The Unspeakable Podcast
It’s Complicated. Writer and podcaster Jesse Singal on Fad Science, Bad Faith and Mad Media

It’s Complicated. Writer and podcaster Jesse Singal on Fad Science, Bad Faith and Mad Media

April 11, 2021

Jesse Singal’s new book The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills, challenges many long held assumptions about society and human behavior: for instance the myth of the super predator, the so-called “power pose,” the use of positive psychology in the military, even the concept of implicit bias. We’ve come to take these ideas as truths, but as Jesse explains, many are based on based on faulty methodology, shoddy interpretation and sometimes just wishful thinking. Jesse talks with Meghan about all of that as well as a subject that is not in the book, his research into childhood and adolescent gender dysphoria and its relationship to the recent surge in young people identifying as transgender or nonbinary. This work, despite its very careful methodology, has incurred the wrath of a certain corner of trans activism, mostly on Twitter, and he talks about why this might be and how much it should matter.

 

 

Guest Bio:

Jesse Singal is the author of the new book, The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills, just out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He is a contributing writer to New York Magazine and has written for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Slate and Reason, among other publications. He is the cohost, with Katie Herzog, of the Blocked and Reported podcast and writes regularly at https://jessesingal.substack.com.

How To Be A Better Person (Than Everyone Else): Joel Stein On The Lost Art Of Elitism

How To Be A Better Person (Than Everyone Else): Joel Stein On The Lost Art Of Elitism

April 4, 2021
 Time Magazine columnist for 20 years, Joel Stein is known for his humorous, irreverent and often deadpan inquiries into American life and social politics. His latest book is In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You’re Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book, which despite the subtitle, is a serious minded, though also quite funny, journey through the parts of America that, in the wake of the Trump election, Joel realized he didn’t understand at all. Joel talks with Meghan about the people he met, what surprised him the most, and explains the distinction between what he calls the Intellectual Elite and the Boat Elite. He also shows his age during the interview by receiving a phone call on his “landline” and having the call picked up by a device called an “answering machine.” 
 
 
Guest Bio:
Joel Stein's latest book, In Defense of Elitism, is out in paperback this month. He is also the author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity. In addition to Time Magazine, he has been a columnist at Entertainment Weekly and The Los Angles Times. Joel has taught at Princeton as well as written for several television sitcoms.
When the Mob Comes for the Professors the Academic Freedom Alliance Comes to the Rescue. A Conversation with Free Speech Scholar Keith Whittington

When the Mob Comes for the Professors the Academic Freedom Alliance Comes to the Rescue. A Conversation with Free Speech Scholar Keith Whittington

March 28, 2021
If you’ve been following the seemingly endless battles on college campuses over free speech, you may have noticed that professors are a frequent target of censorship and complaint. Sometimes this because students object to curriculum and sometimes the infraction is as trivial as a professor sending a a “problematic” tweet. The recently launched Academic Freedom Alliance seeks to help educators navigate these waters. Its chair, constitutional law scholar and political science professor Keith Whittington, is Meghan’s guest this week. Keith talked why an organization like the AFA is so necessary right now, how academia has changed over the course of his career, and why it’s important to remember that speech suppressions comes from the political right as well as the activist left. He also talked about why professors are often inclined to apologize or try to explain themselves when that’s often the worst thing you can do when you the mob comes after you. 
 
Guest bio:
 
Keith Whittington is a Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and Chair of the Academic Committee of the Academic Freedom Alliance. He writes about American constitutional law, politics and history and American political thought. He is the author of several books, including Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech. You can find the Academic Freedom Alliance at academicfreedom.org
You’re Just Now Noticing This? Bridget Phetasy on Keeping Up With the Cancelers

You’re Just Now Noticing This? Bridget Phetasy on Keeping Up With the Cancelers

March 21, 2021
Writer, comedian and popular podcaster and YouTuber Bridget Phetasy is known her her uniquely astute analysis of the news of the day — and also her views on what shouldn’t be news. In this conversation, sparked by recent remarks from the comedian Sarah Silverman, Bridget and Meghan talk about what’s happened to comedy in the age of (often manufactured) hypersensitivity, why they, in turn, are hypersensitive to that hypersensitivity, and what it’s like to watch entertainers and other public figures begin to distance themselves from the Trump outrage machine. Bridget also shares what she learned about gender relations from writing for Playboy and how she thinks overcoming addiction and spending time in 12-step programs has given her an especially keen nose for the cultural hypocrisy of the moment. 
 
Note: A separate conversation, recorded in late 2019 at Bridget’s home, is available for the podcast’s Patreon supporters at www.patreon.com/theunspeakable.
 
Guest Bio:

Bridget Phetasy is a writer, comedian, and host of the Walk-Ins Welcome podcast and The Weekly Dumpster Fire show on YouTube. 

Woke Us When It’s Over: New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens on How to Reason with a Toddler-like Culture

Woke Us When It’s Over: New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens on How to Reason with a Toddler-like Culture

March 14, 2021
A conservative who has always been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens often manages to annoy his would-be allies on the right while consistently inflaming Times readers who are on the left. In this conversation, Bret and Meghan compare notes on how column writing has changed over the last decade and parse some of Bret's more controversial pieces, including columns he’s written on climate change, Jewish intellectual achievement, and the sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen. They also discuss the spinelessness of many instiutional leaders today, the Substack phenomenon, and a recent column of Bret's entitled Woke Me When It’s Over, a phrase Meghan almost used as the title for her last book.
 
Guest bio:
Bret Stephens is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He was previously foreign-affairs columnist at The Wall Street Journal, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013, and as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. He was raised in Mexico City. 
Meet Angel Eduardo. The Harper’s Letter Was For Him

Meet Angel Eduardo. The Harper’s Letter Was For Him

March 7, 2021
Angel Eduardo is a writer, musician and visual artist based in New York City. Last summer, he wrote an article that appeared in Areo Magazine called I’m a Nobody, The Harper’s Letter Was For Me  The now-infamous Open Letter on Justice and Debate  published in Harper’s Magazine, addressed a climate of growing intolerance for ideological diversity and was signed by more than 150 prominent artists and intellectuals. Among the criticisms of the so-called “Harper’s Letter” was that it amounted to a bunch of elitists whining about having their voices muted by the democratization of opinion. But Angel, a 35-year-old millennial with immigrant parents, a day job and a fledgling artistic career, saw things differently. In this conversation, Angel talks with Meghan about why he wrote the article, why the new leftist groupthink reminds him of his own religious upbringing, why he thinks fetishizing the n-word does more to incite racism than fight it. He also explains a rhetorical concept he’s come up with called “star-manning.”  
 
Guest Bio:
Angel Eduardo is a musician, photographer, and designer based in New York City. He is a staff writer and content creator for Idealist and contributes a monthly column for the Center for Inquiry called Searching for Better Angels. Learn more about him, see his visual art and hear his music on his official website, angeleduardo.com.
 
You Too Can Go Broke In Middle Age! Annabelle Gurwitch Leads The Way

You Too Can Go Broke In Middle Age! Annabelle Gurwitch Leads The Way

February 28, 2021

Writer and performer Annabelle Gurwitch never got rich over the course her decades-long career, but she managed to carve out a decent life as a working actor and published author. In her fifties, however, her fortunes changed and she found herself divorced, renting out a room in her house, and wondering how a middle class existence can slip away after a lifetime of hard work. She chronicles these struggles—often hilariously—in her fifth book You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility. In this conversation, Annabelle speaks with Meghan about how she thinks she got to this place, what she’s learned about homelessness and access to health care, and how a recent medical crisis has raised her stakes even further. She also speaks about her child, now a young adult, who identifies as nonbinary and how coming to understand that identity led her to think that future  generations might be able to make better sense of the world than we do.

 

Guest Bio:

Annabelle Gurwitch is the author of five books, including The New York Times bestseller and Thurber Prize finalist I See You Made an Effort. She’s written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, LA Magazine and Hadassah among other publications. Her latest book is You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility, published by Counterpoint Press. 

Who Needs Therapy? Lori Gottlieb On the View from Both Sides of the Couch

Who Needs Therapy? Lori Gottlieb On the View from Both Sides of the Couch

February 21, 2021
In her bestselling book Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, author Lori Gottlieb tells the stories of five people in psychotherapy. Four are her own patients and one is Lori herself. A practicing therapist for more than a decade, she took an unusual route to her vocation, working as a television writer and then attending medical school before realizing that her love of storytelling could be combined with helping people in a clinical setting. Since then, she’s become celebrated as a writer and as a therapist. Lori spoke with Meghan what's most often misunderstood about therapy, what therapists secretly think of their patients and how to know when it’s time to end treatment. She also talked about her work with singles seeking committed partnerships, the pros and cons of dating apps and how having realistic expectations is not the same thing as “settling.” 
 
Guest Bio: 
Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and author of the New York Times bestseller Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, which is currently being adapted as a television series. In addition to her clinical practice, she writes the “Dear Therapist” advice column for The Atlantic and is co-host of the popular “Dear Therapists” podcast. Her recent TED talk was one of the top ten most watched of the year. Find her at https://lorigottlieb.com
The Unspoken Trauma Of Adoption: Moses Farrow on His Work, His Famous Family and “Coming Out of the Adoption Fog”

The Unspoken Trauma Of Adoption: Moses Farrow on His Work, His Famous Family and “Coming Out of the Adoption Fog”

February 14, 2021
Moses Farrow is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in what he calls adoption trauma. Born in South Korea in 1978, he was adopted by actress Mia Farrow when he was two-years-old, becoming one of ten adopted and four biological children in that family. He was later adopted by Mia’s former partner, Woody Allen and in 2018 published a stunning account of what it was like growing up in this family and why he supports his father in the highly publicized sexual abuse allegations made in the wake of a custody battle in 1992. Moses spoke with Meghan about his mission to help adoptees make sense of their lives and shared his personal experiences as a survivor of abuse, attempted suicide, and suicide loss. 
 
Read Moses’s 2018 blog post about his family story here: http://mosesfarrow.blogspot.com
 
Guest Bio:
Moses Farrow, LMFT is an Adoption Trauma Therapist, with over 20 years in the mental health field. He is also an outspoken advocate for mental health, suicide prevention and adoption reform. Most recently, he has created videos on YouTube and gave his first newspaper interview with The Guardian, about his family and adoption work. He has begun the #truthislouder movement which encourages adoptees to speak their truths and invites everyone to become an ally to the adoptee community to help save adoptee lives.
Who’s Afraid Of The Lab-Leak Hypothesis? Dr. Alina Chan and Dr. Filippa Lentzos On The Possible Origins Of The SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Who’s Afraid Of The Lab-Leak Hypothesis? Dr. Alina Chan and Dr. Filippa Lentzos On The Possible Origins Of The SARS-CoV-2 Virus

February 7, 2021
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the prevailing wisdom from government officials and much of the scientific community is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in an animal and at some point jumped to humans. The idea that it might have accidentally escaped from a lab has been widely dismissed as conspiracy theory, partly because it was easily conflated with inflammatory rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration. But plenty of scientists and policy have quietly taken the so-called “lab-leak hypothesis” seriously and now that the volume has been lowered on some of Trump’s more dangerous distortions they’re starting to talk about it. 
 
Two experts that have been talking about it all along are Dr. Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, and Dr. Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity expert and senior research fellow at King’s College London. Together, they spoke with Meghan about what we do and don’t know about the origins of the virus, why knowing the origins matters in the first place, and, above all, why people have such difficulty separating the idea of a deliberately released bioweapon, which no serious person has suggested, with the possibility of an unintentional lab spill-over, for which there is plenty of room for questions in this case.
 
Guest Bios:
 
Dr. Alina Chan is a recent Human Frontier Science Program fellow with 12+ years of research training in medical genetics, biochemistry, synthetic biology, and vector engineering. At the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, Dr. Chan is currently researching next generation AAV vectors for human gene therapy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Chan began to investigate problems relevant to finding the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spearheaded the development of the COVID-19 CoV Genetics (covidcg.org) browser for scientists worldwide to rapidly track emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants by locations and date ranges of interest. Follow her on Twitter @ayjchan.
 
Filippa Lentzos, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London, where she has a joint appointment in the Department of War Studies and the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine. She is also an Associate Senior Researcher within armament and disarmament program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a biosecurity columnist at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an editor of the social science journal BioSocieties, and the NGO Coordinator for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Her May 5, 2020 article on the need for a credible investigation into the virus’s origins appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. For more about her work see www.filippalentzos.com or follow her on twitter @FilippaLentzos.
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