Steve and Corey talk about political polarization and bias on campus with student editors of MSU’s dueling political blogs. The left-leaning students argue that the media has blown controversies over student politics out of proportion, while the conservative writers maintain the they do not feel comfortable expressing their views in many classes. Corey asks how beneficial is it to be white in America? Is the University as bastion of open debate no longer viable, especially in the current economic environment?
The Evening Look
Steve: Thanks for joining us. I’m Steve Hsu.
Corey: I’m Corey Washington. And we’re your hosts for Manifold.
Corey: Today our guests are two of the five writers and editors of the satirical left liberal blog at MSU, The Evening Look. Our guests write and appear on our show under their pen names. L. Squirrel is a junior with majors in the College of Social Sciences and James Madison College, a college focused on public policy and public affairs.
Corey: K. Sins is a junior with a major in the College of Social Sciences. Their blog has been in existence since January of this year. Well, it addresses a range of issues. The majority of the articles are responses to posts in one specific blog: The conservative Morning Watch.
Corey: Welcome to Manifold, L and K.
K.: We’re glad to be here.
L.: Thanks for having us.
Corey: Can you identify yourself by your letters before you speak?
K.: Ah yes, I am K.
L.: And I’m L.
Corey: Our show is part of a miniseries that we’re doing on what we’re calling The Culture Wars: 20 Years On. I don’t know if you guys are aware of this, but it’s a term applied to conflicts that started in the ’90s between the left and the right over a variety of social issues like abortion, gun control, and different kinds of art.
Corey: Though the term may not be used as much these days, it’s still kind of zeitgeist because we talk about how polarized the country is, and how people just can’t seem to see eye to eye; how they disagree, how they can’t have conversations. Now, I’m not from the Midwest. When I came here, I’ve been a little surprised because what I found here seems to be a pretty strong counter example to that general narrative.
Corey: I have to say, the Midwest is probably the least political place I’ve ever lived in my life. Although colleges are often presented as being very polarized and political, MSU seems to be largely apolitical. I’d just like to ask you, are my impressions correct about there being very little politics in the air?
K.: I mean, I suppose we might have a little bit of a skewed perspective on that, given that we are running a political blog here at MSU. But I think that I would say that certainly, the majority of students … political issues are maybe not the first thing that’s on their minds all the time.
L.: I’d say when you have a large university like Michigan State is, with 50,000 total students on campus, a lot of the population of the campus isn’t necessarily going to be extremely politically focused, and have lots of concerns about politics.
L.: But I do think there’s definitely pockets of campus, different groups, organizations, and then even colleges which have a much stronger political focus. And the students in those areas are, they have a much larger concern for political areas.
Steve: Were you guys political in high school? Or did you become more politically focused after coming to college?
K.: I would say I was somewhat political in high school. I didn’t do activism per se, and I didn’t do writing like I do now. But I definitely followed it very closely. I remember me and a friend would exchange texts about what was going on in the whole runup to the 2016 election all the time. Just every day.
Steve: Would you say at your high school, the distribution of say, Republicans and Democrats, or Trump supporters and Clinton supporters, is similar to what you find at MSU? Or is there a big difference between your high school environment and here?
K.: Oh, at my high school, it was I think almost 100% left leaning. Certainly at MSU, it’s not, as we’ve discovered. So it’s a little different.
L.: I’d say similar. My high school was very dominated by left-leaning politics. But it also wasn’t too political. But MSU, I agree with what K said, in that there’s probably more diverse perspectives here at MSU than I saw at my high school.
Corey: Your blog’s unusual in that it’s almost entirely dedicated towards criticizing another blog, which I think is interesting. First of all, I want to ask, why did you decide to start your blog that way, rather than starting independent blog?
K.: It was something that we happened to come across from a variety of sources: friends and people that we knew in other clubs. They happened to share a dislike for some of the takes that were getting posted on there. We used to read them and make fun of them to ourselves, kind of.
K.: Then we decided, “Well, nobody’s really talking about this. Nobody’s really doing any sort of writing against that.” And we thought, “Maybe we could do something like that.”
L.: Yeah, originally when we first came across it, The Morning Watch was a much smaller publication, I believe. It was mostly entirely run by Sergei Kelley. I remember the bike article was one of the first ones that we came across, where we just found the vast majority of the article ridiculous. That was what really prompted us to start our thinking about this.
L.: Then the civil discourse article really spawned us wanting to actually write about the other blog, and criticize it.
Steve: Can I ask you? If I went to the cafeteria at lunchtime, and I just sat down with a table of students, what fraction of those students would know about The Morning Watch and what fraction of the students would know about your blog, which is called The Evening-
K.: The Evening Look.
Steve: Evening Look.
L.: I think probably would be very low, at most cafs. You might get a little bit higher in Case Cafeteria, where, because the James Madison College, which is probably the most politically leaning college.
Steve: Are both blogs originating from Madison? Or we don’t know?
K.: Not entirely.
L.: Lots of The Morning Watch contributors are in James Madison College, and a number of The Evening Look writers are in James Madison as well.
Steve: Okay. But it’s not a huge thing on campus, in the sense that if I just walked in to Brody, the dining hall, and I just sat down at a table, people would look at me like, “Morning Watch? What the hell is that?” Or- [crosstalk 00:06:46]
K.: Yeah, I think a lot of people would just look at you very blankly. Maybe you would find a couple of people who have heard of it. You might find people who have seen posters for The Morning Watch or for us, and maybe they’ve seen the name. But they don’t really know what it is.
Steve: Is what outraged you about The Morning Watch issues that are already counteracted by things that are in the national media? Or is it some local things that are more specific to MSU that are not being addressed, say, on CNN or other places that you felt you had to respond to?
K.: I mean, the bike article that L brought up was-
Corey: So what was the bike article?
L.: I think there was three main points. The first was a criticism of bikers on sidewalks. There was a complaint about parties and excessive noise at parties.
K.: And underage drinking.
L.: And underage drinking. Then I think related to the partying thing, there was calls for questionable police tactics to shut down parties.
Steve: To me, it sounds not super politicized, except maybe they’re in favor of more active police response than you might be.
L.: Yeah. I don’t think it really started, at least for me, as a political outlet. It was more; and I hesitate to use the word “outrage.” It was more seeing this as ridiculous, and taking the opportunity to criticize it.
L.: It wasn’t necessarily political, but as The Morning Watch has developed, they’ve, I’d definitely say they’ve become more political in nature in what their topics and what they’re focusing on. As we respond to them, so have we.
Corey: Now, is The Morning Watch the only political publication on campus? Conservative political publication on campus?
K.: They do bill themselves as the only independent conservative publication. I’m not aware of any others.
Steve: If you drop the term “independent,” are there more?
K.: I honestly couldn’t tell you.
Corey: That’s pretty surprising, either way.
Corey: A campus this size. At least to me. I went to a fairly small school, and I think there were a couple of conservative publications, episodic.
Steve: But I think it’s not atypical to have only one main conservative, like The Dartmouth Review or something, and that’s it. You take enough heat as it is if you are with The Dartmouth Review. [crosstalk 00:09:15]
Corey: But a much larger publication like The Morning Watch, which I’m-
K.: Yeah, I mean it’s all web based. This is interesting, because it’s all web based. Because I was actually looking into a lot of the other conservative publications that exist at other campuses. A lot of them are just straight-up newspapers. I was thinking the one at Michigan, the one, I think, Baylor, I found.
Corey: Seems like … I mean, from my point of view, still fairly an anemic political journalistic culture.
Corey: I want to get your reaction to some of the issues, right? The Morning Watch has a few things that are very concerned about, right? Seems from reading them. One, if he was at the State News, which is the official student newspaper; their general view is that the State News is overwhelmingly left leaning, and not representing the MSU student body. What’s your reaction to that?
L.: I mean, my main reaction to that is how … so one of the main arguments they are making was related to the fact that the State News gets taxes from the student body, and therefore they should be representing, equally representing all students on campus. But my argument to that would be, that that’s kind of like a no taxation without representation argument. But that, for me, more applies to electoral bodies and representation. Which you could make that argument maybe towards ASMSU. But for me, what the State News needs to deliver on, by getting money from the student body, isn’t they need to equally report on conservative issues and conservative-leaning things, and liberal-leaning things on campus. It’s that they need to do a quality job of reporting, because they’re a newspaper. I mean, if there’s more left-leaning events going on on campus, and they’re reporting on left-leaning events, then that doesn’t necessarily show bias, in my opinion.
Corey: But I think the argument is not just the reporting on more … this reporting on events equally, more of a left-leaning and so their coverage is bent that way. I think the argument is that their actual attitude is that towards the left. And there, I think, you have actually a real argument, right? As to whether that be supported by funds from every student- [crosstalk 00:11:26]
K.: In terms of like the opinion section?
Corey: Have a take on things.
Corey: Often they’re sympathetic to left-leaning positions and events, and not sympathetic to conservative ones.
Steve: How is it different from NPR?
Corey: There’ve been some studies of journalism. NPR’s now thought to be down the middle. CNN’s to the left of NPR. I know there’s a left of you, Steve. But the claim is NPR that was far, was probably more liberal in the past. I think now they can make a pretty good argument to being closer to the center.
K.: I mean, I would just also mention that in terms of the opinion section, and like that, that includes editorial opinion posts. But I’m pretty sure it also includes letters to the editors. So those conservative perspectives.
K.: I would argue that one way to increase the viewpoint, and the coverage of conservative viewpoints at The State News, would be for conservative students to write those letters to the editors.
Steve: Have you ever been in a class where the professor was adopting a position as perhaps very matter of factly, but seemed to you as very far to the left or very far to the right? And that there were students in the classroom; at least some fraction of the students; who were uncomfortable with what the professor was saying?
K.: I’d say that, to be honest, more of my professors have been a little bit right leaning than a little bit left leaning. Or at least, they’re not super far left leaning. But that it’s probably because in terms of my social science courses, I’m in slightly more right-leaning disciplines.
K.: I mean, I did take a course where the professor was very explicitly far to the left, but it was a class that was geared for that sort of student. I don’t think anybody had an issue with it at all.
Steve: So you’ve never seen a situation where a chunk of the class is just … you could detect they’re not happy with what the professor is saying, for political reasons?
K.: There’s been some for me personally that hasn’t dealt with a left-wing position, is what I’m saying.
Steve: But- [crosstalk 00:13:26]
K.: But I’ve seen that more from right-wing positions just because that’s what I’ve been in.
Steve: I mean, for me, in either case, so-
Steve: … a professor could be too far right and some fraction of the class is really uncomfortable with it, or professor’s too far left and some fraction of the class is really uncomfortable with it.
K.: Yeah, I had an economics professor once, actually. Kind of go off about the minimum wage, and eliminating the minimum wage. I think that was a very uncomfortable thing for some of the people in the class.
Corey: Again, my sense of the gist here, right, is some of this narrative, you don’t feel is actually not applicable to what’s happening at MSU, right? It’s the belief that these vast legions of left-wing professors professing things as facts, which are in fact opinion, and trying to sway students in their direction, consciously or unconsciously. That, my impression, seems to ring hollow for you.
K.: I would say it definitely rings hollow for me a bit. It’s not an experience that I’ve personally had here. I can’t speak, obviously, for every single student. But it’s definitely something that I think is being blown way out of proportion with the actual magnitude of what occurs in classes.
L.: Yeah, I mean, I think that really depends on your political orientation in coming in. As someone who definitely leans left, I’m much more receptive to a lot of the opinions of professors and their political opinions, which come up occasionally. And their opinion on issues, just a bunch of different things.
Corey: The last thing we want to talk about; at least I’ve got on my list; is civil discourse. Because you both have written about it, and you think it’s something that it’s important to foster. We think we do it pretty badly on this campus, and maybe elsewhere. What are your suggestions for allowing people to talk across partisan lines?
K.: I mean, what I would say is that civil discourse, it needs to be a two-way street if you’re actually going to have it. I find that has not really been a factor lately. In a sense, civil discourse is, I guess, kind of a long-running meme for us. It’s serious, but it’s also not serious.
Corey: Because you think it’s unlikely, or- [crosstalk 00:15:52]
L.: I think it’s important. But it’s.
K.: … it’s important but it feels very unlikely.
L.: It feels very hard to start. One of the things I emphasize when we talk about civil discourse is, what issues can you actually have a middle ground on? I think there’s a number of issues that dominate our current political climate that are very difficult to really find a middle ground and compromise.
Steve: Getting back to your high school, I was struck; I think you said the beginning of our discussion, that your high schools were fairly left leaning.
Steve: And significantly more left leaning than the Michigan State University undergraduate population. Is that what you said?
K.: I don’t know if it was necessarily significantly, but I went from a place where you really couldn’t find a Republican. If I’m here, I can find a Republican.
Steve: Let me give you a hypothetical. You’re back in high school, it’s your senior year, you’re kicking back and you’re having lunch in the cafeteria. And a couple of guys come in with big red MAGA hats on. What happens to those guys in your cafeteria?
K.: There’s probably going to be a lot of extremely uncomfortable students, because there was a strong population of people at my high school who were the children of Indian and Pakistani immigrants. There would probably be a problem about that.
K.: I think we did; I think we had some testy verbal confrontations about this, actually, my junior year, I recall.
K.: Because there was one Republican student.
Steve: Now, if you were in Brody, which, for our listeners, is the … I think it’s the biggest dining hall on campus, or one of the biggest. If you were in Brody, would you be shocked to see somebody walking in to Brody with a big red MAGA hat on?
K.: I think I would be a little surprised, because I haven’t seen a lot of those on campus personally. But it wouldn’t be the same as it was at my high school, I think.
Steve: So it would be more tolerant here.
K.: Well, I don’t think people would look at it as quite as strangely. I think people know that there are right-leaning students here. I don’t think people are unaware of that.
L.: I don’t know if “more tolerant” is the word, but less surprising, probably.
K.: Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to get at, I think.
Steve: Have you ever seen students wearing MAGA gear on campus?
K.: Perhaps it’s sparticipation, I think there were some conservative orgs that I passed by that were wearing some. In terms of my normal day-to-day life, I don’t really see it much.
Steve: Do you know anybody, personally, on campus, that voted for Donald Trump?
L.: I do, yeah.
K.: Yeah, we do, actually.
Steve: Would they feel uncomfortable; say they were in a class, and the professor said, “Hey, did anyone here vote for Donald Trump? Anyone here care to comment on why they voted for Donald Trump?” Would your friends feel comfortable talking about they voted for Donald Trump in-
L.: I think they regret their decision.
K.: I mean, I think they would be willing to discuss it.
Corey: Yeah, if you look at the actual polling data on people who … You’re Gen Z, right?
Corey: Yeah. Trump has by far, the lowest approval ratings among that demographic of any other. I think it’s, his ratings are around 30%, actually.
K.: Yeah, not super popular.
Steve: But if it’s 30% of the undergraduate … I’m not saying it is … but suppose it were 30% of the undergraduate population; what I’m trying to get at is, how closeted-
Steve: … do those people have to be about their political views on our campus [crosstalk 00:19:34] versus their high school?
Corey: It’s hard to say how closeted they have to be. As how closeted they are, and they perceive themselves, they need to be more closeted than they have to be, actually.
Steve: There are multiple questions, right?
L.: Well, I mean, that also goes to … I mean, not to necessarily draw a correlation here, but if you do look at Trump’s numbers, he has a lot more support among non–college educated people. That might suggest that on college campuses, you’re not going to find a lot of Trump supporters.
Corey: Yeah. It sounds like MSU may be fairly representative of the country. Definitely far more representative than the East Coast schools we’ve been talking about, and the West Coast schools also.
Steve: Would you be shocked if, say, 20% of MSU undergrads were Trump supporters?
K.: I mean, I think based off the given participation rates of students voting in midterms and whatnot, it would surprise me if 20% of students were anything, really.
L.: I don’t think I’d be too surprised if 20% of the students on campus who are politically involved were Trump supporters. That might-
K.: That would-
L.: What is that [crosstalk 00:20:40] number out of the general [crosstalk 00:20:41] population?
Corey: Steve really meant out of the voting population.
K.: Out of the voting population, no, I don’t think it would be that shocking to me.
Steve: For that sub-population, how much pressure do you think they feel they’re under to be closeted about their opinions?
K.: I think that they do feel a lot of pressure. I think that a certain amount of that pressure is a little bit imagined, and in their head. But they do certainly talk about it a lot. It’s a big deal.
Steve: Where do you think campus politics are headed in the future?
K.: I think you’re headed for many more tedious student-versus-speaker narratives in the future, regardless of how played up they might actually be.
L.: I think it’ll be very interesting to see what happens over the next year on campus, coming back to campus next year, seeing what the environment looks like with the elections coming up, and seeing what student turnout looks like for that.
L.: But one thing I just, going all the way back to civil discourse and this traditional understanding of the university as this pillar of knowledge and civil discourse, and where we really have these fundamental and really important debates about political issues. I feel like it’s increasingly becoming the wrong way to look at the university.
L.: It feels to me like it goes back to this Plato or Socrates on the steps in Greece, preaching to their pupils. There’s a very idealized version of the university, where increasingly I think it’s becoming more of a necessity than a desire in terms of more people just need to go to college to have better job prospects in the future.
Corey: Well guys, thanks for coming in.
L.: Thanks for having us.
K.: Yeah. Thank you for having us.
The Morning Watch
Corey: Today, our guests are Sergei Kelley and Derek Hosford. Sergei is chairman of the MSU College Republicans, and a founder/editor-in-chief of The Morning Watch, the leading conservative political website on campus. He’s a senior in both James Madison College and Lyman Briggs College. Sergei’s pursuing degrees in fisheries and wildlife, and political theory and constitutional democracy.
Corey: Born in Russia, Sergei was adopted in 2003 and raised in Traverse City in northern Michigan. He’s a frequent critic of the policies promoted from this building, other administrative centers on campus, views of liberals and leftists at the university. Welcome to Manifold, Sergei.
Sergei: Thank you for having me.
Corey: Derek Hosford is a senior majoring in communications. He’s the founder/chairman, the MSU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a founder/managing editor of The Morning Watch. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids. Welcome to Manifold, Derek.
Derek: Thank you for having me.
Corey: Can you give me a sense of what’s the basic political philosophy of The Morning Watch?
Sergei: The motive of The Morning Watch is only to report on leftist bias and do it in an objective manner. While we have members that are going to lean conservative likely or more moderate than the average student, it doesn’t matter what their political views are. It’s what the story is, how they report it, and how objective it can be.
Sergei: We want it to be objective reporting of just leftist bias. Whether they were conservative, libertarian, even if they were Democrat, it wouldn’t necessarily change the content of the story.
Corey: You actually don’t really view it as a purely conservative website; you see it as just simply a critic of liberal or left bias.
Sergei: Yeah, for sure. It just exposes leftist bias, which many can identify as a conservative place.
Corey: I want to get a sense of the culture on campus, from your point of view. Do you feel that the campus is open to political discussion? You guys are politically informed, politically interested. Do you feel like; do people talk politics? Do you feel comfortable expressing your views?
Derek: It’s great. I live actually with someone who identifies as progressive; he’s a Bernie Sanders supporter. Then two center-left people. Me and my roommate who, we get along really well. But when we talk politics, it tends to get pretty heated. We can associate with each other, and still have these very different political beliefs.
Derek: In classrooms, there’s kind of an unwritten rule that if you’re a conservative, you don’t really speak up, especially in certain classes.
Corey: Which classes?
Derek: The classes about race and sex and gender in the 21st Century; those are things.
Sergei: Yeah, sociology.
Derek: Things that where they teach about history of white racism or sexism or things like that. It’s generally not … it feels uncomfortable as a conservative, and also as a white male, to not push back in some cases, where you feel like you maybe have a question, like “Where did you hear that?,” or, “Can you clarify?” Generally, it’s just best to just stay quiet.
Derek: And generally, I’ve had professors that have been very open to discussion. I had one that was in James Madison College who would describe herself as a Marxist. She was great. We had great discussions in office hours and things. And I’ve had certain professors that have not been as open to discussion from conservative positions. It just depends.
Derek: Especially in classrooms too, because the professors run the classes, they generally give out books and assignments and things. If they happen to be more left, the books and things that they pick are probably going to support that perspective.
Corey: You don’t find that people can have a certain, say, political orientation make a real point of having alternative points of view from across the spectrum? Is that something you don’t tend to find?
Derek: I don’t find it in classrooms. There’s a lot of people that just are apathetics; they don’t really speak up. But I know people, especially, I can just use me as an example. When I’m in these classes, these general ed classes, I assess IAH. Or the ones through James Madison, it’s nice to hear the leftist perspective.
Corey: But I’m asking about the professor. You say the left professor tends to teach from the leftist view. Do you have left professors who say, “Look, I have my view, but I’m going to give you readings from across the spectrum. You’re going to read right-wing, you’re going to read conservative authors, liberal authors, left-wing authors. Just to give you, yourself, a view; my view doesn’t happen to matter.” That’s kind of my way approaching these things, right?
Derek: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Corey: Give your point of view, but you want to give your students full political views.
Steve: But I think your way of doing this is quite exceptional. I don’t think that’s the standard way.
Corey: That’s what I’m trying to find out.
Derek: Well, I can use a class I have right now as an example. I have a class called Indigenous Encounters. We talk about the issues of colonialism in the industries of the western civilizations of the past, interacting with indigenous Native populations.
Derek: The textbook that was assigned would support very much that Christopher Columbus was a horrible guy, all this stuff. It’s not that … obviously, the history is, should be objective. But it’s still through the eye of the beholder, right?
Corey: History is never objective.
Derek: That’s just an example of a case where I would never be assigned a reading that would talk about some of the things that the benefits that came out of it. If there are any. But it would just be that, yeah.
Steve: I have a question that I asked your counterparts the other day. You guys are chilling in high school. So go back in time; well, imagine that you’re at your high school today. You’re seniors, you’re chilling out, having lunch. And you have some free periods, you’re just chilling out.
Steve: Some guy walks in to the cafeteria with a big red MAGA hat at your high school. Does anybody bat an eyelash? Is there a problem? Is there a confrontation? What happens?
Derek: My high school, I come from Grand Rapids; it’s a fairly conservative area. There would definitely be students that would be upset about it. I had grew up with … I mean, I had friends that were described themselves as liberal, as progressive, even in high school senior, junior year. There would definitely be people that would be upset about it.
Derek: I don’t know if my area is a great example. I don’t know if you had a different- [crosstalk 00:28:56]
Sergei: Yeah. In Traverse City, that’s where I went to school, charter school there, Grand Traverse Academy. Obviously, no, it would have been fine, or there might have been people like, “Hey, that’s great.” It wouldn’t have been … I know a few people in my senior class that would have been irritated with it, and they can express themselves in a peaceful manner. But it would have been overwhelming, just either like, “Okay,” or “Cool, that’s actually good.”
Steve: Got it. Now, today, you walk in to Brody with the big red MAGA hat on. What happens?
Sergei: I actually went in to Akers Hall last year. My friend had a MAGA hat. I hadn’t had one at the time. I just hadn’t bought one yet. I went in to Akers Hall with him and just going to eat, do all that stuff. It was pretty bad.
Sergei: There was no vocal accusations or anything. But it was kind of like eyes staring, “Oh my gosh, how is he, how could this person be so low?,” type of mentality. Just stares at me, very unwelcoming. But there was- [crosstalk 00:29:52]
Corey: You were wearing it or he was wearing it? You- [crosstalk 00:29:53]
Sergei: I was wearing his.
Corey: You were wearing his, okay.
Sergei: Yeah. But we went together to eat dinner. Same place, normal occasion, nothing really out of the sort, except for the hat.
Corey: But no conversation, no one said anything to you? It was all non-verbal?
Sergei: Yeah, no one said anything to me. No one, obviously no one hit me or anything like that. It was just very non-verbal connotation that this is a problem.
Steve: Of the kids at Michigan State that voted in the election, or will vote in the next election, what percentage do you think would vote for Trump?
Derek: I would say very low. I mean, me, my personal opinion is I identify as a conservative. I’m not a huge fan of him.
Corey: Why not?
Derek: Well, I had the opportunity to intern at the Heritage Foundation in DC last summer. A lot of the free market ideas that I espouse, he doesn’t agree with. There’s a lot of protectionism. There’s a lot of issues with his rhetoric that I don’t like. I don’t like the way that the Conservative Party is moving, because it’s a little more provocative than I’d like.
Derek: I view conservatism as something that’s for everybody. I don’t like to say that, or I don’t like to give off the connotation that conservatism is only for white Christian men. That’s sad to me. I’d love to see a diversity in the conservative movement, because it really is just about individual freedom, limited government, and individual civil rights and things like that. That everybody should, or could, or should, agree with and support.
Steve: He doesn’t like Trump because Trump is actually secretly a Democrat from Manhattan, who just happened to touch on immigration as an issue.
Corey: So the theory that some people says, he’s actually a third party candidate who took over a major party.
Steve: Yeah, he is, basically. But actually, the question I was asking was not so much about you, as just at Michigan State; what fraction of the students that are political- [crosstalk 00:31:36]
Corey: He said very few.
Derek: It’s very few.
Steve: Yeah, so what would be a number that-
Derek: Oh, geez.
Steve: 10%? 20%?
Derek: I don’t think it would be that low. I’m sure there’s probably a good amount of students that would choose to vote for him. We have a two-party system too, so, there’s … I mean, you have a problem if you have two choices, essentially.
Derek: So, while he may not be-
Steve: Yeah, I’m not saying they’re his favorite, or they’re even enthusiastic about him.
Steve: Just saying they’re going to end up voting for- [crosstalk 00:31:58]
Derek: Voting for? I would say probably 25, 30%. That would be my guess.
Corey: That’s about what most of the polls say, actually.
Corey: You guys are Gen Z.
Corey: The polls say- [crosstalk 00:32:07]
Corey: … percent Gen Z.
Steve: Whereas in he could carry Michigan easily, right?
Corey: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve: No one would be surprised if he carried Michigan.
Corey: Sergei, what’s your view?
Sergei: Same with that. It’s definitely lower. Its not near to half, but it’s 25, 30%. I’m in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I mean, that college is in itself split on two different factions. But that kind of community- [crosstalk 00:32:30]
Corey: What are the factions?
Sergei: You have environmentalism, which can be either conservative or leftist. There’s that split between “We need to have less beef and less cattle and stuff grazing.” Then you have the other side where it’s like, “We love beef, we [inaudible 00:32:45] MSU Dairy all the way.”
Sergei: It’s very interesting. But just that, MSU has a very large rural community aspect to it; a lot of influence from the rural communities, especially agriculture. I think from that, you’re going to see a lot … that’s where you’re going to have a lot of Trump supporters. Just the heavy agricultural rural base.
Steve: Will you have students who articulate the view that, “Hey, we have a land grant university here, so there’s a lot of practical professors who are teaching you about agriculture and engineering.” Then we have this social science/humanities set, which guaranteed to be super-far left. Is that a view that students articulate about-
Corey: Like Joe Cesario? Is that-
Steve: Well, there are exceptions to everything, right? But- [crosstalk 00:33:25]
Corey: “Guaranteed.” “Guaranteed” sounds like there was no exceptions.
Steve: “Guaranteed” means “statistically likely.”
Corey: Oh, okay.
Steve: So. But, is that a view that students have at MSU?
Derek: There’s definitely stereotypes for certain colleges.
Derek: JMC, I mean, the social sciences like you mentioned, you kind of know where you’re getting into, where you go into it, you’re going to hear more of a left-leaning type of opinion or-
Derek: … presented material that favors a left opinion. Whereas there’s other universities that are maybe much more moderate. I mean, my roommate, to go back, is an actuary. So he focuses on math, and math has little room for subjectivity.
Derek: But there are definitely, I would say, stereotypes for different colleges. Just kind of, you sort of know what you’re getting into, based off of what you’ve seen or what you’ve heard from your peers.
Steve: And is it, there are stereotype that the University of Michigan is more to the left than Michigan State?
Derek: Oh, yes. For sure.
Steve: Okay. Campus, climate-wise?
Derek: Yeah, the University of Michigan for sure, I would say is definitely further to the left than Michigan State is. I would say, I’d have this … I don’t know, maybe you could start to say this … but they like the culture; the idea of Spartans Will resonates with me. It’s a little more like a conservative undertone than something like at U of M.
Corey: That thing means nothing to me. I had no idea what that was talking about. What does it mean to you? I’m really curious. Spartans Will; is like it just seems … empty rhetoric to me.
Derek: So this is just being kind of thinking myself.
Corey: Okay. Appreciate it; I want to hear.
Derek: Yeah. Well, the motto, Spartans Will, obviously, it’s like a “You can do anything” type of feel. You can, there’s no barriers to where some of the leftist talking points or whatever they say, would be more of like, “This barrier’s holding you back. There’s white privilege, there’s these types of things.”
Derek: Whereas if you want to go into university and do something, as long as you have that inclination and that interest, you can achieve that. That’s what I’ve dug out of it. But that’s just my own interpretation of it.
Steve: I think, Corey, that there’s a notion that Spartans are special. So the people that are going to make a difference in the world are MSU grads. That’s part of Spartans Will.
Corey: I do want to talk about a little bit about identity politics. You have an article about teachers talking about white privilege. I think this is your article, Sergei. I mean, it’s a video you had, where you discuss basically what’s wrong with discussing the white privilege and so forth.
Corey: I want to pose a question to you, right? It wasn’t clear from your video, which position you held. Are you saying that being white carries no privileges? But there are many other things that carry privileges too, that we simply don’t talk about.
Corey: My view is that the world’s very complicated; it’s multi-factorial. Right? You get privilege, you point out something I didn’t … I kind of knew this, but you underscore being born to a two-parent family gives you privilege.
Corey: I’m a pretty short guy. I think Russ Roberts is 5’6, and he says he’s the tall end of short. I may be a little taller than that, right, but being tall as a guy gives incredible privilege, right? Especially in regards to meeting women.
Corey: Being born in the United States gives you privilege. Being good looking gives you privilege. Being funny gives you privilege. Being smart gives you privilege. Being born … I was born in the Midwest, and I’m a proud Midwesterner. But I spent most of my life in Amherst, Massachusetts. That was an incredible advantage.
Corey: I mean, Massachusetts has the best educational system in the country, among the states. It was incredible privilege. So, my sense is that world is incredibly complicated. All these things are either pluses or minuses in your life.
Corey: I think people focus obsessively about race, right? But there are all these other dimensions that affect things, that people are probably not talking about. It’s more complicated, sort of muddies the water. But that’s my view.
Corey: That’s, I think, the problem with folks exclusively on racial privilege, which is all the forms of advantage. That people get dealt a hand in life, and it affects your life. So you got to, I think, take a view that there, you know, folks have other things. Ways you should, or maybe you simply shouldn’t focus on privilege of whatever sort too often.
Corey: But I’d like to hear your view of this whole issue.
Sergei: Yeah, I mean white privilege, especially espoused by the left, it’s just like “You’re white and you’ve inherently had economic superiority, educational superiority,” and all this stuff where it’s just, you’ve just been better off because you’re white.
Corey: That’s kind of straw man. I mean, let’s take more nuance. Do you think being white is an advantage or not?
Sergei: I don’t think … not necessarily like as … if you’re going to say it’s an advantage like being black or Mexican, I don’t really think it is much of an advantage. I guess it depends what community- [crosstalk 00:38:03]
Corey: Let me challenge you on that, for example. Let me just give you … this … are you aware of Andrew Hacker? He’s political science. He used to teach a class, and he had this thought experiment he would run.
Steve: I think you guys would like his books. He’s a very thoughtful writer on American social issues. Yeah.
Corey: He says, “You wake up one morning, Sergei, and there’s a knock on your door. And the guy says, ‘Is Sergei Kelley?’ And you’re like, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘Can I talk to you?’ Said, ‘Look, I’m sorry, Sergei, but a mistake’s been made. You were meant to be born black. And my organization is really embarrassed about this. But we’ve got to rectify the situation. Now, understand we have to rectify the situation. We’re prepared to compensate you for our error.'”
Corey: He invariably asked his students how much they wanted to be compensated for being made black. The common answers were, two million dollars. There are pretty consistent evidence, right? There’s evidence suggesting that black men, on average, get for the same crime, about 10% more prison time, right? There are various other things.
Corey: Now, there are other … there’s something some context where it might help being black. If you’re applying for college, right? But I think there’s a huge amount of effort for people who are black who pass for being white, right? Meaning, people, if you’re light skinned enough, you leave your family, you drift off into the white world. That suggests people think that the life is a little better being white.
Corey: Very few people pass being black or white. Rachel Dunn is almost like the only person in modern era. This really suggests, Sergei, that people definitely think overall it’s better being white.
Corey: The number of skin-lightening creams that are sold; we can talk about this too, thing. The day the show’s about your life opportunities. But definitely you have to admit, people seem to think that being white is easier and better than being black or dark skinned.
Sergei: But even like if the community says, “We prefer this over this,” if they prefer more whiteness over less whiteness; the ability for me to start a business, which I’ve done, or to try to be on the varsity team, or to write a book, or to start a publication, that comes off of merit, skill, hard work, community; not off of race.
Corey: No, no argument with that. All I’m asking is that we acknowledge that maybe an advantage to being white; just like there are advantages to being tall.
Sergei: I mean-
Corey: Or good looking.
Corey: Or funny.
Sergei: Yeah, I’d say being good looking is given a much greater advantage than being a certain color. If there’s any advantage, if there’s anything, it’d be very minuscule. Just like being taller is going to help you a lot more being attractive, being funny, as you mentioned. Being smart, obviously- [crosstalk 00:40:44]
Corey: So why do you think people have been trying to pass as white for years?
Derek: Well, I don’t know. I-
Corey: And not trying to pass as black?
Derek: Yeah, this is definitely something that is very hard to answer with one- [crosstalk 00:40:58]
Corey: … simple explanation that life looks probably pretty easier if you’re white? People seem to think; that’s the simplest explanation.
Steve: There is some, for example, in the case of the dating market. There’s pretty strong evidence if you look at analysis by OkCupid or-
Steve: … where they have huge data sets. There are cases, just look at set of women who say they will not date a black guy. Instead of women who say they will not date a white guy. You can see there’s an advantage, right? Just looking at the data. So-
Corey: When you think of that, it seems to be a black guy, to have the same equivalent dating opportunities as a white guy, you have to make about $150,000 more a year.
Steve: Yeah, in those contexts, where you have data-rich stuff and people have declared their preferences in a way that matters, because the algorithm’s going to filter people that you say you’re not interested in. So, in those contexts, there’s pretty strong evidence.
Corey: Legal context you can also see. That’s what-
Steve: I think it’s one, I agree with you that it’s multi-factorial. But certainly in our society, is an advantage to be white. I think that that’s just true. But it’s not the whole story.
Corey: Yeah, it’s not the whole story.
Sergei: Well, even like the way white privilege has been targeted on campus or in classes, it’s very … even if it’s agreed that, okay, there’s some advantage to being some certain factors of your appearance, or your intellect, stuff like that; the way it’s targeted, white privilege; it’s always, it’s your fault. You have had this, it’s been your doing. It’s a very internal accusing the person of doing something wrong, which a), they can’t really control their appearance, obviously.
Sergei: Even if the left was going to try to have a open conversation about advantages of some people over others, especially such as like economic status, two-parent households versus divorce, stuff like that.
Sergei: Instead of saying, “You, this has been you, you’ve been holding this, you have unmeritably have this.” It’s a very, even if they were going to have a conversation, that’s a very poor way to go about it.
Steve: Yeah, I think there’s a sense … I mean, quite a few white kids have been getting the message since day one that being white is bad; white civilization has oppressed everybody else; you should feel bad about it.
Steve: For somebody who’s mentally strong, like you, Corey, are very rational. You can just view it; that could just slide off you. You could say, “Yeah, I understand the point you’re trying to make. There are certain aspects of society we want to correct.”
Steve: But other people are very impressionable, and they will internalize those things. I think there are plenty of … there’s a lot of inculcation of white self hate.
Corey: How many white kids walking around really hate themselves? [crosstalk 00:43:27] No, you’re told this, right? But the question is-
Steve: Some people internalize it. … I have to run, so you guys can continue. But, can I just throw my one thing out before? So, one thing; have you guys ever watched early Eddie Murphy standup comedy?
Derek: No, I don’t think so. I’ve seen Chris Rock, though.
Steve: Okay. No. Go back even further in time. Eddie Murphy Delirious, I think was one of his big tours. You can find it, probably some of it on YouTube. If you watch that, you’ll realize like, no way could you ever show that on this campus.
Sergei: That’s true.
Steve: Okay? But I don’t know if Corey found it funny. But where I grew up, people thought that was the funniest stuff … and I still don’t think there’s any standup funnier, to me-
Corey: Oh, of course. Much funnier. Richard Pryor was much funnier than Eddie Murphy.
Steve: Okay. Well, he’s even earlier.
Corey: Oh, yeah.
Steve: But the point is, for you guys to get a sense of how far these identity politics things have shifted since when we grew up, that stuff is so outside the bounds now-
Corey: Richard Pryor would not be. I mean-
Steve: There’s some Richard Pryor that you couldn’t-
Corey: Of course not. Most all of it.
Steve: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Right? But, go and watch it. Because you’ll get a sense of what the world was like 30 or 40 years ago. I feel it was more robust then. You could actually talk about stuff, the key issues that were important without people fainting or calling you a racist.
Corey: I think humor’s been badly affected in a lot of ways.
Steve: Yes. Exactly.
Corey: I just had to say that. But again, I have to say, I think it’s complicated. As many people were the butts of those jokes who really should not be.
Steve: I agree. [crosstalk 00:44:52] I mean, it’s much better that people are more sensitive about these issues than they were. But I think we may have gone too far. That’s my sense of it.
Corey: Thank you guys for your time. This has really been a pleasure.
Sergei: Yeah, thank you very much.
Derek: Yep, thanks for having us.
Corey: That’s a wrap.