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Bari Weiss & Bion Bartning on Their New Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism

Shermer, Weiss, and Bartning discuss:

  • What went wrong? Why do we need FAIR when we have the ACLU, the SPLC, etc.?
  • Richard Dawkins canceled by the AHA,
  • hate speech as violence,
  • Liberal and Conservative attitudes toward free speech and how they shifted,
  • private vs. public speech, government censorship vs. cancel culture,
  • social media companies: platforms or publishers?
  • anti-Semitism on the left and the right,
  • QAnon & anti-Semitism,
  • anti-Semitism and conspiracies,
  • Israel and the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions),
  • What happened at The New York Times?
  • Why is free speech foundational to other rights?
  • Why we need to judge people based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin (or any other immutable characteristic).

Bari Weiss is an American opinion writer and editor. From 2013 until 2017, she was an op-ed and book review editor at The Wall Street Journal. From 2017 to 2020, she was an op-ed staff editor and writer about culture and politics at The New York Times. She is the author of How to Fight Anti-Semitism and the forthcoming The New Seven Dirty Words. She now writes at Substack and is starting her own podcast.

Bion Bartning is an entrepreneur and investor in New York City and the founder of FAIR, the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. He also co-founded eos Products, a personal care brand best known today for its iconic egg-shaped lip balm, as an equity partner and Chief Operating Officer of The Kind Group, a privately held company dedicated to the development and expansion of brands. Previously, Bion was part of American Express’ Strategic Planning Group, where he conceived of and patented a new multi-channel system for booking travel and led the launch of a new consumer online travel business as Director, New Product Development, partnering with a major online travel agency. He earned his MBA from Columbia Business School, and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics and environmental studies from Occidental College. Writing in The Wall Street Journal he talks about when wokeness invaded his children’s posh New York City private school, Riverdale, which costs $58,000 per year to attend. That fall the school began to focus on privilege and white fragility. The school began teaching the children to monitor each other for “allyship” and deviation from woke orthodoxy. It began dividing parents up into “affinity groups” by race. He writes:

We started to ask questions. I have always felt a strong connection with Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of an America where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I advocate genuine antiracism, rooted in dignity and humanity. But the ideology underlying the “racial literacy” guide distributed by the school wasn’t like that. Instead of emphasizing our common humanity, it lumps people into simplistic racial groupings. It teaches that each person’s identity and status is based largely on skin color, and leaves no place for people like me, who are of mixed race or don’t place race at the heart of their identity.

While many of us have encountered this intolerant orthodoxy only recently, it debuted on college campuses more than 40 years ago. Sensible people thought it was a joke—or at least that it would remain on campus, since it could never survive contact with the “real world.” That was wrong. Masquerading as “antiracism,” this cynical worldview is being spread like a virus by an army of paid consultants and true believers. Few people have been willing to stand up against it. At Riverdale, many parents privately express concerns but aren’t willing to speak up. They fear being called racist—or, worse, losing their coveted spots. The real story here isn’t about Riverdale. My kids’ school is one tiny data point. This backward belief system is capturing public and private schools across the country.

About FAIR

Increasingly, American institutions—colleges and universities, businesses, government, the media and even our children’s schools—are enforcing a cynical and intolerant orthodoxy. This orthodoxy requires us to view each other based on immutable characteristics like skin color, gender and sexual orientation. It pits us against one another, and diminishes what it means to be human. Today, almost 70 years after Brown v. Board of Education ushered in the Civil Rights Movement, there is an urgent need to reaffirm and advance its core principles. To insist on our common humanity. To demand that we are each entitled to equality under the law. To bring about a world in which we are all judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. Take action.

The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans, and promoting a common culture based on fairness, understanding and humanity. What FAIR does:

  • We defend civil liberties and rights guaranteed to each individual, including freedom of speech and expression, equal protection under the law, and the right to personal privacy.
  • We advocate for individuals who are threatened or persecuted for speech, or who are held to a different set of rules for language or conduct based on their skin color, ancestry, or other immutable characteristics.
  • We support respectful disagreement. We believe bad ideas are best confronted with good ideas – and never with dehumanization, deplatforming or blacklisting.
  • We believe that objective truth exists, that it is discoverable, and that scientific research must be untainted by any political agenda.
  • We are pro-human, and promote compassionate antiracism rooted in dignity and our common humanity.
The FAIR Pledge

Fairness. “I seek to treat everyone equally without regard to skin color or other immutable characteristics. I believe in applying the same rules to everyone, and reject disparagement of individuals based on the circumstances of their birth.”

Understanding. “I am open-minded. I seek to understand opinions or behavior that I do not necessarily agree with. I am tolerant and consider points of view that are in conflict with my prior convictions.”

Humanity. “I recognize that every person has a unique identity, that our shared humanity is precious, and that it is up to all of us to defend and protect the civic culture that unites us.”

Sign the Pledge
FAIR Board of Advisors

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This episode was released on May 22, 2021.

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