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Bret Weinstein

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"These are the best minds of our time and all they're talking about is if someone is tucking their D***? Weinstein and Heather Heying… they talk about trans people for 9 hours! They just sit in a room with cats running around… Like what the fuck is going on? These are all 'geniuses,' and you can't ask what any of them have done?"

—Comedian Tim Dillon describing Bret Weinstein's podcasting career.[1]

Bret Samuel Weinstein (1969–) is an ultracrepidarian podcaster who used to be an evolutionary biologist before he became embroiled in a stupidWikipedia controversy. Since 2020, he has been a leading spreader of FUD about COVID-19 vaccines. Bret Weinstein is the brother of Eric Weinstein, which makes him part of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web.

Evergreen State College incident[edit]

Weinstein's career as a professor was spent at The Evergreen State College (TESC). By all accounts, he initially had no problems with a campus tradition called the Day of Absence,Wikipedia which is based on the 1965 play by Douglas Turner Ward. TESC's Day of Absence had non-white students leaving for a day so that their contributions to campus culture could be better appreciated. In 2017, there was a slight change that set off Weinstein's political evolution. Organizers said that they would instead hold events off-campus that were aimed at white people who wanted to learn more about discrimination, and requested white people not show up at all on campus that day.[2] When Weinstein objected by email, a group of students and possibly some professors accused him of racism and took his words out of context according to the most popular narrative.[3]

What this leaves out is that most students were marching to protest the removal of two African American students from their own dormitory by police. Faculty said that Weinstein stepped out of his classroom and argued with them while someone recorded a video that would later go viral, and then the students just left him and went to the dean because Weinstein was never the center of the student protest.[2]

The trivial story of angry students shouting at a professor and then walking away might not have spread beyond the local school newspaper if Weinstein hadn't wasted no time in telling his exaggerated story on Fox News to Tucker Carlson.[4] Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying (who was also a professor of evolutionary biology at TESC quickly penned op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, cementing the court of public opinion against the students who were not interviewed there.[5][6][7]

All of this was then amplified and exaggerated by right-wing media resulting in the far-right group Patriot PrayerWikipedia showing up to attack the brown "violent SJWs." Now that the national spotlight was focused on their tiny college, students began receiving death threats and Weinstein was told by police that he might be in physical danger, prompting him to teach outside and the university to hold its graduation in a secure location 30 miles away.[8][9][10] Students faced additional harassment when they tried to organize a Day of Absence the following year.[2] Conservative propaganda about their goals is likely one of the factors that has led to declining enrollment at TESC.[11]

Weinstein, on the other hand, has gained tens of thousands of subscribers to stoke his ego as a perpetually online culture warrior instead of a professor at a backwater college who has hardly published academically in decades. (Weinstein only has an h-indexWikipedia of about 2.[12]) Weinstein and his wife sued for $3.8 million and resigned from TESC receiving a $500,000 cash settlement.[13][14] As of 2021, they were probably making about $170,000 a year on Patreon alone.[15] They eventually became research fellows at Princeton University. This should not be viewed as a "happily ever after" ending for them because of the strange nature of the fellowship.[16] It is an attempt at funding "heterodox research" by Robby GeorgeWikipedia — the professor who is ultra-conservative but still friends with Cornel West.[17] In between leaving TESC and starting his own podcast, Weinstein was a regular guest of Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan.

Electoral politics[edit]

Weinstein was feeling the Bern in 2016 and wrote Bernie Sanders on his ballot as a protest vote. By the 2020 campaign however, he had denounced Bernie Sanders for apparently becoming too woke.[18]

Instead, after the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination, Weinstein and his wife came up with a plan to help "bottom tier candidates" get 0.1% of the vote instead of 0%. Their initiative, called "Unity 2020", was to write-in a ticket consisting of candidates from opposite ends of the political spectrum.[19] The list of names was narrowed down to Dan Crenshaw,Wikipedia Tulsi Gabbard, William H. McRaven,Wikipedia Jesse Ventura, Jocko WillinkWikipedia and Andrew Yang, none of whom were actually running for president or showing any interest in the plan.[20] By a crowdsourced vote, Crenshaw and Gabbard were the winners.[21] How exactly Crenshaw and Gabbard can be considered "from opposite ends of the political spectrum" is unclear. The decision of whether to propose Crenshaw as Gabard's VP or Gabbard as Crenshaw's VP was made by a coin flip. Weinstein somehow thought that most Americans were so uninvested in politics that they would bother to vote but be be okay with flipping a coin to choose between a Democrat or a Republican.

Some of Weinstein's advocacy of this wacky idea was censored by Twitter for his using the hashtag "#JustSayNotoDonaldandJoe"[22][21] after the presidential primaries had essentially ended and there was no realistic choice for president other than Donald Trump or Joe Biden. It couldn't be a last-ditch Russian troll campaign now, could it?

Reactionary gaslighting[edit]

Weinstein's very first episode of the Darkhorse Podcast was a soft-interview of alt-right propagandist Andy Ngo.[23] In January 2021 after the fascist coup attempt in D.C.Wikipedia, Weinstein said that Mike Pence should have pardoned those involved and that Trump should've been prevented from running again.[24][25] Never mind that there was no legal path for Pence to issue a pardon short of Trump resigning in the 3 days between his tweet and Biden's inauguration. This would be like pardoning all Confederate soldiers of any wrongdoing days after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

COVID-19 punditry[edit]

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Weinstein's Darkhorse Podcast has focused heavily on arguing with public health experts.

Lab leak theory[edit]

Weinstein and Heying discussed the lab leak theory on Bill Maher's show in February 2021.[26]

Ivermectin[edit]

Weinstein and Heying tell all of their fans who are worried about the pandemic to take ivermectin, which they take weekly. The evidence that ivermectin can lower the severity of COVID-19 symptoms is already dubious. But Weinstein and Heying take it a step further by claiming that it can even prevent infections in the first place. The widespread misuse of self-prescribed ivermectin has led to shortages of the anti-parasitic drug across the United States prompting many ivermectin die-hards to seek out the horse version.[15][27]

In the month that Weinstein's ivermectin push started to go viral, calls about the drug to poison control centers increased by a factor of five. At least one person has directly died of it.[27] The claim that ivermectin was approved long ago and is therefore safe no matter what you do with it is clearly false. The dosage recommended by overzealous podcasters, and the dosage required to see any anti-viral effects in a Petri dish, is much higher than what people take to cure river blindness.[28] If you are still thinking about self-administering ivermectin, remember: you are not a horse, you are not a cow, you are not a Petri dish.

Vaccine misinformation[edit]

Like all good medical quacks, Weinstein and Heying know it's not enough to promote unproven remedies; they must also fearmonger about the proven remedies. As such, neither one has taken or plans to take the vaccine.[15][29] This position likely helped lead to the death of Leslie Lawrenson, a fan who linked to a vaccine-skeptical episode of their podcast on social media shortly before his death.[30]

The episode in question was a now deleted interview of Robert W. MaloneWikipedia and Steve KirschWikipedia that was advertised as the video that will red pill audiences on the vaccines. It is unclear why Kirsch was there but the virologist Malone was chosen because he describes himself as the inventor of mRNA (as if there was only one).[31] He stated that spike proteins from COVID-19 vaccines are cytotoxic, especially to women — a claim which has been widely debunked.[32] Weinstein did not push back at all on Kirsch's ludicrous claim that vaccines for SARS CoV-2 (the COVID virus) are more deadly than all other vaccines combined.[33]

In a later discussion with Joe Rogan, Weinstein was a little more careful and stated that the vaccines would be appropriate if there were no pandemic infecting the world.[34] This idea that "vaccinating into a pandemic" is dangerous comes from Geert Vanden Bossche, a professor of veterinary medicine last active in 1995, who has a clear conflict of interest.[35][36] In Weinstein's interview with Vanden Bossche, the two agreed that trying to stop the spread of a virus puts "evolutionary pressure" on the virus to spread.[37] Becoming an anti-vaxxer over this tautology seems like a big leap, but Weinstein regards Vanden Bossche as especially credible because he was supposedly unique in predicting the delta variant long ago. In truth, there was no shortage of researchers writing that harmful variants would proliferate…[38][39] they just finished the sentence with "if we don't vaccinate fast enough" rather than "if we vaccinate at all".

It is worth noting that authors of actual studies into the prophylactic use of ivermectin recognize that it would be foolish to rely on it as the only line of defense.[40][41] Even if it were as effective as Weinstein claims, there would be no good reason to reject the vaccine. Unless one wants the type of crisis seen with HIV — resulting from the difficulty of taking medicine forever on a strict schedule. This obsession of Weinstein, and its potential to cause much more damage than his usual blather, looks like it has finally caused colleagues on the Intellectual Dark Web to turn on him.[33][42]

Tinfoil hat quackery[edit]

When Weinstein and Heying had technical trouble turning on their cameras during a podcast, Weinstein blamed it on "external interference" and literally put tinfoil hats on his cameras before concluding it was due to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.[43] They also describe the evidence for water fluoridation as preposterous, which they say comes from industrial waste and that it's insane to medicate in this way.[44] Even though all of the Weinsteins are very proud of their thinking, the Weinsteins are probably not the next Galileo.[45]

Other takes[edit]

In May 2018, Weinstein testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.[46] This was part of their hearing on "Challenges to the Freedom of Speech on College Campuses".[47] According to Weinstein, one of the perks of winning a midterm election is that this enables the winning party to go through the House archives and remove the videos of people it doesn't like.[48]

Many other free speech activists were hopeful in July 2020, when Harper's Magazine published their "Letter on Justice and Open Debate", signed by Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and a number of other academics and media figures.[49] Weinstein had two complaints: first that he wasn't invited to sign it, and second that he wouldn't have signed it anyway because it didn't take a strong enough stance.[48]

Also in July 2020, Weinstein got into a dispute with Matt Lech, the producer and longtime friend of the late internationalist podcaster Michael Brooks.[50] This happened when Homeland Security agents in Portland, Oregon, at the behest of then-President Trump, started rounding up suspected rioters for questioning in unmarked vans. Weinstein supported the crackdown and stated that one of his viewers, who works for the Department of Homeland Security, had a discussion with him about the possibility of an impending race war. Lech tweeted that it was troubling to see such reactionary ideas elevated through what he sarcastically called "consulting work" by Weinstein. Lech, who has been more charitable to Weinstein than many of his critics, quickly deleted the tweet and posted a clarification that all of this advising was in fact unpaid.[51] Nevertheless, Weinstein asked for Matt Lech to be fired and went on to explain how this is completely consistent with his distaste for cancel culture.

Heying and Weinstain finally wrote their first book in September 2021, which was titled, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century. It was perfectly summed up by The Guardian as "lazily written and really annoying," and "self-help laced with pseudoscience." [52] The book's core argument is that human evolution hasn't caught up with our adaptations.[53] This is despite that our technological adaptations allow us to live much longer than our cavemen ancestors without worrying as much about food scarcity. One galaxy-brained takeaway from the book was that that you should avoid eating foods that your ancestors didn't eat.[54] Perhaps someone needs to inform the Irish that "science" says it's time to take away their Incan potatoes for the second timeWikipedia? Their argument also doesn't take into account how non-historical modern ideas about ethnicities are, and how our contemporary ideas about nation-states don't at all map onto the genes of ancient moving peoples. It's simply a mistake to suppose that modern Italians are mostly the same as the diverse ethnic groups that lived and mixed together in the regionWikipedia.

References[edit]

  1. Comedian Tim Dillon on Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris and The Intellectual Dark Web.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Berlatsky, Noah (2018-07-10). "The real free speech story at Evergreen college". Pacific Standard. 
  3. Hartocollis, Anemona (2017-06-16). "A campus argument goes viral. Now the college is under siege". NYT. 
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j9nFced_eo
  5. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-campus-mob-came-for-meand-you-professor-could-be-next-1496187482
  6. https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-the-madness-at-evergreen-state-1506034740
  7. https://www.wsj.com/articles/first-they-came-for-the-biologists-1506984033
  8. Mikkelsen, Drew (2017-05-27). "Professor told he's not safe on campus after college protests". King 5. 
  9. McCarty, Kevin (2017-06-16). "Added security for graduation and The Evergreen State College". KIRO 7. 
  10. Svrluga, Susan (2017-06-05). "Evergreen State College reopens after violent threat and property damage on campus". WaPo. 
  11. Burke, Lilah (2020-01-10). "A new path for Evergreen". Inside Higher Ed. 
  12. "Evergreen settles with Weinstein, professor at center of campus protest". The Olympian. 2017-09-18. 
  13. Vladimirov, Nikita (2017-07-25). "Weinstein files $3.8M claim against Evergreen". Campus Reform. 
  14. Roll, Nick (2017-09-18). "Evergreen professor receives $500,000 settlement". Inside Higher Ed. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Effinger, Anthony (2021-09-15). "A progressive biologist from Portland is one of the nation's leading advocates for Ivermectin". Williamette Week. 
  16. https://jmp.princeton.edu/announcements/james-madison-program-announces-2019-20-fellows
  17. Green, Emma (2021-08-13). "Cornel West on why the left needs Jesus". The Atlantic. 
  18. I am one of few who supported @BernieSanders to the end in 2016--I wrote him in. Sad that I can't support him this time due to his embrace of the anti-equality "social justice" faction. It appears #PresidentSanders would be a tool of the DNC. True fairness is a bedrock principle by Bret Weinstein (2:19 PM - 30 Dec 2019) Twitter (archived from October 3, 2021).
  19. https://bigthink.com/the-present/unity2020/
  20. https://gandt.substack.com/p/unity-2020-is-dead
  21. 21.0 21.1 Fisher, Anthony (2020-09-20). "A 'patriotic' bipartisan presidential ticket determined by a coin flip demands to be taken seriously". Business Insider. 
  22. Harper, Cindy (2020-08-31). "Twitter suspends account of non-partisan group Articles of Unity". Reclaim the Net. 
  23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC4u1zo6OpQ
  24. https://archive.is/wip/ftmwo
  25. The President encouraged supporters while maintaining formal deniability. Congress has the right and power to prevent him from seeking the office again. It should. Then President Pence should issue the pardons necessary to prevent political witch-hunting. by Bret Weinstein (4:43 PM - 17 Jan 2021) Twitter (archived from 3 Oct 2021 19:17:23 UTC).
  26. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMGWLLDSA3c
  27. 27.0 27.1 Knowles, Hannah; Gowen, Annie; Mark, Julian (2021-09-21). "Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin". WaPo. 
  28. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/ivermectin-oral-route/proper-use/drg-20064397?p=1
  29. https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2021/09/16/bret-weinstein-and-heather-heying-go-unvaccinated-take-ivermectin/
  30. https://yurideigin.medium.com/why-bret-weinstein-is-dangerous-9f320eae5983
  31. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7NoRcK6j2cfxjwFcr/covid-vaccine-safety-how-correct-are-these-allegations
  32. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-vaccine-cytotoxic-idUSL2N2O01XP
  33. 33.0 33.1 Berlinski, Claire; Deigin, Yuri (2021-07-06). "Looking for COVID-19 miracle drugs? We already have them. They're called vaccines". Quillette. 
  34. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmy8znrLPc0
  35. https://www.snopes.com/news/2021/03/26/geert-vanden-bossche/
  36. Rouner, Jef (2021-06-29). "The Real Dangers in the False COVID Remedy Promoters Like Bret Weinstein". Houston Press. 
  37. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNyAovuUxro&t=1790s
  38. Pietromarchi, Virginia (2021-03-01). "Patently unfair: Can waivers help solve COVID vaccine inequality?". Al Jazeera. 
  39. Tepperman, Jonathan (2021-01-28). "The Global Vaccine Rollout Is Failing—and That Puts Everyone, Everywhere, In Danger". Foreign Policy. 
  40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698683/
  41. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(20)30464-8/fulltext
  42. Fuller, David (2021-08-12). "On Bret Weinstein, alternative media, Ivermectin and vaccine-related controversies". Areo. 
  43. https://youtu.be/T9E3fRIZykA?t=499
  44. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_iJaExg2_4
  45. Browne, Matthew; Kavanagh, Chris (2021-006-23). "You’re probably not Galileo: scientific advance rarely comes from lone, contrarian outsiders". The Skeptic. 
  46. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRIKJCKWla4
  47. https://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=108337
  48. 48.0 48.1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoVT_-ISDn8
  49. A Letter on Justice and Open Debate. Harpers, 7 July 2020.
  50. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ixkB2huVOQ
  51. If the sole problem @BretWeinstein has with this thread is that his talk with a DHS official about possible race war is that it was voluntary and unpaid, I would be delighted to note that correction by Matt Lech (12:35 PM · Jul 18, 2020) Twitter (archived from 3 Oct 2021 20:07:40 UTC).
  52. Ritchie, Stuart (2021-09-24). "A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century review – self-help laced with pseudoscience". The Guardian. 
  53. https://youtu.be/2U5CfXuY8KI?t=605
  54. Bret and Heather say: no race-mixing, but for your food by @thebirdmaniac (5:16 PM · Sep 20, 2021) Twitter (archived from 4 Oct 2021 06:42:40 UTC).