police, or even by Swedish police at the Swedish embassy in London, both the Swedish police and the British courts have insisted that he should be extradited to Sweden; just to be questioned, not even to be charged.

Assange said that this was a ruse to get him somewhere from where he could be extradited to the US. Neither the UK nor the Swedish governments would specifically deny this. And then there was the question of the strange way in which he was supposed to have raped the women. The rape consisted of not wearing a condom when he had agreed to do so, rather than having sex without consent, and there seemed to be evidence that the alleged victims were happy to socialize with Assange after the incident.

Men’s rights advocates forcefully made the point that Sweden defines and categorizes and counts rape in a very way different to most countries, this is down to pressure from feminists. The Assange case, they say, proves that innocent men are being accused of rapes that didn’t happen.

But that was way back in 2012. How times have changed.

Last year, somebody hacked the DNC email servers and somebody – somebody whose name begins with P and ends with utin – gave all that information, or as much of it as suited him, to Assange who published it on Wikileaks.

This did the Clinton campaign no end of harm, and all of a sudden the right in the US thought that publishing hacked emails was a fine thing to do. No more talk of drone strikes, Sarah Palin even publicly apologized to Assange and praised him for doing to Hillary Clinton what she had called for him to be murdered for when he did it to her, to Palin.

And the left is now curiously silent about their former hero, they’re not nearly such enthusiastic supporters now that it seems that Assange played a part in putting Trump in the White House.

But the biggest hypocrites of all are the Men’s Rights advocates who five years ago raged against the Swedish justice system. Five years later Europe has had the refugee crisis, and it has become an article of faith amongst the MRA, which has morphed into the alt-right, that refugees are responsible for a hugely disproportionate number of rapes and sexual assaults, and that because Sweden accepted a relatively large number of refugees, that must be causing an epidemic of rape there.

First, there is clear evidence that that’s untrue. But secondly, I just love how they’ve flipped from saying that Sweden enforces rapes laws far too strictly, to saying that they are far too lax.

So that’s the Julian Assange that I like. Not the person Julian Assange. The Julian Assange who exposes the hypocrisy of so many people right across the political spectrum.

CO031 Christopher Snowdon on Fighting Obesity

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics for the right-leaning Institute of Economic Affairs; he also writes for Spectator Health.

I mentioned obesity statistics from the Centres for Disease Control:

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

The Harvard School of Public Health says that young people are getting up to 30 per cent of their daily calories requirement from soft drinks. Beverage companies in the US spent roughly $3.2 billion marketing carbonated beverages in 2006, with nearly a half billion dollars of that marketing aimed directly at children.

Since the 1970s the proportion of calories from sugary drinks more than doubled from 4 per cent to 9 per cent.

Economics push food companies to include more sugar in products to increase profits. Since the 1980s, the price of supermarket sugar has doubled, the price of candy bars have quadrupled, but the price of raw sugar has declined, and is set to decline further.

A literature review by the National Institutes of Health indicates that sugary drinks are particularly problematic because the body doesn’t register their calories the way it does for calories eaten, so despite the sugar intake, people still feel hungry.

The British Medical Association’s study in the BMJ reported that purchases of taxed beverages decreased by an average of 6%, and decreased at an increasing rate up to a 12% decline by December 2014, comparted to what they would otherwise have been. Reductions were higher among the households of low socioeconomic status, averaging a 9% decline during 2014, and up to a 17% decrease by December 2014 compared with pretax trends.

CO029 Rebecca Lemke on Purity Culture

Rebecca Lemke’s book, The Scarlet Virgins will be published soon. You can read about it, and her on her blog here, or on Facebook here.

In our discussion, we talked about Purity Culture and its disadvantages, and its thought leaders including Josh Harris, who wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Bill Gothard who advocates total gender separation before marriage.

I mentioned The Loophole by Garfunkel and Oates, which is very NSFW.


I’ve been looking at the news coming out of the white house and thinking of something that the alt-right blogger, Vox Day predicted about the way that the news media would report goings on in the Trump administration. Recently we’ve had the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey, before that we’ve had the reported rivalry between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, the firing of Michael Flynn, and if I was Seán Spicer, I wouldn’t be making any long term career plans just yet.

I actually sort of agree with Vox Day there, that turbulence is not a sign of failure, and that trying things and dropping them quickly if they don’t work is a good management strategy. People can laugh at Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka, but Trump is rich. Sure, he’s tried a lot of businesses that didn’t work out, but on the whole he has ended up way ahead. One of the reasons that he’s still rich was that he didn’t cleave on to failing businesses. And that’s a good strategy.

Nobody can expect to never make a mistake. But if you are the sort of person to recognise when you are doing something wrong and stop, then you are more likely to be successful.

But hang on. Sure, giving up on lost causes is a good idea. It reduces losses. But just reducing losses isn’t enough. If you want to successful, you have to also have some wins.

Trump made big promises during the election campaign. That was one of the reasons that he won, other politicians were nervous to make big promises because their political experience told them to be cautious in what they promised.

Trump promised big, not just his specific promises like the wall, but other more implied ones like bringing work back to the rust belt from China or Mexico or wherever. There are going to be a lot of very annoyed people if those promises don’t follow through; the message from the White House that all the personnel stories are side shows. Maybe they are, but if Trump doesn’t put a performance on the main stage, that might not be enough of a line to tell for too much longer.

CO028 John Iadarola talks to Challenging Opinions

John Iadarola is a co-presenter of The Young Turks and a presenter of Think Tank.

In our discussion, we referred to the Backfire Effect which was documented in a study by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, which found that people with invested political opinions tend to believe them even more strongly when confronted with refuting evidence.

We also talked about a Fairleigh Dickinson University study which showed that Fox News and MSNBC viewers not only scored much lower on their knowledge of current affairs than viewers of other news sources, but also scored lower than people who did not watch any news at all.

CO026 Chris Tatem on Legalizing Prostitution

Chris Tatem is the presenter of the Cross Examined Life podcast. We talked about the Swedish model for prohibiting the purchase, but not the sale of sex by prostitutes, particularly in relation to the paper How to Argue About Prostitution by Michelle Madden Dempsey.

CO025 Doug Payton on the Electoral College

Doug Payton is the presenter of the Consider This podcast, and he also co-presents Person of Interest and Chester’s Mill Gazette for Golden Spiral Media.

Information about the US presidential Electoral College is here. This is the electoral system used to elect the mayor of London and this is the system used to elect the president of France.

CO024 Spocko on Data Privacy Rights

Spocko writes the blog In our discussion we discussed the Ashley Madison hack, and the exposure of the Hacking Team‘s client list.

This is a story about Spocko in the New York Times, and a clip about the TPP. This is a story about Spoco says Rush Limbaugh’s distributors hate him, and his take on Rupert Murdoch (in front of his shareholders) for why he kept Glenn Beck on TV while he was losing money for Fox News.

CO023 Rodney Perry on Race and Oppression

Rodney Perry is a writer, photographer and presenter of the Life as King podcast.

One of the things that I mentioned in our discussion was the Oppression Olympics, you can watch it here.

CO022 Claire Berlinski on Margaret Thatcher

Claire Berlinski is a journalist, academic and author. She has lived and worked in Thailand, Laos, Turkey and France, an an academic for the American Foreign Policy Council and the Manhattan Institute.

She has written a number of books, including There Is No Alternative about Margaret Thatcher. Claire’s GoFundMe page is here.

CO021 Julio Ricardo Varela on Hispanics in America

Julio Ricardo Varela a co-host of the In The Thick podcast and a frequent contributor to other media including LatinoUSA.

In our discussion I mentioned that, among Trump supporters, a huge proportion think that he is performing well in his first weeks in the job, and that he has strong backing from voters in areas such as Macomb County, who previously twice backed Obama but swung Michigan for the GOP last November.


CO020 Joel Pollak on How Trump Won

Joel Pollak is the senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News. He was the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress from Illinois’s 9th congressional district in 2010.

He wrote the book How Trump Won based on his experiences following Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

CO019 Larry Erickson on the American Left

Larry Erickson is the author of the blog Lotus – Surviving a Dark Time, and the presenter of Left Side of the Aisle show, and we discussed this blog post of his in particular.

CO018 Virginia Postrel on Donating a Kidney

Virginia Postrel is an author and columnist.

She writes for Bloomberg View and we talked about this column of hers. Virginia mentioned this book by Michele Goodwin, and I referenced this study of penalties for collecting children late from childcare.

CO017 Jennifer Briney on the ‘Congressional Dish’

Jennifer Briney is the presenter of the excellent Congressional Dish podcast.

In our discussion, we talked about the STOCK act which concerns transparency for how elected officials vote on issues that affect stocks they hold. She exposed how it was hobbled to prevent easy access by citizens.

CO015 Julie Davis on Being a Catholic

Julie Davis is a presenter of the podcast  A Good Story is Hard to Find and the author of the Happy Catholic blog.

This is the source for the quote from Sam Harris that I mentioned, and the papal encyclical that Julie referred to is Laudato Si.

This is Pascal’s Wager that Julie mentioned, and this is a trailer for Philomenia, the story of an Irish woman who had her child kidnapped and sold into adoption while she was incarcerated in a church-run institution. These are articles about Mary Merritt, whose story I mentioned. This is the trailer for Spotlight, about the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese.

Information on John Paul II and Benedict XVI instructing bishops to protect child abusers and not report them to police is here and here. The pattern appears to be continuing.

CO014 Nathan Damigo on White Nationalism Part 2

Nathan Damigo is the founder of Identity Evropa, and he and his organisation have widely been accused of racism, which he denies.

This is part two of the interview which began last Monday. You can hear part one here.

CO013 Rob Morse on Guns and Safety

Rob Morse is the author of Slow Facts and co-host of the Polite Society podcast.

I referred to this Swiss study which concluded “The restriction of firearm availability in Switzerland resulting from the Army XXI reform was followed by an enduring decrease in the general suicide rate.”

Rob and I disagreed on international crime rates. These rates are difficult to compare because of the different practices in reporting and recording crimes. Serious crimes give the most valid comparison because they are nearly always reported, and are considered crimes in all jurisdictions. The United States has a murder rate of 4.7, which is much lower than some Third World world countries, but the highest of any major developed country. Ireland has a murder rate of 1.2; source.

I got gun international ownerships rates slightly wrong, but was correct that the rate in the US is by a wide margin the highest in the world.

Rob and I differed on the ability of a ‘good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun‘. This was in the context of NRA president, Wayne LaPierre’s reaction to several mass shootings, saying that armed civilians can make society safer. Rob cited several examples from his page Saved by a Good Person with a Gun, which lists 10 examples. However, only four cases (10, 9, 4, 2) actually claim to be an incident where an American civilian with a gun stopped a shooting, and none meet the definition of a mass shooting, four or more victims shot in a single incident, although it is reasonable to think that they might have, without an intervention.

Rob doesn’t provide links, though I am happy to accept his word. However, to collect those four examples, Rob has to go back over almost 20 years, and by the stricter definition there have been many thousands of mass shootings in the US in that period, now at a rate of almost one per day. Four incidents is a vanishingly small proportion of gun crime. Rob makes the point:

We seldom see a ‘mass shooting’ when an armed civilian intervenes in an attempted public violence.  The civilian stops the murderer before 4 people get killed.  The average being 2.3 dead if a civilian on the scene intervenes, versus 14.3 dead if no armed civilian is present and the murders proceed until the police arrive.

It is certainly valid to count incidents where an attacker is stopped by a civilian and set them against mass shootings with more casualties because nobody intervened. I don’t know the source of the figures he quotes,  and I acknowledge that it is possible to end up with a different dataset by changing the criteria, but accepting all of the incidents he cites over the past 20 years, they don’t indicate that armed civilians can provide much protection from the rate of one mass shooting per day in the US in recent years.

This is the Democracy Index, ranking countries by the quality of their democracy. It is clear that there is no correlation between liberal gun laws and the quality of the democracy.

I overstated Somalia’s level of gun prevalence, it has about one gun for every 10 people.